Sorry for the lack of posts this week, but it turned out to be a bit more difficult to blog from Australia than I anticipated, mainly because the international power adapter I brought didn’t work. I was also pretty busy getting a crash course on center-left politics in Australia and New Zealand. Australia’s heading for a general election this year (probably in the mid-fall), and the opposition Labor Party is cautiously optimistic about its chances (particularly under new leader Kevin Rudd) to finally end Prime Minister John Howard’s winning streak.The Aussies were quite interested in hearing more about the U.S. midterms (along with such related political topics as Obama-o-mania), and I was able to encourage them with one direct parallel: Bush and the GOP tried to make good macroeconomic statistics a campaign issue (and that’s been Howard’s most potent issue all along), and failed, with U.S. voters not only considering Iraq and corruption bigger concerns, but also expressing unhappiness with economic conditions. Like Americans, Australians are beginning to worry quite a bit about economic insecurity and inequality, and like Bush and the GOP, Howard and his conservative coalition are widely perceived as indifferent to both.I’ll have a lot more to say about my trip Down Under this weekend.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
I’m certainly old enough to remember lots of these pre-election “agenda” documents, and couldn’t help but mock the latest one at New York:
In Thomas Pynchon’s 1965 cult novel The Crying of Lot 49, a character who has taken too much LSD decides that if everyone on earth repeats the marketing phrase “rich, chocolatey goodness,” it will represent the voice of God. With or without drugs, a lot of people in politics have a similar delusion that getting candidates to make the same noises like chirping cicadas will produce electoral victories. It’s a particularly strong belief among congressional Republicans, who share the dubious conviction that Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” is what flipped control of Congress in 1994.
With the assistance of Gingrich and former Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, the House Republican Conference has released a new “agenda” document, entitled “Commitment to America.” The document, clearly designed for online consumption, has lots of bells and whistles and factoids about the hellish reign of Joe Biden and his “Democrat” Party. What it doesn’t have is a whole lot of specificity, unlike the unfortunate “agenda” that Republican Senate Campaign Committee chairman Rick Scott released earlier this year to the near-universal horror of his colleagues, who don’t want to be identified with the proposed sunsetting of Social Security and Medicare.
The relatively anodyne character of Kevin McCarthy’s pet project doesn’t mean it is entirely useless. Candidates mouthing the approved pieties will presumably not be expressing their pithy views on Jewish space lasers or repeating QAnon slogans.
Still, it’s hard to take seriously an agenda for the nation that does not mention climate change, Russia, or extremist threats to democracy — or one that suggests the sole cure for inflation is to cut “wasteful government spending” without explaining what that means (in the indictment of Democrats that accompanies the agenda, there is much criticism of direct stimulus payments, which Donald Trump preferred to virtually every other form of government spending).
Most interesting was how House Republicans handled a red-hot issue they dare not ignore completely, given the obsession it commands among a very big chunk of the GOP party base: abortion. You have to look pretty hard to find it, nestled as it is under the unlikely heading of “A Government That’s Accountable,” and the downright misleading subheading of “a plan to defend America’s rights under the Constitution.” And it simply says Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” So they checked off a box for anti-abortion activists in the manner least likely to draw curious or unfriendly attention to the extreme abortion views so many of them have expressed, which don’t poll well. Perhaps voters will be too mesmerized by the overall party message to notice. Repeat after me: rich, chocolatey goodness.