Liberal candidate supports US-style abortion ban ahead of state pollOct 7, 2022
The parties of the right in Australia are changing faster than their voters might recognise. It is increasingly the case that a vote for the “conservatives” is a vote for the radical or religious right.
No doubt the leaders of the Liberal Party of Victoria are disturbed by the fact that Moira Deeming, their candidate for Western Metropolitan Region seat is associated with an anti-choice rally planned for this weekend, six weeks before the state goes to the polls.
The party has that it wants to “pursue progressive social and environmental policies.” For a state that, as they acknowledge, would require a “genuine, modern alternative” government this is likely to be imperative.
They expelled Bernie Finn, Deeming’s predecessor, to signal that they would not stand for the radical right populism he aims to foment, in particular anti-abortion comments. Awkwardly for them, the branch selected Deeming, noted for her anti-abortion and TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism, more accurately depicted as Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobe or FART) statements.
Now Deeming’s mentor Finn, has organised this rally for Saturday, the 8th of October. One of the primary statements on the Facebook page claims that it is “never ok to slaughter a child.” Deeming was secretary of the organisation in 2019 and has continued anti-abortion activism since pre-selection. The implication must be that this group aims ultimately to plant the most extreme Christian Nationalist abortion bans from American states in Australia’s civil soil.
Denominational branch-stacking is an old tradition in Australia, but as the religious right problem around the world becomes more extreme, the on “conservative” branches here grows more . Nondenominational Christian lobby groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby illustrate how radical the positions are becoming. International experience shows that these forces are content to work with cultural conservatives such as FARTs in order to broaden their appeal.
Becoming a target for motivated religious groups, pushing preselection of less moderate candidates is only half the problem for the Victorian party in making sure that it can be a genuine “modern” option.
The other is that the radical right nature of the Liberal Party – and its National Party colleagues – around the nation is functioning as an employment ad to people driven by immoderate goals.
Brian Klaas has spent years interviewing and researching the personality type of people who misuse power from the petty tyrant in the office to nations’ authoritarian leaders. His book is well worth reading for an insight into the proposition that the LNP, the Republicans and the Tories have declined beyond redemption.
One powerful example that Klaas uses for the impact of a literal professional advertisement is the police force. Naturally this job wrongly done can be much bloodier than a politician’s, so the similarities are not equivalent.
Klaas contrasts two extreme examples of police career advertising to make his point. On one hand, New Zealand aimed to address the problem of the wrong people choosing a police career by creating a campaign that featured humour, a diverse array of backgrounds and a focus on a job as a support to the community. The campaign was a huge success, attracting women, Maori and people from other non-white groups to join to join in substantial numbers. Now the police are much more likely to look like the people they are policing, and the outcomes are similarly better.
The most extreme American ad came from Georgia. A small town website posted a recruitment video that began with the Punisher logo (a violent vigilante figure beloved on the extreme right) and continued with military vehicles, smoke grenades and firing with military-style weapons to the sound track of “Die MF die.”
The people who self-select for this police force are not the same people who select for the NZ version where people who return dogs to grateful owners or help hungry street kids are the personalities celebrated. This is clearly a much more extreme career path than politics. The people harmed by politicians are usually separated by many layers of public service and much harder to link causally to parliamentary and administrative decisions.
But the echo of the lesson remains: when a coalition of parties advertises itself as the home of self-interest and the celebration of prejudice and cruelty, who is likely to self select? Klaas’s study suggests it is more likely to be people belonging to the “dark triad personality” type, already drawn to power.
The dark triad personality illustrates elements of the overlapping narcissistic, Machiavellian and sociopathic personalities. The impact is thus: “People with these traits tend to be callous and manipulative, willing to do or say practically anything to get their way. They have an inflated view of themselves and are often shameless about self-promotion. These individuals are likely to be impulsive and may engage in dangerous behaviour—in some cases, even committing crimes—without any regard for how their actions affect others.”
The treatment of Australians in scandals such as the Robodebt trial; our First Nations people in general; and the extremity of cruelty meted out to asylum seeking refugees over the last decade all illustrate decisions that might have been made by people acting out of these personality traits. The fact that the scarifying treatment of refugees was the point, and that rotten publicity was welcomed for its deterrent effect, underlines the distorted thinking at work. We were intended to be – and be famous for being – worse than the Taliban, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the genocidal Burmese and Sri Lankan armies.
It is hard to imagine wholesome people wanting to ally themselves with this brand. It is also hard to imagine them wanting to immerse themselves in a workplace filled with people happy to harm others.
This is not to argue that any other party is free of these characters, but all the rational parties do not market themselves as the party of cruelty, greed and memelord trolling of the vulnerable.
Most of the decent Liberals have left after failing to prevent the descent into radicalism. Their coalition partners have not shown such caution, maybe hoping that they can rescue their party from the trolls yet.
It is hard to know how Australia’s “conservative” parties can rescue themselves from this spiral of awfulness. In the meantime, their voters must know what is at stake.