When it comes to public policy, you should know what you stand for and make that real, but it is always handy to check who stands with you.
The upcoming plebiscite on equal marriage, the long since abandoned vote on the Rudd Government’s climate change legislation and the #NeverHillary movement are perfect examples of people not paying attention to who stands with them on issues.
We live in complicated times and it is not always clear-cut what the right solution is. There is competing information, competing agendas and it can get muddled.
That’s why a check of the supporters of your issue is important. Like polling, it should never be solely used to make decisions, but it should cause some introspection.
Equal Marriage Plebiscite
The Turnbull Government has pledged to hold a plebiscite on equal marriage if they get reelected. I’ll leave aside why it’s a plebiscite and not a conscience vote, as it will just make me rant (more).
If you oppose equal marriage, who else does? Have you checked?
Sure, you have a nicely crafted, heartfelt reasoning about love and God and somesuch. You might have even prayed on it, but what does Senator Cory Bernardi have to say? He stands with you too.
“There are even some creepy people out there… [who] say it is OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals. Will that be a future step? In the future will we say, ‘These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union’. I think that these things are the next step.” – Senator Cory Bernardi, 18 September 2012
What about Lyle Shelton, head of the Australian Christian Lobby, a leading organisation that will be prosecuting the ‘no’ case?
The most prominent and vocal opponents of equal marriage in Australia think LGBT people are paedophiles. They think that allowing equal marriage will mean that children will be in danger, so too animals.
“The prime minister who rightly gave an apology to the stolen generation has sadly not thought through the fact that his new position on redefining marriage will create another.” – Lyle Shelton, May 2013
What have these horrible claims got to with marriage you might want to ask yourself. Nothing at all, but it sounds scary.
Do you believe these things? Do you believe your brother, sister, colleague, doctor or boss would do these things if they were allowed to marry their long-term partner?
My guess is no you don’t, but by voting against marriage equality, you are helping the people who do. They stand with you.
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme
In 2010 the Australian Greens stood with the climate change denying Liberal Party to kill off the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
The minor party that strongly supports climate change policy targets sided with a major conservative party that denies climate change even exists, let alone needs action.
The Greens deeply believed that the 5 per cent target in the legislation wasn’t high enough.
The consequence of the Greens’ moral view was to support directly and vote with the party that believes the opposite of what they do and was actively trying to make things worse.
By trying to stay true to their standpoint, the Greens made Australia’s carbon emission worse, not better.
They failed to consider who was standing with them and why.
Right now the people in the USA who #FeeltheBern are having to think about what to do with their passion for a candidate who lost a primary.
Some of them are saying #NeverHillary. But who stands with them, and what are the consequences of that stance? Let’s take a trip down memory lane…
Remember Ralph Nader? Back in 2000, he was a U.S. Presidential candidate who was older, left-progressive and had a laundry list of policies that excited a lot of people.
Al Gore was not those things. Gore was an establishment, right-wing Democrat, who had deep ties with the corporate elite.
So the story goes, enough left-progressives in that election in November voted for Nader instead of Gore. And Gore lost. And the world, not just America, got George W Bush.
If you are a Bernie Sanders supporter, the thought of voting for Hillary R Clinton is hard. But who stands with you against Hillary? What do those people stand to gain?
The Long Game and Voltaire
This post isn’t a long argument for progressives to abandon their principles. But it is a reminder to always check who stands with you, check what you stand for and what the long-term consequences are of siding with people who fundamentally oppose your view.
Public policy isn’t a dichotomy; it’s a journey. And compromise isn’t defeat.