once more on the left, the right and democracy

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    from letters to the editor in today's AGE:

    Why the left must hold its course
    Gregory Hywood (Opinion, 11/11) seems to be arguing, like many other triumphalist conservatives, that left-leaning parties in Australia and the United States need to move further to the right in order to win back votes. The argument goes that the left does not understand what the people want and because of that they are elitist and out of touch. There are several responses to this:

    * First, the parties are not so out of touch that just under a half of the population still voted for them.

    * Second, using the argument that the majority is always right is morally very dubious. There are many reasons why populations support bad policy and they have less to do with moral clarity and reason and more to do with fear, self-interest and the selective arguments of those in power.

    * Third, to say that electorates, especially in the United States, voted for the conservatives because of their moral concerns is a furphy. The left has always promoted a strong moral basis such as equality, a fair share for all, accessible health care and education, and engaging in just war. What a slim majority of voters have opted for is a particular type of moral stance that is based on choice and a type of Biblical infallibility.
    Regardless of which "side" you are on, to imply that you have won the argument and your opponents should drop their ideas and embrace yours is a denial of common sense and reality. The left, rather than capitulating, needs to convince voters that they are correct in their vision, and that the right is morally dubious.
    Peter Curry, Ballarat

    The track record
    While the right crows over its recent victories, let us consider some of the things the right has opposed over the past 200 years: abolition of slavery; abolition of child labour in mines and factories; votes for non-property-holders; votes for women; age pensions; abolition of capital punishment; minimum standards for wages, work and safety conditions; universal public health care; universal public education; dignity for the unemployed and disabled; equitable taxation; etc.
    These advances were achieved because the left fought for them, usually in the face of fierce opposition from the right.
    So, as the right sets about winding back the clock, please consider which side you would rather be on.
    Mike Puleston, Brunswick


    Democracy
    H. L. Mencken, the American journalist and satirist (1880-1956), once wrote: "As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
    Patrick Edgeworth, Brighton

 
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