Isn't US politics a farce at the moment? But it could never happen here ... right?

When I had the privilege of travelling in Utah prior to the election of Donald Trump — at a time when everyone thought Hillary Clinton was going to carry the day — the most frequently asked questions from the locals were these ...

"What is the world thinking about US politics at the moment?" and "Is it okay for right-thinking people not to cast a vote in a democracy?"

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The predominantly Latter Day Saints-Mormon constituency had a real struggle that their family values politics were likely to be represented by a man who seemed to have no morals.

Here is an example of how this "family values" president was about to treat low-income families in the United States:

The Republicans defunding of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would have removed health coverage from 8.1 million children — about 8 per cent of all children in the country — and over 200,000 pregnant women.

CHIP went without funding for 114 days before it got renewed for six more years. It almost took a government shutdown to prevent it being defunded.

In a user-pays system like the US, 8.1 million kids would, overnight, lose dental care, medical coverage, drug coverage and any kind of rehabilitive service that they might need. Any woman who went into labour over that time would have been turned away from a hospital, regardless of her condition.

My grandson — thankfully Canadian — was born in October and weighed in at 11lb 3oz, so had to be delivered by caesarean section. Imagine if his mother had been turned away at the hospital and left to her own devices.

Many of the Democrats had problems with their candidate, too, given her history of court cases, the emails debacle and stain of the Bill Clinton presidency with her as First Lady.

It seems that whenever a Western political party gets into trouble, it runs to its core vote instead of running into the centre which is where elections are won or lost. This is why partisanship is killing Western democracies — the parties start to accelerate to their extremes instead of towards the centre, and it leaves a massive proportion of the population unrepresented who then vote for the lesser of two evils, giving the world Trump.

And the parties lose all accountability. In the US, the Republicans can do whatever they want because their base won't desert them — they have nowhere else to go. The situation in the United Kingdom is similar. Labour has elected a leader its caucus would never have selected and who is to the left of Lenin and who panders to his supporters on the radical left rather than hunting where the ducks are, in the middle.

Meanwhile, Theresa May is probably one of the most unpopular prime ministers Britain has had for many decades and largely disregarded by her own MPs, but nobody wants the job at the moment. She was seen as the lesser of two evils in the most recent election, and very few can see her lasting until the next.

This lesser-of-two-evils situation did not apply, however, to the selection of Jacinda Ardern in the Labour Party, as the deputy leader is selected by caucus and her elevation to leader came in the period where caucus could select without going to the full party membership.

Now she has been a proven success at election time, I have no doubt the Labour Party membership would happily select her as their leader. But who knows what would have happened if she had been required to go through a primary as her predecessors had? In fact, I doubt Ms Ardern would have contested a selection in that way.

Parties with the biggest majorities in Europe have struggled to form governments in The Netherlands (nine months), Germany (four months), and Belgium (18 months) as views become entrenched and core voters belligerently hang on to the notion that if they are right, then nobody else can be.

Aspiring leaders who will entrench the party's core vote and alienate the vote towards the centre won't grow support for their party. Majorities will be smaller and governments will become stagnant.

MMP has an exacerbating effect, as we have seen with the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First replicating other MMP governments. Major policy planks and smaller lines in the sand have been let go in favour of hoped-for bigger gains.

No doubt all these matters will be preying on the mind of National Party MPs as they contemplate a caucus vote for their new leader next Tuesday. Even those of us without a vote have skin in this game.

Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government.