Monday, November 26, 2018

Where to Libs?

Victoria was once known as "the jewel in the Liberal crown". The heartland of the Liberal Party was in the upper middle class areas of Melbourne, such as Hawthorn and Brighton. For decades, the leaders of the Liberal Party were drawn from suburbs like these.

But Saturday's election suggests that the Melbourne Anglo upper middle class has now switched to the Labor Party and the Greens. You can check the voting at the Australian Election Commission website not just by electorate but by individual polling booths, and this gives a good indication of the demographics of the results.

For instance, in the Camberwell booth the results were 646 for the Liberals, 562 for Labor and 338 for the Greens. So that's 646 vs 900. In the Hawthorn booth, the results were 655 for the Liberals, 682 for Labor and 392 for the Greens, which adds up to 655 vs 1074. In Ivanhoe, it was 599 for the Liberals, 921 for Labor and 354 for the Greens, which is 599 vs 1275.

The leafier parts of Melbourne are becoming increasingly left-wing, with both Labor and the Greens picking up much of the vote.

Should we be surprised by this political realignment? I don't think so. There are at least two reasons that would lead you to expect these wealthier areas to trend to the left.

First, the justification for wealth in a liberal society is the claim to be inclusive and egalitarian. A "progressive" leftism therefore fits the mindset of the "new aristocracy" much better than the Liberal Party's appeals to lower taxation or to law and order. Similarly, the aspiration now within the upper classes is to belong to the higher echelons (the analytical/managerial level) of a globalised workforce (this is what the literature of private schools, even Catholic ones, promises to parents). Liberal Party appeals to small business values and good economic management won't resonate much with people with global managerial/financial class aspirations.

Second, the schools (including the elite private schools) have been dominated for at least 20 years now by radically left-wing teachers. If you hand your children over to be educated by passionately left-wing women, then it's not surprising if political values move to the left, particularly among the more intellectually oriented social classes.

So what we have now is red Melbourne. The upper classes and those in the middle classes who aspire to upper class status vote left. The welfare classes, and various special interest groups, also vote left. That leaves the Liberal Party with the more socially conservative parts of the working and lower middle classes, as well as independent tradesmen and small business owners.

It's likely, if these blocs hold, that the Labor Party will be the natural party of government in Victoria. The question, then, is how the Liberal Party responds to this.

For decades, the Liberal Party strategy was successful. At election time, the Libs would make appeals to socially conservative voters, but when in office would run things mostly along big business, right-liberal lines.

One option for the Victorian Liberals would be to follow Labor in pitching their campaign rhetoric more to the left. In other words, they would no longer try to draw in socially conservative voters.

If they take this option, it will open up a large political space on the right. It could be an opportune moment for a genuinely non-liberal, right-wing party to build a voter base.

There are other scenarios. If there's an economic crash, then voters might turn to the Liberal Party as better economic managers. Possibly, too, as the Anglo upper class recedes demographically, other political configurations might emerge.

And for traditionalists? We are clearly on the outer of upper class culture right now. The important thing is that we make ourselves known as an alternative and that we continue to develop our organisation on the ground (part of the appeal of which is simply providing an alternative space for people who have to endure politically correct workplaces). Perhaps we could also think of ways that we could encourage the formation of a genuinely non-liberal electoral party, one with relatively broad appeal (i.e. not the full traditionalist program) but that would represent socially conservative voters on issues such as family, nation and culture.


  1. What the middle class wants is a government that is hard right economically, because they want to be rich. But they want a government that is socially and culturally left-wing, so they don't have to feel guilty about being rich.

  2. If they take this option, it will open up a large political space on the right. It could be an opportune moment for a genuinely non-liberal, right-wing party to build a voter base.

    The Labor Party faces an interesting future. There's no reason for the LGBT-friendly environmentally conscious hardline feminist refugee-loving cultural left to vote Labor any more. They might as well vote for the Greens. So Labor is going to be bleeding more and more supporters to the Greens.

    And there's zero reason for anyone with traditional left-wing economic justice ideas to vote Labor.

    So there's potentially a huge potential political space on the left. For a party articulating traditional left values - fair play, strong family values, nationalism, economic justice. Such a party would not necessarily be hostile to the ideas that traditionalists cherish.

    So if there's hope it will come from a fragmentation of both the existing major parties.

    1. So Labor is going to be bleeding more and more supporters to the Greens.

      Good point. The Greens are no longer just a Brunswick party. They're getting a sizeable chunk of the leftist vote even in the upper middle class areas. So Labor might find itself in a predicament of its own - further abandon traditional Labor politics to head off the Greens - which then, as you point out, leaves a potential political vacuum on the left.

      Although I think it's unlikely, the emergence of something like a "Blue Labour" movement would be very welcome.

  3. The existence of the numerous minor parties is interesting from the US perspective, as they have a seemingly unpredictable impact. It does seem to get non-elites a presence that you don't see in the US outside of the part-time New Hampshire state legislature.

    Economic prosperity seems to correlate with a revival in environmentalist sentiment, as voters feel they can afford the cost of green politics. It has been difficult to square a right-wing politics with environmentalism, given the donors and votes linked to oil and mining. My biggest problem with Greens other than the leftist social values is their anti-nuclear stance.

    Part of the problem with a social conservative party is the ethnic/confessional divide. Traditionalists tend to distrust their counterparts from other groups just as much as they do towards liberals. The term "Judeo-Christian ethics" satisfies no one, let alone an expansion to "Abrahamic" to be inclusive of Muslims which not even the National Review types in the US have been willing to use. And it also raises the question of the secularists that vaguely support a traditionalist politics, but have no vocal way of defending a rather rootless sentiment other than "Cultural Christianity".

  4. So many people have missed this movement to the left in the Upper classes. So many people still base so much of their social and political analysis on outdated cold war norms.

    Your analysis of the causes are spot on as well, although I'd add that the reasons for the domination of schools by far left teachers is the domination of the university system by far left lecturers.

    That is the source of the contagion and nothing will change until something in the education system shifts. Political parties are more or less superfluous in the face of this massive elephant in the room.

  5. The idea that the Liberals are "better economic managers" doesn't resonate much anymore, especially since recent history empirically indicates that they are not. Howard's economic success came from a chance mining boom, mass population growth, cheap credit and inflating house prices. Abbott and Hockey were dismal. What was their legacy? A house of cards, economically speaking.

    The reason that the upper middle class is moving away is perhaps more mundane. The Liberals lack talent. So do Labor but at least they have some small redeeming characteristics, and like the Greens at least make the pretense of relying on more than simply their reputation to garner votes.

    The fact is, that more educated people, that is, those who are more likely to be middle and upper middle class, simply see through the Liberals bluster and see them for what they really are. A party coasting on successes which have since long subsided, populated mainly by people with a sense of entitlement and a bemusing lack of knowledge about things which many of my contemporaries have some knowledge of (such as Climate Change). Add to that a severe lack of self-consciousness and you've got a party which has nothing but a brand name going for it.

    If they started to even address issues that impact me, I might consider voting for them again, but they don't.

  6. Mark I wrote my own thoughts on traditionalism and got them published here:

    I'd be flattered if you'd have a look.

  7. I also quoted you in my article on the Victorian election.

    It only seemed fair since it appears you came to many of the same conclusions before I did.

    1. Lucas, sorry for not replying earlier, hectic life. I like both of these very much and hope to write on them shortly.

  8. Thankyou Mark. Whatever your thoughts please continue the good work. You remain an inspiration to many, myself included.

  9. This article from 4 years ago regarding the 2014 Victorian election is just as applicable in 2018: