Burning Down The House

The title comes from an 80s song by Talking Heads. The opening verse carries these lines.

I’m an ordinary guy
Burning down the house

They might have been singing about us!

Two things happened this week that caught my attention:

The first was while I was on my way to work a couple of days ago. It was early, I was driving down the same highway I’ve driven for years to the place where I work. Its a pretty long drive. To pass the time I’ve usually got a few podcasts to listen to. But it was in between the podcasts when I switched over to the ABC and caught the end of a report into voting trends. Apparently the Australian National University had released the findings into some research done into voting attitudes among younger voters. The research found that younger voters were quite sceptical of the media, had little confidence in our political processes:

It found confidence in political parties, the press and national institutions was continuing to drop in Australia, as in other liberal democratic countries.

It also appears to show much confusion about democracy.

The survey shows confidence in political parties hit a new low this year, with 27% of respondents saying they had “no confidence at all”, and 63% saying “not very much”.

The survey also found that more people seemed to be leaning toward the idea of having an authoritarian ‘strong man’ style leader.

The second item that caught my attention was the furore over the Ruddock review into religious freedoms. Suddenly, and quickly, the issue turned to the right of Christian Schools to refuse employment to anyone who identified as LGBTQI. The predictable line from the illiberal elites being that this right should be stripped away, and funding cut off to any educational institution that refused to bow the knee.

Two seemingly unrelated pieces on information. But my brain tends to work in weird ways, and this time it began to pull together little snippets of information, news reports, articles that I had heard, read, and filed away for later.

In particular I remembered the uproar over the 2016 election, where a reality TV guy by the name of Donald J. Trump secured the Republican Party nomination. Then, to the horror of the adults in the room, won the Presidential election. What the! How? Why? What happened?

In the following weeks, as Democrats licked their wounds, the usual round of analyses and post mortem commentary did the rounds. It seemed to me that two things became very apparent.

Firstly, people were angry. Angry enough to want to set the political house on fire and burn it to the ground. There were a lot of reasons given for that, but one reason seemed to stand our above all others. The people had lost faith in the political process. They no longer believed that Washington could, or would, act on their behalf, with their best interests at heart. Blue collar workers who usually voted Democrat, deserted their party in droves. They stopped believing what they were being told.

Secondly, the conservative base felt that their long-held and cherished values were being either ignored, sidelined, and in some cases, openly mocked. It was enough to mobilise them in droves, enough to swing the vote anyway. They (rightly or wrongly) felt that Democrats were undermining their way of life, and they had had enough.

These two issues combined to produce a perfect storm that swept an unlikely (unqualified) candidate into the White House, and left Democrats looking for answers. They are still looking for answers, its clear from their statements that they haven’t learned anything from 2016. They haven’t learned that a substantial number of voters (especially from their own base) are done with their ‘business as usual’ politics, and conservatives want their values back. They haven’t learned!

I think Australia is heading down the same path as the U.S. I think in a few short years (shorter than I would have thought), we are going to see a Trump like figure move into Kirribilly House. And like America, we’ll be asking ‘Why? How?’

Confidence in traditional politics is on the downward slide, and cherished values are being declared persona non grata. This is fertile ground for the kind of leadership we now see in America to also take place here.

I think that people are sceptical of our political parties. Understandably so. None of them have exactly inspired the nation. Most of the time now, I switch off my radio, shaking my head in disbelief at the rank stupidity, opportunism, and self aggrandisement being displayed by our elected officials – on all sides.

I think the push to require religious institutions to adopt practices that run so deeply against the grain of their belief system will produce a backlash where conservative voters will simply vote for someone – anyone – who will stand up for their values, no matter what character flaws he or she displays. They would rather burn the house down than see it taken over by an interloper.

Its a trend that I think was/is being played out in America. It is happening right now in Europe, where the far right seems to be gaining a disturbing amount of influence. And I think it is starting to play out here as well. Maybe I’m wrong, I hope I am, but I don’t think so.

I think Australia is headed the same way, I think we will end up fractured, polarised and screaming at each other from opposite sides of the room.

Australia has the opportunity to learn from the American experience, but I doubt we will. Where the U.S. leads, Australia tends to follow. Too much is at stake, the ideological die has been cast and there is no turning back. The illiberal elite will not brook no compromise. The hardline conservatives will not back down. The middle ground is in fact a battleground, and that’s where all the casualties lie.

Maybe we can still save ourselves. Maybe there will be that moment of collective clarity, where we stare at the abyss and then slowly back away. Maybe we will find leaders with the vision, character and wisdom to chart a way through all this.

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About andy63

Auditorium/Facilities Manager at Kennedy Baptist College. Family man, Dockers Supporter, NFL and NBA tragic who loves the Red Bull Air Race and a good meal. A Christian who is grateful for grace and forgiveness and the fact that Jesus is alive.

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