Are the Liberals becoming another Tea Party?
Bartlett's Blog - May 26, 2010 - 8:38pmFor the last few months, I’ve found it hard to shake the idea that the Liberal Party’s overriding approach to politics and policy has deteriorated to a level little better than where the US Republican Party now finds itself. I think the reason why things have sunk this low has a lot to do with the perverted nature of the so-called culture and history wars which were embraced with such fervour by the Howard government.
The public and policy debates engendered by the culture/history wars were driven by political point-scoring opportunities and a desire to reframe public perceptions in a way which fitted a hardline conservative worldview. It is no wonder Malcolm Fraser resigned from the Liberal party – a decision I am sure he would not have taken lightly.
Facts have been an optional extra in any of the arguments used to advance the culture/history war positions. Once a group of people engaging in political debate no longer feel the need to adhere to a reality based framework, and even basic tenets of logic and rationality are readily dispensed with if they get in the way of a desirable slogan or soundbite, then we are really are faced with a very different type of politics.
Just as the Republicans seem to think that, by definition everything Barack Obama is automatically another part of his socialist, big government, big spending, high taxing, pro-Muslim, anti-American, anti-religious, pro-abortion, gun-hating, pro-terrorist plot to destroy America from the inside – so the Liberal-Nationals now seem to feel every action by other parties, no matter how mundane, straight-forward or rational, must immediately be seen as another example of a fundamental threat to whatever it is they decide they believe in this week.
Julie Bishop’s latest bizarre attacks on the very middle of the road decision by the Rudd to eject one Israeli diplomat from Australia in response to that country’s action to forge Australian passports and steal the identities of at least 4 Australian citizens is a small but telling example.
Expelling a diplomat in this sort of circumstance seems like a very stock standard, almost tokenistic going-through-the-motions type of action by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. Yet Ms Bishop immediately tried to portray this as some sort of anti-Israel action aimed at currying favour with Arab nations. So desperate was she to take a pro-Israel approach, and to suggest that what Israel did was no big deal that she stated that the Australian government (or our spy agency) did the same sort of thing when it came to passport forgery and identity theft.
There is plenty to criticise the Rudd government for, but replacing coherent critiques with knee-jerk shrieking sloganeering is not a good sign. It may even be that this low road approach of manically pushing every negative button in sight could work well electorally – but heaven help us all if it does.
I am not convinced that the Tea Party movement will achieve much politically in the long run other than splinter the Republican vote, but in the mean time they are making any attempt at coherent, rational policy debate in the USA almost impossible. The Liberal’s incoherent, self-contradicting approach on a whole range of policy issues – most worryingly even on economic and tax policy – might be sufficiently obscured by their continuing inchoate war on everything as to provide electoral benefits for them. But once rational thinking is no longer required – in fact becomes an impediment to launching the latest barrage – then there is no guarantee it will ever be returned to at some stage down the track.