The Liberal-National COALition has had, to put it lightly, a bad time in recent electoral contests. From the utter wipeout in Western Australia to the recent trouncings in both Victoria and nationwide, the conservative side of politics is not in a good way. Now, as one who thinks in terms of collective benefit rather than laser-focused self-interest and corporate cuckoldry, this is a good thing. But as one interested in the why, as well as the what, I think a deep-dive into this issue may be useful. As sources for this piece, I am using the extremely well-researched and resourced piece in The Monthly about the LNP’s troubles, among other pieces.
Dutton Misses the Mark: Style over (Lack of) Substance, Part One
During yet another attempt to use the media to rehabilitate his image, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton suggested that the LNP is suffering an ‘identity crisis’. Specifically, from The Monthly
He [Dutton] says the Liberal Party is suffering from an “identity crisis” because it has let itself be defined by its opponents including people like businessman Simon Holmes à Court and the teal candidates he backed at the election.
Identity crisis? The Party may not know what it is, but the people certainly formed their opinion. They saw exactly what the Coalition stood for and roundly rejected it. Also, given how much of the media the LNP has on its side, it takes a great deal of nerve to suggest that your opponents define you as a party. Perhaps it has something to do with the utterly vacuous, substance-free garbage that passes for your political actions. Policies that quite openly serve the wealthy: as a single example, consider the first homeowners’ grant, which did nothing but push up real estate prices, helping sellers, not buyers.
Dutton went on to say that
“We have to reassert who we are so that people see the value proposition and understand that.”
As previously stated, Sir, this will not help. People know who you and your party are. People already think you personally are a pr*ck who did little but stoke fear (African gangs, anyone?). This point is, like the previous one, also rendered hollow by the media serving as the propaganda arm of the LNP.
Pseudo-Socratic Method: Nine Media Weighs In
Another angle of Dutton’s proposed redefinition of the LNP was noted by Nine columnist Sean Kelly. Kelly, as some of you may know, is the author of the fascinating book The Game about Scott Morrison.
When discussing yet another profile published in The Age about Dutton, Kelly makes the following quite scathing comments
As the profile noted, the public perceptions are also the result of Dutton’s own actions.
When Morrison became leader, he was allowed to shrug off much of what he’d done before. It wasn’t, it seemed, really who he was. In the end, it turned out to be exactly who he was.
So it is important to ask: how many of Dutton’s previous actions does he now disavow? What actions has he taken – as opposed to interviews given and words spoken – to demonstrate he is different from who he’s always seemed to be? Or to put this another way: at a certain point, if you’ve seemed to be somebody for long enough, isn’t that who you really are?
The key point here is that actions speak louder than words. This explains the question about what Dutton has done (as opposed to repeated profiles in the media) to belie the idea that he is a callous bastard. The media has repeatedly attempted to humanise Dutton and say ‘there is more to him than what he did with power’. Precisely the opposite is true. You are what you do, particularly with power. If you have seemed to be a certain way, as Kelly notes, that is who you are. Unless, of course, you were playing a character, in which case how can we possibly trust you? Finally, on these profiles, the very fact that you have to keep doing them suggests that they are not breaking through. To put it crudely, stop trying to photograph the turd from the right angle to sell it.
What is the LNP’s Real Problem?
Peter Dutton would have us believe that the Liberal Party has an image problem. In fact, what the Liberal Party has is a reality problem. Voters, particularly younger voters, saw how the Liberals governed for the last ten years and they did not like it. Buck passing, brazen lying, media manipulation, bigotry and punishing anyone who had the nerve not to be rich. The rich will be the focus of the next section, but for the moment the real problem with the LNP is that people know exactly who and what they are, and no amount of media profiles (read propaganda pieces) is going to change their minds.
The Killing of The Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs
It used to be said that people became more conservative as they aged. This truism, as I have referenced elsewhere on this site, is not actually a function of age, at least not directly. The true basis for this ‘tory turn’ as we might call it, is that with age tends to come wealth. With wealth typically comes economic security and with that comes less need for change. I’m doing ok thank you very much, so nothing needs to change. In other words, to paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992, it’s the wealth, stupid.
It is no small irony that, by obsessively servicing the big end of town (broadly defined as The Owners), the LNP coalition left behind future generations. LNP policies meant that those younger voters did not share in the prosperity, did not become financially secure and so, despite being in their late thirties to forties, still want change. They are not financially stable and so have not calcified into the typical tory voter.
This actually amuses me to no end: serves you right, you bastards. You were so determined to serve the wealthy that you could not see the forest for the trees. You were so obsessed with growing their (and your own) investment property portfolios that you could not see (or simply did not care) that you were creating what is now known as Generation Rent. It is no wonder these people will not vote for you: you utterly screwed them out of the so-called Australian Dream of owning your own home. Your policies around negative gearing, tax cuts for the wealthy, superannuation concessions and so on – these tongue-baths to the rich have created a generation (and beyond) of serfs with iPhones. That, Spud, is why they will not vote for you!
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