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Predictions

December 4, 2010

As a rather presumptuous and admittedly conceited political pundit, I’ve been quick to point out my success in predicting the successive triumphs and woes of the Liberal and Labor parties. For instance, Malcolm Turnbull finally started receiving an increase in approval when he alluded to potential policy in his counter-budget speech – most people could see the vapidity within their complaints. Indeed most can, but Labor’s race to the bottom alleviated claims of opportunism amongst the Libs.

In my last few blogs, I’ve outlined how issues in which Labor went to the right or exercised political cowardice, such as asylum seekers (I honestly will refuse to use the phrase “boat people” from now on), the Henry Tax review (implementing very few of his recommendations, and indeed considerably delaying the report’s release), the mining tax, and of course climate change, and how in each case I knew that it would cost them. Rudd won a fortunate victory over health care, but while it prevented his immediate demise, it did little to restore his popularity as it was simply viewed a distraction from the real issues – health was and still is a pertinent state issue, but it appeared to do little for issues such as an overcrowded Royal North Shore, which are state issues. These are all things that by and large I predicted, which do all boil down to taking the populist option which provides the inevitable but paradoxical conclusion of losing popularity.

That’s the past. I did approach the current election with the expectation of 76-79 seats for Labor, but even I managed to underestimate Labor’s incompetence and the anger faced by Queenslanders (who truly scare me). Regardless, what happened happened. I’m interested right now in the next few years for the Labor and Liberal parties, as well as the future of US politics, albeit my understanding of the latter is limited.

As was alluded to before the election, many Labor members have been very unhappy with the circumstances of the party. Not just Rudd’s dictatorial control, but the strangehold the Right has over policy and politics, especially given their ridiculous level of incompetence. The issues of the Left have been making a considerable resurgence, aided through the presence of Adam Bandt in the House, although contrastingly also through the desire to ensure no more Greens get elected. Labor is very worried about their potential demise from both the left and right. The right they can’t ever win because of the obvious presence of the Coalition, and the left they typically held all but the very left-wing, and in any case almost all of such voters would preference Labor over Liberal.

In reality, the Greens don’t represent a significant threat to Labor currently. They won one seat, in which the loss of widely respected, intelligent finance minister Lindsay Tanner helped to fuel the Greens insurgency, with the replacement Labor candidate lacking the traditional advantages of the incumbent. Had Tanner run he would’ve likely kept his seat by a small margin. The Senate is a cause for concern, with nine seats soon to belong to the Greens once the new terms kick in come July. But Labor feels threatened by the potential presence of a third party, which will only serve to divide the left vote, ensuring a permanent dependency and Labor-Green coalition. This is only possible if the Greens are able to win seats off Labor, which as established, is by no means a future certainty, particularly as the Liberals have now altered their preferences to Labor above the Greens.

Yet it remains important for Labor to stymie the growing Greens threat, to establish dominance, not dependence. In line with my previous arguments, by winning the left Labor also wins itself the centre-right, as voters do respect good governments, and often can see the flaws in the lines of the party that they traditionally back. The return of John Faulkner to the back bench has been widely rumoured to be a response to the dominance of the Right faction, to help establish a coherent and more democratic party. The actual discussion of gay marriage, unfathomable a year ago, leads me to predict that the left, both threatened and aided by the Greens, will feature more strongly in issues, if not in political dominance. Certainly the party will seek the more consensus-based and equitable nature of the Hawke government after the struggle to be heard under Rudd. Whether this will result in the greenwashing of the Right to the demise of the Left or a Left resurgence remains to be seen.

As for the Coalition, like Labor they’ve been lacking an identity over the last three years, except being in opposition they’re able to get away with it more. Admittedly they had more cohesion during the election, but currently the Coalition is a party divided. The typical “small l” and conservative division lives on, particularly in regards to a carbon price – the media has just been covering little of it due to the fairly tight control within the party, and the drama-a-week that Labor of both federal and state provides. Due to near implosion, they’ve managed to hobble towards electoral viability with their confused identity, but the Coalition is in desperate need of a reformed identity. This is particularly noticeable in Tony Abbott’s backflip on Rudd’s health legislation – he was very negative for the whole time, before he understood that he would be seen to be a roadblock, thus resulting in his decision to pass it.

