I don’t want to spend too much time on all these Newspolls that show that Shorten’s ALP is going to win the next election. An Indian pundit gets the same feeling every morning when he looks at his bed of nails. The trouble with polls is they never get to the heart of the matter. Election polling should be as simple a matter of choosing between a man and a woman. The differences should be so stark that even the blind can tell them apart.
Unfortunately, for the past 10 years, the polls have been asking the public, actually, ‘a scientific sample’ of the public, to pick which of Tweedledum and Tweedledee they prefer.
That is not the polls’ fault. The two major parties are no longer different and if Malcolm Turnbull had remained Liberal leader, Labor and Liberal would have been about as different as identical twins. In the public’s mind, the election will be between the party that offers corn flakes and one that offers muesli; corn flakes might be higher wages or muesli, a larger tax refund. Each appeals to different groups, but fundamentally, the policies are a product of the same mind.
In an election, a choice has to be made about something fundamental to that party. If it is just a case of throwing money at pet projects, schools, hospitals and roads, the Opposition are more likely to win that contest because the reason for the schools, the principle that makes schools more attractive than a new free trade agreement is clear. John Howard’s white picket fence was kitsch but it was an effective metaphor for the notion that conservative policies are directed towards conserving the family. The family came under a pretty severe attack during Turnbull’s premiership and indeed he was ably assisted by left-wing Liberals in his own party (the ones that Their ABC calls moderates) and the progressives in the Australian Labor Party.
If you were watching the United States Presidential race in 2016, you would have noticed that Donald Trump defined himself as something fundamentally different from both the Republicans who sought the nomination and the Democrat contender, Hillary Clinton – and he was ruthlessly efficient about it. His opponents appealed to their usual supporters, trade deals, new arrivals, education, and equality. The Dems were pro-choice, he was pro-life. The Dems were pro-immigration, Trump was pro the Wall. The Dems were pro-international trade, Trump was pro American jobs.
Hillary Clinton was dishonest and told lies and Trump told the Americans that she was a liar. Trump defined himself as a conservative and the others as journeymen. He did it because the two parties had been merged into Tweedledum and Tweedledee by both the mainstream media and by their own organisations. The US primary system for candidate selection enabled Trump to circumvent both and go straight to the people.
Scot Morrison has had four months to define how he is conservative, to speak about those things that would separate a conservative from the ALP. He hasn’t done it. I suspect that the reason is either that he doesn’t know what a conservative is, what they stand for — or perhaps he isn’t a conservative. Perhaps he is like Turnbull whose life as a millionaire insulates him from all the vicissitudes with which Joe and Mary Sixpack have to contend.
Joe and Mary are not concerned with global warming, even if their 11-year-old is. They are concerned about homosexual marriage, but not the way that Malcolm was; J&M are concerned about Islamophobia, but not the way Malcolm was. J&M are concerned about racial violence at night-time in much the same way they are concerned about the increased level of Chinese immigration to our capital cities, but not the way Malcolm was, and they are concerned about equality of women, but not so as to see infants born alive and left to die. The Victorian government calls it child destruction but it is another form of domestic violence. Abortion is the only left-wing sacred cow. They will and do move the goalposts on every other policy as circumstances demand, but they will not concede an inch on abortion even in its most extreme form.
I don’t know if it is too late for ScoMo. He should have been making his case for the family at every opportunity to place that idea firmly in the public’s mind; that conservatives will conserve the most important political institution in our nation, the traditional family and its members. I use the word ‘traditional’ because that is the institution that is consistent with human nature rather than the one based on hysterical woke-ness. That is not to deny that all those with the care of children should receive the same support for the children’s sake; but governments, those that have any concern for justice, will use their powers to guide people towards what human nature requires for human happiness.
At the moment, conservatives and the family is not a concept that is part of the public mind. No one can claim to be conservative who is not prepared to defend the family and its members. The issue that Morrison faces is the same that Trump faced but Trump had the courage to draw the line in the sand around the unborn. He has a much more difficult task than Morrison does because of the peculiarity of the High Court. But Morrison has to draw the line and make his stand behind it. Alternatively, he can hope that the lolly bags he wants to give away are bigger than those being given by the ALP. Then he will lose, all over a lolly bag. He will have to fight, fight the ALP, and fight the socialist organisations like GetUp! and Their ABC, fight diversity and all the left wing lunacy if he were to draw that line around the unborn child.
He may still lose, but at least he will know that he fought for a principle of fundamental importance to liberal democracy and lost for a good cause.
You still have a couple of months Scot to turn the public mind towards conservative principles.
David Long is a retired solicitor, economist and PhD candidate at Griffith University, School of Law.
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