The irony of Cory Bernardi’s defection from the Liberal Party should be acknowledged.
The political shocks of 2016 have rocked the political establishment in Western democracies. Trump, Brexit, and the revival of One Nation have exposed the divide between significant numbers of ordinary voters, and the political class across all parties who subscribe to the prevailing left-progressive consensus on many social, cultural, and economic issues.
One would think a mainstream political party would be keen to keep conservatives — who are clearly in tune with the current mood of public opinion — ‘inside the tent’ in the interests of electoral self-preservation.
However, the reality is that while conservative ideas and traditional values appear to be on the right side of history, they are not culturally ascendent.
The commanding heights of the culture — especially in the media — remain firmly controlled by elites who endorse so-called ‘progressive’ ideas and values.
Hence the vast majority of politicians are risk-averse; they toe the politically correct line to avoid negative and embarrassing coverage for expressing ‘controversial’ or ‘knuckle-dragging’ views.
Giving in to political correctness is thus perceived to be a political ‘win’ … (see, for example, the renewed push by some MPs to have parliament pass gay marriage to “get the question off the agenda”). This strategy helps maintain politician’s elite status among their peers in the political class, but is achieved at the expense of faithfully representing the attitudes and interests of voters.
These political calculations are now producing diminishing electoral returns, given that increasing numbers of disenchanted citizens are voting for minor parties to express their dissent from the establishment consensus.
Bernardi’s decision to create his own political party indicates that he believes the anti-establishment trend will continue.
If so, the hard numerical realities of politics will ultimately force the political class to reconsider its risk-averse, ‘surrender whilst declaring victory’ approach to contentious issues.
In order reconnect with voters, political elites will have to stop bowing to political correctness and start fighting the culture war instead.
24 March 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre
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