The two more obvious directions are either following David Cameron’s lead with the Tories, and becoming a more socially responsible conservative government – I know little about his economic ideas, except for sever austerity measures to bring the budget into surplus. Hopefully that won’t put them back in recession – it’s clever fiscal conservatism but it may run the risk of curtailing any burgeoning economic growth. The point is, perhaps conservatism economically, but socially quite progressive, which attracts the left, particularly those who are socially but not economically concerned (many people aren’t particularly economically wise). Abbott was dipping into this philosophy a bit during the campaign, evident through his “Green Army” and most notably through his commendable $1.5b pledge towards mental health. It’s clear that Abbott is no social progressive, but it’s also clear he’s no economist – he is the true successor to John Howard, using money to fund any policy he deems valid, restrained by the Treasurer and Cabinet.

The alternative is pursuing the true conservative route, which is also partially what they’ve been utilising with their response to asylum seeker issues and the general disregard of climate change. The issue with this is the success of the Tea Party in America is quite limited. As commentators have noticed, the fielding of Tea Party Senate candidates in fact ensured the Republicans didn’t win the Senate, as the candidates were far too right-wing to be voted in, even by conservatives. Australian public discourse on the whole features much more centrist views, in which the right-wing is often very much disregarded and derided. The minority of true conservatives in Australia is rather ineffectual, thus dealing the Coalition no favours in becoming more right wing. If the Republican party wants to win in 2012, then they need to field a candidate who is not a creationist, who believes in climate change, and probably has to be pro-choice. The right in America just isn’t that large, and fielding someone like Sarah Palin, whilst popular within her own circle, will eventually lead to disaster if the Democrats run a competent campaign. The lesson for the Liberal party is that if they’re going to continue to run Abbott, climate change is going to be an issue they need to have a definite view on, and more likely than not they’ll need Abbott to agree on a carbon price, or at least publicly comment upon the existence of climate change. The issue will exacerbated in three years from now, it is not one to go away, especially if Gillard succeeds in establishing a Carbon Tax or ETS. Thus, I don’t see the ultra-conservative route as being viable for the Liberal party, if just for the simple reason that most of their members aren’t conservative enough.

As for Obama, the rise of the Tea Party is the best thing to ever happen to him. Sure, he suffered a huge defeat at the midterms, but he can play that off. He gets to play the role of the victim. Every time he’s accused of inaction [wrongly at that, Healthcare, stimulus, regulation, there’s some fine achievements], he can point the Republicans. He can even bluff, introduce stimulus that he knows is electorally questionable, have it blocked, and then blame the Republicans for the level of unemployment. The issue is that while Obama is clever, the Democrats show a bit of Labor’s failings. Obama needs to paint himself as a man of action. Particularly if the Republicans field a centrist candidate, he’ll have to demonstrate his statesmanship to hold onto his position. Still, with his charisma, the magnitude of being a black president, as well as the legions of minorities that will vote for him, the election will be nowhere near a wipeout for Obama, even with a very strong Republican candidate. The Democrat voters are generally more likely to be energised to maintain his presence than Republicans, who have the potential to be divided – the Bible Belt is unlikely to vote for a moderate unless the Tea Party endorses the Republican candidate directly, and the moderates are unlikely to vote for a neocon or an arch-conservative.

Given the ridiculous length of this blog, I’ll boil this down to TL;DR

  • Labor’s going to endorse Leftist policies, and will win the next election with a decent majority if the Liberals don’t modernise
  • Depending on the strength of the Labor brand, the Greens could either pick up a seat or lose Adam Bandt
  • The Coalition will need to either brand itself as more socially progressive, or else embrace ultra conservatism – the experiment with the latter in this election didn’t particularly pay off too well. Abbott needs to shift to the left or the right, or else he will not be a proper contender at the next election
  • Unless someone seriously screws up, the Independents and potentially Adam Wilkie will be re-elected
  • The Democrats will bounce back from their electoral carnage, either to a respectable loss or more likely a respectable win
  • The Tea Party will either self-destruct or alienate the rest of the Republicans – much like in the 2008 election, in which Sarah Palin went rogue from the campaign – if however the Tea Party endorses a strong moderate Republican candidate, then Obama has a serious challenge
  • Blizzard won’t release a Warcraft IV until at least 2014

I seriously wonder what will happen and how accurate these predictions will be. Good luck world.

