FOLLOWING THE LEADER? August 30, 2012Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Human Rights, Terrorism Issues, US Politics.
While it is unlikely, it is at least possible to change the major players in the political game in Australia through the electoral system. In the US even such a remote possibility does not exist. One imagines that television-soaked minds are not capable of a paradigm shift, despite the inroads of the internet and related technologies.The felt affinity of Australian, and not just Australians, with American political directions is quite extraordinary. Despite mindless and pandering by those who purport to be up to the responsibility of leading us realities such as economic relationships and geographic location are always going to act within the violent international power system of nation states as strange, and “unstrange” attractors. Undeniably there is also an influence of the set of cultural affinity, albeit that national myths and context of creation are distinct, although with interpenetration in which language, if not accent, is the vehicle carried by every medium invented.
So what difference will a change in US Administration have on Australia? Dennis Altman suggests it is possible Mitt Romney could win. Then political advantage will be have been won by money and television – the triumph of advertising – following the path of Obama. Should Romney win, Dennis Altman suggests two direct implications for Australia:
If it did happen, a Romney victory would have direct implications for Australia, particularly if it is accompanied by a Republican takeover of Congress (and it is difficult to see a scenario where Romney wins but the Republican position in Congress has weakened).
First, a Republican presidency in the United States would strengthen the right-wing impulses in Australia’s Liberal–National Coalition, in both cultural and economic terms. Republicans increasingly emphasise individual initiative over state responsibility; Romney has recently had to show his commitment to this party tenet by attacking Obama’s healthcare program even though it was partly modelled on programs Romney himself had established when governor of Massachusetts.
For his part, vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan has built a career on developing policies that require major cuts in both services and taxation. Ryan Republicans share an assumption that all taxation is bad, with no recognition that it is a device for providing what cannot be delivered by the market. Indeed some people are now defending the very low levels of Romney’s own taxation payments with the argument that he is a generous donor to various good causes, implying that charity is somehow equivalent to taxation.
Australia already allows charitable donations as tax deductions, but we have yet to hear arguments that seriously suggest the very rich should be taxed less if they give money to their favourite causes. And Mitt Romney’s vision is not that of Tony Abbott, who has much greater faith in the role of the state and some commitment to egalitarianism (not necessarily shared by everyone in his party). But if the Romney–Ryan ticket were successful it would most likely give new ammunition to what are currently fairly fringe views within the Coalition parties, namely that the federal government should embark on a major program of cutting back on government services and income-support payments.
Changes of this sort would necessarily be slow, as there is deeply entrenched support for these entitlements in Australia; but as we have seen in some states, government action of this kind is not impossible. With the ideological certainty that a conservative American administration might help provide, a Liberal government is likely to be more ruthless in pruning services and increasing inequality within Australia.
Politics is not without paradox and contradictions. I recall when Malcolm Fraser was regarded as an acolyte of Ayn Rand, and his government’s policies with respect to refugees were more enlightened than the current incumbents. The current government has determined, for whatever reasons, not to increase the Newstart Allowance despite recent reports of beneficiaries unable to pay for food, medical and dental services.The opposition in the US and by conduction and independently in Australia would be strengthened and activated, although the evidence suggests that the repression in the US would be brutal and intense. Who knows what significance the eviction of the Ron Paul libertarians from the Republican National Convention will have. In Australia the name of the Liberal Party represents an impediment to swing to the extreme right, but the Orwellian World is on the ascendant.
“Big Brother is Watching” (A mishmash of the dispassionate and deranged, so par for the course):
A second area where a Romney presidency might affect Australia is in our approach to foreign affairs. We know little about Romney’s foreign policy views, but from the few comments he has made we might expect less interest in working cooperatively in the international arena, and a return to the Bush II posture of the United States as global policeman. Romney has been critical of Obama’s “weakness” in foreign policy, though rather unspecific as to alternatives. But we can assume that he would continue to maintain an American military presence in the Pacific and would be no more likely than Obama has been to accept China’s claim to greater influence. What he would lack is the initial goodwill that gave Obama an opportunity, not always used, to reset Washington’s relations with the rest of the world.
But a Romney presidency is also likely to re-energise debate in Australia about how far we should see the American alliance as the bedrock of our own foreign policy. At the time, the relationship between George W. Bush and John Howard seemed like the high point of Australia’s alignment with the United States, but Julia Gillard seems even more unquestioningly pro-American, and Labor is encouraging a permanent US troop presence that goes beyond its predecessor’s policies.
So far there has been little dissent from this position, but I suspect this is in part because of the enormous popularity of Barack Obama. A President Romney could be greeted with somewhat more scepticism, and those voices who question our over-dependence on the United States would probably grow. Indeed, were Labor in opposition I would anticipate some of the criticism would come from people like Bob Carr and Kevin Rudd, both of whom share Labor’s commitment to the United States but are capable of balancing it against the realities of a rapidly shifting global environment.
Romney might of course prove to be a realist, and ignore rhetoric about American greatness to seek a more balanced relationship with other powers – even those (such as China and Russia) whose domestic records he abhors.
Despite Mrs Romney’s expressed confidence in the candidate, I doubt whether austerity policies and tax cuts, will succeed in the face of climate change – which is the real game changer – and failure to address the burden of the military-industrial complex and the inefficiency of the health system. It is rarely mentioned the US is indebted to Communist China.
Political repression of free speech and Agora Politics was on show during the Occupy actions, and has been, and will be evident outside the party political conventions:
And there are some issues, with implications for fundamental rights of “others”, an expanding category, are bipartisan, which is to say make no difference which major party candidate becomes president. These include the incarceration at Guantanamo Bay and the Drone murders.
The RNC refused to give the Ron Paul delegates a chance to present their case, and for the convention delegates to vote on the motion. The American Ambassador expresses concern about the lack of fact checking on the internet. Others have described the Paulites as crazies – no fact checking required since this must be authorative. Let’s behave like democratic citizens and hold the truth as we understand it. Scott Horton is one of the crazies. (I suppose coalitions are always possible, but I expect in the one proposed, there would be almost immediate fracture over economic and social policy,)
- Australian voters would deliver Obama landslide victory (smh.com.au)
- Al Gore sees dark clouds if Romney wins (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- paradigm shifting? (toleranceforambiguity.wordpress.com)
- Fifty Years of Paradigm Shifts (nationalinterest.org)
- Compliance with Wiretap Law is Transparent, NSA Says (nextgov.com)