the Republicans’ lack of an effective opposition

It strikes me that the biggest single weakness of the US political system, as compared with the situation in Australia, is that there is no US equivalent to the Leader of Opposition.

In Australia the leader of the party that loses the election automatically becomes the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. He is in effect an alternative prime minister-in-waiting. The Opposition Leader serves as the focus for those who did not vote for the government. It is a recognised and important position and the Opposition Leader gets almost as much attention from the media as the prime minister.

The Opposition Leader appoints a “shadow cabinet” with each member having a responsibility to act as spokesman in that area of government. If the Attorney-General does something outrageous the Shadow Attorney-General will call him out for it. If the Minister for Trade has proved to be a failure the Shadow Minister for Trade will put him under pressure.

The Opposition does not wait until election year to decide on its policies. Any Opposition that did this would be doomed to defeat. The Opposition has its own policies which are constantly being presented to the people as an alternative to the current government’s policies. After an election loss they have three years to present themselves as an alternative government.

In the US by contrast there is no single figure from the losing side to serve as a focus of opposition to the governing Administration. This proves to be a dangerous weakness when you have a bad president like Obama. A president like Obama can ride roughshod over the Constitution and the people and there is no organised political resistance. No-one has any idea who will be the losing party’s candidate next time around until shortly before the election. Then the candidate has a very brief period in which to try to convince the voters of his credentials as an alternative president. And until shortly before the election the voters have no idea of the actual policies that candidate will be presenting to them at the election.

All this is a gift to an unscrupulous political schemer like Obama.

It also strikes me when reading conservative blogs from the US that the almost exclusive focus of those blogs is on the failings of Obama. This indicates the extent to which the incumbent president controls the political agenda. In Australia conservatives are able to focus on presenting a coherent alternative political strategy rather than merely criticising the present government. It allows opposition to the government to be much more positive.

We know that Tony Abbott will become prime minister if the government loses the election this year. We’ve known this for the past three years, and for the past three years we’ve known exactly what he stands for and exactly what his policies will be if elected. He’s had three years to prove himself as a competent and viable alternative prime minister. As a result there’s a good chance that the disastrous socialist Labor Party government will be thrown out on its ear later this year. Whereas in the US the Republicans seem destined to drift helplessly without leadership or direction until 2016 when they will most likely face yet another presidential election defeat.

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conservative parties chasing the wrong voters

The most disheartening thing about modern politics is the sight of supposedly conservative political leaders desperately chasing votes they will never get. We’ve seen a fine example of this recently in Australia with Tony Abbott’s silly comments about diversity.

The reality is that global warming true believers, gay marriage proponents and multi-culti enthusiasts are not going to vote for a conservative party. A conservative party is not going to win the votes of bicycle-riding vegetarian lesbians, or inner-city layabouts subsisting on government arts grants, or fanatical environmentalist doom-mongers, or illegal immigrants, or bleeding hearts do-gooders. So why bother pandering to them? Trying to chase their votes is silly and futile.

And why bother pandering to the left-wing media when they’re never going to support a conservative political party?

Surely the sensible option is to chase the votes of people who actually might conceivably vote for you? It’s an option that increasingly doesn’t seem to occur to conservative political parties. Politicians are surrounded by so many spin-doctors that they’re constantly running scared of people who would never support them anyway.

why most conservatives just don’t get it

It has been obvious for quite some time that the Left is winning the culture war. This is due, to a very degree, because of a lack of any kind of organised opposition from the Right. Many conservatives, and this unfortunately includes most of the leadership of conservative parties, just don’t believe that the culture wars matter. In fact many conservative leaders are only too happy to join in the work of destruction in the tragically deluded belief that they can thereby purchase cheap popularity.

What these kinds of conservatives (and this applies especially to neocons and libertarians) fail to understand is that the culture wars do matter very much. In fact they are the decisive battlefield on which the struggle between the state and individual freedom will be played out.

The reason for this is simple. The objective of cultural marxism is to destroy the twin pillars on which western civilisation has always stood, the church and the family. In the west we have always looked to the church and the family for moral guidance, and for support when we are in trouble.

Once these two institutions are either destroyed or hopelessly enfeebled then a vacuum is left which the state must then fill. That process is already well underway. Without a strong church and a strong family unit the process will continue until the state controls everything.  You cannot have small government if the church and the family are no longer there to fulfill their traditional roles. Bigger and bigger government and more and more interference in our lives are the inevitable results. The kind of utopian small government vision so dear to the hearts of neo-cons and libertarians is simply an impossibility.

Issues like gay marriage do matter, or at least they should matter, to all conservatives. It is another step in the destruction of the family. It makes marriage merely a matter of sexual convenience rather than the basis for family life.

