There was a time when mainstream politicians could refer to MAGA to indicate that they too were crimson-faced populists, not aloof technocrats. There was a time when even leftists thought Trump had some luck with him; he could kick the global elite, he could dampen American hegemony – they were right about that, as an emboldened Vladimir Putin suggests. But all of this happened before Trump refused the peaceful transfer of power that is the linchpin of liberal democracy.
My point is this: there is no disposable MAGA sentence that can legitimately be interpreted as a disposable; there is no flippant salute to Trump, no Freudian defense. Nothing Trump can be dismissed as a cutesy meme anymore. And integrity issues aside, why associate the Coalition with someone ultimately ousted from the presidency?
I take it Guy understands that Trump lost the last election?
Guy’s speech in Geelong also described the Andrews government as “the worst government since the war”. I don’t know what “war” he is referring to. The Second World War? Being of Ukrainian descent, maybe the idea of war, period, gnaws at Guy’s mind.
Either way, does he suggest the Andrews government is worse than the third-term Cain-Kirner government, which financially crippled the state and branded Labor ‘guilty’, a legacy that haunts them again ?
The truth is that the apparent stubborn popularity of the government has turned the opposition leadership into a revolving door. From Guy and, after a devastating election defeat in 2018 that nearly toppled the Tory stronghold of Brighton, to Michael O’Brien and then back to Guy. At last count in January, the government maintained a strong electoral lead even as Omicron wreaked havoc on hospitals across the state.
The polls, however, are harder to trust in this era of political turmoil. After the past two crushing years, there is an undeniable residue of anger towards the Andrews government. It is not inconceivable to me that some Victorians are ashamed of their anger because the Labor Party has so firmly captured high morality with its public health objective. In 2016, many frustrated people didn’t tell pollsters they supported a generic asset.
So perhaps the three Liberal MPs who happily engaged with the anti-lockdown and anti-mandate protesters who camped out on Spring Street last November – even as some marched a life-size gallows and an effigy of Daniel Andrews – perceived that flirting with cranks and the weird Hitler fetish might help them navigate their way to less vocal, but equally resentful mainstream voters. Perhaps the same logic was at work in June when Coalition Chair Louise Staley channeled conspiracy theories about Andrews’ back injury.
Or at the weekend, when Scott Morrison said he “understands” the concerns of anti-vaccination mandate protesters. What I say to, okay, but if we run with individualism, let’s go all the way. Given that the unvaccinated occupy a disproportionate number of intensive care beds, it is only fair that we increase their Medicare levy to offset the strain on the public purse. A true neoliberal would adopt such a user-pays philosophy, right?
During the November protests in Melbourne, Andrews said the Liberals were playing to win the preferences of smaller right-wing parties. If nothing else, this submission to the fringe speaks to the political desperation in Melbourne and Canberra. It is an attempt to shore up a fractured conservative base.
Some party members seem hungry for an image makeover; The position of pro-Trump Congressman Bernie Finn in the upper house would be threatened.
The Coalition’s policies, such as they are, seem banal, in a good way. They pledge to not introduce new taxes (shock horror), to halve waiting lists for elective surgeries, to solve the “crisis” of health care and mental health in Victoria, to boosting employment, supporting businesses in their COVID recovery, keeping schools open, having no more closures.
The Coalition’s current slogan is Recover. Rebuild – a distinct echo of the government’s “big build” message on infrastructure.
But imitating respectability is different from earning it.
Julie Szego is a regular columnist.