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Next left: where to now for Australian progressives?

Culture shock: politics upended in era of identity

A new series of articles features in The Guardian addressing what the federal election result means for the progressive side of Australian politics and the path forward from here. In the first instalment, Clive Hamilton writes (23.6.19) about the growth of ‘cultural identity’ politics amid the flashpoint of the climate emergency.

‘Political commentators reflexively overinterpret election results. The story we’ve been told is that the Coalition’s win means that “Australian voters” have rejected Labor’s radical plan for reform of the tax-and-spend system, confirming that Australians prefer stability and incremental change.

‘Yet if one in 50 (2%) had voted the other way the pundits would have junked this narrative and told us, with great authority, that by endorsing Labor’s vision “Australian voters” showed they’re ready to embrace change.

‘One in 50 could have switched to Labor if Clive Palmer had decided to spend his $60m on a new house instead of an election. Or if Labor had chosen a more credible leader. Or if, a week before election day, a minister had been outed cheating on his expenses. Yet such a random event would then have caused the pundits to offer a sharply different analysis of the state of Australian society.

‘… The argument that “money doesn’t buy happiness” is typically attributed to the comfortable middle classes, but it can apply at the other end too. At the lower end, those who vote against their economic interests might be worse off under a conservative government, but they will feel better because of the psychic wages they receive from knowing their anxieties are being recognised and addressed. These psychic wages compensate for any decline in material living standards.’

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