Tony's comment got me thinking about the weird campaigns that both major parties ran this year. The both used charismatic candidates that had been sanitised, cleansed, and centralised to within an inch of their personalities, giving them a wonderful beige aspect. Tony is right. Politics in Australia is now an idea-free zone, ideology has been banished, and no one is allowed to think lest they offend a statistically important segment of the polling sample.
The level of cynicism during this election has been at astronomical levels, and in the light of Tony's comments, it isn't surprising. We, the voting public, ain't stupid despite what the spin-doctors think. We can tell when people are bullshitting us. A real Gilard and a gentle Abbot are concepts that are obviously the product of the spin machines, and they didn't work.
If the major parties want to impress us, the righteously cynical public, then they need to lose the spin-doctors, drop the beige facade, and give us an indication of what the hell they actually stand for. As near as I can tell, all they stand for is winning the election for the sake of winning the election, which simply is not good enough. When John Howard introduced a GST after vowing on his cricket whites that it would never happen, the Australian public didn't get too upset. We all knew Howard held the GST close to his heart. He may have broken a promise, but we were all expecting him too. To be honest, if he hadn't introduced a GST in his first term, we would have been a bit suspicious about what the wily old bastard was up to.
Which just goes to show that here, in Australia, we can take the lies. In fact, we expect it from politicians. We can absorb the broken promises and the policy back flips. After all, it's politics. What we don't like is this annoying dishonesty of the soul that has crept into our political landscape. Lie and cheat to your heart's content, as long as there is an ideological foundation for the dishonesty. Don't just lie because you think it will help you win an election. Hearing Abbot proclaim that Workchoices was 'dead, buried, cremated' made me cringe almost as much as watching the new Julia try to explain how she differed from the old Julia. Surely, no one on the entire Australian continent fell for that bullshit.
I reckon I can pin the day that philosophy in Australian politics died. It was was way back in the 2000 election. Howard was unpopular. He'd introduced the GST. He'd put limits on gun ownership. Pauline Hanson had eroded his supporter base. So how did the Australian Labor party exploit this weakness? How did they take advantage of Howard's teetering popularity? They did NOTHING, that's how. Can you imagine the meeting when it was decided that nothing was the way to go? I can see the faceless leader of the faceless machine, still young and feeling his way, addressing his charges. 'Okay folks,' he would have said. 'We've got this in the bag. Everybody, stop thinking this instant!'
On that day, ideology and politics in Australia parted ways. For some bizarre reason, this non thinking spread out and infected both parties, despite the fact that Labor lost to Howard and his Coalition minions. It would be nice to think people learned their lesson this time and this will be the last we will see of non-thinking politics, but I doubt it.