Thursday, September 27, 2012

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

Aaron Sorkin wrote the words. Michael Douglas delivered them in "The American President". Years later, Anthony Albanese unwittingly "borrowed" them.

"We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character, and you wave an old photo of the President's girlfriend and you scream about patriotism."
These words are part of a monologue from a 17 year old movie about a fictional American President. They are also an accurate summation of conservative politics in Australia in 2012. It's all about fear and blame.

Anthony Albanese wasn’t just borrowing some beautiful language when he unknowingly quoted Sorkin earlier this year. He was delivering truth.

Tony Abbott has redefined the meaning of Opposition with his campaign to make us afraid of the Carbon Tax and blame Prime Minister for the national cataclysm her actions will cause.

"Climate change is absolute crap." – 2009

“This is a redistribution pretending to be compensation, it's a tax increase pretending to be an environmental policy. It's socialism masquerading as environmentalism.” – July 2011
Eeeek! Socialism? Not the bloody commies! Wasn’t JuLIAR a socialist when she was at university? And didn’t she have a dodgy boyfriend way back in the past? You have to admit, Mr Abbott and friends are very good indeed at following the script.

And if you hadn’t yet figured out that this bastard Carbon Tax rort is something to be afraid of, here’s the Leader of the Opposition, promising a Gillard-generated July 1st Armageddon for Australia’s industrial centres:

“Whyalla will be wiped off the map by Julia Gillard’s carbon tax. Whyalla risks becoming a ghost town, an economic wasteland, if this carbon tax goes ahead and that’s true not just of Whyalla, it’s also true of Port Pirie, it’s true of Gladstone, it’s true of communities in the Hunter Valley and the Illawarra in New South Wales, it’s true of Kwinana in Western Australia, it’s true of the La Trobe Valley, Portland, places like that in Victoria. There’s not a state and there’s hardly a region in this country that wouldn’t have major communities devastated by a carbon tax if this goes ahead...” – April 2011

  Afraid? Absolutely. With the assistance of Bigmouth in Chief Alan Jones, Mr Abbott had whipped about two thirds of the country into a pulsating clomp of ignorance and panic. Busloads of conservatives joined with hundreds of big rigs and headed for Canberra for the Convoy of No Confidence – better known now by it’s Twitter name, the Convoy of No Consequence. It was an appalling day in which the Very Very Afraid chose to voice their displeasure via placards calling our Prime Minister a Bitch, a Witch and other insults which may or may not rhyme with itch.

On the first day of the brave new Carbon Taxed Australia, Mr Jones headed a rally in Melbourne, attended by an impressive crowd of less than one hundred damp pensioners, but he made them afraid. He also told them who to blame for it. That, of course, would be his old sparring partner and our Prime Minister, “JuLIAR Gillard”. The Age reported:
Mr Jones said some businesses would collapse as they found themselves unable to remain competitive after passing the tax on. He said Prime Minister Julia Gillard had shattered the public's faith in politics by backflipping on her pre-election pledge not to introduce the tax.
"What this one person has done ... is to diminish the image of parliament and politics in the eyes of the public," he said.

"The notion of global warming is a hoax, this is witchcraft.”
The Carbon Tax Terror peaked just days after it was introduced, and has been sliding ever since. Come next week, we’ll have had three months of life with a Carbon Tax, and the promised apocalypse has not happened. Recent polling figures from July, August and September indicate that the fear is diminishing, and along with it, some of Mr Abbott’s support.

Oh dear. Mr Abbott will have to find something else that we can fear. How convenient that we have an ongoing problem with asylum seekers, a budget deficit, a female prime minister, the prospect of same-sex marriage, rioting Muslims and Kevin Rudd. Pick your fear, people, or suggest a new one.

Sorkin’s words are not restricted to federal politics, though. Campbell Newman is Master and Commander of the Good Ship Scare-the-Shit-Outta-Them. Without having spent a single moment as a state parliamentarian, he walked into the state’s top job and told us that he would save us from our true enemies: gays, single people, the Public Service, artsy-fartsies like writers and student musicians, the debt, the deficit, the budget, the economy, the balance sheet, the ALP, the Greens, intellectuals, lefties, the federal government and just about everything else.

Predictably, the LNP Government is blaming everything on the previous Labor Government. Prior to the election, voters feared another term of Labor would cripple Queensland, so we voted for the LNP and here we are, more afraid now than at any time since the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

The scariest prospect so far is the idea that Premier Campbell might just be the curtain-raiser for Tony Abbott. Look at Queensland, then look at Australia. Look at Campbell Newman, then at Tony Abbott. This is the way conservative politics win; they don’t inspire anything but fear. Premier Newman made you afraid of life under Labor, and Mr Abbott has been successful in doing the same thing.

As we’re seeing now in Queensland, there are other, far more terrifying things to be afraid of, and the spectre of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister heads that list.

You can fight fire with fire (if you have a functional fire service left, that is), but fighting fear with fear doesn’t work. Sooner or later, one side has to offer an alternative to scaring the pants off you. Federal Labor has a couple of choices now: they can try to defuse the Coalition Scare-bomb Campaign which hasn’t been very successful under Mr Abbott, or they can offer a positive point of difference. In 2008, Barack Obama offered Hope.

Is there anyone in the Labor camp who can inspire us?

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