Sep 11, 2013

Don’t blame Abbott — the Left loves to lose

Progressives need to be aware that this is a long game, and while the conservatives have won the battle, it's progressives who always win the war.

Jane Caro

Novelist, author and social commentator

One result of the weekend's election is that lots of lefties seem to be very angry with Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott, the Liberal Party and those who voted for them -- in that order. I am not. It seems to me that Abbott and the Liberals did what they are supposed to do -- they fought for their ideas and they won. I don't happen to like many of their ideas (except the paid parental leave scheme, where, once again, I differ with many of those I more often agree with), but so what? This is a democracy, and I have only one vote. I cast it for the representatives of the party that best reflect my beliefs (hint: it isn't the ALP). They didn't win enough such votes; such is life. I will not sulk; I will get on with arguing for the ideas I think are important and hope that my point of view gains more traction next time. When you are on the progressive side of things you need to be aware that it is always a long game. The conservatives may look like they are winning in the short term, but if you look at the broad sweep of history, they never actually do. The fact that I am not focusing my anger on the Coalition doesn't mean I am not angry. I am, I am furious, but I am furious with the ALP. I think that over six chaotic years Labor slowly wrapped Australia in bright, shiny paper, carefully tied a big bow around it and presented it to Abbott on a silken cushion. He didn't win this election, he just stood very still and let the ALP deliver it to him. One of my great frustrations is how bloody stupid and incompetent the Left side of politics almost invariably is. I have come to the reluctant conclusion that far too many on the Left secretly love to lose. They enjoy being the underdog, the martyr and the misunderstood, they like feeling sorry for themselves. I think they feel they can remain politically pure and unsullied by always being outsiders when it comes to exercising power. They can moan and whinge self-righteously without ever having to actually dirty their hands with real politics. I really, really hate those stickers that say "Don't blame me, I voted for ...(fill in latest loser here)". Worse, when Left parties like the ALP do try to sully themselves with modern marketing and persuasion, they do it as if it's really rather beneath them. As if it is just tricks and spin and slick messages designed to manipulate the mindless. Then they get the worst of both worlds -- they sneer at such stuff, but they put into practice the very worst of it!
"Their hubris about their own rightness and wisdom is self-defeating and, frankly, deserves a bit of thorough humiliation."
The Left's mindless acceptance of whatever the latest focus group says -- to the extent its leaders (especially, sadly, Gillard) repeat voters' words back to them verbatim -- is, in essence, disrespectful. It assumes that although politicians have brains the people, they seek to represent do not and will swallow such transparent sycophancy whole. They won't, as this election proves. The tragedy of many on the Left is that they don't simply under-estimate their opponents -- they also under-estimate their supporters and the electorate at large. Their hubris about their own rightness and wisdom is self-defeating and, frankly, deserves a bit of thorough humiliation. I don't mind their misery, I just wish the rest of the country didn't have to put up with Abbott and his team while the ALP eats the necessary humble pie. The ALP and its supporters must stop blaming Rudd. They hired him, preselected him, made him the leader, celebrated him when he won, dumped him when he proved to be as nutty as they'd feared, then very, very reluctantly turned back to him when they were desperate. If the Left wants to know whom to blame, mirrors come, forcefully, to mind. Personally I don't care if it's the ALP or the Greens or some entirely new party that takes up progressive causes, I just want whoever it is to get professional and drop the anti-modern communication methods snobbery. I also want the Left to have the courage of its convictions. Let's be frank, I am also furious with the ALP because when it does compromise its supposed purity it gives away all the wrong things! Instead of changing how Labor members communicate, what they emphasise and who they preselect, they drag their heels on education reform and placate the religious lobby over gay marriage and exemptions to the Anti-Discrimination Act. They scurry away from "the greatest moral challenge of our times" the minute it looks a bit hard, and they congratulate themselves on being nastier to desperate and vulnerable people than the conservatives. Sorry guys, but frankly, what's to like? *This article was first published at Women's Agenda

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19 thoughts on “Don’t blame Abbott — the Left loves to lose

  1. Altakoi

    As someone licking my wounds, I feel there is an element of truth in your charge of self-pity. I would have considered it a fair fight without the entire Murdoch empire being on the side of the LNP, or the LNP having actually had a policy to debate. But you are right, the fact Tony Abbott got within cooee of the lodge is testament to a massive failure of the sitting Government.

  2. Shoot the piano player

    I wish this weren’t true, but you’re absolutely right (apart from the PPL scheme). It really does come down to the faceless men and the ALP as a whole, who picked a nutter in the first place, and then everything unwound from there. The thing with sociopaths (and I suspect KR has elements of this in his personality) is they are hard to identify, and extremely hard to get rid of.

  3. Bernie Green

    I can’t see Rudd as being content to while away the time on the backbench while people he will inevitably see as being less capable and less intelligent call the shots. He’ll get bored.

