Angela Merkel has been Chancellor of Germany for 16 years now as the leader of a supposedly right-of-centre political party the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). What has she accomplished that any conservatively inclined person, in years to come, would think a worthy legacy? I ask because it is certainly easy to come up with things that don’t look all that good. She caved in to the Greens, closed down Germany’s nuclear power plants and now has Europe’s highest electricity prices. She regularly kept moving her party further leftwards to help her win coming elections, happy when needed even to enter into coalitions with the Social Democrats who until 1959 were still nominally Marxists. She unilaterally allowed over a million supposed refugees to flood into the EU. When then British Prime Minister David Cameron came cap in hand to the EU to have it throw him some bones so as to ward off Brexit, Merkel (with the French) insisted Cameron get nothing. (For this one, conservatives in the anglosphere can thank her, as I heartily do.) During her whole tenure Germany has never come close to spending the mandated 2 per cent of GDP required of all Nato members (so she and Germany freeload on the US and breach their treaty obligations, thinking President Trump ‘uncouth’ when he pointed this out). She has overseen a euro currency that turns the southern EU countries into beggars but enriches Germany (at the expense of having to lend dollops of German money back to them, on strict terms, to prop them up). She put Jean-Claude Juncker in as Head of the European Commission, a choice that also helped along Brexit. She has been happy to cooperate with Russia’s Putin to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, making Germany energy-dependent on the Russians. She supported the centralised EU vaccination approach that has been put to shame by the post-Brexit national sovereignty approach in Boris’s Britain. Meanwhile the support for her CDU party has gone down and down. When she finally steps down later this year it’s quite possible the Greens – yes, the Greens – will win the next German election and provide the Chancellor. (Remember, as a right-wing governing party moves ever further left it makes it a lot easier for voters, eventually, to go for the real thing rather than the ersatz version.) Let’s be blunt. By far her biggest accomplishment as a politician has been to win elections. She’s been brilliant at that.
And that leads me to this philosophical question. What do you want of the politicians on your side of politics? Do you want the Merkel types who win elections, stay in power a long time, but accomplish very little that you like? Or do you prefer conviction politicians who have principles and desired reforms they are prepared to fight for and – if it comes to that – to lose elections trying to implement? I ask because this issue splits lots of people. I have more than one really smart conservative friend who thinks democratic politics is all about winning, keeping the other side out of power. As long as your team is a centimetre to the right of the other bastards that suffices for them. I, however, think that attitude and approach is a mistake, a really big mistake.
The point of politics, I think, is to achieve something that you and your side of politics believe is needed. (Even the world’s Calvin Coolidges who aim to pass very few laws at all can achieve what they want; Coolidge did nothing because he was a small government man who thought government, especially the federal government, really ought to do very little – so he certainly wasn’t just about winning elections. In his own terms he was a huge success.)
Or consider Nigel Farage. He was a European MP for many years, sure, but despite several tries he was never able to win a seat in the Westminster parliament. And yet look what he accomplished. Brexit simply never could have occurred without him. Yes, it needed Boris too (who by the way just introduced a Free Speech in Universities Bill that I would kill to have brought in here in Australia). But Farage was the bigger causal factor. By contrast, Theresa May and David Cameron won elections. Yet they have invisible legacies, at least if we are looking for positives.
You don’t need to be a mind-reader to see where this is going. Right now with this ScoMo/Frydenberg government we right-of-centre voters in Australia have a government that appears not to have a single right-of-centre conviction about anything. Nada. Zippo. Zero. All, and I mean all, it cares about is winning the next election – though Josh clearly also cannot get his eyes off his own PM prospects. Last week Josh brought in the biggest spending Budget ever, on the pathetic, laughable excuse that a virus that likely won’t hit the top 20 causes of death in Australia demanded it. They tore up every conservative principle so that they could borrow untold amounts from our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to get them over the line at the next election. Look at the deaths per million in no-lockdown Sweden and tell me this makes sense? More deaths will come from the lockdowns and massive spending, we just won’t have the compliant press pointing this out. I have no idea why so much of the Murdoch press thinks this was an acceptable Budget (honourable exceptions being Terry McCrann and this magazine’s Judith Sloan) but to me it was a Merkel-style Budget. No principles. No beliefs. Let the lefty Keynesian Treasury bureaucrats lead us by the nose. Anything just to win the next election. All the spending is locked in forever. The budget forecasts are plucked from thin air on unbelievably optimistic assumptions – Josh, I’ll bet you my career to yours that the deficits will be a lot bigger than these made-up figures claim.
Meanwhile no attempts at any reforms in exchange for this profligacy. Not one. And if we leave the economy to shift to cultural issues – our universities, the presumption of innocence, free speech, religious freedom, the school curriculum, ending cancel culture, everything – Team Morrison looks worse than just about every past Labor government. How many readers think this has to do with how awful today’s parliamentary candidates are and that they largely seem to go from ministerial aides and think-tank types straight into politics with no concerns other than winning to keep their careers? But hey, odds are pretty good this Team Morrison will win the next election. After all, Frau Merkel kept winning for 16 years. But all for what in the end?
Last observation. If one or two Coalition lower house MPs had a scintilla of principle they could stop this monstrosity of a Budget in its tracks. But if you can even voice that possibility with a straight face then move to LA and look for acting work.
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