While we sit and wait for the full results of the Republican resurgence in the US midterms, a similar turn is occurring in Australian politics ahead of the state elections in Victoria.
Much like the recent Federal elections, the Greens are expected to make a major play for traditional Labor inner-city seats in Victoria. A break between Labor and its progressive base has been foreseen for some time, as the Labor-Right have drifted the party towards the Right for at least the last decade.
The ALP’s attempt to play catch up with Coalition politics has led to the accusation that Labor no longer stands for anything. Certainly, that appeared to be the case at the last Federal election when, along with the Coalition, Labor dodged all debate on key social issues such as gay marriage, climate change, and the war in Afghanistan.
Instead, Labor played into the hands of a shallow “stop the boat” Coalition campaign, insulting the young, progressive and educated voters in inner-city seats. The Coalition are great at pulling out the fear card, but rather than hitting it on its head with the clear fact that asylum seekers pose no threat to our national security (a fact all educated Australians acknowledge), Labor stooped to its level to beat the drums of the Right.
It was a foolish tactic to deploy as Labor ignored the progressive issues that were important to its traditional voters to compete for conservative votes. As it fought for conservative votes, it left its progressive base in the dark, leaving plenty of room for the Greens to move in. And move in they did.
The Greens snared the Federal seat of Melbourne after 100+ years of Labor rule. That win could translate into 4 seats at the Victorian state elections, as Melbourne encompasses 4 state electorates.
The progressive and educated inner-city Labor voters have lost patience with the party, and are expressing their frustration with a protest vote for the Greens. Whether the Greens can ensure their voters become regular supporters at each election remains a challenge, but despite cries from the Labor-Left for a return to progressive politics, Gillard and Brumby are refusing to budge.
It is incomprehensible that a party that is struggling in the polls can still believe it is on the right path (pun intended). All the better for the Greens, for as long as Labor fishes for the Right, the Greens will continue to grow as Australia’s progressive party.
For a further analysis on Labor’s divorce from the Left, read this excellent piece in The Australian by two academics from the University of Queensland and the Australian National University.