Lessons from America

The sight of over 300,000 Americans gathering on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech to express their own dream of restoring honour to their government has some important lessons for us all.

Firstly, it serves as a reminder that people power can actually make a difference, not just at the ballot box, but by influencing the behaviour of their government.

The political left have been doing this for decades by vocalising their manifesto to audiences small and large. Most recently, this has been exposed through the Greens’ leaked emails calling for volunteers to defend Bob Brown on talkback radio and orchestrated newspaper letter writing campaigns in support of their radical policies.

Those on the right of the political spectrum have typically been less engaged in the public propaganda war as many of our supporter base are more interested in getting on with life, making a go of their business or career, and spending time with their family rather than public advocacy.

The most notable exception was the mass protest that led to the Liberal Party opposing Labor’s Emissions Trading Scheme. The full implications of that decision are still to be determined, but it is fair to say that change has met with considerable success.

However, the rise of the independents and informal votes suggest that many Australians are still sceptical of the major parties, feeling that they do not fully reflect their concerns, hopes and aspirations.

While some politicians and political parties might feel threatened by this voter discontent, I consider it an incredible opportunity to overcome political apathy.

This is the second lesson from the amazing United States rally.

If government take the electorate for granted, or use pithy clichés as an excuse for prudent policy, there is an opportunity to engage a new group of Australians in political activism.

Those that Sir Robert Menzies described as the forgotten people we might today categorise as the disillusioned people. They are those who don’t vote or those who remain unconvinced of the merits of the major parties.

Of course there are many hundreds of thousands of Australians who vote for major parties in spite of their reservations about their ability to fulfil our nation’s needs.

These groups too need to raise their voices and engage in the public advocacy of ideas that have stood the test of time. In essence, the conservative majority need to be engaged in public debate about the virtues and values that have been undermined through a preponderance of leftist orthodoxy.

That is the lesson of the American ‘tea party movement’ for Australia. To affect real change you need your voice to be heard. Unfortunately, the individual common sense voice is oftened drowned out by the organised collective, demanding a radical policy agenda.

Whatever the outcome of this election, I hope that the conservative mainstream of Australia will use it as a launching pad to challenge the organised voice of the radical left. Once that occurs, the next challenge will be to have the voice of the people accurately represented in the media.

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