I have an article in the January-February Quadrant that deals with the American election which explains how and why Obama won. It also discusses the implications for the Coalition here in Australia. Its opening para:
The American election was more than just a loss to the Republican candidate. If Barack Obama could win with his track record and his political philosophy and could do so against a candidate who would have won in a landslide twenty years before, then there are implications for parties of the Right everywhere. Obama laid down a template that may not be applicable in every circumstance in each jurisdiction but it will be studied by every party of the Left and copied wherever those lessons can be applied. You can see many of these techniques in operation already.
It was an election I watched very closely and you may be sure the ALP has done the same. The article is mostly about how Obama won and Mitt Romney lost but I add a number of thoughts at the end about the situation here.
So here is the problem facing Tony Abbott as he tries, as did Mitt Romney, to put together a package of proposals that will deal with the actual problems Australia has. In running against a party of the Left, based on Obama’s re-election campaign these are the problems he will need to keep in mind.
They will use some of the most sophisticated analytical and statistical techniques available to uncover every grievance in every sub-constituency. They will then target these groups with promises to fix whatever problems they pick up.
They will run a precisely targeted campaign of fear based on the threat of losing programs or payments that benefit each of these sub-constituencies.
They will label the Coalition as representatives of a tired, old ideology based on principles no longer relevant in the twenty-first century. Misogyny, reproductive rights, religion, along with any number of issues that their analytics team has identified, will be driven whether or not there is any reality behind these fears. Labor being the party of the path of least resistance is almost never under such threats.
They will promise what cannot be afforded and dare the Coalition not to match their supposed generosity. Criticisms about the affordability of such ideas—where’s the money coming from?—will work just as well for the ALP.
They will invent sources of revenue that will never in reality cover the cost of their programs but which are sourced well beyond their own target constituency.
They not only will have but will expect to have, and will be entirely dependent on, virtually the whole of the media being in their corner at every stage of the way who will cover for Labor to the fullest extent they can while ratcheting up the decibel count on any issue that might harm the Coalition.
The Left’s incompetence and bad government are never enough to ensure its defeat. And the more that outdated notions of personal freedom and independence are moved downwards in the scale of collective values the more difficult a party of the Left will be to dislodge. The ALP has not yet lost the next election. Barack Obama, with hardly a success to his name, is still the president. Polls or no polls, who the Australian prime minister will be a year from today is yet to be determined.
I think the Coalition are the favourites to win but it is by no means a certainty and a close loss won’t disappoint the ALP either. A party of no-integrity and dishonest to the core can win if there are enough willing to vote their wishes into office. That is the strategy since the reality of Labor in Government is hardly an incentive to put them back for another three years.