A Plea for Pragmatism over Principle

I hope you won’t think less of me. At the weekend I glanced at the magazine inside the Australian newspaper. It carries a column by Phillip Adams. Involuntarily, I read the first couple of paragraphs. Can’t recall what it was about but he described Tucker Carlson, who has the prime evening spot on Fox News, as “noxious.” In other words, harmful, poisonous or very unpleasant.

Does Adams actually follow Carlson? I have to doubt it. Carlson is a Christian, a family man wedded to traditional values and sojourns in the great outdoors; he is a fervent anti-racist and therefore despises CRT being taught at schools. He is against American military adventures abroad; finding it ironic that the integrity of the Ukrainian border seemingly takes precedence over the integrity of America’s southern border. He unceasingly mocks the group-think bias of the mainstream news media. He’s determinedly opposed to the various expressions of wokeness like, for example, men in the guise of women competing against women on the sporting field or in the swimming pool.

OK, many of Carlson’s views might not appeal to Adams but he would surely be onboard with anti-racism and opposition to military adventures. For the rest, Carlson is simply a conservative. If Carlson is noxious to Adams, I assume all conservatives are. Of course, Carlson suffers from being extremely popular and influential, having the largest of all cable news audiences in the US. That brings him into the cross hairs of your typical lefty. And being against vaccine mandates and in support of the Canadian truckers means that he commits the latest sin.

It took me aback once when the TV cameras pried into a group of Labor Party supporters during the Howard era. Whether they were entirely typical I don’t know. But, their hatred of Howard was visceral and palpable. I never imagined mild-mannered Howard could evoke such negative emotions. Roger Hunt a famous Liverpool player of the 1960’s (Sir Roger to fans) expressed similar surprise when he discovered that Scottish players took particular delight in England losing. He’d always supported Scotland as a boy, as did I. Neither of us realised for a good time how deeply resentment of the Auld Enemy ran through Scottish blood. Tribalism came to the fore.

Tribalism, I think, is the way to understand Adams. It is the way to understand why many traditional Labor voters continue still to vote for the Labor Party despite it holding values far removed from those it formerly held. My party right or wrong sums it up. Tribalism, which I admittedly suffer from when it comes to English football, is a species of arrested development. You get stuck in a mindset and never move on. Cheer a goal when you’re ten; cheer in exactly the same way when you’re seventy. Very few things, apart from tribalism, keep you stuck in the same groove from birth to death, whatever the circumstances.

Used to be on the left. Never radical but voted twice for Whitlam. Reflecting. At the time, I felt a tribal affiliation with the Labor Party; despised the Libs. Used to read Mungo MacCallum with joy. Since changing sides, after my brain had fully matured, I’ve had no tribal political affiliation. I didn’t erect a new one. That’s me. My question is whether being conservative ineluctably removes you from the tyranny of political tribalism. Readers might throw further light on the matter.

Like to think conservatives judge people and parties on their merit. For me, Trump’s policies provided sufficient reason to support him; though apparently some precious so-called conservatives found his mean tweets insufferable enough to support Clinton and Biden. No accounting for refined tastes.

This brings me to the here and now. I don’t much care for either Morrison or Albanese. By that I mean that I don’t care for their political personas. I make no comment on their characters; what’s in their hearts. They might be princes; I don’t know them.

To make matters worse, neither of the parties they lead has polices which appeal to me. Net zero, large-scale immigration, big non-defence spending – too little defence spending, soft on free speech and cultural issues and on freedom generally, Covid hysterical, regulatory overreach. Then there’s the Liberals masochistic kowtowing to the ABC. “We’re giving you more loot so as you can beat us up more.”

I’ll vote for One Nation or the Liberal Democrats or the UAP. They all have polices which better match my views. At the same time, there is no getting away from it. Either the Labor Party or the Coalition will form government. Those preferences will count.

I’ll hold my nose and give mine to (“Moderate Liberal”) Trent Zimmerman in North Sydney. He’ll be opposed by one of those dreadful Holmes à Court Climate 200 candidates, who have to be prevented from wielding power. A Labor government beholden to the Greens and Greens in drag is a sufferable outcome only if you have no tribal affiliation at all to Australia and its battlers.

We face an energy Armageddon. Once coal has been driven out the lights will go out. And, no, optimists, this won’t trigger a major rethinking on the part of the elites. They’ll use the apparatus of the state to crush dissent. COVID has given them practise. This is no time for high principles to trump pragmatism. The Coalition is the least-worst option; and, hopefully in the Senate at least, beholden to one or other of the minor more-conservative-minded parties, which I mentioned above.

