CORRINE BARRACLOUGH JAMES MORROW
Congratulations, Mister President. You did well in the midterm elections. You picked up some Senate seats, and even though you lost the lower house, you staved off the sort of carnage that usually greets presidents two years into their administration.
But here’s some free advice from 10,000 miles away: Don’t get cocky. Stop the government by chaos theory.
And just maybe have a look at recent Australian history for a model of how to secure not just two but six more years. I’ll get to why in a moment.
Sure, it seems like right now the left is bent on self-destruction, with their attitude that it’s the voters who need to do better next time, not the candidates.
And yes, it is amazing that at a time when three-fourths of Americans say they are satisfied with their financial position, Democrats are pitching up a clown car of superannuated geezers like Nancy Pelosi and even Hillary Clinton as their guiding lights and progressive kiddies who may as well have learned their economics at Hugo Chavez University as the future of the party
But even though the instinct to pick a fight with someone like CNN’s admittedly obnoxious Jim Acosta at a press conference to change the subject after losing the House of Representatives is understandable, it is also wrong.
You came to power on a narrative that America and the globe was in chaos and on a promise to do something about it.
And so far so good: GDP is up, unemployment is down, and even the Economist magazine has given grudging support to the way you’ve handled your foreign policy (which wouldn’t be hard, given Obama’s fecklessness). But people tire of constant chaos. Not only that, in a democracy, they will vote against it every time.
That’s why those Republican campaign ads contrasting happy families and factory workers against shrieking, violent progressive protesters were so devastatingly effective.
It’s also why, if the Democrats ever decide to stop shrieking and make an appeal to calmness, the Republicans will be in real trouble.
But there’s a way to beat them to this punch while still infuriating lefties so hard that they forget how to think.
The model is John Howard, who as prime minister from 1996 to 2007 guided Australia through peace and war and kept the borders secure — but while all the time urging Australians to be, in his words, “relaxed and comfortable”. That Howard-era boom was apocalyptically aggravating to Australian lefties who raged from their innercity terraces that — shock, horror — tradies were buying grand new-build houses in the suburbs (“McMansions”, in the parlance of the sneerers) with big-screen televisions and enjoying annual holidays to Fiji.
Need proof? Look up playwright David Williamson’s 2005 essay for the now-defunct Bulletin magazine.
It’s a brilliant piece of accidental satire that describes winning a cruise at a charity auction and landing on board a tub “stacked to the gunwales with John Howard’s beloved aspirational Australians” who brought along “oodles of children” and “didn’t seem to be discussing Proust or George Eliot”.
And it embodied exactly the sort of attitude that sent working- and middleclass voters into Howard’s camp time and time again, preferring as they did not to break bread with the side of politics that seemed to hate them despite being called on the ballot “Labor”.
In both the United States and Australia, the Democrats and Labor slowly but surely let working-class voters who want to live a quiet life and make a better one for their kids bleed off as they allowed themselves to be captured by boutique cultural issues and a false sense of superiority.
Howard capitalised on this brilliantly — and let them rage while he kept winning elections.
To put it another way, stop picking fights. Steady, stable governance and a relaxed 1950s-style prosperity is the greatest troll of all.