Flat White

The new normal in politics is anything but

4 February 2019

7:19 AM

4 February 2019

7:19 AM

Within the first six months of the year, voters in New South Wales are likely to go to the polls twice: first, to elect a new state government in March; and then, probably in May, to elect a new federal government.

It sounds like business as normal as the two main political parties prepare to vie for our votes and preferences. But of course what passes for normal in politics has long been changing.

For instance, the old distinctions between Left and Right have given way to new distinctions such as Progressive and Reactionary, or Globalist and Nationalist.

The politics of Trump and Brexit are often held up as examples of what we are told to consider as the new normal in politics. Appeals are no longer made to ideology but rather to common sense.

And while that may seem obvious, what passes for common sense is also changing. Common sense no longer describes a stable, shared level of practical knowledge and judgement we all use to get along.

In the hands of the political Left — and under the heavy influence of the Italian Marxist philosopher, Antonio Gramsci — common sense is a political construct forged to change and influence culture.

Once political views become normalised through appeals to a politically-charged notion of common sense, they become that much harder to defeat; because ‘common sense’ is seldom open to question.

So ‘common sense’ is regularly invoked in debates about what is normal in issues ranging from gender identity to national identity, from to marriage to euthanasia, and from energy to climate change.

But the contest over what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘common sense’ is making political discourse and debate much harder — not least because the collapse of old alignments has weakened old party loyalties.

All this is set to complicate political campaigns about the allocation of resources to schools, hospitals, and transport — to say nothing of those concerning the development of renewable forms of energy.

The new normal in 2019 is likely to be anything but normal. And if you think appeals to common sense can settle anything … well, that simply no longer makes sense!

Peter Kurti is a Senior Research Fellow in the Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society program at the Centre for Independent Studies. He is also Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Law at the University of Notre Dame Australia, and Adjunct Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture at Charles Sturt University.

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