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From → Political

2 Comments
  1. Tom Lee permalink

    So, I’ve been following this blog for a bit and it’s pretty cool. I have to say that I tend to agree with you more than not, but I haven’t really taken a fine comb through all the Australian politics stuff. But the US politics stuff caught me, and I pretty much felt that I had to respond. Now, I read through the about page and found out that this blog is largely for yourself and refining your thoughts and all that, so maybe what I’ve got below isn’t what you’re looking for. But I didn’t read and write it all for nothing, so you’re going to have to have it no matter what. If you want to start a conversation about it then great; but if you don’t and want me to leave you alone then that’s fine too. It’s actually all to do with the paragraph and two points that you made on US politics – again I have nothing to say about Oz politics because I really haven’t been paying attention – but US politics is another matter.

    Anyway, if you don’t get through this, then I’ll put what I was going to have on the bottom up the top. Strangely, I’ve never seen you around uni. I’m doing straight arts by the way. Jono, Adam, Cheers sure, but never you. I had a bit of a look through your facebook page and found that you’re doing a heap of government subjects – which ones? I did GOVT2114, GOVT2331, GOVT2445 and USSC2601 the semester just gone – which was a mistake to do (too much, too early). And for first semester next year I’ve lined up GOVT2991 and USSC2602, but no GOVT for the second semester.

    So, here it is:

    A: As for Obama, the rise of the Tea Party is the best thing to ever happen to him.

    What good has the tea party really done for Obama? The rise of the tea party made it ever increasingly popular for all Republicans to criticise Obama and his policies, often using baseless, derogatory, outright lies that has only had a negative impact on Obama’s presidency. The strength of the tea party has made not only such vile attacks a part of the American political environment seem legitimate and moved the entire conservation to the far right, but also forced moderate Republicans to take the hard line on policy positions and refuse to cooperative with any of Obama’s policy proposals. (Imagine if Republicans came together with Obama after 2008.) The bottom line is that the tea party has pushed Republicans to pursue a fiercely uncompromising stance against Obama, and having been so political successful in times of recent economic weakness, perpetuated a cycle of Republicans moving further and further to the right and becoming increasingly obstructionist in a bid to secure and rise to prominence in the Republican party.

    Whilst not singularly destructive to the Obama presidency, it is difficult to see what good there is in the rise of the tea party. If you look even longer term, the 2010 Republican revival, on the back of the rise of tea party, has hugely consequential and deeply worrying effects on the American political landscape. The decennial census brings with it shifts in the House Congressional representation of each state, and with Republicans in control of many, many governorships and state houses, it allows Republicans to redraw districts that will favour Republicans and shutout Democrats from office for perhaps the rest of this decade and the next that will cripple congressional Democrats no matter who is in the White House.

    A: Sure, he suffered a huge defeat at the midterms, but he can play that off. He gets to play the role of the victim. Every time he’s accused of inaction [wrongly at that, Healthcare, stimulus, regulation, there’s some fine achievements], he can point the Republicans. He can even bluff, introduce stimulus that he knows is electorally questionable, have it blocked, and then blame the Republicans for the level of unemployment.

    Actually, Obama has been accused of being a revolutionary socialist who doesn’t share American beliefs and values and who single handedly threatens the American way of life. Hardly a man of inaction. Republicans accuse him of inaction because it’s a popular message that has traction in an economy with 9% unemployment and 18% underemployment, and because he has failed to act according to the GOP interests – namely, tax cuts to the richest Americans (that question will be resolved within a week or two), cut regulation and protections for the American consumer and allow American corporations free reign (Obama has restored the integrity of American regulatory systems in bodies such as the EPA and through healthcare reform and financial regulation, with the exception of the Minerals Management Service).

