Monday, September 09, 2013

Can "Grownup" Conservatives Win? Ask Tony Abbott.

Most conservative parties and leaders face something like the same negative cultural stereotyping as Tony Abbott did. This undoubtedly puts them at a disadvantage and gives their opponents a leg-up in an election. 

The answer to it is neither to rage wildly against it nor to surrender nervously to it — a response that Australians call the “cultural cringe.” The first reaction makes voters nervous that the potential prime minister is too irresponsible or prejudiced to be trusted with the highest office; the second reaction makes even those being appeased contemptuous and dismissive. Even if such appeasement is rewarded electorally, it usually ensures that the incoming government will be too compromised by its concessions to achieve much in the way of conservative reform.

Abbott demonstrated, however, that conservatives can overcome such cultural opposition by presenting a positive, reasoned case for their policies in a grown-up way. Sure, they face the disadvantage of a liberal establishment and a cultural atmosphere hostile to their values and policies, but they have the incomparable advantage that those values are the values of most voters across the spectrum. 

If they present their case calmly and steadily, the voters will see through the negative caricatures. If they start out lacking the respect of the voters, they will gradually earn it by the manner of their campaigning. And respect will turn into votes when the time comes…

From "A Lesson from Australia" by John O’Sullivan, editor-at-large of National Review.