‘In victory, magnanimity’, Churchill counselled. There are those on the Right who would say that having triumphed electorally, they should now give the Left a dose of its own medicine; but is that wise? If it was, at least in part, the festering resentment of so many at the way the Left behaved in power that sparked the Trump triumph and Brexit, is it really wise to behave in the way they behaved – and assume that the consequences will be different? Democracy is a hard school, one of its disciplines is to remember that one day the people you don’t agree with will be in power. I doubt, somehow, that many of those Democrats who approved Obama’s over-use of Presidential powers will be very keen on that tactic should President Trump go down the same route. By its nature, democracy is hostile to the idea of one party hegemony – which is why it is so often subverted by those who, finding themselves in power, think it would be a good idea for them to be there permanently. It is no such thing.
In the UK over the past four decades we have had two very long periods of one-party dominance – the results were good for neither the country, nor the part concerned. Both the Thatcher and the Blair governments did some things which, with a stronger opposition, they would not have done, and as the Tory defeat of 1997 and the more recent disintegration of Labour have shown, a long period in power can be followed by a long one in opposition. Churchill’s very long political career embraced both long periods in power and long ones out of it – so when he advised magnanimity, he spoke with wisdom from experience.
For a Christian there can be a difficulty here. If a party seems very hostile to our religion, should we not, goes the temptation, do whatever we can to keep it out of power? But we cannot do wrong in order to do what we think it right; down that slippery slope lies, at the end, something like a dictatorship – unless someone is of the view that it is possible to ensure that a programme of re-education can ensure that people will vote ‘the right way’; the Soviets tried that – and we know how that turned out.
The Church takes no particular view on which is the best political system – Caesar must get on with it. But it does take a view on what lies within God’s province and how Caesar ought to comport himself. So we have every right to take an active part in democratic politics – but no right to scream and shout and throw fire-bombs if the the result does not go our way. Does the electoral system sometimes throw up odd results? Yes. Do the people sometimes do something which seems very stupid? Yes. But that is part of the price we pay for living in a democracy. It is very dangerous that so many liberals seem to have taken the hump about recent events in the USA. What would they have said had their opponents behaved in the way they are now behaving? We should have heard much about the stupidity of the mob and the ignorance of the people – much as we do now from them. They appear not to be getting a quite simple message – which is that much of the electorate is fed up with being insulted and patronised. To carry on insulting and patronising them after you have lost seems colossally stupid – and surely, given the pride such people take in their education, they really ought to know better? Their attitude has already legitimised right-wing riots in the future – I think they should stop there and get on with using their superior expertise to show why they were right and their opponents were wrong. That’s what this democracy thing is all about – so can we just please get back to it?