Scott Morrison was not supposed to continue to be Australia’s Prime Minister. Polls had consistently shown his Liberal Party, which is a center-right party, trailing the center-left Labor Party for several months. But to everyone’s surprise, the right-leaning party pulled it out. Morrison, who is an evangelical Christian, called it a miracle. From CNN:
In a triumphant speech Saturday night, Morrison said he had “always believed in miracles.”
“And tonight we’ve been delivered another one,” he told jubilant supporters in Sydney who chanted Morrison’s nickname “ScoMo.”
The result will be devastating for the center-left Labor Party, which had been ahead in every opinion poll during the campaign and had expected to easily form a government after Saturday’s vote.
“This was the unlosable election for the Labor Party. That’s how this was considered,” ABC’s Patricia Karvelas said from the Melbourne Labor event.
What may cause concern for progressives both in Australia and here at home is the framing of this election. The Labor Party’s platform was to pursue more dramatic action on climate change and higher taxes on the rich. From the NY Times:
The election had presented Australia, a vital American ally in the Asia-Pacific, with a crucial question: Would it remain on a rightward path and stick with a political coalition that promised economic stability, jobs and cuts to immigration or choose greater action on climate change and income inequality?…
The candidate Mr. Morrison defeated, Bill Shorten, the leader of the center-left Labor Party, offered an alternative path for Australia: a return to more government intervention on climate change and the economy, and intensified skepticism about the United States and Mr. Trump…
Mr. Morrison, who kept policy proposals to a minimum during the campaign, rode a singular message to victory: that the Labor Party’s plans to raise spending to bolster public health programs, education and wages would blow up the budget and end Australia’s generation-long run of economic growth.
Ignoring the turmoil that has led his coalition to churn through three prime ministers in six years, he promoted his center-right Liberal Party as a steady hand on the tiller, and made promises of cheaper energy and help for first-time homeowners.
In essence, the left-leaning party was running on the Green New Deal and Morrison won by pointing out that could damage the economy. It remains to be seen whether those results are transferrable to the United States, but you do have some of the same elements in play. First, almost the entire field of Democrats has endorsed the Green New Deal. Second, the creator of the Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, won’t even try to explain how much it would cost or how we could pay for it. And third, the economy is doing very well right now. If that continues for another year, it shouldn’t be hard for Trump to make the pitch that it’s not worth upsetting the apple cart by voting for someone like Bernie Sanders.
The wild card in this scenario is Joe Biden. Biden apparently considers himself a far-left progressive but most people in his party seem to see him as a more moderate alternative to candidates like Sanders or Warren. We’ll have to wait and see how it turns out but you can bet a lot of Democrats are looking at the results of the Australian election and are wondering about their party’s prospects in 2020.
Here’s Bill Shorten, the guy whose party lost, making the “case for change.”
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