If there’s one lesson to take from Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, it is that conservatives and libertarians need to play to win. Too often we don’t. Instead, we go with ‘acceptable’ candidates like Malcolm Turnbull, David Cameron or Jeb Bush in the lame hope that Q&A watching lefties will say, “Oh, I was going to vote for the Greens, but, that Malcolm Turnbull really seems like he cares about climate change. I might vote Liberal.” This never happens. We shouldn’t want to make the regressive left happy. These people want to implement an agenda that will bankrupt our economy and destroy our social fabric. We need to play to win and that means playing hard.
Donald Trump played to win. When he said, he would build a wall everyone knew what he meant. It was America’s stop the boats. The voters knew, if they voted for Trump, illegal immigration into America would be stopped. And with his trade policy, when he said, “China is raping us”, people knew China was going to have start playing by the rules or their access to the US market would be cut. (Not that I agree with his anti-free trade stance) Most importantly he didn’t try to play nice with all the social justice warriors, he put them in their place. The results were that a silent majority backed him.
Argumentum ad temperantiam is the fallacy that the moderate view is the correct one. David Cameron, Turnbull and many, many others are human examples of this fallacy. They and their backers think if they play nice, stick to the centre and they don’t stick their head out the voters will love them. There are many policies that are in the ‘centre’ that are deeply wrong. The voters in their gut know this. That’s why they elected Donald Trump and why Theresa May is seemingly so popular. Equally, this why they wanted the boats stopped.
A good example of conservatives not playing to win is free speech. The Abbott government copped a bit of heat from the left-wing media and self-appointed spokespeople for minority groups and Abbott backed down on reforming 18c. Since then the left has continued its campaign against free speech (or as they call it ‘hate’ speech) with very little resistance from the current Prime Minister or his party. Fortunately, The Spectator Australia and a few other notable publications have ‘maintained the rage’ and now we may finally get action.
Mark Steyn said in relation to his own victory against Canada’s section 13 their equivalent of 18c, “that it proved if the right pushes back as hard for its causes as the left do theirs we can win.” Former Labor leader Mark Latham said much the same on the Bolt Report. Too often we don’t push back hard, we don’t play to win. And when we do win power, we don’t use it. When Labor Governments get power they put massive spending into the forward estimates, create independent tribunals stacked with left wing ideologues and they massively expand the size and scope of government.
The Palaszczuk government in Queensland is in the process of creating a Victorian style Human Rights Bill which no doubt will come with an independent commission stacked with lefties. Other examples are Gonski or the NDIS, when they get power, they implement policies that are near impossible for future governments to repeal.
When the Abbott Government came to power they appointed former IPA staffer Tim Wilson the ‘Freedom Commissioner’. Appointing one libertarian commissioner to a commission that’s ethos rejects national sovereignty, free speech and freedom of conscience (In other words core conservative/libertarian values) was never going to fix the Human Rights Commission. The policy response from the Abbott Government should have been to abolish the Human Rights Commission or failing that, cut all of its funding.
Conservative and Libertarians need to start playing to win. This will never happen under Malcolm Turnbull. He needs to go. Tony Abbott had his problems, but, it took a conservative leader to beat Labor after one term of Government. The Liberal party needs a leader that actually believes in either conservative or classical liberal values and one who can sell them. If Trump has taught us anything, we now know that if we play to win, we can beat the bankrupt ideas of the regressive left. Whatever the outcome of a Trump presidency, this one fact should give us hope.
Justin Campbell is on the executive committee of LibertyWorks.