    It is simply not possible for Obama to simply introduce another proposal for a stimulus (totally not happening by the way – Obama has already turned his attention to long term public debt even before any economic recovery has taken hold) and then pin the blame for the weakness of the economy on the Republicans (and a fair few Democrats) who will inevitably block it. At current count, the stimulus saved 3.3 million jobs – and even though many economists like Krugman had called for a stimulus in the order of $1.2 billion – it is hard to see where any half-hearted political attempt for stimulus would do anything of significance for the American economy but provide another defeat for Obama.

    Obama’s reelection political fortunes lie on the economy above all else. If it comes back to life then Obama will win reelection easily, but if it doesn’t then the White House is up for grabs in 2012. If the Republicans, running purely on an obstructionist agenda could flip more than 60 seats in House and almost steal control of the Senate, then anything could be possible in the 2012 race.

    A: The issue is that while Obama is clever, the Democrats show a bit of Labor’s failings. Obama needs to paint himself as a man of action. Still, with his charisma, the magnitude of being a black president, as well as the legions of minorities that will vote for him, the election will be nowhere near a wipeout for Obama, even with a very strong Republican candidate.

    If Obama is so clever, then why hasn’t he fixed the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and everything else that he is suppose to be in charge of? Obama’s charisma wore off a long, long time ago. Since 2008, the electorate (and Obama) has quickly fallen earth to feel the full impact of a sustained economic recession. As I said, only an economic recovery can significantly improve his reelection chances. And sure, immigration is likely going to be a dominant issue in the next two years. With a Congressional caucus dominated by white, most likely older male politicians, the national Republican party looks like – and is – a party from the 20th, maybe 19th, century. And together with a similar looking party stateside (though, interestingly, apparently more diverse than their state level Democratic counterparts) legislating outright racist immigration policies, you’d think immigration could only be a win-win situation for Democrats. But with Democrats stuffing up the easiest of political plays, you’d have to think again. Blacks are a given for the Democrats, and even more so now that Obama is in the White House. Hispanics pose a greater challenge, however, and with the Democrats failing to pass the DREAM Act legislating a path to citizenship for illegal minors then the Democrats are going to play their best game in the next two years.

    A: The Democrat voters are generally more likely to be energised to maintain his presence than Republicans, who have the potential to be divided – the Bible Belt is unlikely to vote for a moderate unless the Tea Party endorses the Republican candidate directly, and the moderates are unlikely to vote for a neocon or an arch-conservative. The Democrats will bounce back from their electoral carnage, either to a respectable loss or more likely a respectable win.

    You’d think so, and certainly hope so as well. Are Democrat voters going to be more enthused than the midterm elections just gone? Yes, young people are more likely to turn out now that Obama himself is up for reelection and the (hopefully) greater chances of victory than the midterms where a significant defeat was imminent will bring more out. But wouldn’t the same argument apply to Republican voters? If two years of Obama was hell, then what will four years be? Maybe they already maxed out. As you say, a lot will depend on the relationship that develops between the tea party, and those tea party inclined Republicans, and the Republican establishment. Nobody knows what will happen. If another government shutdown happens then it will likely garner more support for Democrats, but I doubt it would as the congressional Republicans are led by stupid and constantly wrong people but not crackpots like Newt Gingrich. Who will win the Republican nomination in 2012? Again, nobody knows for sure. Romney, Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich and maybe some other Republican nobodies like Tim Pawlenty or Mike Pence. With the exception of Romney – who passed a health care law in his home state that looked largely like Obamacare – it’s a pretty weak field. Obama is stronger against any named possible Republican candidate, but running more or less equal with a generic, unnamed Republican. It’s all yet to come into focus.

    A: The Tea Party will either self-destruct or alienate the rest of the Republicans – much like in the 2008 election, in which Sarah Palin went rogue from the campaign – if however the Tea Party endorses a strong moderate Republican candidate, then Obama has a serious challenge.

