Saturday, October 09, 2004

John Howard is Reelected

A key ally in the Global War on Terror, Australia, has just returned John Howard to power in an election that the press predicted to be close, but which in fact turned out to be a rout. Not only did the opposition Labor Party fail to gain the 11 parliamentary seats they needed to win power, Howard actually increased his majority and may actually win control of the Australian Senate. Howard's opponent, Mark Latham, had hinted that he would re-think the Australian commitment to the War on Terror then retreated from that position under heavy political fire. Had Latham unseated Howard, Australia would almost certainly have scaled back its commitments to the US alliance. But Howard's win not only obviates this possibility, it also underscores the depleted nature of Leftist politics.

Latham's defeat followed an intense period of reshuffling within the Australian Left. Having repeatedly failed to unseat Howard, the Australian Labor party ditched its long time leader, the patrician Kim Beazley, in favor a certain Simon Crean, who had nothing to recommend him other than the fact that he wasn't Beazley. Yet shortly after selecting Crean the new party leader, the Australian Left recoiled in horror at the sight of him in the full light of day and promptly returned Beazley, who everyone agreed could never beat Howard. The way out of that quagmire, some thought, was to find a totally new face. And find him they did in the person of Mark Latham, who had the double advantage of being neither Beazely nor Crean. Latham decided to emulate the triangulation of Tony Blair and offered a package of taxes and tax cuts to voters coupled with promises to save the forests in Tasmania. Howard retorted with an even larger package of tax cuts and a promise to consider logging the forests to create jobs.

The result was that Labor not only lost traction to John Howard, it also lost ground to the Greens. The price of politically facing both ways at once was uncompetitiveness on the Right and wrath from the extreme Left. Because Australian Labor's problem is not Mark Latham as a candidate so much as being emptied so thoroughly of content that it relies on the messenger, rather than the message to carry its platform. Packaging is all the Left still has since the death of it's intellectual core. That's understandable because media personalities are all that remain now that the Bolshevik cadre is no more.

The really horrifying thing about Howard's victory for Labor is that it proves that packaging and spin are ultimately dead ends. It is a cul-de-sac lined with klieg lights and celebrity occasions, but there is no exit all the same because it is the platform of the Labor party that is rotten. The hodge-podge of wacky environmentalists, professional victims, special sexual pleaders etc. have laid a dead hand on attempts to regard any issue, like the War on Terror, with anything approaching common sense. How else to explain why Labor should offer a country of 20 million people, living in close proximity to Indonesia, the chance to downgrade their alliance with the United States.

If the Left were thinking clearly, it would realize that the single most striking aspect of George W. Bush is how ordinary he is. There is nothing in his strategy to combat terrorism beyond a refined common sense. He represents a threat to Liberalism for precisely the reason that an everyman reacting to an extraordinary historical challenge imperils kings and hereditary elites: the prospect he may discover by success in action that royalty with its cant and obscurantism is no better than he.

Let's welcome back on to the world stage the man deemed intellectually inferior to all his Labor opponents; a person said to be singularly lacking in refinement and bereft of nuance. The man who for nearly ten years beat them all and has won another term. Australian Prime Minister John Howard.