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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Turnbull moves on « Previous | |Next »
April 7, 2010

What can be said about Malcolm Turnbull's decision to leave politics after the Canberra Press Gallery and political commentators have had their say?

The hard grind of opposition would have few rewards for a social liberal in a party that has increasingly become a conservative party hollowing out its liberal values (including individualism); a party that is turning away from its professional highly educated base in the inner urban seats to the suburbs and regions. A party that consciously repudiated its liberalism (using the market to put a price on greenhouse emissions) with its rejection of an emissions trading scheme to actually reach targeted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Turnbull crossed the floor on February 11 to vote with the Labor government on its proposed emissions trading scheme. He states:

I remain convinced it is in Australia's interest to start cutting our emissions now and to do so by means of a market-based mechanism where the government sets the rules and businesses make their own decisions as to how they will cut their emissions.

In crossing the floor Turnbull closed off his chances of leading the party again. Why bother to stick around as a Federal backbencher until Abbott becomes political roadkill?

The Liberal Party under the highly statist Tony Abbott appears to be increasingly turning back to the Howard decade to define its horizons, politics and social conservative understanding of what pursuing prudent and judicious stewardship actually means in a global world. It seems that the old ways are the good ways; that there is no need for radical change; and no need for a modernising Australia project that Turnbull stood for, and represented, on water in the Murray-Darling Basin and climate change.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:33 AM | | Comments (7)


politics has become a 'trench warfare of managerialism'

The Liberal Party's regional/suburban strategy is to rope into the Coalition blue collar working-class voters with talk of patriotism, culture war and family values. Class war worked for Republicans in the US as long as it was restricted to cultural issues. What will be avoided in Australia is economic matters ---eg., economic inequality--- and this will be avoided by using the culture wars to distract those in the regions and suburbs.

What's left now is a more socially conservative version of Howardism with Joe Hockey tacked on. They don't have the intellectual capacity to run an effective culture war, and Abbott is already too widely perceived as an extremist to get away with it. Instead they'll run with racism and xenophobia.

Turnbull is a great loss for the party and for politics. And his seat will likely be a loss for the Libs.

Thomas Frank in The Rise of Market Populism in The Nation reports that in the US:

While the right-wing populism of the seventies and eighties had envisioned a scheming "liberal elite" bent on "social engineering"--a clique of experts who thought they knew what was best for us... market populism simply shifted the inflection. Now the crime of the elite was not so much an arrogance in matters of values but in matters economic. Still those dirty elitists thought they were better than the people, but now their arrogance was revealed by their passion to raise the minimum wage; to regulate, oversee, redistribute and tax.

The Australian and Howard's Liberal Party imported the US right wing populism of the 1970s and 1980s and used it to attack the Labor Party and social democrats. Will Abbott + Co redeploy the old cultural wars around immigration or shift to the market populism of the great big tax, arrogant government and big bureaucracy? Or play both cards.

The Liberal Party under Abbott has been shifting to a market populism of the Wall Street Journal that assumes the market is the will of the people. The market is democracy and consumers are the people.

Thomas Frank in The Rise of Market Populism in The Nation observes that this is a populism in the ascendancy.

On the Wall Street Journal editorial page, where the behavior of markets is consistently understood as a transparent expression of the will of the people, one saw market populism wheeled out to defend the advertising industry, to defend the auto industry, to bolster demands that the software industry be permitted to import more workers, to hail stock options as the people's true currency and, most remarkably, to defend Microsoft from its antitrust pursuers.

In the right hands it can be used to "explain" nearly any social phenomenon.--eg., an emissions trading scheme.

We have yet to hear about the left's secrets and sinister patterns from the regional populists--eg., the left's offensive to promote illegal immigration. This populism holds that the left is working to cynically manipulate the system to produce social change that then leads to tyranny of big government.

The Left's strategy is one of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis. When will Andrew Bolt start running this?

Yeah Gary the conservatives don't like social engineering at all now, except for the poor bloody heathens in the Middle East where massive social engineering grows out of the barrel of a gun and the conservative elitists decide which regimes are fit to stay in power.

Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

And yes Lyn I have no idea where Joe Hockey fits into the Libs, or why he has risen to such great heights that he is now regarded as the leader-in-waiting after they give up on Abbott's. Joe's always seemed like an amiable boofhead without a single original thought, and his current eminence speaks volumes for the talent at the Libs' disposal.

It will, however, be fun running sweeps on how many minutes it will be into his Kerry O'Brien interviews before the sweat starts to break through the makeup.