Culture wars that saw Donald Trump rise to power are degrading democracy in the UK – Scotsman comment

When former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson warned against politicians and journalists using transgender rights as a “culture war issue”, she provided a much-needed voice of reason in that highly charged debate, but also a warning against the politics of identity.

She suggested 90 per cent of people were in “exactly the same place”, wanting to make life better for the trans community, a vulnerable minority, while also “seeking reassurances for rights for women”. And yet it remains one of the most divisive issues today.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, despite the Conservative party’s current woes over Porngate, has warned it would be wrong to pretend that prejudice, such as sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and anti-semitism, is “limited to one political ideology or one political party”. It is depressing that these obviously vile ‘identitarian’ ideas are still such a concern for political leaders in the 21st century.

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We all know, with 100 per cent certainty, that we are individuals; yet some seem determined to deny other people that same respect by lumping them together into large groups to be condemned.

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Ruth Davidson: 'Rights of trans people and women do not need to be in conflict'

This way of thinking is central to ‘culture war’ ideology, which drove Donald Trump’s rise to power in the US and is exploited by Vladimir Putin in Russia.

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A report by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and Ipsos MORI last year found the UK was at risk of similar divisions to those seen in America if our culture wars continued to grow.

Professor Bobby Duffy, of King’s College, put the problem succinctly: “No one really wins a culture war, not for long at least. The danger is not disagreement, nor the tensions caused by cultural change, as these are inevitable in politics and society. Instead, the real risk is implacable conflict where compromise is incredibly difficult to achieve because an increasing number of issues get tied up in our sense of identity, and distrust of the ‘other side.’”

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Supporters of Donald Trump storm the US Capitol in an attempt to stop the ratification of Joe Biden's election as US president (Picture: Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

There is a pressing need for greater understanding of democratic philosophy. For, if politics continues to degrade into something akin to a civil cold war, there is a real risk it could at some point turn hot, with all the dangers to democracy that were seen in the storming of the US Capitol last year by a mob of deranged Trump supporters.

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