Well, that was depressing.

one nation

Image: news.com.au

The election result, that is. Then again, I suppose that’s only true if you voted Labor, Greens or any of the progressive minor parties or anyone that came nowhere, much like the progressive minor parties. For Coalition voters and members I suppose it was, at worst, disappointing.

But as depressing as the election result may be (I’m using the present tense because I’m not quite over it), especially with regard to the Senate, I’m finding the post-election analysis depressing in itself. I can find little about it that warrants the label “analysis”. The natural effects of disappointment and despondence taken into account, it gives the appearance of a typical post-election whiny-butt blame-fest. A “But they suck, how dare they win!” kind of thing. Not entirely, of course, but significantly.

Now, I expect a largely partisan approach to post-election analyses. To do otherwise would be silly given that’s how politics works all the time around here – why should it be different after an election, right? The problem with that is it tends to neglect reality. We end up blaming the system (when have losers ever not blamed the system?). We cry about the failure of democracy all the while ignoring the blissful truth that if we’d gotten over the line – even just – none of this would be raised at all, at least not by “our side”. It’d be reminders of how legitimate the Gillard Government was all the way down. Never mind the turtles.

But it’s not the system. It’s not Turnbull’s fault for holding a DD election. Democracy has not failed. The Australian electorate gave us this outcome. We need to examine the result and as objectively as possible ask “why?”, not look for any and every chance to make a cheap, lazy political point. Let’s leave that sort of hokum to the other side when we win. The Australian people gave us this result, pure and simple. How about we acknowledge that fact and on the basis of that fact ask what the hell is going on?

What happened, more particularly in the Senate? We could not have had a greater number of socially progressive candidates standing for this election if we crowd-funded people just to do so. Perhaps we had too many, thereby splintering the “Left’s vote? Yes, that is obviously a factor. But what happened to them in the Senate vote? Where the hell are they?

The Greens lost a seat. We returned Family First’s Bob Day and libertarian firearms fetishist David Leyonhjelm, along with Jeff Fenech impersonator Jacqui Lambie . We’ve boosted Nick Xenophon’s ego considerably, which is always arguably a serious mistake. We’ve given ourselves Derryn Hinch, the man who for the past 20 years wouldn’t even vote – on principle. And just for the proverbial icing on the cake, four – count them! – 1, 2, 3, 4 – One Nation Nongs.

Combine that rather staggering set of circumstances with the HoR result, which despite being as close as the Polls said it would be, gave us no new progressive representatives whatsoever. It’s a bleak picture. But why, dammit? Why?

As it turns out, and in actual fact, the policy framework Labor took to this election was as progressive a set of ideas as we’ve seen from Labor in yonks. How do we sensibly translate that to the election result? Clearly, something else is going on. Clearly, “progressive politics” isn’t the current cultural compulsion some of have thought – or fantasised – it to be. To analyse, as opposed to analise, this result effectively and objectively we’re going to have to set aside our own pet ideas of how we’d like things to be and instead consider things as they really are.

One thing I’ll say most fervently at this juncture is that anti-Lib/Lab duopoly sentiment has seriously backfired on the Left, because, it seems, in their vanity they imagined only they were thinking this way.

Why haven’t the Greens been able to breakthrough their 10% plateau if this shift to the “far right” in Australian politics is so obviously odious to so many people?

It appears as though the sense of cynicism and disenfranchisement with which the electorate is broadly approaching politics is finding its strongest expression at the Right end of the political spectrum. I guess it’s not surprising, really, if everything is taken into account. Your typical One Nation supporter can likely cite most of the social problems that anyone else might point to in terms of education costs, poor behaviour from politicians, work and industrial relations issues, housing and medical costs etc etc. But they have the added “issues” driven by xenophobic and jingoistic sentiments – the evils of multiculturalism, the threat of Islam and the dread burden of Vegemite costing .25 of a cent more, the perception of loss of cultural identity created by, you know, reasons. Add those factors into the mix and it’s not hard to see why persons of the Right (and certain Labor demographics), when all’s said and done are more pissed off than the rest of us, and therefore more willing to vote for a mob like One Nation that purports to represent and speak for them.

I think the other factor here, aside from Australia having always been a relatively conservative (in the old school sense of that word) electorate, is that we have tended to lag behind the USA (and even Britain) politically, by a factor of up to almost a decade. The emergence of Tea Party politics may be somewhat old hat for an American context, but we’re still well and truly in the development stages. The progressive dynamics we’ve seen in the successes of Corbyn and Sanders are certainly inspirational, but to think they automatically translate to the Australian context has no basis in fact that I can discern. The election result would seem to bear this out.

Mind you, during the Abbott period we caught a glimpse of it. When #MarchinMarch was in full swing it was as though the Left was well nigh unstoppable, a veritable Juggernaut. The feverish and breathless desperation with which we expressed our determination to be rid of the neocon scourge was fairly extraordinary. I’m pretty sure I heard of verifiable reports of those willing to sacrifice their first-born to achieve this end. Then came Malcolm, and despite our best efforts to paint this as a false promise or a hope forlorn, and boy howdy did we try, we kind of failed. We swallowed more of that particular political Valium than I think we’re prepared to admit.

Whatever happens now – and I defy anyone to accurately predict what’s going to unfold, beyond a massive shit-fight – we must be ready to resurrect that breathless and desperate energy we possessed during the Abbott tenure. It is after all, the same Government, but now with a potentially sympathetic Senate, willing to support God knows what sort of crazy legislative agendas the Government might throw at them, along with the promise of God knows what sort of crazy incentives.

So, aside from the usual suspect of the mainstream media, which I will write about soon, what are the most salient political and cultural observations we can make so as to produce a sensible and useful explanation for the result of this election? I suppose it would be remiss of me to omit the politics of fear from any explicatory mix, so here I am, not omitting it …

I welcome your thoughts.

About Dan Rowden

Dan Rowden is a freelance writer and philosopher who has been active in philosophical and political discourse since Malcolm Turnbull invented the Internet in Australia. For the last 15 years he has contributed to and administered Internet philosophy forums. Politics is a secondary interest, but he recognises moments of significance in Australia's political history.
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One Response to Well, that was depressing.

  1. Bobo says:

    The financial crisis of 2008 was the outcome of orthodox economics policies starting from the deregulation of the financial capital from the 80’s. Besides brief talks in the g20 of turning towards more heterodox, demand side, state induced as way out of the crisis by those countries, Europe turned fully towards austerity measures suffocating the national governments of Greece, Spain, for the banks. The US got it to a lesser extent because of the fed’s policy of buying bonds, its politics are still Wall Street dominated, no measures against its interests was put in place. Given that we’re still feeling the effects of 2008 crises and the failure of governments to step away from the interests that created the crisis indicates that there’s a systemic problem of current democracies in dealing with the issue, fuelled by newer forms of organization as in social media. To the left it has been dabbling with neoliberalism for long when not pandering towards conservative populism in issues like immigration.

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