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Conservative Civic Codes versus Achievable Progressive Paradigms for 2017

By Denis Bright

Despite hours of attention to eyewitness news services, the big picture of just what is going on at home and abroad is sometimes quite confusing. Welcome to the largely unreported roles of Conservative Civic Codes (CCCs) revitalized during the Napoleonic Era to simplify decrees inherited from the French Revolution before the bloodless Coup of 1799.

CCCs help to codify subject matters that are complex political challenges. They are part of regular political spin. To claim that Donald Trump invented CCCs really overstates his leadership capacity.

Such conservative conventional codes assist in justifying events that have little justification. Examples might include indigenous genocides in Australia or the second siege of Khartoum by Sir Herbert Kitchener in 1898 with the support of a youthful Lieutenant Winston Churchill. Closer in time is the massacre of 500,000 Indonesians after the Coup of 1965 by elite units of the Indonesian military.

Populist newspapers and television simply make the construction of political legends a little easier and more enduring as eloquently explained in the Loon Pond Blog (http://loonpond.blogspot.com.au/).

Commenting on the election of Donald Trump, Professor Marcia Pally of the New York University of Humanities offers the following interpretation for these new times.

Far from being exceptional, the election that just ended was as American as apple pie. One could say it’s a matter of America’s civil religion.

Coined by Jean Jacques Rousseau, “civil religion” describes the beliefs, values and understanding of the world that make political, social and economic behaviour what they are. Sociologist Robert Bellah identified the “biblical archetypes” – Exodus, Chosen People, Promised Land, New Jerusalem, and Sacrificial Death and Rebirth” – that are worked into a civil religion that is “also genuinely American and genuinely new.”

In Professor Pally’s perspective, Donald Trump-like characters have emerged on and off throughout US history and in the history of the four key anglo democracies of the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These countries represent The Five Eyes on global geopolitics since the 1940s.

The search for the best precedents for Donald Trump might extend well back into the nineteenth century to characters like President James Monroe (1817-25) who also served as Secretary of State (1811-15) in the Madison Administration (1809-17). Both Madison and Monroe were eminent plantation and slave owners in Virginia.

During his tenure as secretary of state, Monroe steered the latter stages of the unsuccessful War of 1812 against Britain. Madison wanted to occupy Canada. He was successful consolidating the existing US through strategic purchases of territory from France and Spain. Even the colonisation of Liberia in Africa had elements of contemporary offshore solutions.

Recent Trump-like Presidents include Ronald Reagan (1980-88). President Reagan temporarily moved the US out of stagflation by encouraging capital flows to surge through a globalized Wall Street financial system.

Like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan had no faith in the palliative role of the public sector in easing the social divide. Young and old alike were dazzled by heavy doses of federal deficit spending on strategic rearmament as well as the militarisation of space through President Reagan’s proposed star wars technology.

Towards the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term the boom years ended in the Crash of 19 October 1987:

On October 19, 1987, the U.S. stock market suffered its largest single-day loss in history. The 508-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average was five times greater than the worst previous drop. In percentage terms, the 22 per cent decline exceeded the worst day of the infamous 1929 stock market crash.

A cautious President Herbert W Bush (1988-92) left it to Bill Clinton (1992-2000) to complete Ronald Reagan’s conservative vision.

A resurgent and globalized Wall Street financial system led the recovery from the recession of 1991-92. President Clinton obliged by opening up the money supply through the federal reserve bank to support investment activity within the US itself and across the wider global financial system. Repeal of The Glass-Steagall Act 1999 consolidated this infamous exercise. Subsequent administrations all applied this approach. There is no reason to suspect that Donald Trump will be daringly different.

The latest data circulated by the IMF shows that the global economy is profoundly in need of new stimulus mechanisms.

Relying on low interest rates within a slightly re-regulated post-GFC financial market had lost its old magic. Since the GFC, global capital flows have fallen from 20.7 percent of worldwide GDP in 2007 to 2.6 percent on the best estimates for 2014.

