Labor can’t appear to ignore economic wellbeing over ideological values

July 7, 2019

“Bob Hawke, a political superstar, was a social democrat. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an up-and-coming star today, is a democratic socialist. While the vernacular has changed, the focus remains on the “social” part of the equation rather than the “democratic” one. The social bias draws support and condemnation in equal measure.

Yet perhaps the left misses a trick when it allows the democratic aspect to be downplayed. Almost all in the broader left accept that you can’t implement a social program if you can’t build a democratic mandate for it.

In a functioning democracy, the voters are never wrong. And around the world, the left has failed to build a mandate for several election cycles now: in Australia, the US, Germany, France and the UK, conservatives have won elections, usually with a dash of populism in the mix. Only New Zealand and perhaps Canada buck the trend.

For Labor and the broader progressive movement in Australia, this is particularly painful. After losing an unlosable election, Labor is now asking itself how it failed to assemble a democratic majority and how it moves on from here. Anyone who claims they knew the answer beforehand is having themselves on. With hindsight, though, two critical ideas stand out. In turn, these suggest a path forward for Australian progressives.

Firstly, the left must find ways to build areas of consensus in an increasingly fragmented electorate. And secondly, it must never forget the importance of the hip pocket.”

David Hetherington in The Guardian