This piece by Paul Strangio is right on the money.
Labor has taken the left for granted and while this hasn’t cost them government it has cost them desperately needed public support. Last Federal election some Labor campaign organisers told me they secretly voted for the Greens. Campaign organisers live and breathe election campaigns, they put in hours and hours and hours of work – their social lives, their homes, their weekends, their evenings, their families, all become completely tied up in the cause. So, things are bad when they are sick of it enough to vote for another team.
You would not believe it right now, but Labor is actually quite good at the passionate policy debate (think of Keating’s Redfern speech); in terms of swinging voters it’s one of their strengths. The necessary swagger comes easily to them. Right now the ALP is attempting to mimic its own righteous outrage for current debates, but it either hasn’t the high moral ground or hasn’t the honest belief to carry it off. It can be nauseating to watch.
Over the last thirty years the Labor Party’s big policy ideas have far outnumbered the Coalition’s, but the wretchedness of the asylum seeker political debate threatens to permanently diminish not only the Labor Party’s core values but this country’s international standing. With a minority government and a relentless news cycle this is undoubtedly a tough time to be in power, and the Labor Party is still fighting some worthy and difficult battles – the mining tax, the carbon tax, the disability insurance scheme – but they have upstaged themselves with a Howard-era small-mindedness. You can’t out-conservative a conservative like the Opposition Leader, but you can lose your lefty supporters.
The kind of caustic misogyny being levelled at Gillard from the right should be appalling enough to muster support for her from the liberal left. It is the kind of noise the Labor government could do with. Passionate liberal left supporters are manna from heaven in the public arena – tireless, vocal, compelling, switched-on and well-informed – they can end up dominating a discussion even when up against the forces of a conservative media. In the United States of America there is evidence that the right have to hire people to pretend to be right-wing commenters in order to keep up with the genuine enthusiasm and activism of the left in on-line media.
But that defence for Gillard isn’t happening, as Strangio notes …
There are some uncomfortable questions raised by the hostility to Gillard. Where does the loathing spring from and has it got something to do with her gender and status as an unmarried woman? The other notable thing is that amid this campaign of calumny against the Prime Minister, she and her government have been relatively friendless. If, as the conservatives insist, the liberal left still dominates Australia’s cultural institutions, it has been conspicuously mute in defending Labor since the party entered office in 2007. When the Whitlam Labor government was under siege by 1974-75 from the opposition and a host of vested interests, it at least had partisans to spring to its side.
Perhaps this is another danger of the ALP’s progressive alienation of the liberal left over recent years, and the misguided calculation that it would not matter. For while the liberal left has either deserted Labor or cooled in its ardour to the point of indifference to the Gillard government’s fate, Labor’s haters are no less passionate.