The Trump Administration is likely to seize these new opportunities to rebuild the global outreach of Wall Street so that progress can noted before the next mid-term elections in 2018.

IMF Online Finance and Development December 2016

IMF Online Finance and Development December 2016

Change was already in the wind well before US Election Day on 8 November 2016.

At the G20 Summit in Brisbane and the earlier Finance Ministers Conference in Cairns, the federal LNP was still strongly in favour of the old paradigms. They fitted in well with Joe Hockey’s horror budget on 13 May 2014.

The value of more austerity was still a sign of noble and far-sighted leadership in 2014. To the faithful attendees at the post-budget luncheon in Brisbane, Joe Hockey’s budget was probably quite heroic.

Meanwhile overseas in the US, the political caravan bringing once completely rejected CCCs was already well on the march. The Democrats lost control of the House in 2010 and the senate in 2014. The assembled dignitaries in Cairns had no idea that their world was about to unravel.

Given these political restraints, Obama’s team achieved much with the instruments available:

On one hand, Obama’s record is estimable: the U.S. economy has steadily improved since 2009; unemployment is down to 5%; wages have risen, especially for lower income earners; 3.5 million people rose above the poverty line over the past year with much of the gain going to blacks and Hispanics. That’s the biggest drop in poverty since 1999. By October 2016, the annual median household income had risen to $56,500, up 5.2%, the largest rise since 1967; health insurance coverage continues to increase, with only 9.1% lacking such insurance. “Americans last year reaped the largest economic gains,” the New York Times reported, “in nearly a generation”.

ABC Religion and Ethics Online 16 November 2016

That said, Professor Pally notes that the recovery did not challenge the high level of income inequality in the US as crudely measured by Gini coefficients. Improvements were attempted. There was an Obamacare package amended by congressional conservatives. Federal infrastructure investment included the Very Fast Train Projects across the US.

However, beneath all this rhetorical hype, twenty percent of households controlled 84 percent of the wealth in the US. Some of the forgotten sixteen percent were attracted to Donald Trump and proudly identified with his elitist values disguised as a colourful new progressivism.

Left Democrats like Bernie Sanders wanted more commitment to the social market but political insiders in Hillary Clinton’s camp had the numbers to become the official candidate in 2016. Hillary Clinton’s appeal for continuity in economic policy could not muster enough popular support in the key swing states.

The presence of Bill Clinton on the 2016 campaign trail was a reminder of the negative consequences of his Administration’s own financial deregulation measures in the 1990s. Commercial banks were allowed by Bill Clinton to dabble in the new and unstable forms of speculative investment in new financial products at the expense of real jobs in the Democratic heartland.

According to Professor Maria Pally, US churchgoers largely opted for Trump particularly in regional areas of the Mid West, the Great Plains and Mountain States. The exceptions were Latino Catholics, Black Catholics and liberal congregations of mainstream protestant, Jewish and Moslem faiths.

Professor Marcia Pally notes that the many religious communities of the US have internalized the conservative political codes of the wider mainstream society as their own theology. Such secular notions have little justification in contemporary mainstream theology.

It seems that God is always in his heaven and all is right with the secular world provided it stays with the market forces of contemporary globalized capitalism under the watch of US global alliance systems.

This conservative mainstream theology had once justified the appalling inequalities generated by Britain’s industrial revolution and the excesses of the British Empire. In Britain, CCCs had become a well-polished art by political practitioners like Queen Victoria, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill and even Tony Blair in more latter days of international conflicts.

With the support of the religious and secular right in Australia, Trump will be offered a compliant local LNP administration.

Similar deals have already been stitched up with Japan and key European allies during the Obama years. Donald Trump only has to ask for a little more bipartisan compliance to implement a more pro-American global agenda.

Too much bipartisanship with Donald Trump is hardly essential for our own survival in the US Global Alliance. British Labour under Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown worked productively with NATO but minimised real commitment.

Socialist France under both Francois Mitterrand and Francois Hollande was a more active member of NATO than in the heyday of Charles de Gaulle himself.

