Filed under: — jstrocchi @ 4:07 pm
Are Australia’s Minor Party Cultural Progressives in Electoral Regress?

I depict, you decide.

Jason Soon invokes a mystical connection between myself and Paul Sheehan on the puzzle of the Cultural Progressive Senate watchdog that did not even show up, let alone bark. Actually the issue is much more prosaic. I contacted Sheehan and discussed this thesis with him. It turned out he was working on the same idea from the underwhelming GREENs, rather than the imploding DEMs, angle that first caught my eye.

I will cut off one avenue of intellectual escape for Cult. Prog. electoral apologists or decline deniers: the major parties have elected leaders that have also tilted to the Cultural Conservative side of the electorate.

In 1993 the leaders of the LIB and LAB parties were John Hewson and Paul Keating, standard bearers of Cultural Progressivs. In 2004, the LIB and LAB parties had John Howard and Mark Latham - died-in-the-wool and born-again cultural conservatives.

As a former Gulf War, and Howard, supporter I appear to have zero moral and intellectual credibility in the Leftoid Blogosphere. That being the case I shall let those more expert than me speak for the Decline of the Wets thesis.

I get some sort of masochistic pleasure from acting as Ceasar’s Messenger to the my betters on the more liberal side of Ozblogistan:

  • Paul Sheehan: Howard haters reap a hot, bitter harvest

    the progressive movement suffered a meltdown in the election…on October 9…The progressive vote collapsed.
    The combined vote that had gone to the Democrats, Greens and Unity in 2001 plunged 23 per cent, to 932,000. The Democrats disintegrated. Unity did not take part in the election.
    If this election was meant to be a referendum on Iraq, which is what the progressives wanted, it turned out to be an unmitigated disaster for the prosecution.

  • Lindsay Tanner: ALP must solve identity crisis
    Mr Tanner said now, in the wake of Labor’s lacklustre performance at the polls, was the time to work out where Labor sits on a whole range of fault lines in national political life.
    Are we a party that supports loggers or environmentalists?” Mr Tanner asked on ABC TV’s Lateline program.
    “I think that’s our core problem, we haven’t yet really worked out where we stand on a whole range of fault lines in national political life.”
  • Robert Manne: Labor, too smart for its own good, now has real identity crisis
  • Reluctantly I have come to the view that Latham is correct [about the popularity of cultural conservatism amongst the workers]. As the Australian political culture drifts to the right, it has become all too easy for the Coalition to exploit the divisions between traditional Labor and the left-liberal intelligentsia and to consolidate its links to a middle Australia which is largely indifferent towards, or even openly hostile to, the causes of the left…
    Under contemporary conditions the Labor Party can easily be weakened because of its thin remaining association with anything remotely resembling a politics of the left.

  • Gregory Melleuish: Deniers blind to genius

    Sensing a growing populist and nationalist mood in the country [Howard] brought together a support base that included liberals in the traditional liberal suburbs, the aspirationals of the outer suburbs and the traditionalists of rural and regional Australia. The Howard alliance included millionaires, blue-collar workers, retirees, as well as ordinary mums and dads.
    He did this, in part, by mastering the politics of symbols, and by projecting a powerful image of his vision of the Australian nation. Unfortunately, John Howard’s symbols were not those of the elites of academe, the ABC and the rest of the media, who remained attached to the Keating agenda and were enraged that Howard was not really interested in listening to them.
  • Kevin McDonald: The reshaping of our political culture

    Labor’s declining fortunes point to a profound reconfiguring of Australian culture and politics.
    Keating’s symbolic modernisation became more and more about the educated urban classes’ view of themselves, and had great difficulty in translating into real change.
    Over the past decade the conservative side of politics has constructed a vision not only of the economy, but of moral purpose. The great drama we face in Australia is the weakness of a counter model.
  • Tony McCall: Young voters now voting Liberal: analyst

    “A lot of traditional voting patterns were thrown out in the 2004 election, particularly Australians’ attitude to the Senate,” he told ABC radio.
    “For example, in previous elections, we’ve seen a tendency to put a safeguard in the Senate.
    “I think it might be a transition period away from the traditional arrangements where state governments and federal governments tend to have been counterpoised in terms of political allegiances.”
    “One of the really interesting developments in the Liberal Party, Australia wide, which might be being reflected here in Tasmania, is the young conservative people who are being attracted to the party,” he said.
    “These are the young, aspirational voters.


