The state of play in Ohio remains of concern, though the jeep ad fiasco might well see Obama safe. It looks to me like Obama will win, Romney is spoken of in a very precise way: like the Joker in Batman. He’s kind of endearing, sort of funny uh-oh! He might be threatening, he could possibly blow up the city at any moment but probably is just there to enable Batman to win the day. There’s no suggestion that there is a Romney rollercoaster, or a Romney train you’ve just got to get on, or that Romney is destined to be President. The conversation is about anti-Obama-ness, and only rarely pro-Romney. Romney could be Mr Ed the Talking Horse. A Republican placeholder.
Looking across the Australian political scene it can be a bit of a struggle to find much of interest. Throughout the states (except SA and the ACT) Coalition government are in razor gang mode, cutting public servants like Freddy Kruger. Barry O’Farrell is cutting deals with Jamie Packer and lunching with the great and the good throughout the Eastern Suburbs. He’s looking much more like a toga wearing patrician every day, and ever more likely to call for the destruction of Carthage.
Julia Gillard still parks her comcar at the Lodge, and Tony still throws rocks at the roof and pretends it’s hail. The forthcoming election, sometime between October 7 and November 7 2013 assuming that the ALP and JG go the distance, feels all wrong. The feeling that Tony Abbott can win is there but it is strangely tenuous. It doesn’t feel like a sure thing, Black Caviar he isn’t. A fighter, yes, maybe even the Roberto Duran of Australian politics, but not a guaranteed winner.
He is widely loathed but that’s nothing new. He was loathed in 1993 when he was John Hewson’s press secretary. He was loathed in 1979 when he tried to dissolve the Sydney Uni SRC. He’s been loathed by a core third of the electorate for all time but that’s not the third that counts. The general alliance of leftish-progressive-greenish sorts would quietly hit him with phone books until they could put him in the green waste bin and not feel bad about it at all. I daresay even Bernie Banton’s saintly widow would pick up the yellow pages.
He’s also loathed by a good many on his side. Too catholic; too Sydney; too north shore; too radically conservative; too pompous; too mistake prone; too much inclined to ignore the chain of command. The Nats can’t bear him, grumpy old Ron Boswell doesn’t even turn up to joint coalition meetings. Barnaby Joyce can’t help giggling when he goes to those meetings. Even that indignant rodent Alby Shultz can’t quite bring himself to be unequivocal about his leader.
Perhaps this is unsurprising given the strategy the Coalition has taken up: the strategy of snark and troll. Wherever there’s a moment for disrespect Tony will be there. Wherever hope needs to be crushed Tony will be there. Wherever somebody feels hard done by Tony will be there. Wherever somebody feels they’re paying too much, Tony will be there. Wherever something needs to be shat on, Tony will be there.
I feel for Joe Hockey, he gets out in front; he does something like leadership by taking one for the team every time he gets in front of the camera. Tony gets the set piece plays (the header from the cross, or the blindside from scrum plays) but Joe he gets broken play. Run with it Joe, run with it. But really he must be thinking what’s the point? The only reason he runs is tire out the defence, never once have the Coalition made a substantive point scoring opportunity from one of Joe’s runs. I wonder if they think point scoring is worth the bother.
Tony isn’t going for incrementalism, he’s going for the big play, winner takes it all. One knock out punch is what he wants and there’s no result from landing it too soon. Better to keep dancing, keep the ALP chasing, throwing punches and missing. There’s no need to pitch for the sympathy of the crowd, or the adoration of the TV audience, or the respect of pundits. They aren’t a victory, they aren’t even symbolic victory. Tony wants desperately to be in the zone and the zone to be in him.
From there it’s destiny, like Ali in Zaire. And even more like Ali in Zaire it doesn’t matter how many times he gets hit because as long as he’s standing and the ALP are throwing punches in a defensive pattern then the strategy is working. The ALP is in defence mode and is shaping their strategy to match the Coalition, Tony sets the tone and Tony sets the pace. The core risk is that the electorate doesn’t like boys who torment, who extend the process of tormenting and seem to enjoy it.
Which brings us to misogyny and that Tony also seems to like tormenting girls. Julia’s speech was good; she had him in the corner and landed several weighty blows. The third that hates Tony thought it was beautiful, absolutely a just bashing and that he deserved more. The third that loves Tony figured it revealed the hapless sentimentality of the current ALP and JG, imagine getting so upset about gender. It’s not like money or marriage or anything. The other third are the third that really count; maybe it’s not even a third but the clichéd 8 percent who change their vote most every election. Do they think Julia was fighting fair, do they think Tony pulls wings off flies?
Could be either, probably is both. But somehow I just don’t think Tony will win, I’m not sure that those eight percent are believers in the knockout punch. They don’t want to see Julia get hit but they don’t like Labor. They don’t mind the Libs but they resist such a combative figure. Julia, on objective data, has done OK –it’s a minority government and it hasn’t fallen over. The independents haven’t extorted her, they haven’t dissed her, and they haven’t abandoned her. Rudd couldn’t get most of his agenda through the Caucus but Julia got hers through an unfriendly house of reps. Gold star material I think.
Greens have come off the boil, but I reckon they’ll still be hot enough. If the Clover Moore by-election is anything to go by inner city electorates aren’t going to follow the usual Lab-Lib pattern and offer the Greens a pretty strong opportunity to persist and grow in the lower house. The Australian Democrats (feel the nostalgia) are presently debating who is and who isn’t an official Democrat, and who might or might not be eligible for nomination. They’re gone. I imagine that Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott will struggle for re-election, the Nats will hit them hard and won’t let go. The Nats are fighting for their continued existence and they won’t die for lack of fighting. None of them will.