There’s a story about a former New York City mayor. I think it was Ed Koch. He was talking to a potential voter and he is reputed to have said something along the lines of ‘If you agree with me on 9 things out of 12, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 things out of 12, you need to see a psychiatrist’. The mayor’s point relates in part to how democracy works in an age of strong political parties. Every voter knows, going in, that no political party and no candidate will profess to support exactly those policies (and only those policies) that the voter would implement were he or she made absolute monarch for a few months. You have to pick your poison, because always and every election that is the only choice before you. No political party or candidate will be offering everything you like and nothing you dislike. In a sense it’s a least-bad choice you have to make when you cast your vote into the ballot box.
Notice then that in a democracy different people will sacrifice different things. And what you prioritise can change over time. I used to put a very big value on economic issues. I wanted the small government party. I wanted the party that would keep taxes comparatively low and keep spending in check. And as I knew my comparative advantage I was a big free trader. I still think all those things are true and important. But I no longer make them my deal-breaker issues. Unlike in the past, today I would sacrifice the economic issues to support a party that would vigorously fight the culture war issues. Maybe that’s the result of my having spent the last 16 years working in a G8 Australian university, watching it and all the other Australian universities move ever more culturally to the Left, with ever fewer conservatives in the professoriate. And ditto the lawyerly caste, the corporate boardrooms, the judiciary, the public service, the list goes on. Or maybe that’s just because of what I see going on in the democratic world at large, what with Big Tech censorship, growing big government despotism (on steroids during this pandemic, with Australia amongst the worst of the lot), the occasional abandonment of basic due process or fair procedures when allegations of sexual misconduct are made (the abandonment being massively more likely if the accused is on the right-of-centre, rather than the left, of course), the expanding reach of hate speech-type laws, and so on. Whatever the causal mechanism, I know for certain that I would prefer to be poorer and have more free speech and less wokeness in society. And to have schools that focussed on the basics of grammar, maths, good writing and clear thinking rather than inculcating PC nostrums – and not just because that would help us score higher than Kazakhstan in international comparisons. And to have less scope for it to matter in the slightest whether someone is, or claims to be, offended. Oh, and I’m a comparative oddity in the university world. I believe that patriotism is a good thing. I think that countries such as Australia, Britain, Canada and the US today are amongst the best places ever to have lived in human history. There is less racism here than most anywhere – and I say that having travelled and worked across much of the world, including in China, Africa and Russia. You identity politics wokesters tell me the countries that you say are less racist, where it’s better to be a woman, where those from minority groups get a better deal. Go on, be specific.
At any rate, it was on the basis of our desperate need to fight the culture wars that I was such a keen supporter of Donald Trump. Sure, under his administration the US economy was booming with record employment rates for black Americans, Hispanics and women. But he was also a big spender with a few seeming protectionist inclinations. My view? Who cares. The man is just about the only right-of-centre politician in the anglosphere prepared to fight the culture wars. That, more than anything, was why the mainstream press loathed the man. Can you imagine what Joe Biden’s plummeting approval ratings would be like if he received from the press even a quarter of the hostility shown to the Don (not to mention its unthinking willingness to propagate untruths like the Russian collusion story)? Let’s be honest. If Trump had shown Biden’s cognitive abilities the media and press would be running wall-to-wall coverage of it. As it is, barely a word.
So let’s just imagine either Trump runs again in 2024 or maybe it’s Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (whose handling of Covid has, in my view, been far superior to any US Democrat governor and to Team ScoMo here in Australia). First they’d have to win. Then we’d need to see legislation tackling the market power of the social media platforms and Big Tech’s censorship; we’d need to see more of what Trump was starting to do to universities at the end of his administration and some clearing out of the upper echelons of the military. And he’d hopefully go back to calling out, daily, the insanities of critical race theory – which illiberally judges groups not individuals, and sacrifices equality of opportunity for identity outcomes.
As for Australia’s next election here’s my early prediction. Even though Scott Morrison oversaw the creation of the idiotic National Cabinet system that effectively empowered despotic state premiers; and even though his government spent like the world’s most drunken sailors while refusing to take the s.92 borders case to the High Court or really to criticise any of the lockdown despotism; and even though Australia is the only democracy in the world that hasn’t let its own citizens leave the country; despite all that, my bet is that the PM will put his money on voter amnesia and push for opening up borders, restaurants, everything. He’ll play the freedom card. Let’s face it. This is Mr Morrison’s only hope to win the next election. Right now the Coalition’s polling is awful because it is bleeding support on the right; namely all the people like me who care about freedom. The Coalition has to win these people back. So they’ll try.
And then it just boils down to whether enough of the lost voters return home to the Libs. Do they pick the short-term benefits of putting ScoMo back in, because it is plain that his team is better than Labor? Or do they think long-term and decide the Liberal party needs a term in Opposition as it would be terrible policy to reward the heavy-handedness these people facilitated this past year and a half? If enough come home then Morrison sneaks back in. If enough choke in disgust at the thought of rewarding these so-called Liberals who haven’t shown a liberal commitment or backbone for almost two years then it’ll be Albanese.
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