They held an election in Australia last week. The United States should take note.
Before we begin, first some clarification. The Liberal Party in Australia is actually a conservative party — think Republicans pre-Trump. The Labor Party (they distain the British spelling) is the center-left party — think the Democrats in the Bill Clinton era only they actually got a national healthcare bill passed.
So the Liberals have held the prime minister position for most of the post World War II era. Scott Morrison, the current PM, figured he’d be comfortably returned to power, especially as the Labor Party’s standard barrier, Anthony Albanese, was more of a back room deal maker than an out front leader. Morrison was so sure he’d continue to live in The Lodge (their idea of the White House) that he could disregard the concerns of average Aussies, in essence saying “everything is great, no need to change”. Only problem is lots of things are not great in the land of the Great Barrier Reef, especially when it comes to the issue of climate change.
So you know of course what happened. Labor won the election, albeit with the help of a bunch of smaller parties, and sent Morrison packing. How did they do it? Well here’s where it gets interesting. Basically the educated middle class rose up and voted as if the future of their country depended on it. They heard what was going on with the Repugnicant Party here in the US and saw similar tendencies in their Liberal Party. It was enough for them to turn out the party all over the country. Even the number two in the Liberal party, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the man who would be the natural choice as leader of the new opposition party, was defeated for re-election.
It’s his losing election that many are saying is the real political earthquake. Frydenberg represented Kooyong (yeah that’s a real place) which is basically the suburbs of Melbourne. It’s been represented by the Liberals since Australia became a federation in 1901. The longest serving Aussie PM, Robert Menzies, represented Kooyong. And who defeated Mr. Frydenberg? Monique Ryan, an independent who ran on a platform of action on climate change, political integrity, and gender equality. She is one of the “teal independents” (named for the color they adopted as an emblem), and while they tend towards being economically conservative they are very liberal on social issues. Teal is a combination of the blue of the Liberals and the Green of, well, the Greens. More about the Greens in a moment.
In other words, suburbanites abandoned their traditional conservative representation because that representation was disregarding climate change, even poo-pooing it, and was leaning towards a small “t” version of Trumpism complete with questionable ethics, a disregard for minority rights, and gender equality. Something for Democrats in the US to take note of.
The Green Party also had a big day. They took Queensland, home to the “Deep North”, an area rich in mining and mineral rights, a place where one would think climate change was a nasty phrase. Instead the people of Queensland have said they believe in man made climate change, even if the solution would potentially lose them their jobs. They want a change and even voting Labor wouldn’t be enough. Talk about 180 degrees.
How’d the Greens do it? They showed people that there are good jobs to be had in the clean environment business, jobs that don’t require mining coal or destroying swaths of land. Then they tied their opponents to all those low paying dirty energy jobs, implying both Liberals and Labor wanted to keep them away from the better paying jobs that have a future. Are you listening Democrats (especially West Virginia Democrats)?
Now granted, Australia is not the US. Australians have always had a deep respect for the natural environment. When you come into the country you are scanned at your port of entry for any potentially destabilizing plant pests with penalties ranging from pretty high to get the hell out of my country. As well Australians are willing to come to grips with their racist past. Labor ran on a promise to adopt the Uluru Statement From The Heart, a petition to change the constitution to give indigenous people more say in government, into policy. Think of it as making the 1619 Project mandatory reading in US public schools in terms of how polarizing such a commitment would be.
But the main reason behind the Liberals losing power can be a lesson for Democrats wanting to change the narrative of the 2022 election. Talk sense to people. Make Trumpism, not Trump, the issue and show how it just makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Show that a new green economy will lift up living standards, not just monetarily but morally. Defend the true traditional values of America: separation of church and state, one man one vote, respect and opportunity for all regardless of color or creed, and a deep belief in the idea of democracy. Show the voters that there really is a difference between the parties and that the Repugnicants are no friend of the working man.
Do that and the political world will hear the thunder and run and take cover.