Purely by a freak of timing, of course, the SMH today published an opinion piece by Danae Bosler called ‘Labor abandoned me, so I quit’. I think a better title for it would have been ‘When the going got tough, I gave up’.
My political ideology is simple. I have always done my best to support the party which will successfully implement progressive policy. Keeping in mind that in order to pass progressive policy, a party must be in a position to form government, I currently support the Labor party. If, in the future, the Labor Party were not the best option to reach this end goal, I would vote for someone else. In other words, I am more wedded to progressive reform than I am to a particular political party. On the other hand, the Liberal party offers no hope at all of progressive reform, and has in fact promised to roll back much of what Labor has achieved.
From what Bosler argues, she is more interested in feeling connected to a party, than the actual effect they have on the country. She is treating the Labor party like a pop band that brought out an album she didn’t like. She’s tearing their posters off the walls of her bedroom and bitching about them on Facebook. But, if she took a moment to think about what she’s actually achieving by trashing the Labor party and the union movement in a newspaper opinion piece, she might realise that she’s undermining progressive policy. Which is exactly what the Liberal party is pleased to see her doing.
In her opinion piece, Bosler talks about all the work she has done for the union movement and for the Labor party, and then claims she quit doing all this work because:
“I felt abandoned by Labor leaders and embarrassed by my union ones.”
She goes on to say:
“I quit because there’s a gaping divide between the amazing, dedicated, hard working union organisers on the ground and the union leaders making a mockery of our movement in the media (think Craig Thomson, think Paul Howes).”
Craig Thomson. Wouldn’t Tony Abbott love to hear that a former Labor supporter was dumping her entire ideological support of the Labor movement because she was upset about Craig Thomson paying for prostitutes on his union credit card? It has obviously never occurred to Bosler that by rejecting the Labor party because of Craig Thomson, she is playing right into the Liberal party’s hands. She is choosing to be swayed by a Liberal smear campaign, with its three pronged objectives of damaging Craig Thomson, hurting the government’s majority and discrediting the entire union movement. One idiotic man doing what thousands of idiotic men do every day and she is turned off her supposed preferred vision for the country? And what role does she think the media have in this?
Bosler’s argument is that there are fantastic people (formerly herself) working on the ground to support unions, but it’s the ones at the top who are letting the system down. So rather than stick around and try to fix things, she turned her back on the whole problem. Again, a very counterproductive attitude. Is this not like a Wall Street banker saying that he used to believe in the free market, but then his boss was a dickhead and so he’s decided to give up on capitalism altogether?
Another thing Bosler seems to have missed is that there are many supporters of progressive policy who are very concerned about the influence that some union leaders, such as Paul Howes, have on the Labor party. But we don’t give up on the Labor party just because there are elements of it that we don’t like. That would be counterproductive in our quest to support a party that will implement progressive policy. And her article isn’t just aiming to damage the Labor party, it’s also damaging the union movement. Sure, the union movement is by no means perfect. But it’s the best union movement we’ve got and I am sure I would prefer to have to have a union than an individual workplace agreement. It’s also worth pointing out that the reporting of scandal and corruption in the union movement is over reported in the media, especially when you compare it to the almost non-existent coverage of corporate scandal and corruption. This is a topic for another post.
Most of the people I know who support the Labor party spend as much effort trying to improve the party from the inside as they do campaigning on the party’s behalf. This work happens at branch meetings: passing motions, activism within the party and the slow and frustrating work of lobbying and reform. The reason that they do this is to ensure that the party remains strong, fair and capable of leading the country so that they can pass progressive policy. Improvements are not made by announcing in a newspaper that you have quit the entire movement.
On the topic of progressive policy, Bosler writes about her disappointment:
“This is where my leaders have failed me: selling out on our progressive agenda to appease the swing voters in suburban seats (I’ve spoken with them out the front of shopping centres and they’re not impressed anyway)”.
Without having any evidence of which progressive agenda Bosler feels she has been cheated out of, it seems that the problem here is that no one has ever told her the importance of winning a swing voter’s support. If you can’t get the support of swing voters, you don’t win an election. If the Labor party doesn’t win an election, the Liberal party will govern our country. What does Bosler think of the Liberal’s party’s policies?
It’s not easy being a progressive voter, and supporting the Labor party, without feeling that sometimes you’ve compromised on your values to ultimately get what you want. But what other option is there? Giving up and letting the Liberals win is not a risk I’m willing to take.
If you’re mature enough to understand that no political party is perfect, and you’re determined to end up with the best progressive outcome for your country (not just the policies you are personally passionate about), then pragmatism and compromise are important skills to learn. Sure, it might seem easier to quit when you don’t get what you want, or when there are people in the party who you don’t respect. It might be tempting to throw in the towel when the Labor party introduces yet another asylum seeker policy that you deride. You might threaten to join the Greens if you don’t get the environmental policy you were hoping for, or gay marriage isn’t introduced in Labor’s second term. But where would that leave this country? More than likely with a conservative government. Was Bosler never told not to cut off her nose to spite her face?