John Ibbitson, in his opinion piece at the Globe and Mail yesterday, called Donald Trump America’s “final warning”.
According to Ibbitson the problem that has surfaced with the popularity of Mr. Trump is that political elites of both left and right have become cut off from the lives of real people. Leaders elected to govern for the well-being of the majority have stopped listening or even paying attention to those who put them in office.
Thus Ibbitson suggests, along comes Mr. Trump and
I will be your voice, Donald Trump promises. I will get your job back, or at least wreak revenge on the company that gave it away to a guy in Bangladesh. I will send the Mexicans back and keep the Muslims out and build a wall around our country. And you’ll have a man, a real man, a white man, your kind of guy, in the White House. We’ll be back in charge, folks, you and me. It’ll be great again. And they’ll never take it away from us.
So, Ibbitson argues, politicians need to
bring some small measure of consensus back to political culture. Let’s bring humility back.
It is a noble sentiment, charming in its idealism. Reality, however, may make Mr. Ibbitson’s proposal less workable than he might hope.
There are people for whom the only right answer to any question is my answer. If your answer, proposal, plan, or strategy is not in alignment with what I understand to be the correct answer, then you have not listened to me. I have not been heard. I will keep shouting until finally you are beaten into submission because, for me to compromise is to give up my most cherished ideals.
The community with which I am most familiar has suffered from this problem for the past thirty years and we have not been able to find a solution that avoids splintering and damaging our community.
For many people in the Christian church, the idea that people in same-sex relationships might make a faithful monogamous, loving, life-long commitment to one another and call it “marriage” is utterly inconceivable.
For other members of the same church who have experienced same-sex couples who live in respectful life-giving intimate loving relationship, the idea that these relationships should be viewed as harmful and therefore disqualified as “marriage”, is equally incomprehensible.
The problem with the real world is that “consensus” and “humility” can only get you so far. Eventually, someone must make a decision. And, in the complexity of the modern world, there are always going to be people who are deeply unhappy with almost any decision.
There are issues like protection of minorities, working towards a cleaner environment, openness to legitimate refugees fleeing violence, gun control, affordable health care, and respect for all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status, or ethnicity, where there simply is a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do.
Society risks paralysis as long as leaders bind themselves to people who demand that they have not been heard because their leaders insist on doing the right thing. The challenge of democracy is that we elect leaders to lead. If we do not like the direction our elected officials take, we have the opportunity to work through the electoral process to bring about a change.
Yes leaders need to listen. But, they also need to govern and must not be held hostage to the opinions of those who perceive any disagreement as a failure to listen.
Governing often means making unpopular decisions simply because it is the right thing to do. This is why we need to take so seriously the electoral process and disavow the careless irresponsibility of those who would elect a leader without regard to the person’s fitness to govern in a way that aims at the greater good of all those being governed.