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Wedge Politics « Previous | |Next »
March 20, 2003

There is an interesting reading of John Howard's political management of the war issue here. In the article Alan Ramsay quotes the pollster Rod Cameron who says that the fundamentals of national politics are begining to change:

"For Australia's best-ever political prime minister, he's now making significant political misjudgements. I mean, what was he thinking of to invoke the Bali victims with the war in Iraq. It's crazy stuff. And I think, despite his frantic searching, he just can't find a wedge in this issue. He has, quite superbly, controlled the political agenda by wedge politics - by dividing the electorate on some emotional issue and forcing the Opposition to side with the moral but unpopular position. But there's no wedge in the Iraq issue. The numbers are now, and will remain, opposed to a war. I think that's true with or without UN backing."

Cameron goes on to say:

"And why I think the fundamentals are changing, is that, OK, he's not getting the wedge, he cannot now win this issue, and yet that's his lifeblood. His whole success as prime minister has been intimately involved with the wider security issue. You know, security/refugees/asylum seekers/immigration/defence. All that is one overarching issue. And now it is changing into, more specifically, war/Iraq/subservience to the Americans. And that is one he isn't winning. And I don't think he can now."

I think this is right. The wedge has not work this time even though it was pushed very very hard by the Coalition government after 9/11. The political strategy of 'war now' through a pre-emptive strike did not connect with the emotional template of the Australian people. The charges of anti-Americanism, appeasement etc that so easily rolled off the lips of the pro-war crowd alienated public opinion.

Using the wedge indicated why Howard did not engage in public debate or blocked all attempts by Australian citizens to be involved in policy discussion through arguing which course of action is best for Australia. All that John Howard is willing to grant is that Australian citizens have a right to express their opinion. Since he blocks our participation in the process of making a decision about Australia going to war our right to express our opinions is little more than a whistling in the dusty wind.

A commitment to democracy is not one of John Howard's strong points. We citizens are left to dissent from an already agreed upon position--being part of the US posse----rather than contributing a policy option to the public discussion. John Howard makes an announcement after visiting Washington and that's policy. Alexander Downer then elaborates the announcement. Thats how policy is made. All we citizens can do--the only option granted us--- is to agree or disagree with it.

That is not much of a democracy. So we fight to be a part of the process of policy formulation. We reject the limited conception of democracy of the Prime Minister.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:05 AM | | Comments (1)


Today is a sad, sad day for us all. The best we can hope for is a short sweet war, knowing that this will further whet the appetite for further preemptive military action outside the UN.