Lazy Luddite Log


Ally Or Supporter

We face a Federal election in Australia in a few months and many are predicting that our current Liberal / National government will lose. I agree. One factor that I think is central to that likely loss is a fundamental misunderstanding by contemporary conservatives within the Coalition. They conflate the relationship of ‘ally to ally’ with that of 'member to supporter'.

A member is someone with a personal investment in a group who has the right to contribute to its decisions. A supporter is someone who wishes to help a group but lacks the personal investment that warrants a decision-making role. In contrast allies have overlapping yet distinct interests and must therefore respect the prerogative of each other to be political in a way that works best for them.

Thinking someone serves you is different from thinking they stand alongside you. I call this a ‘mistake’ but it is likely deliberate. The more fervent conservatives within the Coalition expect the rest to do and say only what they dictate. They harass classical liberals to curb a permissive society, agrarian socialists to cut economic support for rural areas, moderates to abandon the art of compromise and anyone with a grasp of reality to acknowledge climate change.

This is foolish behaviour in the long-term. It may win you power for a while but eventually it results in the loss of both colleagues and popular support. And this is a mindset we can now see in right-wing governments across the world.

Brexit exists to some extent as a strategy for ideologues within the Conservative Party to control it. If they succeed then what they rule over will be a damaged caricature of itself. And incidentally I have to say – the United Kingdom departing the European Union simply to assert a sovereignty it never lost is like getting a divorce just to prove you can. But I digress…

In the United States we see a populist President who loses advisors week-by-week. The recent mid-term election losses for the Republicans are a portent of things to come. Mind you in the case of Trump personal factors are paramount – his infantile misanthropy transcends ideology and challenges any kind of group cohesion. However I suspect that this kind of personality becomes more prominent in some political settings than in others.

In discussing my concept of 'redefining ally as mere supporter' a friend noted that this happens on the left. I concede that. However there is an important difference. Across the political spectrum we can find this fallacy among the more peripheral of groups and scenes. But it is on the right that this problem has gone all the way to the top to affect parliaments and governments in democratic states (it is always a problem in authoritarian ones).

This blinkered and distorted thinking is ultimately detrimental to anyone who employs it. However it can also hurt many others along the way and diminish our polity overall. I hope that the Coalition starts paying heed to this reality soon. I’m part of the left but it is embarrassing to face a right that is this stupid and self-destructive.

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Some who know me well may be surprised by my use of ‘right-wing’ and ‘left-wing’ terminology here given my criticism of that dichotomy. I maintain this stance in reference to persons and even groups. But some alliances are so large that the left-right model serves as a useful short-hand in describing such aggregates. That some members of these movements believe they should be politically homogeneous is exactly the problem I describe in this post.



  • My prediction was wrong but hey it gave me a chance to put this argument online. Even a tension-riven group can fake it for the few weeks of an election campaign. I still think the bullying and division we saw in the Coalition will continue to be a problem for the Morrison government however.

    All they did at the Federal election was claw back the small House majority that they had lost to a series of resignations, defections and the dual citizenship controversy. They have to maintain unity while negotiating with a somewhat less maladjusted Senate cross-bench. Hopefully the Labor opposition will continue to work as an alliance in which respectful relations can work.

    By Blogger Daniel, At 29 June, 2019  

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