23 thoughts on “A Plea for Pragmatism over Principle

  • brandee says:

    Much appreciated is this disclosure of thinking by Peter. In response I could suggest that there might be a long term conservative advantage in tossing out the weak Morrison government. After a very short time of experiencing the alternate revolutionary government the electorate has always returned conservatives with a large majority. The majority can also be in both houses so things can get done if the returned conservatives seize the advantage, but regrettably, often they don’t.
    Conservatives can also fail by not rolling back bad policy left over by the departing revolutionaries, the NDIS being one example, and Gonski another.
    Three years ago it may have been better to have Bill Shorten to spend for COVID with socialist excess than to have Scott and Josh trash conservative restraint.
    Finally, for the North Sydney electorate, there must be someone better than Trent Zimmerman who recently so brazenly voted against his own government in support of the wild claims of his fellow lobbyists against Christian school rights .

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    In much of social life, as Jane Austen so beautifully spears, it is often not who you really are or what you are actually saying that forms someone’s opinion. Austen’s focus is on how perceptions can differ, how they may contain pre-formed prejudices. Her novels depend on this. I too sometimes read Phillip Adam’s pieces, for occasionally they are insightful about farm life (lol), but in every piece there is the sting from the left; he is incapable of letting up on the dogmas of his strongly held political hatreds. Ruins a good read even when he manages very occasionally to write one.
    The left is extremely tribal, and the right has to watch out not to catch that disease. Collectivism encourages it of course, and the individualism of the right is something of a protection. But not always.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Peter, it is interesting to read of your personal story. I spent the 1960’s and 70’s strongly of the left and the 80’s slowing removing myself from their emotional grasp. By the 90’s I was a somewhat less than secret non-lefty in a very left environment and life was becoming difficult, though I wanted to keep my job. Then in the new millennium I retired and became personally free to read and think in new ways, to examine my journey taken, and even to write on blogs or for Quadrant Magazine, a new-found pleasure.
    But why vote for Zimmerman – surely there must be a protest vote candidate in North Sydney you can chose for number one, if only to deny funding and express displeasure? We have a good LDP candidate who fits the bill to send a message to Sharma in Wentworth. He won’t win, but he is bravely there.

  • Peter Smith says:

    To be clear Elizabeth, I won’t put Zimmerman number one. But I’m worried about the spooky Climate 200 candidate getting up, so I’ll preference Zimmerman. Don’t see what else there is to do.

  • Surftilidie says:

    I too read Phillip Adams each week, if only to chuckle at his name dropping. It seems there isn’t anyone on the planet for whom he hasn’t been a guiding influence. His biased views however, remind me of my dear wife and her similarly biased views of her beloved West Coast Eagles AFL team. She is so biased wrt to the Eagles that she cannot see any good in any team opposed to them. Adams is a bit like that with the left. He cannot see any good in any conservative politician or commentator. I call it tunnel vision.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Phillip Adams is Rupert Murdoch’s pet lapdog which only tends to prove that Adams’ political views are barely skin deep. He’s the archetypal Bollinger Bolshie. If he had any principles at all, he would cease writing for the Weekend Australian. If only because I’m profoundly deaf, I’ve never bothered to listen to his ABC blathering, and I stopped reading his weekend column decades ago.

  • DougD says:

    Peter and Elizabeth – good to know I’m not alone in my opinions, even about Adams. [I have a friend who is a tribal lefty. Curiously, he tells me repeatedly of forebears, one a colonial NSW acting governor, another an early and wealthy pastoralist – mainstream Tories the pair. Status seems to trump tribalism.]

  • lbloveday says:

    Decades ago I wrote, snail mail, to Adams at The Australian about an article in that paper. I received a response on ABC letterhead in a franked ABC envelope.
    I wrote to ABC management about this misuse of tax-payer money and received a response berating me and asking what possible difference a sheet of paper and an envelope made. To my mind it showed the ABC mindset; when does stealing become a problem? A ream of paper? A pallet? A truck load? Who cares, the mugs pay for it.

  • pgang says:

    But ultimately we’re on a hiding to nothing. Socialism has too much of a grip on Australian politics now. There seems little hope that we have a sustainable energy future, in the true sense of the word.