    I can see what you are saying, they threw their lot in with Rudd and they have nobody but themselves to blame. Labor is so deeply divided that you can’t even speak of it as one party at times. I’m not sure that the people speaking up now for him to step down have ever supported him.

    I didn’t see this as an election about ideas so much as an election about power. I’m not sure what ideals Abbott wasn’t prepared to embrace, dispose of, or sell out in order to gain power really for it’s own sake so much as for what he could do with it, and Labor wasn’t that far behind in that particular quest.

    In the end presented with two power hungry groups neither of which seemed very principled Australia, to my regret, voted for the one which at least seemed to present some internal cohesion.

  4. Michael Jones

    Yes it’s just a pity that climate change puts a hard stop on how gradually/smugly progressives can ‘win’. If we don’t win soon, the world is in big, big trouble, and by the time the Team Incremental Reform awakes from their self indulgent slumber, it will be far, far too late to do anything but figure out how to bury all the bodies.

  5. the duke

    you have to be blind, deaf and dumb to not understand that the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Governments were sub par in their performances.

    given the spike in confidence illustrated via the NAB Business sentiment survey released this week, and the performance of the ASX this week, the government was given a firm thumbs down.

    lefties also overlook that the ALP was basically a 1 term Government. Atleast i slept easy knowing that I didn’t jump on to the KevinO7 bandwagon.

  6. Thomas McLoughlin

    “Let’s put multiculturalism behind us” quoting Rupert Murdoch tweet to his minions in Australia which duly publishes pictures of Rudd in Nazi uniform and lauds the daughters in uniform white.

    leni Riefenstahl would have been proud.

    Yet Jane here can’t bring herself to comment on the right wing press as possibly a factor?

    Wake TFU already. You’ve been soaking in this muck so long you’re desensitised to a poison that’s killing journalism and democracy.

  7. Frank Birchall

    Don’t agree Jane — certainly there’s more than a kernel of truth in your unsupported assertions, but — as Tom McLoughlin says above — you just ignored the pervasive influence of the right-wing press and radio shock jocks. Moreover, the RW media has this influence in part because many readers/listeners would rather have the media do their thinking for them. I don’t share the PC view that the electorate in general is too smart and sensible to be fooled.

  8. Will

    Another vacuous broadside at the “Left” (presumably meant to be Crikey readers?) without identifying anyone anywhere who responsible for offending conduct.

    Has there been any attempt to deny the legitimacy of the Abbott Government? No. At best mild push back against the explosion of triumphalism and the crudity of MSM’s narratives.

    Has there been any mainstream sulking? Perhaps some based on cynicism about how Abbott received so little scrutiny from News, Fairfax, or the ABC and how they managed to be regard as the better party on economics despite an inferior platform on economics and contradictory messaging. We are right to blame the ALP for gifting this election to the Coalition, and if Ms Caro thinks this is heterodox thinking she isn’t reading the temperature on the left at all.

  9. Guy Byrne

    Well said Jane!

    Now was it Mungo McCallum that wrote that labour should recognise that the natural order for Oz politics is for labour to be in opposition .. develop good policy reform and take government every ten years or so and drag the country foreward?

    I can live with that … but do share your anger about how quickly labour self destructed.


  10. Aphra

    The first problem with this is the presumption that the ALP is of ‘the left’. It hasn’t been ‘left’ for a very long time, in my opinion.

    Nearly everyone I know ( not a hippy amongst them) voted against Labor two reasons, one in particular – its disgraceful treatment of refugees and asylum seekers which shocked and shamed us. One, only, amongst my acquaintance voted Liberal, and that’s because she’s looking forward to $75,000 paid parental leave! I imagine that she wasn’t on her Pat Malone; in fact, I know that she wasn’t. The second reason was Labor’s punitive measures against single mums (inter alia) which, after her appalling comment that she could live on fresh air alone or whatever it was, Jenny Macklin’s 10% buffer was wiped out, reducing her to preferences. There was general approval in the community, fostered by the press, of Labor’s cutting payments to those work-shy single parents, but what an outcry when Labor indicated that it proposed to tax the private use portion of so-called ‘business cars’. No more four-wheeled off-road BMWs, Volvo’s and Mercedes in my neck of the woods, then.

    Then there was the Murdoch press. ‘Nuff said.

    Caro’s statement that ‘ far too many on the Left secretly love to lose’ is unacceptable. Only a solid, middle class, securely placed person could possibly claim that the ALP today represents anything remotely approaching the ‘left’. She should tell the needy and the sick, the homeless , the under-educated, and those battered by society for whatever reason that they, or those in whom they reposed their hopes, secretly loved to lose. Insufferable!

    I have noted that there’s very little comment, anywhere, about our historic, ingrained Australian racism which the then Opposition tapped into much more cleverly, adroitly and successfully than did Labor. Those who don’t believe that it played a significant role in the Coalition’s success are fooling themselves.

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