Australia has considerable negotiating power with US intelligence services. The stars and stripes will always want control of the sea-lanes to the north and south of the Australian continental shelf to facilitate the movement of submarine nuclear weapon systems until alternative disarmament strategies are developed.

Communication theory should allow the Labor Movement to propose an alternative but highly credible Social Market and Social Democratic Codes (SDCCs). Commitment to social justice at home and through peaceful international engagement can and should become highly acclaimed public policies with the electorate in the traditions of British Labour prior to Tony Blair.

Billions could be saved in containing strategic rearmament and botched intelligence-gathering operations by Australia’s Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). Fortunately, public broadcasters are still around to cover Australia’s intelligence operations against Timor-Leste through the alleged bugging of the cabinet room in Dili during discussion of the appeal to the International Court over the Timor Gap Treaty (ABC News Online 29 August 2016).

More outrageous is the perennial blind eye turned to human rights abuses in West Papua (Irian Jaya). In return, Indonesia has offered not so subtle shifts in engagement with US naval patrols in the South China Sea.

An ongoing militaristic saga is Australia’s involvement in training programmes for Indonesian special force units. These units have the capacity to mount a 1965 style coup against the Indonesia Republic in the event of future political instability.

Far right Indonesian defence minister General (Ret) Ryacudu is keen to revitalise the political role of the Indonesian armed forces even if the cost to the nation is a greater strategic alliance with the US and an abandonment of Indonesia’s commitment to non-alignment and ASEAN values. The defence minister was Commander of the Indonesian Strategic Army Command (2000-02) and Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Army (2002-05).

The excesses of the latest populist turn in US politics can and should come unstuck if Australian progressives were prepared to work on their alternative SDCCs. Sectarian points scoring between the Labor Party and the Greens in contesting heartland inner city seats needs to give way to co-operative engagement to win seats on the margins of metropolitan and regional cities where vast swathes of the electorate have little interest in mainstream politics.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with currently fluid directions in contemporary globalization as the new Trump era approaches its inauguration day.


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  1. Phil

    Nice writing Denis – a lot of meat to be unpackaged so it’ll take a while for my wee-brain to digest it all. I like the suggestion for more co-operative engagement (ALP and Greens) to win seats on the margins of metropolitan and regional cities. But it won’t happen.

    I don’t trust the mainstream media or our political parties. I detest the corporatisation of our politics and our culture – these profit-at-any-cost corporations are ruining our lives and ruining our planet. I am angered at the lack of character in our political class – it’s as if they are the product of inbreeding – there is no vigour, no drive, no passion, no intellect – just self interest and infantile bickering. I wonder if they even realise we are here, or if they do notice us then it seems they detest the very sight and sound of us – Centrelink exemplifies this.

    My 2017 resolution is that I’m finished with the mainstream parties. Along with millions of others, I feel a raw, visceral hatred of neoliberalism and by association I feel the same way about every politician and party supporting it.

    If they won’t change then we will have to change the system, even if that means chaos for a time.

  2. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks Denis,

    like Phil, I’m frustrated with the lacklustre political representation that passes for the Government and the Opposition in Australian politics which are allegedly our protections from external forces. I too want neoliberalism torn down and blasted to smithereens.

    I acknowledge Denis’ explanation of Australia’s place in south Asian geo-politics and I support Denis’ stipulation that the Greens and Labor must work together to combat the populist excesses of the imminent Trump administration which will have a big input into our region.

    The Greens and Labor must wake up and see the stakes are higher than their egos. The stakes will make or break Australia’s place and Australian People’s standards, if the apparent Progressives can’t pull together to protect us from the US and other big stakeholders.

  3. Paul

    Thanks Denis for the well researched article!

    It highlights the very real conundrum of Australian politics – the government and members of parliament are not listening or engaging with voters, and to be fair to date they have not needed to as the majority have been happy to go with the status quo.

    There is a real opportunity for new out of the box ideas to be presented by the political parties for consideration by the electorate.

