I am writing this the morning after the Liberal party’s election fiasco in Victoria. And yet again we have more evidence that against a populist Left the squishy centrist right strategy is a disaster.
At best it buys you a few election wins, during which time you might cut back a bit on government spending but really accomplish very little that the Left cannot abide. No taking on of the left-leaning media (and the very left-leaning public broadcast media); no fighting the culture wars; no treating free speech as worth dying in the ditch to protect; no calling out an ever more left-wing legal profession and judiciary; no fighting against an anti-democratic elite; just a few years of slightly less profligate government spending which paradoxically makes it easier for the electorate to bring back the super big spenders of the Left (who do fight their corner on all of the other above issues).
Forget Victoria for a moment and look at how the mushy centre-right strategy is working out elsewhere.
In the UK Theresa May and the Conservative government have completely betrayed the voters who opted for Brexit. Almost every red line she first articulated she has crossed in her capitulation to the European Union. Of course the core problem is the preponderance of Tory MPs were for Remain while a preponderance of the party voters were for Leave. In fact it’s worse than that. The Cabinet is more Remain than the backbench. The backbench is more Remain than the party activists. And the party activists are more Remain than the core party voters. If that isn’t a recipe for disaster (not least for the Tory party down the road) I don’t know what is.
But my broader point is that this Theresa May government (and David Cameron’s before her) looks more like a centre-left government – awful on free speech; unwilling to stand up to the judiciary; not least in being unprepared to pare back Tony Blair’s statutory bill of rights Human Rights Act that has significantly – and I mean significantly – increased the power of Britain’s judges; still doing little on big scale immigration; and not exactly what anyone would describe as a ‘small government’ operation.
Then there is the multiple election winning Angela Merkel and her CDU party.
Here’s a tough challenge. Name one policy she’s enacted that you’d be proud of as a right-of-centre voter. Spending billions on a totally worthless ‘green energy’ agenda that has accomplished nothing (save to undermine coal-fired power and, ironically, nuclear power)? Inviting a million Muslim immigrants into Europe and then trying to pawn them off on other EU countries? Going to the wall to defend a ‘euro’ currency that today sees sky high youth unemployment in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy and which bizarrely seems to rest on the Germans lending these southern European countries money they can never pay back so that, for now, they can keep buying German goods? Refusing to spend the explicitly laid down 2 per cent of GDP on defence, as the NATO treaty requires of all member states?
Seriously, pick just one thing you as a right-leaning voter like about the long-lived Merkel government.
Or what about the much over-hyped John Key National government in New Zealand? Again, what sort of legacy does he have? Sure, he kept spending under control. But what else? Did he try to remove the ban on nuclear naval ships that saw New Zealand thrown out of the US alliance? Did he fight against the parliamentary seats reserved by race only for Maori or take on the judiciary’s puffed-up interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi? Did he invest any political capital at all in trying to win the referendum to change the idiotic and virulently proportional MMP voting system that awards almost half the seats in parliament based on lists drawn up by party elites (and which, ironically, saw his National party successor outperform Key’s first election performance, and still ‘lose’ the last election because Labor, the Greens and an embittered ex-National running NZ First opted to ignore the voters’ clear preference)?
No, no and no are the answers. What John Key did invest huge political capital in doing was in trying to win the referendum to change the NZ flag; and he failed on that one. Again, Key’s is an ethereal and quickly altered legacy.
Stephen Harper in my native Canada was barely better. On foreign policy Harper was good but on all domestic issues, save on spending and taxing, he rolled over to the Left and the media class and was a huge disappointment. The man didn’t even get Canada’s military spending up to the Nato mandated 2 per cent. And as for his Supreme Court of Canada picks, much like George Brandis and the Libs here in Australia, all but one of them could have been made by the left-wing opposition party. Pathetic really.
So it is in that light that I say consider Trump, the ultimate political outsider who took on the insider class of his own Republican party as much as he took on the Democrats. Trump pulled out of the Paris Accords. Trump immediately said he and the US would have nothing to do with this Global Migration Compact. Trump opened up coal and gas exploration all over the place. Trump cut taxes not a bit but ‘bigly’ and immediately. Trump went to the wall fighting for a Supreme Court nominee, successfully in the end, when we all know that any other world ‘right-of-centre’ leader would have crumbled like a gluten-free biscuit. Oh, and Trump attacks the patent bias of the left-leaning media class relentlessly.
Nor does the man defer to the bureaucratic class of advisers or propose ‘enquiries’ or moot possible changes to the location of the country’s Israeli embassy (as is the norm here). He has a political compass and he does it. Is he perfect? Of course not. I’d much prefer a Ronald Reagan figure with the same policy outcomes and ticker. But that person isn’t on offer. What is on offer is a brawler who wants to fight and win. Name one other such right-of-centre political leader in the Anglosphere.
And that, in a long-winded way, tells you why the Libs were destroyed in Victoria and unless they change course will be nationally.
If you don’t offer clear alternatives and fight to win, then you lose.