Listen for Change

Whatever happened to political debate?

I am concerned that we have forgotten how to listen to each other. Each day, it appears that the left is moving further left and the right further right. Fanaticism is rife.

People hear what they want to hear. If they disagree with an opinion they quickly ascribe evil motives to their opponent. If your opponent is a “monster” then you need not pay attention to what he says.

No one is interested in building bridges. No one is concerned to see if there is common ground. Debates are stage-managed.

In the US some of the important institutions need to be reviewed. Campaign financing is all important. Outspoken candidates with firm and definite “off centre” views seem to attract attention and therefore finance.

In the US the major parties have lost control over candidate selection. Since the 1970s Presidential candidates are selected on the conference floor. Remember Bernie Sanders was not a member of the Democratic Party, he was an independent.

Similarly, Trump had only recently joined the GOP. The Republican elite were nervous about Trump’s growing support during the Primaries. The selection of Presidential candidates without party control promotes the ascension of charasmatic leaders with strong personal views.

There are plenty of sensible and moderate members of Congress prepared to represent the whole of the US. Why don’t we hear from them?

The Internet does not assist the situation. Facebook and Google are designed to reinforce biases and prejudices. The algorithm driving these systems feeds you what you want to hear and see.

We don’t debate anymore. We either ignore contrary opinions or label our opponents. Calling someone sexist or racist or a fascist or evil achieves very little. They probably have labels for you.

We have lost the art of political discourse. People will not engage with each other in the current toxic climate. They will sit quietly to avoid being labelled or abused. Quietly until…. Election Day when they really let us know what they are thinking.

And then we are surprised by Brexit or Trump receiving significant support.

Last February in my blog “Trump – an alternative perspective” I outlined the challenges facing liberals in the US. I suggested that they had lost touch with reality and did not really understand what was happening in their constituencies.

More recently in my blog entitled “Who voted for Trump?” I drew on the observations made by J.D. Vance in his book “Hillbilly Elegy” and commented on the challenges facing the US working class. This significant demographic, was recently overlooked or forgotten by the Democrats. It may have cost them the Presidency.

Vance’s book is set in Ohio. The state of Ohio supported Obama in two Presidential elections. In the last election it supported Trump. Think about that.

It’s now time for both sides to stop and take time to listen to their constituents. Shouldn’t Democrats be concerned that the downtrodden placed their trust in a billionaire TV celebrity rather than their own Hilary Clinton?

We need to listen. Really listen to what is dividing society.

Remember “listen” and “silent” are written with the same letters. Think about that.

Australia is no different. Everyday the divide between rich and poor, between haves and havenots increases. Extreme fringe groups are increasing in popularity as “battlers” find they have nothing in common with the major parties. Our proportional vote in the Senate will always provide encouragement for single interest groups.

What do the major parties say about unemployment, education, inadequate health services, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, automation, homelessness, globalisation etc?

Let’s listen for a change. Let’s listen for change.