(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

The recurring highlight of the federal government soap opera these past few weeks has been watching the "big swinging dicks" sticking their, um, necks out just a little too far for what’s turned out to be an increasingly sceptical public conversation in both social and traditional media.

The government’s pitch has been driven by fumbled nostalgic appeals to 20th century white picket fence identity politics, already more sentimental than real when it seemed to work so well for the Howard government a couple of decades ago.

From the “drums of war” with China, through the legal over-reach of defamation to smother the ABC’s Me Too reporting, and on to the ban on Australian citizens returning from India, the government is struggling to find its footing on what it would have thought were safe culture war battlefields.