  • rod.stuart says:

    The medium is the message. (or the massage, as Tony Thomas says) Tucker has a huge television audience, but pales in comparison to the audience of Joe Rogan.
    It would be very difficult to pin a “tribe” on Joe Rogan. His appeal is that he very intelligently queries people that are obviously well schooled in a particular topic. His interviews with Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone blow the lid off the Covid scam. His interview with Jordan Peterson is astounding. But his latest interview #1780 with Maajid Nawaz clearly spells out the frightening dilemma of the West. There is no time left for talk of left and right, or of choosing a weak mob to see if a better one can be elected three years from now. The trap is about to be sprung. Klaus Schwab has infiltrated the entirety of our institutions with his little bitches.
    Just watch Scomo’s mug while he is praised by the WEFin the clip below.He beams like the lap dog that he is. And don’t expect each way Albo to be any less subservient. This is not the time for Australians to be insouciant.
    As Klaus Schwab loves to brag, he and his Marxist version of Fascism has infiltrated Western governments, and half of Canada’s federal cabinet, as well as inroads in Argentina, France, Germany, Austria, etc. How about Australia? Take a look at Scomo’s mug as he laps up the praise at the WEF in Davos.

  • Egil says:

    The ruling ‘tribe’ of today. – The Globalist Elites, under the command of Klaus Schwab/WEF,
    is trying to keep their agenda out of sight.
    But they have such control everywhere over everything that they can now let their guard down sometimes
    and be open and truthful without paying a price.
    The statements/clips below are very telling and should be front page/head line news;
    Schwab boasting about his power over Governments.
    Fauci talking about the ‘vaccines’ causing more harm than good.
    Gates being openly sad about the superiority of natural immunity over his beloved ‘vaccines’.
    Powerful stuff that most people will never get a sniff of.


  • PT says:

    I was brought up to be an ALP supporter. My mother made all sorts of absurd claims about how much better life is if they were in power (you’d think the Libs were just some sort of sadists deliberately making life miserable for their own amusement). It helped that Fraser was Prime Minister. Miserable hypocrite and backstabber are the words that seem to sum him up best. I even made excuses for Burke and Dowding, and for Keating’s privatisation (which went from pure evil to wise policy overnight). Keating’s embrace of republicanism, and the media pile on was what ultimately caused me to question it.

    Make no mistake, Keating republicanism (and that of the ARM in general) is strictly Anglophobic. And it was quite clear that a victory for them would mean “Year Zero”. Ultimately Keating attacked and ridiculed the idea of loyalty to the crown, and anyone who did so. And I then had to rethink about why I supported Labor! It was loyalty, for things long past at best. Keating had privatised (or was in the process of doing so) most of the State owned assets; did nothing about the Robe River dispute (the Australian equivalent of the British miners strike) and ended free tertiary education. Nor did he protect local industry. All things that would have been denounced as proving the malevolence of the Coalition if they’d done them. And Keating savaged the very concept of loyalty, the only reason to vote for him. Typically, he was (and is) so utterly self absorbed he has no idea of this. And anyway think that he (and his party – which is now apparently the CCP) must have loyalty but it’s a stupid concept otherwise.

    The author is right that the tribalism is the source of the venom. No one could otherwise explain the hatred of Abbott. I was shocked at the time: I had never thought being a surf lifesaver could possibly be represented as a negative in this country, but it was because it was Abbott! Morrison likewise isn’t much, but I don’t get the reviling of him. He’s done silly things, but the stuff we should really be angry with him over is not only fully supported by those who revile him, but they want him to do more!

    To answer the author’s question. I do think tribalism is more pronounced on the left side. But even they are not immune from it, as many referred to Hawke/Keating as socialists and even communists in the later ‘80’s. I think the problem is that the “left” imagine that they’re this great moral force.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    There is, or was in my youth in the 40s and 50s, nothing more tribal than devout Roman Catholics of Irish descent, a class which describes my extended family. Most of my relatives were then, and their descendants probably still are, rusted on Labor supporters for whom voting Liberal simply would never have entered their minds. My father was probably the only exception, and he came to his enlightenment the hard way.
    The eldest of three children of a mother widowed when he was barely six years old, he was the archetypal poor working class kid forced to leave school at the then minimum age of 14 years and 8 months with his Intermediate Certificate. His wages made it possible for the family to survive, and the introduction of the Widows Pension cemented the family’s loyalty to the ALP. With no higher education or trade skills, he was 22 years old and an unskilled process worker in a factory when World War II started, who married in the week the European war started.
    He enlisted in the RAAF as an aircrew trainee, graduated as a pilot and eventually served in the the Netherlands East Indies in the period during which the scum of the Australian waterside workers did their best to sabotage the allied war effort.
    Decades before Quadrant released Hal Colebatch’s “Australia’s Secret War”, my father told us of his experience in Merauke going for weeks if not months without fresh food, and having to fly from Merauke to Townsville and other North Queensland ports to stand guard on ships being loaded with Squadron supplies to prevent pilferage and sabotage by waterside workers. This was a rostered chore for squadron aircrew, well documented but, until Hal Colebatch’s book, little known beyond the military personnel who suffered from the depredations.
    Thus was my father converted from a loyal ALP supporter to someone with such a visceral hatred for unions and the ALP that he never voted Labor again.
    Nor did his children, or grandchildren.

