In this, the Year of the People throughout the Western world, the year of Brexit, and populist rallies in the American heartland, the Liberal Party seems a very odd creature indeed. Even though Malcolm Turnbull tried to make himself as small a target as possible, Bill Shorten’s ruthless game of identity politics still managed to frame the Prime Minister as Enemy of the People #1 – the would-be assassin of Medicare.
Labor’s scaremongering might have been a bold-faced lie but it worked because (a) the Labor-Greens are highly skilled at framing their political adversaries as the enemies of the people (b) the presentation of PM Abbott’s 2014 Budget, whatever its merits or otherwise, gave the Labor-Greens the wherewithal to deride the Coalition as the enemy of the people, and (c) PM Turnbull’s pivot “to the middle” reached out to leftist ideologues, rather than ordinary Australians – the real middle-ground in our country.
Recent Liberal leaders, and again that includes both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, have no idea of how much they are loathed by leftist ideologues for just being representatives of Liberal Party or – and this might be more important – how many intelligent and concerned ordinary Australians would support them if only they assembled a coherent case against the PC madness of the Labor-Greens.
Many commentators on the conservative side of politics might now claim that Tony Abbott was doing a great job before he lost the top spot. Nevertheless, eighteen months ago there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of support for the notion he was the right man at the right time. Abbott made a great start in challenging ideological orthodoxy with Operation Sovereign Borders, but his Team Australia project came undone when he failed to pursue it with intellectual nous, with an indifference to political correctness and with the flair of a modern-day communicator.
In Bill Shorten’s “victory speech” last night he thanked the party faithful over and over – à la Paul Keating’s 1993 “True Believers” speech – before belatedly giving a nod to the wider Australian community. The cultist always gets these things the wrong way around. His unapologetic partisanship and Kevin Rudd-like narcissism, not to mention the sly self-satisfaction at the effectiveness of his Medicare hoax, reassured me that I had done the right thing voting for the Liberals in the House of Representatives. That said, I probably was not alone in thinking that maybe the time has come to do more than vote and opine and hand out flyers.
Maybe the time has come to get one’s hands dirty.