The failure of neo-cons and libertarians to understand these basic facts has caused them to stand on the sidelines during the culture wars, and even to aid and abet the enemy. They thus bring about a situation in which their own defeat becomes a certainty.

Part of the problem is that many conservatives just don’t understand the workings of the bureaucratic mind. They’re used to the idea that success is measured by profits because that’s the way it works in business. But a bureaucrat cannot measure his or her success in that way. There is only one way by which a bureaucrat cannot measure his success, and that is by expanding his bureaucratic empire. If a particular government department employs 40,000 people and five years later it has grown to employ 60,000 people than the bureaucrats running that department are successes. The fact that even when it employed 40,000 people that department served no useful purpose is entirely irrelevant. It has grown, therefore it is a success.

So, inevitably, whenever the government becomes involved in any sphere of life the tendency is for the government’s involvement in that area to increase and to go on increasing. If you allow the government to become involved in education then eventually the government will control the whole education system. That is in the nature of bureaucratic empire-building.

In the private sector the entrepreneurial spirit looks for new fields in which profits can be made. In the public sector the same kind of spirit looks for new spheres of life in which the government can interfere and this provide a brand new field for bureaucratic empire-building.

Over the past half-century or so the bureaucratic spirit has discovered an exciting new field of opportunity in international organisations such as the UN. Such organisations are even more congenial to the bureaucrat mind than national goverments since international organisations are in practice answerable and accountable to no-one. There is simply no way for anything to get in the way of bureaucratic empire-building.

Once this process starts it can only end in one way, with an all-powerful state which will be either a hard totalitarianism in the style of Soviet Russia or a soft totalitarianism in the modern European mould. It makes no effective difference since either way you end up with zero personal freedom. Socialism always leads to fascism. The two are inseparable.

By refusing to take sides in the culture wars neo-cons and libertarians have not only cut their own throats, they have doomed all of us to a totalitarian future.

voter rage

One thing that the political class in the west has not yet figured out is that voters no longer vote for a major political party. They simply vote against whoever happens to be in power. Voters are not motivated by enthusiasm for the party they vote for but by anger (in fact rage rather than mere anger) with the party they are voting against.

This is the pattern we’ve seen in recent Australian elections. The voters have not been expressing any great love for the LNP Coalition but they have been expressing a profound disgust and hatred for the incumbent Labor governments and for the Gillard Federal Labor government.

This is also what we’ve seen in the recent local government elections in Britain. If Ed Milliband thinks the result was a ringing endorsement of New Labor he’s living in a fantasy world. The result is simply a reflection of the electorate’s intense dislike of the New Tories (who are almost indistiguishable these days from New Labor). The defeat of Ken Livingstone in London does not indicate that people love Boris Johnson. It merely shows that if you put up a sufficiently bad candidate (and it would be hard to find a worse candidate than Red Ken) you can still lose even if the nationwide trend is on your side.

Similarly if Mitt Romney wins the US election (which seems unlikely but just barely possible) it will not be a sign that Romney has captured the imagination of the electors but a sign of the extent to which Obama has angered Americans.

What Australia, Britain and the US have in common is the lack of a clear alternative to the major parties. The Liberal Democrats can clearly no longer be taken seriously in Britain and while the UKIP has improved significantly on past results it has not yet convinced most Britons that it’s a viable alternative. The strong showing by Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections and the success of the Freedom Party in the last Dutch general elections both serve to show that if a viable alternative does present itself then a significant number of voters will abandon their allegiance to the major parties. In fact a larger and larger proportion voters no longer have any true political allegiance – they simply choose the lesser of two evils.

It is clear that there is an opportunity in Britain, the US and Australia for a true conservative party should one ever arise.

conservatives have nothing to fear but fear itself

This is an amplification of a comment I made on the OzConservative blog recently.

One thing that really intrigues me about the leadership of the conservative parties is – what exactly are they afraid of? If you were a conservative leader and you came out for genuinely conservative policies you’d lose the votes of the tree-huggers, of the Marxist feminists, of the extremists in the gay lobby, of left-wing university lecturers, of vegan activists, of the climate change loonies and the mung bean-munchers in the inner cities. But those people are not going to vote for a conservative party anyway. You’d lose the support of the left-wing media. But the left-wing media are never going to support a conservative party anyway. So in reality you’d lose nothing.

The only voters who matter are the swinging voters and they’ll vote for anyone who brings economic prosperity, security and law and order.

So in reality there’s nothing to be afraid if. It’s obvious that the leaderships of conservative parties everywhere are afraid of phantoms, of illusions.

Look at the conservative leaders who have been hugely successful electorally over the past forty years – Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Ronald Reagan in the US, John Howard in Australia. All of them terrified the “moderates” in their own parties. All of them went on to win multiple elections with huge majorities. The electorate wasn’t terrified of their genuinely conservative stance.

As Margaret Thatcher so succinctly put it, “Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.”