September 14, 2013
Elizabeth Drew's The Stranglehold on Our Politics in the New York Review of Books gives us an insight into what could happen in Australia under an Abbott Government. She says that the US now has the most polarized political system in modern American history. It’s also the least functional and the dysfunction begins in the states.
The reason is that the Republicans have gained control of many of the the states and the overall result of the new Republican domination is that:
these states have cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations and moved toward a more comprehensive sales tax; slashed unemployment benefits; cut money for education and various public services; and sought to break the remaining power of the unions....Abortion clinics in some states have been shut down or eliminated. Funding for other medical services for women, such as mammograms, has also been greatly reduced.
You shrink taxes by shrinking the government. In Australia strategy would be to allow individuals to have more control how they spend their own health dollars to purchase health care and buy health insurance. This gives much greater choice, competition and personal responsibility in health. Maximising patient choice will enable a genuine system of private medical practice to flourish.
The central mechanism that the Republicans have found most effective for rallying their forces and to advance their own political cause is fear: anxiety about Obama's health care and government spending. In Australia the mechanisms were climate change, the pricing of carbon, and budget deficits.
Drews adds that:
As a result of the centrifugal forces that have taken over our politics, we have ended up with warring political blocs, not with the federal system envisioned by the Founders. Instead of cooperative interaction among the states and the federal government, we have a series of struggles between them.
Drews says that in 2009, for the first time, defeat of the incoming president in the next election became the opposition party’s explicit governing principle.
If that meant blocking measures to improve the economy, or preventing the filling of important federal offices to keep the government running, so be it. Wrecking became the order of the day. Confrontation became the goal in itself.
Isn't that a description of what Australia has gone through in the last three years? A description of the Abbott confrontation strategy that wrecks everything to gain power. One consequence of this kind of anything goes oppositionalism is that it has lead to both the rightward trend in Coalition politics feeding on itself and to a style of consequence-free politics.
Behind it sits a politics that will increase the gap between the society’s meritocratic ideology and its increasingly oligarchic reality, which already having a deeply demoralizing effect. There is an increasing anxiety that the claims that inequality of outcomes doesn’t matter as long as there is equality of opportunity ring hollow given the growing concentration of income at the top.