Whoever thought that it was a good idea for the government to label Tony Abbott a misogynist ought to think again. It’s a losing strategy. It will antagonise blue-collar conservative voters, the voters who actually decide elections in Australia
In 1996 Paul Keating lost as heavily as he did partly because he broke his word on the “L.A.W. law” tax cuts which were legislated but never delivered, but also partly because of his role as a cultural warrior.
Working class conservatives abhorred his positions on a whole range of issues which crystalised during the first Howard term in support for One Nation.
They felt strangers in their own country and disrespected by the government and elite opinion because they held unfashionable views on morality, aboriginal affairs, asylum seekers and the economy.
This resentment erupted at the ballot box and has simmered away ever since.
Kim Beazley was a smart and decent politician, so as opposition leader he never fell into the culture war traps, and got two credible results measured by the percentage of the vote he won, even if he fell well-short on the seats.
Latham wasn’t so smart and not only indulged in culture warfare, but broadened the front to class. His declaration of war on private schools during the 2004 election probably cost him more support than anything else he did that election, leading to a 1.4% swing against Labor.
Kevin Rudd again was smarter and used his country roots and religious beliefs to assure blue-collar conservatives that he was really one of them. Their realisation that he wasn’t was why his poll figures plunged so suddenly and precipitately.
Not only has Gillard revived the culture wars, epitomised by an ineffective policy on asylum seekers and an alliance with the Greens that has seen parliament vote on issues such as gay marriage, but Treasurer Wayne Swan has reopened the class wars.
To that Julia Gillard and the “hand bag squad” have now added gender wars.
Tony Abbott was not smart to use the words “die of shame” in the parliamentary debate yesterday, although I accept he did it in the heat of the moment not hearing in his inner ear their peculiar resonance of the last two weeks.
But Gillard was even dumber to accuse him of misogyny when she said:
The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynist are not appropriate for high office.
Well I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and is writing out his resignation.
Tony Abbott does have a woman problem, but it is that women don’t like him as much as men do, it is not that he personally disrespects them. I know a couple of women from Abbott’s inner circle, and the fact that they are as personally influential with him as they are speaks for itself.
Conservative blue-collar voters, particularly males, resent the feminist diatribe, particularly as they feel they have been marginalised by it, and that it is often used to cover other agendas (as it is in this case).
They are specially resentful that those who use this technique often simultaneously assert the equality of women with men at the same time that they ask for special privilege.
I see that Gillard’s speech has met with enthusiastic applause from overseas with one source even calling her a “badass motherf***er”.
So much for the world, domestically it will only lead to tears.