While handing out how-to-vote cards at the recent Federal election, my overall impression of Liberal voters was that they were angry. And rude. How did I know which voters were Liberals? Because they were angry and rude, and usually brusquely refused to take the Labor how-to vote-card that I politely offered them. I was even told to fuck off by one of them.
The booth I was working on was in a well-off area of Adelaide. One of the most well-off areas. Most of the angry Liberal voters were driving expensive cars and wore designer clothes. But they weren’t acting like the gentile middle-to-upper class which they no doubt think they belong to. They were acting like angry bogans.
When I thought about it harder, I realised that, for the 6 years of the Labor government, all we really heard from Liberal supporters was anger. Ranting and ravings, modeled on shock-jock rage. But why were they so angry? When you asked them why, you just got more bile, so it was never clear what they were angry about.
Some people have suggested to me that Liberals will always be angry when Labor is in power. It upsets their sense of entitlement. It upsets their belief that they were born to rule. I guess it’s the same anger that rich bosses feel when their workers unite to negotiate a wage rise. The boss doesn’t like to have to negotiate with his underlings. It makes him (usually him) feel very nervous. His outrageously overinflated share of the profits earned through the work of his employees is threatened. This overall ‘vibe’ of anger was probably at the heart of most of the anger we saw from Liberal supporters during the last two terms of the Labor government.
Add to that the anger about the government’s work to protect the community from the catastrophic effects of climate change. Apparently trying to do something about climate change makes Liberals very angry. Especially if this action is taken by a female leader. And the anger about the government spending money to protect the economy from falling into the panic of the Global Financial Crisis. It seems the strong economy Labor produced made them even angrier! This is the sort of anger which I put in the ‘loony’ category. The very same category for the anger from Republican supporters in the US who are happy for the government to stop working altogether, as long as they don’t get universal healthcare. ‘How dare you try to help us!’ they all scream in an unhinged chorus. Then there’s the standard old misogynist anger that a woman was put in charge in the first place. How dare she tell us what to do! We’ll show her! (And they did).
Abbott capitalised on this unwarranted anger. He encouraged it and controlled it, like a conductor directing a choir of whiners. He told them he was angry too. But never really explained why. Now he’s in government, he’s quickly backing away from all the promises he made to reduce the anger, which wasn’t necessary in the first place. One might even see this as a clever move, if he wasn’t making such of hash of it. He just looks weak.
And this is where I get to the reason for this post. Surely Labor supporters were the ones who should have been angry? Surely what we went through for the last 6 years was the sort of experience which would give any person a murderous rage?
As a Labor supporter, I watch Liberal supporters frothing at the mouth, and I wonder how on earth they would have survived the recent experience of a Labor supporter. I don’t think they would have. I think they would have exploded in a fit of rage had they gone through what we have gone through. How would they feel about the mainstream media campaigning against their government, with Murdoch taking the lead and the ABC and Fairfax following suit? What would they do if their party’s successful policies were painted as failures, and the only thing they read in the paper was about Kevin bloody Rudd? How would they react to the abuse hurled at their first female Prime Minister, a woman of incredible heroism who maintained her dignity throughout? How would they react if one of their MPs was stalked by the media for an alleged crime committed long before he was an MP, while at the same time Abbott was hypocritically allowed to pay back thousands of dollars of tax-payer money that he spent promoting his book for private profit, and it never got any coverage at all? How could they live with the inaccurate perception of ‘chaos’ and ‘dysfunction’ for their party while in government, when in actual fact the government was incredibly successful at passing progressive reform through a minority parliament? What if they had to experience Ashbygate and the injustice of the scandal around Slipper, who was a Liberal to begin with! And what would they do if they saw their favourite progressive reforms – the NBN, the Carbon Price, the Mining Tax, Gonski school funding and various other achievements of the Labor government now being torn apart by an inept Abbott government? What would their reaction be to see the new government hide while in office? To run away from public statements? For the Prime Minister to embarrass the country every time he opens his mouth?
The difference between the anger of Liberal supporters and Labor supporters is that Labor supporters know why we’re angry. We have justifiable reasons for our anger. And we know how to turn this anger into a productive rage. I don’t think progressive voters worked it out early enough, and this is why the Labor election campaign was so lacking in passion. But we understand now. It took the shock of seeing Abbott declare himself Prime Minister for our anger to crystalise into action. Look at how quickly we came up with a million dollars to keep the Climate Council running. We don’t become a rabble when threatened, like Liberal voters do with their shock-jock training. We become more focused. We become a people’s movement. Unlike Abbott, who relies on votes from people far too stingy and selfish to put their hand in their pocket, and instead has to promise policy favors to mining and media billionaires to get the funds he needs, Labor supporters will be funding the 2016 campaign ourselves. And using our passionate, committed anger to make it a success. The Labor leadership vote is just the beginning of this movement. We will unite to make sure Abbott’s angry supporters feel the disappointment of losing government. And we will make sure this happens in just one term. The #OneTermTony campaign has already begun.Follow @Vic_Rollison