The Coalition/One Nation voter ID proposal is a solution in search of a problem, but in the process it highlights an actual problem bedevilling the conservative end of Australian politics – cultural cringe.
Credit where it’s due: Last week’s “thought bubble straight out of the Donald Trump playbook”, as Anthony Albanese labelled it, served the government’s immediate political purpose of providing a distraction amid all those uncomfortable climate and Nationals’ extortion headlines.
It fed the paranoid end of the government’s base a little more fear about anyone who might not fit the “Quiet Australians” team uniform.
Well, “they’ll steal your ute and end the weekend” doesn’t work as well now that the government is promoting electric vehicles.
But as the adults in the room were quick to explain, there is one-quarter of three-fifths of stuff-all multiple voting in this lucky land of Democracy Sausages and compulsory polling station attendance.
And if the motive was a little voter suppression of the underclass supposed to not favour the Coalition, there was no need.
The distraction only annoyed those who get annoyed with the Morrison government. The Quiet Australians are, by definition, quietly compliant.
So beyond that little distraction value, why do it?
Because it is a barrow being pushed hard by the Trump Party and thus the local conservatives can be relied upon to ape the masters, surrendering to their kind of “me too” movement.
Our slavish over-reporting of American news ensures American social trends and causes flow across the Pacific, unfortunately with the same growing divisiveness.
You can rely on local culture warriors to copycat both sides of “taking the knee”, for example, and watch out for more frothing about “critical race theory” thanks to that phrase reportedly being the horse the Republican candidate rode to become Virginia’s Governor on Wednesday.
A difference though is that the centre-left here is comfortable enough with its own standards. It does not define itself by the standards of America’s Democrats.
Labor would not want to be the Democratic Party. Progressive Democrats might well look to the Labor Party for inspiration instead.
That seems not to be the case on the Right.
The Republican Party’s march ever further to the neoliberal extreme has been the route map for the Liberal Party as its more moderate leadership has vacated the field, as conservative “Prayer Group” numbers men have taken control of the federal party room and the most obvious local conservative “think tank” (I use the term loosely), the Institute of Public Affairs, pumps out the sort of doctrinaire propaganda associated with the US lobby groups funded by the Koch brothers.
(“A franchise operation for US pamphleteers”, as one of the Twitterati neatly described it.)
And now there is no retreat with the Republican Party’s wholesale plunge into the scarier end of Trumpism. It has become the Trump Party, merely trading as the GOP.
There has been and is no sign of any reticence in the federal Liberal Party to identify with the Trump Party.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison happily took part in a Trump election rally during his Great Mates Tour two years ago, criticised no aspect of Trump policy and adopted Trumpian rhetoric.
“The future does not belong to globalists, the future belongs to patriots,” Donald Trump told the UN and a week later Scott Morrison was decrying “elites”, “negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community” and “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy”.
In his maiden speech in 2019, Senator Andrew Bragg happily referenced “our sister party in the United States”. Senator Bragg’s sister party had already become Trump’s whore.
Scott Morrison stood out among world leaders with his pussyfooting refusal to criticise Mr Trump’s role in Washington’s January 6 insurrection.
The Prime Minister also declined to criticise George Christensen for spreading “dodgy votes” conspiracy theories.
So with the Trump Party going hell for leather on voter suppression, gerrymandering and official stacking, never mind their success on Wednesday night in again blocking key parts of the Voting Rights Act, it’s little surprise that the Trump’s Australian “sister party” would want to join in with a little voter ID game.
It is not original and serves no good purpose, but it apparently fills a need in the Coalition to be Trumpy.
That certainly is not the party of Menzies.
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