    The first major party who has the courage to trust the people and educate them about alternatives rather than spinning the usual rhetoric I suspect will be plesantly surprised.

    Let’s hope the 2017 parliament is of a better standard than last year – if it wouldn’t be allowed at primary school, it shouldn’t be tolerated in parliament. Let’s raise the standard.

  4. Participatory

    “The first major party who has the courage to trust the people and educate them about alternatives rather than spinning the usual rhetoric I suspect will be pleasantly surprised.” (Paul)

    I agree Paul.

    The LNP has communication strategies that do. There is a heavy use of fear strategies, dislike of welfare recipients from David Leyonhjelm and One Nation as wellas commitment to never ending militarism. The National Party adds homespun regional values to justify its loyalty to privatization and cut-backs to government spending.

    Some of Australia’s worst pockets of poverty are in the regions including indigenous poverty.

    Despite the LNP’s grasp of propaganda, the Turnbull government is leading us nowhere.

    I wish people would wake up and stop voting for the National Party in regional areas.

    Some regional cities are hardly abuzz with social activity. Now is the time Unions and the ALP to rebuild in those areas like Broken Hill, Whyalla, Mackay, Rockhampton, Maryborough, Gladstone. Sunshine Coast and Mt. isa with daring socio-political activities linked to regional universities and TAFE Colleges.

    Progressive parties must take up our concerns more skilfully.

  5. Donna

    This article raises the seductive roles of the Turnbull government in talking up a commitment to the military industrial complexes

  6. Leila smith

    Interesting article Denis, thanks for the research & increasing our knowledge in the area

  7. Rubio@The Coast

    No wonder Ettalong Bay led the charge in Robertson against the sitting LNP member in Robertson with a 61% vote for Labor in this shaky LNP electorate. In Robertson, the LNP is still protected by a 1.1% margin despite the swing to Labor. The surfers are obviously afraid of those nuclear armed submarines on patrol out from Broken Bay. Don’t give up on your commitment to peace and disarmament, Board Riders and Skaters across our Harbour City.

  8. Jasper

    So US submarines carrying nuclear weapons are swimming out there with the sharks. Time to wake up and challenge the rhetoric with thoughts of peace.

  9. lunching

    Hi Denis,
    It was a pleasure meeting you today and thank you for sharing your passion for development and critical thinking.

  10. Theresa@ Page Electorate

    As in Gosford, the Liberals got back in Page on a slender margin. Keep riding the waves of discontent in Ettalong and hang out with the skaters, Rubio.

  11. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    “Sectarian points scoring between the Labor Party and the Greens in contesting heartland inner city seats needs to give way to co-operative engagement to win seats on the margins of metropolitan and regional cities where vast swathes of the electorate have little interest in mainstream politics.”

    Does anybody else beside me advocate to the Greens and Labor, the importance of the Greens and Labor forming a working alliance to do what Denis suggests?

  12. Boris

    Encouraging the far right in Indonesia is playing with fire. They have blood on their hands from Irian Jaya and the 1965 Coup which resulted in the execution of 500 000. Why does ASIS persist in this nonsense like the bungled intelligence gather operations in East Timor?

  13. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Thanks for your comments Jennifer.

    There were real tensions between between the Greens and the ALP which are helping to deliver government to the LNP.

    In the Brisbane Electorate, the Greens mobilised 19.40 percent of the vote on 2 July 2016 but the LNP retained the seat with a swing of +1.64 percent. 84 percent of Green preferences went to Labor but the dual progressive campaigns did not stop the LNP winning.

    From Greens insiders, I hear that knocking off Labor is a very big priority when the real problem in the LNP.

    If I see a local LNP federal member at the shops, I am totally polite. Being rude achieves nothing.

    Labor polled only 26 percent of the primary vote in Brisbane.

    The Greens clearly sought to outpoll Labor as in Melbourne but here the effort in Brisbane resulted in an LNP victory.

    I am not so naive that I have solutions to the problem.

    It is disappointing that so much energy goes into protecting inner-city Labor seats from heavy campaigning by the Greens when outer suburban seats like Forde and regional seats like Capricornia, Flynn and Dawson are being lost to the LNP on fairly small margins.

