Friday, 6 January 2017

Make no mistake – Western civilisation is on Tuesday’s ballot paper

I wrote and posted this piece in early November 2016, just before the Presidential election. After Trump’s election I concluded that my language had been overly strident, and pulled the piece. I now regret that decision, so here is the piece in full. If it vanishes it means I've changed my mind again! 

On Tuesday 8 November America elects a new President and, for the first time in living memory, Western civilisation itself is on the ballot paper. Not directly of course, though it might as well be. The American people are choosing between two candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton or ‘Republican’ Donald Trump, only one of whom subscribes to the set of values which constitutes the basis of Western civilisation. And that candidate is Hillary Clinton. Trump’s commitment to democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law are all questionable at best – and that’s just based on the statements he has chosen to make publically. As such Americans who appreciate the civilisation that has been the basis for American success, regardless of political orientation, should vote for Clinton to protect the American republic and constitution.

It’s beyond sad that it’s got to this point. The Republican Party used to be one of the great defenders of Western civilisation. The party which helped defend the free world from communism, authoritarian regimes and more recently Islamist fundamentalism. But that Republican Party is dead, or at least missing in action. The current Republican party, judging by its Presidential candidate, is no longer a force for Western civilisation. With some honourable exceptions the party has bent the knee to Donald Trump, who encapsulates all they ought to despise. Supporters of constitutional democracy should mourn the Republican party of the past, the party of Lincoln and Raegan (and dare I say it of George W. Bush and John McCain), and hope for its return. But we, and that includes those of us who identify as Conservatives, should fight with all we have to ensure Hillary Clinton becomes the next American President.

You don’t have to think Hillary will be a good President to support her. In fact I’d recommend supporting her even if you think she will be extremely poor at the job. For what it’s worth I think she will make a reasonable President. She has good experience, and a level of basic decency. But, in the grand scheme of things, this barely matters. What matters is that she clearly subscribes to democratic-constitutional values, the basis of Western civilisation, whilst her opponent does not. So even if you are a diehard Republican, or energised Bernie Sanders supporter, if you support democratic-constitutional principles you need to vote for Hillary. Forget third party candidates. Unless you live in Utah, where traditional conservative Evan McMullin might have a better shot at beating Trump than Hillary, voting for a third party candidate in an election of this magnitude is a waste.

To say that Donald Trump’s commitment to democracy is questionable would be an understatement. Most significantly he struggles to accept the possibility or reality of defeat. He rarely, if ever, accepts that an opponent has beaten him fairly. Rather any setbacks are attributed, with little or no evidence, to conspiracy.  Other people, in Trump’s world, don’t oppose him due to honest disagreement, but because they are corrupt. When Trump lost the first Republican primary in Iowa to Ted Cruz he claimed, without evidence, that the poll was rigged. He’s already started making the same assertion regarding the Presidential election, especially a few weeks ago when he was polling particularly badly. Trump has stated that he might not accept the result of the Presidential election unless he wins, and has done so with a spectacular lack of hard evidence of foul play. As such he is striking at one of the core components of a democratic system, namely the idea that the loser, in the absence of proof of malpractice, accepts the legitimacy of the winner. 

Trump’s political convictions have lacked consistency in most areas, other than his longstanding admiration for authoritarianism. The foreign leaders he praises most freely, most prominently Russia’s Vladimir Putin, tend to be authoritarians.  He challenges the influence of key Western institutions, such as when he stated that he might not defend NATO members who hadn’t ‘fulfilled their obligations’ to America. As such the evidence is clear that Trump’s commitment to democracy, one of the most important features of Western civilisation, is incomplete or worse. 

Trump’s commitment to another key Western principle, constitutionalism and the rule of law, is little better. He has made it clear that he wants American forces to utilise torture, and to kill the families of suspected terrorists. Both of these clearly violate international law. He claimed that American born Gonzalo Curiel, the judge presiding over the Trump university case, is unfit to judge the case due to his Mexican heritage, a fragrant attack on judicial independence. Trump has also openly admitted that he would like to see the press subject to additional restrictions, and both he and his supporters have launched vitriolic attacks on critical journalists, most prominently Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. It’s reasonable to assume that this behaviour would continue, and perhaps even intensify, if Trump reaches the White House and gains control over the American state apparatus. Great power rarely has a restraining influence on rulers, and there’s little reason to think it will have this impact on Trump.

The ongoing Presidential election is the most important political event in my lifetime. The implications for America and the world, if a President is elected with little concern for Western values and institutions, are titanic. As such Americans from across the political spectrum need to come together and defend Western civilisation, and this means voting for the candidate who respects the democratic-constitutional values which form the basis of our civilisation, Hillary Clinton. Clinton clearly respects democracy, pluralism and the rule of law. Trump gives the impression that he does not. And right now that is virtually all that matters.

If you found this interesting you might like to follow me on Twitter @JBickertonUK

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