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Federal

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.

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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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