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The banes and burdens of political responsibility

The banes and burdens of political responsibility

Friday 17 June, 2016
Despite the platitudes of two of the more responsible political voices, Messrs Sanders and Corbyn, underneath all, they are still politicians.
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Politicians of integrity and sincere conviction can be arrogant after all. The UK’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s battle-axe belief in a non-nuclear world, equality of humankind and worldwide conflict resolution is egotistically unhelpful when he half-heartedly campaigns for Britain to remain inside the European Union. He delivers his party’s pro-EU message like a surly postman at the end of a long working week. For Corbyn, supporting the EU is the pill he must swallow, caustic side-effects and all.

Bernie Sanders, ex-presidential candidate for America’s Democratic Party, is equally reticent to round up his troops, and in this case, to help fight the bigger cause that is the election of a qualified Democratic president. Sure, he is right to want to redress the skewed “super-delegate” voting system and to let down his ardent supporters gently, but not by waving this as a ransom note at the Democratic Party, when an onslaught of undiluted Trump still threatens Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency. At this stage of the contest, Trump cannot be relied upon to implode, despite comments that would incarcerate an ordinary member of the public or, as likely, allow someone to buy a semi-automatic, military-style weapon on main street, USA.

20 percent of Sanders supporters, according to a poll in May, cannot bring themselves to vote for Hillary and would be willing to switch to Trump. Now is not the time to teach Hillary a lesson for thoughtless and greedy personal decisions that do not endanger the nation’s future. And he would do well to take a deep breath before releasing the brain fart of embarking on a third-party presidential bid.

Politicians of earnest conviction have enjoyed the ride of new-found admiration, and are now having trouble jumping the hurdle of compromise. The endorphin-driven slug-fest of campaigning and feel-good acknowledgement from the crowds is hard to beat. Sharing the mantle of responsibility and deferring to the bigger picture seems dull and annoying in comparison.

Both men have been unexpectedly successful in re-kindling socialist ideals once relegated to back rooms of subversion. Their ideas have been hope-enhancing to many, just as the accolades have been life-affirming for these two individuals who are now enjoying the fruits of the dogged and unrewarded labours of their last thirty years.

At odds with the slickness of today’s capitalism, these men in their sixties and seventies have captured the youth vote. In Sanders’ case, it is a remarkable achievement that, given the historic opportunity to elect the first ever woman to the presidency of the United States, a majority of young, modern and empowered American women chose a dynamic yet elderly man instead. And Corbyn is no slouch. His mandate to become leader of Britain’s Labour Party was affirmed by the significant number of young new voters who supported him.

They were given the microphone, and their voice was heard loud and clear. “I’ve started to pay attention to the news a lot more”, says a 27-year-old software engineer, describing himself as now being “permanently…more politically engaged” through his support of Sanders. In an age when selectively chosen social media news feeds can amplify a sense of self-righteousness, their rise has forced us to consider new ideas and question the best paths to good governance. Future voters will be smarter and, hopefully, less vulnerable to populist platitudes from either side of the political spectrum.

And yet, two leaders who do not care about the price of their business suit, nor appear to succumb to alliances offering personal or financial gain, hang on to their own intractable mind-set to their country’s cost. Sanders feels he has the right to squeeze the nuts of the Democratic party in an effort to retain influence and stem the sense of voter disappointment, while Corbyn softens his hold on EU, campaigning in distaste at his exertions for a flawed but preferable political structure. Both men’s frustration at what they see as faulty political systems in their fight for universal free education and health care, is deterring them from supporting blurrier versions of similar goals.

However, practising what journalist Nic Gowing’ calls “wilful blindness” when faced with an undesirable or imperfect outcome, is not part of that greater responsibility to a nation’s future that is needed, not just today, but now.

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