Labor`s crisis of representation
Russell Degnan

It is fascinating to watch the debate over Labor's tax capitulation because it speaks to a theory I have that the Australian public intuitively understands voting better than the pundits and politicians who think about it constantly.

In short: pundits and politicians are engaged in policy and politics and therefore frame their worldview of voting around what they are doing and seeing. But the public is largely only engaged when they vote so they frame their view around voting for a representative. The literal but accurate definition of our political system.

You can see this in Bernardi's description of Pauline Hanson's voters. They aren't engaged with her policies (fortunately for her) but they like her because she represents that image they have of themselves: hard-working battlers who've been dealt a rough hand.

Similarly, squaring the absorption of Family First with not being a religious party is difficult when your how-to-vote handlers are proselytising

For the majority of the electorate their member (actually that member's party) is not there to implement specific policies but to represent them across a range of ideas. Assuming a mandate from such flimsy reasoning is unwise.

This analysis by @pollytics about Shorten emphasises the point. Most voters just didn't recognise Shorten as someone who would represent them. The Liberals played on that, and it may have been unfair, but that's politics.

Morrison of course is a bullshitter's bullshitter with his daggy Dad persona. But he has made a career of blagging his way into positions he isn't qualified for.

The trouble for Labor, as @pollytics rant gets at from a different angle, is that they lose both ways by playing political games. They fail to "represent" their supporters AND fail to present an image of themselves as something other than schemers.

At some level it doesn't even matter what their policy is. What matters is that Labor present a consistent and coherent image of themselves as a party that represents a broad segment of society.

It is also why criticism of the Greens is unfair. Whatever the effectiveness of what they may do, or the breadth of the people they represent, the Greens present that image that attracts a set of support. The core problem for Labor is to find a way to talk about money.

Victorians of reasonable vintage will remember the State Bank ad of the 1980s "It's your money Ralph". Effective because it pitched your interests against an institution. (Sadly not online)

The Liberals understand this. Most people aren't wealthy but they have enough to think they might be better off with a tax cut or franking credits. They pitch your interests against the government.

Labor needs to sell people on why "their money" is being denied them because of Centrelink bureaucracy, profligate spending on big business and privatised services, tax dodges, or by banking and super rorts. That should be an easy sell. Representing the interest of the consumer and worker. That they haven't capitalised on a torpid and incompetent government that has crippled institutions that people use regularly is strange and disturbing.

The narrative is that the Labor party are voting against the people the represent because of their multi-dimensional political skillz. The alternative - that they just believe it - seems equally likely when you look at the genuine issues that they are ignoring to play politics.

If the aim is to represent the upper-middle technocratic class then they are succeeding. But they shouldn't be surprised if that doesn't shift the needle in the suburbs.

Sterner Matters 9th July, 2019 00:39:07   [#]