  1. the vote in the Senate is pretty easy to understand.

    Before Mystic Meg thought she was a brilliant politician people voted for the Democrats because they put a brake on either government without being too stupid. This was best exemplified by Janine haines and Cheryl Kernot. both then took madness pills.

    Mystic Meg led by her Raspurin Anfrew Murray was encouraged to enter the GST debate so the Democrats could become a mainstream party.

    Their vote never recovered. The Princess only put back the day of reckoning.

    given their demise one has two choices to vote in the Senate. either go completely barking and vote Green or vote for the Libs. People took the latter position.

    Comment by Homer Paxton — 10/18/2004 @ 5:37 pm

  2. Homer Paxton at October 18, 2004 05:37 PM continues to spin the CUlt Progs in their electoral grave:

    given their demise one has two choices to vote in the Senate. either go completely barking and vote Green or vote for the Libs. People took the latter position.

    Arent you forgetting something Homer? The ex-DEMs could have voted ALP. The ALP is closer to the DEMs than the LIBs, given their ecology policies.
    And the DEMs swapped preferences with the GREENs indicating a close ideological affiliation between both party leaderships.
    People just dont get it. THe CUlture War is over. The Cultural Left have lost the hearts and minds of the mainstream.
    Tampa, 911 et al were just more nails in the coffin.

    Comment by Jack Strocchi — 10/18/2004 @ 5:47 pm

  3. Jack, you’re still assuming that a large percentage of the vote for the Dems was actually a vote for the Dems’ policies. As Homer correctly points out, it wasn’t.

    Comment by Mark Bahnisch — 10/18/2004 @ 5:58 pm

  4. OK, but this does not solve the electoral problem for Cult Progs, it just transfers it. What the “homeless DEM” theory implies is that DEM voers were “closet conservatives” all this time!
    On this interpretation, over the nineties, the, latent conservative, DEM voters were unhappy with corrupt and squalid LIB leadership. And they wanted the responsible, honest decent DEM leadership to be a kind of ex-officio conscience of the LIB party.
    Then, as the nineties wear off, the DEM leadership cracks up for reasons only known to itself. At the same time Howard bares his bloody claws and fangs at the TAMPA and the latent conservative DEM voters, attracted by the manifest conservatism of Howard, jump ship to the LIBs.
    They dont care about honesty in governement any more, and they were never really that Cult Prog. THey just want a better property value or a taste of power.
    This story is maybe plausible. But it means that the Keating-era of Cultural Progresiveness, which DEM & GREEN partisans signed onto, was in reality a Giant Potemkin Village of ideological artifacts. So DEM voters were all this time looking for a reason to show their true-blue conservative colours.
    Or maybe DEM voters, under the mesmerising influence of Keatings & Stoot de Spoja’s mantra’s, got false consciousness about their true cultural interests. So they voted Cult. Prog. all this time in a kind of feel-good misty-eyed haze. Howard strips them of their delusions.
    Either the way, whether the Wets were an illusion or a delusion, they have declined.

    Comment by Jack Strocchi — 10/18/2004 @ 7:16 pm

  5. I doubt it Jack.A vote for the ALP in the Senate was a vote to vote no each time.People didn’t want every pice of legislation held up.
    They wanted a centrist party and thanks to Meg and Andrew they lost one and another one din’t turn up.

    Comment by Homer Paxton — 10/19/2004 @ 2:47 pm

  6. The dems were a centrist party thanks to Meg and Andrew; Meg negotiated with the government on the GST, Natasha voted against it. Post Meg, and post-meltdown, the Dems were just competing for mindshare with the Greens.

    Comment by aj — 10/20/2004 @ 1:52 pm

  7. Centrist? What, between two socialist parties?

    Comment by Another Bloody Libertarian — 10/20/2004 @ 4:06 pm

  8. Yes, the Democrats were originally avowedly centrist, if not moderate libertarians* (i.e. socially progressive).

    See the following:

    More recently they have recruited heavily from the left, resulting in their current position between the ALP and Greens.

    - Sly

    * To my understanding** their original location on the political spectrum would have been approximately opposite where One Nation currently is (if you look at the graph – i.e. move them straight across until they are between the ALP and LIB.

    ** I don’t know that much about politics, so I could well be wrong – can anyone with experience in this area contribute?

    Comment by Stephen Gryphon — 10/20/2004 @ 4:59 pm

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