Political Anthropology is always fraught with pathologisation, condemnation, and character critiques; most of the mainstream media’s pieces about Donald Trump’s voters serve as evidence of that, and we see little reason to deviate from the practice.
Today, we turn our attention towards an influential but curiously neglected group responsible for the electoral decimation of the Liberal Party’s former heartlands. We refer to this demographic as the AWFULs – affluent white female urban leftists.
The AWFULs were once reliable Liberal voters before being seduced by the siren call of a ‘climate emergency’ to vote for the self-proclaimed ‘Teal Independents’ who are also (almost exclusively) women. They brandished green policies in historically safe blue-ribbon electorates – and won.
Why did this happen?
Was it merely women voting for other women? Is the so-called sisterhood voting for itself? It is hard to reconcile this theory with the Katherine Deves debacle, where she suffered a further 6.6 per cent swing against her. Looking at it from that perspective, it doesn’t seem like this election was a moment where bluestocking Liberal females ‘stuck it to the menz!!!’
There may have been a tinge of feminism when viewed in light of the Brittney Higgins saga, which wasn’t helped by accusations levelled against the Liberal Democrats from Kirsty O’Sullivan claiming the minor party was suffused by systemic misogyny.
It would be useful to remember that #MeToo was politically weaponised in America (‘believe all women’ does not count if a woman accuses a Democrat presidential candidate). We cannot rule out the possibility that such weaponisation has happened in Australian politics and most transparently in the recent federal election.
Perhaps a more compelling theory of AWFULness can be found by viewing pro-environmentalist voting as a perverse form of what the sociologist Thorstein Veblen considers ‘conspicuous consumption’.
Not only is such voting a form of virtue signalling (i.e. demonstrating that one ‘cares’) but it also shows how wealthy one is – those who vote for policies that cause a substantial increase in the quarterly electricity bill don’t really need to worry about the size of said bill.
By this measure, AWFULs seem to care more about polar bears than those who struggle to afford green energy.
This theory neatly explains why the materially privileged denizens of Harbour-View Sydney were so eager to vote for raising everyone’s cost of living expenses. Our nation nominally espouses egalitarianism, but the impact of these policies will be hardest on those who cannot afford it.
If only Australia’s rich were content with Louis Vuitton’s latest.
Article co-authored by Lana Starkey PhD candidate in seventeenth-century literature at the University of Queensland and a freelance writer and Dr. Andrew Russell.
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