Am I the only one here to notice that electoral political sentiment has a certain uniformity across the Anglosphere? Centre-left and centre-right administrations tend to follow each other in the UK, the USA, New Zealand and Australia. Of course, it’s not a perfect match, and in the last twenty-something years the two sides of politics have to some extent converged, in a silly and rather pathetic contest for the electoral “middle ground”, so (for example), Bob Hawke’s Australian Labor government in the 1980s gave logistical support to the Reagan administration’s Star Wars program. And Tony Blair’s “New Labour” was able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Republican administration of George W. Bush, and stay the course in… er, in whatever course it was they stayed back then. I hope it proved worthwhile.
You all know how I feel about the left-right divide. I regard it as a fiction. However, in the interests of intelligibility, I wrote back here that
…Libertarianism promotes both economic and personal freedom. On some issues they take positions generally associated with the political right (gun control, anti-smoking legislation, free-market), while on other issues (drug prohibition, gay rights) they take positions regarded as left-wing. What defines these positions as Libertarian is that they leave choice to the individual, at the expense of interference by the state.
I’d like to take that back, and turn it inside-out. Because the real divide is not between left and right, it is between Libertarianism and totalitarianism, or authoritarianism. So on some issues (drug prohibition, gay rights), left-wingers take Libertarian positions, whereas on other issues (gun control, anti-smoking legislation, free-market) they are authoritarians. And vice versa for right-wingers.
So why do electorates jump from centre-left to centre-right administrations? And do so across borders, often at roughly the same time? I’m not an expert on political or psychological zeitgeist, but it would seem to me that, aside from local issues which can over-ride this, people grow weary of certain types of authoritarian control, and long for greater liberty in those areas. I somehow doubt the Obama administration in the USA, or the Rudd administration in Australia, were elected by voters seeking greater economic freedom! Or that simpering jackass you’ve got in Britain at the moment. I don’t care if he was GE’s classmate: the man’s a backpfeifengesicht.
Well, right now, the electorates are stepping to the right. We all saw what happened in November at the US mid-term elections. Britain and Australia did the same, albeit in a timid, half-hearted way that left both parliaments hung, and ruled by back-room deals instead of open debate on the Floor. Tomorrow night, my time, the New South Wales Labor state government, incumbent for the last sixteen years, is set to be thrown out in what polls predict will be the biggest landslide in that jurisdiction in 110 years. Federally in Australia, polls (all bar one) show a large swing to the right, and Labor’s core left-wing constituency moving to the far-left Greens. Labor will be lucky to poll 33% in its primary vote, meaning that unless something very strange occurs in the next two years, it is finished as a viable alternative government in its own right.
Feel free to disagree, or share your perceptions of how this applies in your own country. Is the electorate shifting, for want of a better description, left or right? And when, if ever, will it do a 90-degree turn and finally shift free?
Oh, and if you feel like dancing—click the picture at the top, and crank up the volume.