Bring on the stupid. With Tony Abbott now not in a position to provide a piece of daily right-wing, batshit, Catholic crazy, the mantle falls to lesser mortals. The Australian‘s Greg Sheridan does not disappoint. His piece on the US election has all the elements of right-wing derangement syndrome: a false equivalence between Donald Trump and social democrat Bernie Sanders; and a dose of hilarious Godwinning.

“Sanders and Trump share an anger on both sides of American politics about the failure and dysfunction of the political system. This anger is well justified. But democratic anger doesn’t always produce a good result. People were rightly unhappy with the failures of democratic politics in Weimar Germany. The outcome of their anger wasn’t very good.”

Good god, the man’s serious articles even echo self-parodic Godwinning: “You’ve got a moustache. You know who else had a moustache?” But wait, there’s more. Who’s to blame for the disastrous situation in which the American right finds itself? Why, it’s Barack Obama! Greg explains:

“So why do I say that Barack Obama was the forerunner of Trump and Sanders? Obama was the first successful pure celebrity candidate for the presidency …”

And it goes from there. No achievements blah, blah, blah, narcissistic, blah, blah, blah … The protest is Psych 101. The catastrophe of the Dubya presidency and Obama’s victories wounded the narcissistic self-regard of the right, that they represented the “real” US — just as Tony Abbott represented the “real” Australia — and they project it back onto him.

The real-world explanation for Trump’s rise on the right might lie with — gasp! — the right. Indeed, a lot of it lies with the global organisation Sheridan works for. It was Fox News, after all, that helped create the right-wing fantasy voter in 2008, mourning the victory of a Kenyan-Hawaiian Communist. It was Fox News that engineered the rise of the Tea Party, and put magical thinking about a “restoration” at the centre of right-wing politics. With “Make America Great Again”, Donald Trump is reaping that harvest, with such success that he can now snub Fox News altogether. Meanwhile, the Democrats have two candidates debating rational, costed policy options. Perhaps that’s due to John McCain. Or something.

Sheridan’s consoling fantasy — the man could put out an anthology of consoling fantasies, simply by collecting his key articles, from 9/11 to now — was replayed in Australia on a smaller scale. The Salo-esque idolatry that the conservatoriat had for Abbott blinded them to his hopelessness, and to the degree to which their politics was isolated. Fox News helped Obama to two victories, and the conservatoriat here bumped Malcolm Turnbull into the Lodge. If he can now diminish the right in Liberal pre-selections, then the Abbott fan club will have achieved the unlikely result of having moved the Australian political spectrum to the left, and left the actual right with a diminished parliamentary base. Quite an anti-achievement.

The fault, of course, was in continuing to employ people like Sheridan, and Albrechtsen, and Devine etc — those who have such a deep-seated psychological need for the right to be right, that they can’t feed back accurate information to their own side. Such papers employ people like Peter van Onselen as a sort of loyal opposition, a sort of reality ombudsman to their political whackadoodle. They’ve got it the wrong way ’round. They should have, as I noted in 2007, got rid of all but one of the whack jobs, and had the paper rejoin the reality-oriented community. Instead they employed Maurice Newman. Turnbull is the result. Trump is the result. The inability to examine their own politics now seems terminal, a prelude to the collapse of that form of “The Right” as a unified formation.

Sheridan is the useful test, a … what’s the word? Dipstick. Sheridan is a dipstick for that sort of delusion, because he was once and is sometimes still capable of rational analysis. It’s the measure of a mass political fantasy — and I won’t be Godwinning, no sirree, not me — that people eventually find it irresistible. Which would appear to be the case here, there and everywhere. What splendid times these are: the right crazy, Abbott staying in the ring, the Bolt Report gone, and Christian Kerr doing Cut and Paste. And there are another nine months to go …

Peter Fray

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