“Fear is the path to the dark side” – Yoda.
It was a Republican who aptly diagnosed the cancerous US election as early as May last year. But it was already too late, the virus had spread throughout our newsfeeds, newspapers, and across screens the world over, with no end in sight.
Diagnosis: Trump. Cause: anger.
Frank Luntz, a Republican political consultant, spends his time in focus groups aimed at gauging the public’s opinion. But in the lead up the election, these meetings resembled more of a Conor McGregor weigh-in than the usual dull affair. In a TIME article, Luntz termed this phenomenon as: “The American Anger Agenda”.
“[The voters] demand that politicians speak as angrily and as disrespectfully as they feel. Anything less, in their words, is politics or pandering.”- Luntz.
Benjamin Isakhan, Associate Professor of Politics and Policy at Deakin University, announced “Australia’s own ‘anger agenda’” in a recent essay, where he came to the conclusion that Aussie anger, thy name is Pauline Hanson.
Australians are a laidback bunch. But we have plenty to be angry about, and Hanson feeds on it like a wolf in the wild.
Think about it. Our Prime Ministers get tossed out every five minutes; inter-party politicking has become a sport. Our leaders are completely uninspiring, they milk their benefits with utter disregard and turn around and blame welfare recipients like a bunch of holier-than-thou hypocrites.
They promise jobs and growth and deliver an impending credit downgrade. They’re corrupt. The Obeids and Dastyaris of our parliaments are the reason there is an ever-shrinking trust in the system.
So my question to the leaders of Australia’s left is: where is the anger?
“Maintain your rage…” – Gough Whitlam.
Across the pond, Trump’s and Sanders’ supporters were angry. These leaders operated within the deep dissatisfaction and disapproval of the status quo like surgeons. The more they resisted the traditional political establishment, the higher their stocks climbed.
“Why I’m celebrating is that I can see that people … around the world are saying, ‘We’ve had enough of the establishment.’” – Hanson on Trump’s victory.
Opinion polls are showing that support for Hanson’s One Nation is growing rapidly, largely from frustrated Liberal voters. Her approval ratings have spiked nationwide; making her the fourth largest party behind the Greens.
This marks her as dangerously influential. Her preference vote could now become election-deciding. We’ll get an idea of how much power she holds in the upcoming WA state election in March.
So now if Hanson is the Trump of Australia, where is our Sanders?
“There is a lot of sentiment that enough is enough, that we need fundamental changes, that the establishment — whether it is the economic establishment, the political establishment or the media establishment — is failing the American people.” – Bernie Sanders
A Harvard study, showed that 51 per cent of American millennials do not support capitalism, and 33 per cent support socialism. Although this survey was conducted in the US, where it is far less equitable, it shows where the Australia is going if the current trend prevails.
The main beneficiary of this shift will be the Greens, who have been stealing Labor’s youth vote in droves. The only problem is, an estimated 400,000 youth between 18 and 25 can’t be bothered to register to vote.
You can blame the young all you want, but shouldn’t the buck stop with the leaders? There is no one on the left tapping into the resentment of the Australian people. No leaders are rising up to keep the political class accountable. And if they do, they are not doing it in an engaging way.
People remember Julia Gillard’s ‘Misogyny Speech’, and Keating’s address at Redfern Park. Everyone remembers Whitlam’s call to “maintain your rage”. We need enthusiastic leaders with a just cause. Otherwise people like Hanson dominate Australia’s “anger agenda”. The left needs to do its job better.
If there was anything the US election showed us, it is the power of the perception of success and celebrity. Trump certainly ticks both these boxes, but so could many other left-leaning Australian public figures, like Stan Grant or Waleed Aly. Both are media trained, politically-savvy, great orators, and outsiders of the Canberra establishment.
Hanson and Trump are also both unapologetically divisive. They know that they will never win the mind, heart, and soul of every voter. They don’t speak like politicians because they aren’t. They make their message controversial and the media eats it up. The left needs to use this to their advantage.
“Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” –Princess Leia
Do not let Hanson win. The major political parties will pander to One Nation because her preference vote is too valuable. So take a page out of her book and justify your anger. After all, it’s okay to be angry, if it’s justified.