by Muhammad Oleolo
There’s always been a Russell Brand-like flame of dissent within me that’s wished to torch our political class and start again from scratch. If our Politicians don’t represent our values and continually vote based on party or corporate interests, we’ll never have a candidate we can have any hope in. This week has made me swallow some of my anarchist pride and see slivers of hope shine in the political system.
It was Bernie Sanders who once said:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes”.
As much as a lunatic lefty like myself would agree with the sentiments above, I must admit that I have just dabbled in the promoting of fake news as such a statement never came from our beloved Bernie. Nor did it come from our loveable local socialist, Jeremy Corbyn. This fair indictment of an instance of Capitalism running amok against public good came from none other than decorated war general, free market capitalist and Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower
* Scratches Record* Yeah. I said Republican. In a world where Roy Moore and Donald Trump are currently the popular faces of the party, Eisenhower’s farewell address could be the last Republican politician you could call a ‘good person’.
If you only mildly follow politics (let alone US politics), this might seem a horrible thing to say. And I concede that there is something deeply unfair (even as a joke) when some of us on the left conflate belief in free markets, smaller government and social conservatism with disregard for the lives of those outside their sphere of influence. Conservatives have the same capacity for compassion. Our principles may be different but values such as justice, equality and freedom should be universals that we all honour regardless of where we fall on the spectrum.
That being said, I’m old enough to only remember two Republican Presidents and two Conservative Prime ministers. I’ve seen Donald Trump close the biggest arms deal in history with the nation he accused of orchestrating 9/11. Theresa May also castigated Saudi Arabia for using the weapons Britain had sold them and David Cameron boasted about his role in Saudi arms exports, scarcely allowing his beloved EU Parliament to breathe as they casted votes to ban arms to the Gulf Nation the very same day.
Does this represent a lack of values? Democratic values are the qualities and standards that are essential for the continuation of democratic policy. I would define Political interests as the individual motivations that influence individual policies.
Some political commentators write as if it is difficult to point out which of the Islamic Kingdom’s exports poses the greatest threat to western, idealistically plural, liberal democracy. But let me tell you, it’s not camels! Saudi’s cold and unwelcoming brand of Islam backed by its oil wealth has trickled innocent bodies on to the streets of the Middle East and more increasingly on to the secular free markets (that the various centre-right parties claim they are conserving). And we are left to remember that supposed liberal parties of the west, Obama’s and Blair’s parties, fare no better in defending their values against profit-hunting policies.
Anyone who holds values such a democracy, freedom and liberty wouldn’t give a belt buckle to that nation let alone a Typhoon fighter jet. So long that is, that our elected officials really and truly represent the values that underpin democracy above any interests, be it corporate, activist, pragmatic or whatever. We’ll be ok.
This does mean that we have to vote for people better than the average guy. We need our Tim Farron’s, who while deeply religious and unwavering in his belief that homosexuality is a sin (probably – he’s yet to answer the media’s badgering question on the topic), advocates for LGBT rights because self-determination is the same value that allows him to identify as a Christian and practice his faith. We need more Stephen Hammond’s one of the Conservative MPs voting against his government today (losing his job as Tory Vice-Chair in the process), saying “Tonight I put country and constituency before party and voted with my principles to give Parliament a meaningful vote”. We need less of the attitude that allowed 80% of white evangelicals in Alabama to vote for Roy Moore, someone who shares their conservative interests but quite clearly, as an accused sexual predator cannot share their values.
This is not about a Govt defeat but about a Parliamentary victory Proud to have supported a #MeaningfulVote
— Sarah Wollaston (@sarahwollaston) December 13, 2017
Doug Jones’ win and the Conservative rebellion in the UK Parliament gives me hope. Party politics doesn’t look to be going anywhere. The party will always have its interests, and we shall have interests as voters. We can’t let any of the various interests in the political games cloud our values; I have no reason to believe that my political opponents have different values.
Young Evangelicals were more likely to vote for the democrat in this week’s elections, again a deep source of hope and a lesson for the millennial generation, the future deciding vote. We can’t vote for individuals who won’t fight for the values that make democracy great. We can only vote for individuals who represent the best of what we are. Eventually we’ll all figure out that these kinds of people don’t always have to agree with us on the policy issues.