Features Australia

Living in Andrew Jacksonland

Our political world hasn’t been so divided for decades

21 November 2020

9:00 AM

21 November 2020

9:00 AM

All of us living in the Anglosphere right now are living through two pretty major political shifts.  Forty years ago and more the main left- wing political party in Australia, Canada, Britain, the US could more or less be described as the party of the lower middle class, the less well off, if you will the working class.

By contrast, in all these places the main right-wing party mainly represented big business, the upper ends of the income distribution, the country club and stock exchange set.  Sure, religious factors were overlaid on this because in all these countries there were Protestant/Catholic divides and people who voted denominationally rather than economically. In Canada there were language factors too. Unions were far more of a factor as well. But generally speaking the better off you were the more likely it was you voted for the right.

Today in the US, Canada and Britain, the situation has completely flipped and it is happening here too. In the US in the 2016 presidential election the top 100 wealthiest counties all voted for Hillary Clinton. I’d bet something very similar will be true of the recent 2020 election when they go through the data. Today, the Democrats are the party of big business, Big Tech, Wall Street and highly educated professionals. (I speak in generalities you understand, well aware that there are outliers and exceptions.) That claim is true in my native Canada as well. The rich voted for Trudeau Jr. at the last election. And so, too, did they vote left in Britain both at the recent general election and (if left-wing can be equated to love of the EU and right to its loathing) over Brexit.

Sure, public sector employees complicate this claim. It’s not just the top-paid in the public sector (and in the universities and charitable sector) who vote left. Those lower down the public sector ranks also vote left and can be thought of as the Left’s shock troops, always looking to expand government’s reach and squelch private sector competitors (think support for the ABC, dislike of private schools, etc.) And those on welfare remain in the pocket of the Left (though outside compulsory-voting Australia do not much vote) due to their dependence on welfare programs from which the Left shows little sign of wanting to liberate them.

Meantime the main right-wing party is today the party of the lower middle class, small business, the rural vote, and yes, the working class. This sums up Donald Trump’s voters (and his appeal) in a nutshell. It also is why Boris swept to a large majority just before last Christmas, though Mr Johnson seems intent on doing all he can at the moment to push these supporters away in his mad, bizarre embrace of green left concerns. Or put differently, more geographically, the Left now can rely on the votes of those in inner cities. The right has the rural areas sown up. And elections are fought and won in the suburbs.

As I have argued before, Australia’s almost unique preferential voting system for the House of Representatives – perhaps combined with compulsory voting – has slowed this trend down here in Australia. But it’s only slowed it down. The constituency next to me in Brisbane just went Green in the state election with some of the wealthiest, poshest homes and upmarket coffee shops supporting them. If the Libs think that in 20 years they’ll be holding on to the Josh Frydenberg-type district or constituency then they’re dreamin’. And that has big implications for both right- and left-wing parties.

Here’s my prediction. Parties on the right will have to move in a Trump-like direction of favouring national sovereignty over globalist concerns, of favouring small business and deregulation over the demands of big business and of taking the culture wars seriously.

Trump just took 71 million-odd votes, next to Biden’s tally the highest ever, and a lot of those voters are sick and tired of the speech-limiting, ‘lose your job if you say anything that would be frowned upon in a university management meeting’ virtue-signalling and moral-preening of the journalistic and corporate and public service HR class. If the existing main right-wing party won’t do anything on these fronts, a new party will.

The other big shift we’re seeing, or are at the early stages of watching develop, is the end of any widespread belief in an impartial, disinterested, balanced media. And I am not just talking about behemoth public broadcasters fed billion plus dollars per year of taxpayers’ monies – though outside the US these are a huge part of the problem.

No, even in the private legacy media class there is now an overwhelming uniformity of viewpoint – think the monolithic hatred of Trump, manifested even on much of Fox News; think of the vast bulk of the British press and its hatred of Brexit; think of the wholly uncritical love of Trust Fund Trudeau in Canada. And here in Australia, when Rupert exits this world and his chardonnay-sipping offspring fully take over, you can expect an acceleration of the sort of ‘move left’ transformation the Americans have seen with Fox News. In other words, we live in a world where the vast preponderance of the legacy media – manned (my word, not theirs) by young, university educated journalists who have been force-fed all the usual shibboleths  – are in the bag for one side.

And that’s not a stable situation. In my household we have for a couple of years now wholly forsworn any watching of the ABC. Ditto the main terrestrial channels.

Here’s where I reckon we’re headed. Back to the future. Back to the world of Andrew Jackson in the 1830s where each side of politics buys its own papers and (today) listens to its own analysts. Where there is next to no overlap or pretence of impartiality. Now this is not a desirable situation, I know. But it’s loads better than having a de facto monolithic media that pretends to be neutral and balanced when all on the right can see that is plainly a lie – not a single identifiable conservative presenter or producer on any ABC TV current affairs show; barely any conservative outlets of any media sort in Canada; a mainstream American press (Fox included) that a university study found gave President Trump 92 per cent negative coverage, and this before the corona virus and when the US economy was its best ever and no new war had been entered into by a new president for the first time in decades.

Nope, speaking personally I prefer the Andrew Jackson world to today’s monolithic, one-sided, faux-balanced, speech-suppressing media world.

And I reckon loads of others do too, which is why I bet we’re heading that way.

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