    Did Palin really go rogue from the McCain campaign? Palin ended up boosting McCain’s numbers by a percentage point or two, but without her it is probable that McCain would have lost by even more. McCain never had the best of relationships with his party, and combined with the aftermath of the Bush presidency, two failed wars and an engulfing economic storm his election was always looking shaky – though he did poll well against Obama before the full force of the economic crisis hit. Will the tea party endorse a moderate candidate? It is hard to see the tea party folk compromise on anything. Driven by fierce ideological rage and engrained dissatisfaction with the destruction of the America they know, the tea party – and what it has come to be driven by rich, powerful, deeply conservative people behind the scenes – has no place for anybody who wishes to compromise with the treasonous Obama. They have no care for the give and take of politics, never mind the realities of governing, and certainly won’t change their thus far successful tactics now that it has brought them so much political success. Unless the Republican establishment is able to control the tea party and school them in governing – maybe they don’t – then the Republican candidate is going to have a hard time reconciling the demands of their now-card carrying tea party base and the moderates necessary to win electoral college votes in 2012.

  2. I’m unsure as to what your ultimate point is, and shit you wrote too much for me to properly comprehend and respond to, but I’ll try my best.

    I was at uni a bunch, but this semester I had few breaks in between class, it was generally in blocks, and only on Mon-Wed. I was at Manning and Hermann’s once a week at least though, and generally around the place, so I’m as surprised as you are.

    I don’t know the exact numbers, especially as Govt’s ones are always ridiculous – I did Geopol and World Pol this year, and I’ll be doing post-communism in Sem 1 and then Europe in World Affairs, Economic International Relations and American Foreign Policy all in Semester 2 next year.

    My general point about US politics from my general understanding of the way the political sphere works is that sure things are shit for Obama now, but you’re looking at it in a short-sighted sense. And yes, his mid-term loss sucks for the rest of his agenda, and he’s going to have to work hard to make sure he spends the next two years actually doing things.

    But my main point is that as you said, the Republicans need a strong candidate to unite the party, and do they really have one? Will anybody be able to unite the Republican base and the Tea Party? Because they’re not friends by any means. Republicans are going to be particularly annoyed at the fact that they cost them the Senate. Political parties don’t always unite in the cause of facing against a common enemy, and some Tea Party people may want to bite off more than they can chew, and some Republicans may absolutely refuse to play ball – both circumstances are not good for the Republicans, because the Tea Party has now created a conscious identity for the ultra right-wing, who may now not feel obligated to support the Republicans in any way.

    Yeah, the economy needs more stimulus, Obama can’t push it through, even though it would actually make everyone better off, I’ve read that a bunch of times. Still if he and the party actually play ball properly, he can pass that off as the Republicans’ fault, particularly if a few people make some gaffes or otherwise ridiculous statements, and he can also counter the idea of the Bush tax cuts. Obama will do as well as he makes himself, which as my other blogs demonstrate, is the whole way I approach politics. He’s definitely done well so far, an impressive reform agenda, we’ll just have to see what happens from here on.

    You have to remember, most Americans are centrists, if admittedly more right wing than Australians. If there’s a shitty Republican candidate, then why would they vote for him or her? Bush wasn’t too popular, although not terribly unpopular around 2004, yet he won because nobody particularly liked John Kerry, and from what I’ve heard the Democrats didn’t back the better candidates who were more intelligent and better politicians because they were more media-risky as opposed to the dull Kerry.

    I’m not sure if the Democrats will win back the house. At least probably not until 2014. We’ll see what happens. I’m no expert, I just don’t see the Tea Party as a massive threat – they’re going to trip up with the Republican party and it’s not going to be pretty. I also think most Americans won’t be particularly eager to vote out the first black president, so swinging voters or moderate Republicans might stay at home. Especially if the Republican candidate is considerably right-wing, it’s just going to make Obama’s job so much easier.

    Anyway, I don’t want to have ridiculously long comment wars, haha takes up so much time.

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