If revenge is a dish best served cold then surely schadenfreude is best when tasted hot and fresh. As when viewing the tattered remnants of the Turnbull camp following Saturday’s election.
No matter what shape our next government takes, Turnbull has emerged as the biggest loser of Election 2016.
It seems the confidence for which he’s so renowned has been misplaced. Especially when put, as it so often has been, in himself.
From the decision to bring on the contest in the first place – on a pretext so false that he didn’t give it so much as a token nod throughout the campaign – and then every step of the long, torrid march, Turnbull’s moves have been characterised by what is most kindly described as a tin electoral ear. Or, less kindly, as hubris.
From the mawkish cringeworthy video detailing his early life to the truly vacuous “Jobs and Growth” slogan (this from the man who famously decried electoral sloganeering) to his feeble segue to the “Stability” scare campaign (for by very definition, exhorting a “better the devil you know” decision is exactly that), Turnbull has wrongfooted his way to his current position.
The fact that he could with one face doom-monger about instability and economic disaster under Labor while calling foul on the “Mediscare” campaign with the other perfectly exemplifies the problem with the Liberal campaign: incoherence and inconsistency.
These two qualities have added further to the massive credibility crisis in Australian politics. And will, in no small part contribute (ironically enough) to our sole political certainty: uncertainty.
Simply put, the default position of a very significant part of the electorate is not to believe a single word any of the bastards say.
And why would we?
Look at the quibbling over the word “privatisation” in relation to Medicare. This became a massive side track and distraction that the mainstream media wallowed about in. They may have been better off (and would certainly have served their public better) if instead of splitting hairs about “privatisation” they looked at the hard here-and-now of LNP policies that in actual real life directly threaten a slow death for Medicare: freezing GP payments and slashing bulk billing practices, requiring upfront payments for pathology and the rest.
And at Turnbull’s “reassurance” that funding on health and education is “guaranteed”. What does that even mean?
Ditto his “plan”. What was it? Summat, summat $50 billion “trickle down”. Maybe not.
Ditto when Malcolm, Matthias Cormann et al talked “Jobs and Growth” time and again, with identical scripting and inflection, irrespective of context or the question asked.
The electorate quite rightly smelled a rat. Or a robot.
Problem is, there’s a big difference between being “on message” and being a robot. But it seems our politicians – particularly in this campaign the Libs – have conflated the two.
How stupid do they think we are? (Answer: very. Big mistake.)
Problem is we haven’t obliged. We haven’t bought the party line. We may not have entirely signed up to Shorten’s either, but it is indisputably Turnbull and his team who have “lost” this election – irrespective of the final formal result.
Which brings us to another failed party line, the aforementioned scare campaign on “stability” and attendant irony.
Because the one thing we really did know before the election – and that the pundits got right – is that there would be a significant vote for micro parties and independents.
That meant, and still means, that whatever side wins will have to bring skills like listening, negotiation, compromise and understanding nuance to the table. Will have to be inclusive, not divisive.
Of the two major parties, only one has a track record in this regard. (Hint: it’s not the LNP.)
Worse still, it’s often been said that Malcolm Turnbull is used to having his own way. Recent evidence of this was his unseemly petulant harangue (a.k.a non-victory speech) on election night. Awkward.
This suggests that his ability to parlay his spectacular loss and a resulting hung (or good as) parliament into anything resembling a “stable” government are right up there with … well geez, getting a budget passed. Not that he has anything like that kind of chance of staying on as leader. (Cue Jaws theme at the prospect of more spills and the emergence of his successor …)
Hardly the stuff of stable government. And why a vote for the Coalition was the very opposite of a vote for stability.
So there you have it.
Election 2016. The hubris. The fall. The clear portent of more misfortune to come.
All the makings of a fine dish of steaming schadenfreude.
Enjoy it while you can, because it’s going to cool and congeal real soon. It’s very difficult to take continued pleasure in the misfortunes of your own country and its people.
Kaitlin Walsh is a writer and consultant with more than 25 years’ experience in corporate communications. Her (more amateur) interests extend far beyond the corporate sphere to politics (when she can stomach it), social justice, cooking, what’s on telly and reading. Twitter: @hourlyplanet