  • rod.stuart says:

    “An entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the ‘right’ to education, the ‘right’ to health care, the ‘right’ to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle. There’s only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.” —P. J. O’Rourke (1947-2022)

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    “I won’t put Zimmerman number one. But I’m worried about the spooky Climate 200 candidate getting up, so I’ll preference Zimmerman. Don’t see what else there is to do.”
    Thanks for the clarification, Peter. I am in the same dilemma in Wentworth re Sharma being challenged via Climatge 200 Allegra Spender, who now has a poster up in our street, and every other street too.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    “P. J. O’Rourke (1947-2022)”
    RIP to PJ, who took many of us on a fun-filled ride away from the left in the 90’s.
    Parliament of Whores and Holidays in Hell were two of my all-time favorites.
    I am a 1942 war baby but I always saw PJ as ‘my generation’, because I went to uni 5 years late.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Fascinating insider story there, thanks, Doubting Thomas.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Peter, I liked your comments drawing the distinction between the political stances of Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison and the actual person. Its reassuring to think that underneath it all they both could be good blokes. Of course most of us don’t really know what they’re like personally.

    However many accept the abusive tribal view of these party leaders’ personalities. It’s so much easier to do that. It doesn’t require thinking.

    Labor strategists seem to have been more intent on damaging the personal regard for Scott Morrison, the man, more than Scott Morrison the policy implementer. I guess it’s harder to do it purely on policy when you’ve made Anthony Albanese a small target on policy.

    Now if you read the comments about the leaders’ personalities in most our our left or centre left media you’d think that had been an extremely successful Labor strategy. But most comments in that media simply regurgitate tribal slogans and the ratings in the opinion polls have Anthony Albanese behind Scott Morrison on personal ratings in all polls I’ve seen.

    I’ve actually been banned from one such media outlet for pointing out the poll results. It obviously was too much of an affront to the tribally held views of that media – particularly when it was easy to point it out with hard figures from polls.

    It’s also so much easier to vote according to tribalism. You don’t have to think. All the thinking is done for you – even abusive political labels are prepackaged for you.

    Simply say Donald Trump is a maniac and most conservatives won’t even challenge you publicly. They’ll let it go through to the keeper. And when conservatives write about something good that Trump has done they almost always feel obliged to preface what they say with some well regurgitated criticism of Trump. Arguably it’s testimony to the power of the invasive tribalism of the left on Trump.

    And of course the left will love you if you call Trump a maniac. Not because you’ve added something useful to public dialogue but because you’ve simply regurgitated tribal political abuse. You’ve shown in the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby that you’re sound politically.

    On a less reassuring note … when I studied these things in my youth most studies concluded that the hard core of votes on either side of politics in Australia was already secured on a tribal basis and the remaining swinging voters made the difference at election times. The depressing side of that was that studies also concluded that swinging voters were generally far less informed on the issues than the rusted on tribal voters. That may have changed in more recent times, but I wonder if it has.

  • lbloveday says:

    My favourite P. J. O’Rourke quote:
    “There’s only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”

  • 27hugo27 says:

    Balanced Observation, so true – what infuriates me is when a Chris Kenny or a Greg Sheridan writes an excellent article, only to throw in the inevitable and gratuitous Trump slur. I’ve stopped reading Sheridan because of this. Don’t they realise the left hates them no matter what? Throwing bones them never works. Funnily, I was not a fan of Trump Until he entered the primaries, and the apoplexy of the left led me to believe he could beat Shrillary, which he most satisfyingly did.

    • BalancedObservation says:

      Hi Hugo

      Just very very belatedly reading your comment now.
      Thanks for it.

      We’ve had enough time now to see how much worse off in terms of world security we are since Donald Trump hasn’t been President.

      We’d be having far less trouble with Russia and China if Trump were still in the Whitehouse.

  • colin.white18 says:

    One of the reasons for casting a valid vote is to get a government that will run the country responsibly in the best interests of the nation.
    Whether the government is LNP or ALP, because they are in the game for the long term will generally try to be responsible. The others are flash in the pan politicians who abuse their vote to achieve their special interest and don’t have the nation’s long term interest at heart.
    I urge all voters to vote for the major party whose policies they think are best for the country, and prevent them being compromised by fringe interests.

  • Rebekah Meredith says:

    colin–I used to feel the same way. But after the last two years, who can think that either of the major parties “will run the country responsibly in the best interest of the nation”???

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