    In the outer southside of Metro Brisbane in Forde Electorate, the two far right parties (Family First and Australian Liberty Alliance) had a combined vote of almost 10 percent. Here the Green’s Result of 6.43 percent was not enough to tip the balance after preferences. Labor failed to regain this seat by 1 062 votes from a quite far right LNP member.

    In Capricornia and Flynn the Greens polled 4.73 percent and 2.77 percent respectively. The LNP was returned in a close contest and the Green vote was not high enough to tip the result towards the Left.

    I do not know how to resolve this problem as I am not a Political Insider and don’t claim to be. However, political sectarianism is delivering government to Malcolm Turnbull as Labor is having to put so much effort into retaining or winning back inner-city seats.

    That’s why AIM Network is promoting discussion to involve people like yourself in coming up with solutions to a big problem.

    Your solutions are potentially better than mine. I just report the problem but with 69/150 seats Labor objectively has a much better chance of forming government than the Greens with 1/150 seats in the House of Representatives where government is formed.

    I am implying that Labor could reform itself from within through Policy renewal. There are many ALP members and some MPs who are quite Green and Pacifist in their outlooks.

    Siding with characters like Minister Ryacudu in Indonesia who is nostalgic about the 1965 coup and bloodbath that followed is a fool’s mission, When I heard the RN news this morning, I could at least say, I told you so. Ryacudu is out to discipline the TNI officers who provoked the problem with Australia without the consent of his highest command levels.

    I picked up this terrible alliance with Ryacudu from this World Today Interview on Radio National, It is a classic exercise in political deception. The interview shows how far to the Right, the LNP has tilted: Australia is forging a Faustian Alliance with Ryacudu. Every progressive member of parliament should be appalled. This makes our battles for the Inner Suburbs a farce.

    World Today 1 November 2016 http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2016/s4566955.htm:

  14. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well said, Denis.

    I had an exchange on Twitter with a Greens twitter friend/follower (who I happen to quite like) and when I advocated The ALLiance to him (so I could muster support), he became quite outraged having just gone through an extended period of rebukes and rejections from so-called leftist Labor.

    His feeling is that Left Labor is the rattiest of all (not a direct quote). I’m not overly surprised considering the shit nurses/cornlegend comes up with.

    If that’s the case from the pretentious golden Opposition, what hope does Australia and grassroots Aussies have – not to mention, the vulnerable on Welfare and in Detention, as well as the Environment?

    I stick by my previous perception; Shorten’s Labor (SL) is useless to we, The Australian People.

    SL is only interested in the survival of the party machine and bugger the rest of Australia.

    Shorten’s Labor is little better than the dipshits in the LNP and PHON and any other loonies.

  15. Maria

    Denis thanks for your interesting commentary. Looking forward to more articles in 2017.

  16. Pat

    The excesses of Donald Trump should be a wake up call to Australians. Working for disarmament, peace & human rights in 2017.

  17. Maria H

    Great article Denis. The challenge, as always, seems to be to encourage the electorate to vote in its best interests. The LNP is quite masterful in using fear and division to win votes.

    Jennifer, it would be useful that in a public progressive forum like this, that we refrain from negative comments that make the alliance that you hope for, next to impossible. An improvement in the progressive vote would be welcomed by all of us.

  18. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Maria H,

    I’m sorry you only see my comment as negative and not as what it really is: a plea of frustration to progressives on all sides of the political spectrum, who want to work productively and positively for grassroots people and the environment.

    Perhaps the good, progressive people you identify, should make themselves heard more often in support of The ALLiance, instead of their silence, which allows the vocal naysayers of elements in Labor and the Greens to say otherwise.

  19. Rubio@Coast

    Labor must develop its own progressive alternative codes. Will Kim Beazley stop asking for more protection from the US Alliance? We have alternatives based on commitment to peace and development with our Asian neighbours rather than more gunboats in Darwin.

  20. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear Rubio

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