Australian Claire Lehmann has an essay over at Quillette with her take on her country’s recent elections and how they fit into some broader trends. Labour did reasonably well in some cities, but lost in rural areas.
The swing against Labor was particularly pronounced in the northeastern state of Queensland—which is more rural and socially conservative than the rest of Australia. Many of Queensland’s working-class voters opposed Labor’s greener-than-thou climate-change policies, not a surprise given that the state generates half of all the metallurgical coal burned in the world’s blast furnaces. Queensland’s rejection of Labor carried a particularly painful symbolic sting for Shorten, given that this is the part of Australia where his party was founded by 19th century sheep shearers meeting under a ghost gum tree. In 1899, the world’s first Labor government was sworn into the Queensland parliament. Shorten’s “wipe-out” in Queensland demonstrates what has become of the party’s brand among working-class people 120 years later.
She goes on to take note of the fact that the parties of the Left have two natural constituencies who are not necessarily natural allies.
Picture a dinner party where half the guests are university graduates with prestigious white-collar jobs, with the other half consisting of people who are trade workers, barmaids, cleaners and labourers. While one side of the table trades racy jokes and uninhibited banter, the other half tut-tuts this “problematic” discourse.
These two groups both represent traditional constituencies of mainstream centre-left parties—including the Labour Party in the UK, the Democrats in the United States, and the NDP in Canada. Yet they have increasingly divergent attitudes and interests—even if champagne socialists paper over these differences with airy slogans about allyship and solidarity.
Progressive politicians like to assume that, on election day at least, blue-collar workers and urban progressives will bridge their differences, and make common cause to support leftist economic policies. This assumption might once have been warranted. But it certainly isn’t now—in large part because the intellectuals, activists and media pundits who present the most visible face of modern leftism are the same people openly attacking the values and cultural tastes of working and middle-class voters. And thanks to social media (and the caustic news-media culture that social media has encouraged and normalized), these attacks are no longer confined to dinner-party titterings and university lecture halls.
So now, the Left is having to deal with a revolt of the Deplorables. Coal miners in Queensland and West Virginia and oil and gas workers in Alberta and on rigs in the North Sea who don’t want any part of a Green Nude Eel are but one example of the split occurring on the Left. However, much of the leadership on the Left seems clueless about why some of their traditional voters might want to keep their jobs or be able to raise their families within cherished traditions. As Jonathan Haidt observed in The Righteous Mind, we humans view moral questions multidimensionally with “liberals” and “conservatives” placing different stress on different attributes. Often, folks on the Left aren’t placing any value on moral questions that are important to other people.
No centre-left party in the Anglosphere has adapted to the ongoing class realignment. Indeed, they lack even the vocabulary to explain what such adaptation would entail—which is why the left’s recent election losses, from Alberta to Adelaide, are blithely chalked up to voter xenophobia or ignorance (a response that, of course, only serves to make their brand problem worse). Until the left finds a way out of this endless loop of toxic pre-election posturing and post-election blame-shifting, such supposedly “shocking” results as was witnessed on Saturday are going to remain a regular occurrence.
Read the whole thing.