Today is a day for Australians to give thanks for our system of government and how easily and efficiently we exercise our vote in this country.
The morning after the events in that other national capital, supposedly the world’s bastion of democracy and freedom, it is worth reflecting the benefits compulsory voting had conferred on Australia, nurturing a culture of political involvement, if only on polling day, and inclusion.
No voter suppression and wholesale disenfranchisement, safe, plentiful polling places complete with democracy sausages, and elections run by independent agencies that maintain fair and equitable electorates.
Australia has had its crises, knife-edge elections and tough, robust campaigns. The sacking of an elected Prime Minister by the Queen’s representative could easily have erupted into violence but the nation weathered it, mainly through the ballot box.
It remains a constitutional timebomb, but one defused somewhat by an all-round acceptance that it should not happen again.
Living in Canberra so close to the places and symbols of power is a privilege, and for most they hold the nation’s respect, held together by the cultural glue that ensures our freedoms and way of life.
But in recent years the rampant partisanship that has culminated in the deadly insurrection in Washington has seeped into Australia’s body politic, an infection fed by shadowy social media, the shock jocks and commentators of the Murdoch mastheads and Sky News and the campaign sharpies taking their cues from the US Right.
Australia has had plenty of apologists for Trump’s demagoguery, on whose coat-tails many Republican Party leaders have chosen to ride. They have now reaped what they have sown.
The message should be clear to those in Australia, from the Prime Minister down, that indulging extremism and the lies that undermine the authority and credibility of democracy is playing with fire.
The so-called clever politics of the wedge, the serial lies of the campaign and the refusal to accept the evidence, whether it’s global warming or the dangers of inequity, all come at a price.
Not only do they leave the nation exposed and ill-prepared to deal with problems, but they fray the social fabric and erode our political values.
It has been heart-breaking to see our major ally descend into extremism, culminating in the disgraceful scenes at the Capitol, especially at a time when an authoritarian China is posing such a frightening challenge to Australia and the rest of the democratic world.
Australia needs a revitalised, democratic US that once again stands for the values we share.
In all the drama of the storming of the Capitol, the historic victory of the Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia has been almost overlooked.
It will deliver the Senate to the Democrats, with Vice-President Kamala Harris’s casting vote, but also for the first time send a Black Democratic Senator from the Deep South to Washington.
This is a tribute to the mobilisation of voters in that state and the power of the ballot box, finally burying the era of Jim Crow that excluded so many Blacks from participating in the democratic process.
Thank heavens that in Australia, getting out the vote is not such an energy-sucking exercise and we can focus on the issues at hand.