It’s flowchart time…
Senator Brown’s decision to step down from leadership of the Greens has resulted in strange commentary from both sides of politics. Declaring my hand early, I’ve never been a fan. I’m not a fan of populist politicians. The Greens as a whole are just the National Party of the Left: attention-seeking, pandering, quick to confect faux-outrage. Senator Brown has been the Joss Whedon of Australian politics: a man with the fanatical support of his admirers who are quick to blame his shortcomings on anything other than him.
Those in the ‘mainstream’ right (i.e. the crazies who make me look bad) have been stuck with two contradictory opinions: Senator Brown was the most dangerous man in politics; Senator Brown was a failure. It’s hard to know how much is genuine opinion and how much is pandering to the readership.
But a similar problem has arisen on the left. Senator Brown and the Greens have had a lot of success painting themselves as a ‘different kind’ of politician/political party, despite the ample evidence to the contrary.
I have had the following conversation six times with six entirely different people:
Them: ‘Bob Brown wasn’t like other politicians.’
Me: ‘Sure he was. He was populist, misrepresented issues, and, when challenged, denied facts.’
Them: ‘But all politicians do that.’
The Greens were the most successful of the emerging populist parties (Democrats, One Nation, Family First, &c.). The Democrats fell due to internal stupidity. Family First rose and fell due to external stupidity (spiteful direction of preferences). One Nation was killed off by Howard becoming a born again populist, effectively slashing the appeal of Pauline Hanson.
In a non-crazy universe, the ALP would have absorbed the Greens’ electoral support. Instead, internal tensions, strange politics, and an utter hatred of Howard (resulting in a need to compete with him at his own game). With no natural predators, the Greens were able to grow all kinds of wackiness. Senator Hanson-Young, for example.
This doesn’t fit the manifest destiny rhetoric of Greens supporters. So Senator Brown’s decision to leave politics has initiated his apotheosis. The success of the Greens has to be told in terms of unwavering conviction, integrity, and vision: the alternative is that it was merely a quirk of our senatorial election system and populist politics.