My reflection, dirty mirror… The Conservative Pickle

I’m mid-twenties and conservative.  For most of my adult life, I’ve found it extremely difficult to vote for the Coalition (in the last election, I succumbed to commonsense and submitted an informal vote).  Not coincidentally, for most of my adult life, the Liberal Party have been the most vocally homophobic, xenophobic, and libertarian.  Merging forces with the very ugly views of the National Party, the Coalition has increasingly seemed more like a nasty Brady Bunch and less like an alternative government.  Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser seemed to agree that something had gone rotten in the right and handed in his party membership.

The leader of the Coalition now seems to be seeking the support of the pants-on-head crazy fringes of the Australian electorate: the homogenously white, vocal, angry section of the community that Abbott calls ‘middle Australia’.  With very little effort, you can find the videos the ‘No Carbon Tax et alia’ protestors made themselves.  Despite their whinging, you’ll see that the media did not misrepresent their views much.  The charitable interpretation is that they’re misinformed crazies; it is more probable that they’re wilfully misinformed crazies, Astroturfed by radio shock jocks.

Whatever your views of the crowd are, Abbott (accompanied by the less desirable lurkers of the Coalition) was happy to stand among the mob and to bask in the sickly glow of misogynistic and xenophobic placards.  As the dust settled on the media frenzy, we were left puzzled by Abbott’s inability to distance himself from the loudest of the Tea Party-esque sentiments.  How could a conservative leader associate with such populist ugliness?  How could they be so wrong-headed as to legitimise the crowd’s offensive (by any rational standard) slogans?  In their defence, the right wing cronies could muster little more than ‘Tu quoque!’ Even this week, a right-wing commentator wailed that the Greens ought not to criticise Abbott’s poor choices because the Greens have been equally willing to join mobs with dubious ethics.

As if that somehow makes Abbott’s actions justifiable.  We conservatives used to pride ourselves on being better than the uncouth left.  We’d never stoop to the thuggery of the socialists and ‘greenies’.  We’d never be so crass or so vulgar.  Perish the thought!  We’re all about values, principles, and traditions.  The conservative way was to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.  It was not to return to the old and selfish notions of laissez-faire.  I’m pretty sure I heard that somewhere.

Worse, there’s more than a garden mile between associating with the anarchists of the far left and associating with misogynists and xenophobes.  Not all crazy was born equal.

I’m supposedly on the same side of the left-right political spectrum as Abbott and I’m baffled by his actions.  This isn’t what we expect from conservatives.  I tried to imagine Malcolm Fraser or Robert Menzies at a similar sort of rally.  This taxed my imagination too greatly, so I resorted to Photoshop.  The resulting images remind you of Escher’s pictures: your brain knows that it can’t be seeing what it thinks it sees.

Being young and conservative, I wonder if Abbott thinks that his recent antics makes others like me more or less likely to vote for his party.  Here’s a hint: the answer is ‘less’.  How many more votes can he abandon while courting crazy?

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Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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