Andrew West of Australian Broadcasting is one of the country’s smartest commentators on religion and public life. Here is his analysis on the role religion played in the recent shock election in Australia, which against all predictions returned the conservative-led Coalition to power. Excerpts:
A week before the federal election, one of most senior figures in the conservative leadership of the Sydney Anglican church made a revealing ― some might even say prophetic ― comment. Canon Bruce Morrison of St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in Parramatta told the Sydney Morning Herald that he supported Labor’s economic policies, but he could not vote Labor because of its apparent lack of commitment to religious freedom.
His comments highlight the extraordinary opportunity Labor had, but missed, to build relationships with religious communities ― relationships that have been neglected ever since Kevin Rudd won the 2007 federal election.
Here was an out and proud Christian conservative willing to support what was arguably the most redistributionist policy in the ALP’s recent history. But because the party was vague, even slippery, on the rights of faith-based schools to teach their doctrine and ask their staff to embody the school’s values, Labor lost the vote of Bruce Morrison and, quite possibly, tens of thousands like him.
In the same article Lyndal and Chris Parfoot said their local member, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, was “not generous enough towards refugees.” But the couple still voted for Dutton because the Liberals [that is, the conservative party — RD] were closer to them on “family values.”
Only a mug would claim religious freedom was the defining or decisive factor in the surprise re-election of the Coalition government. Only the naïve would say it had nothing to do with the swing to the Coalition in key marginal seats.
West goes on to ask how the Labor Party could repair its fractured relationship with religious voters (some of whom, like Canon Morrison, lean left on economics)? West says:
At very least, with sincerity, accepting the right of religious Australians to maintain their values, no matter how unfashionable they may seem to the cultural left that influences modern Labor. They must not present conservative Christians with false moral choices. They mustn’t confuse conservative Christians with political conservatives. Above all, they must not make faith communities choose between Labor and the God they worship.
Regardless of the merits of the issue, Labor’s political position on same-sex marriage ― all in favour, no open dissent from any MPs ― sent the wrong message to many Australians who voted “No.” It told the roughly 20 percent of people who lean left on economics, workers’ rights and public services, but hew to traditional values on the family and sexuality, that there was no longer a place for them in Labor’s fold.
I know of eight to ten Labor MPs and senators who wanted to vote against same-sex marriage in the parliament ― that is, to use Labor’s long-standing rule and vote according to their consciences on moral issues ― but were silenced and pressured by the leadership, warning they would be “on the wrong side of history.” That may be so, but they would have been on the side of many Labor voters.
Great line. Read the whole thing.
The Democratic Party’s entire House contingency voted for the Equality Act. It won’t get through the GOP-controlled Senate, but if the Senate were in Democratic hands, and if we had a Democratic president, this is what it would do to liberty, religious and otherwise. As Andrew West points out, in Australia there were a significant number of economically progressive voters who simply could not trust a Labor government to respect religious liberty. This is true in the US as well.
In his column yesterday, Ross Douthat points out that Pete Buttigieg is correct to say that the American public broadly agrees with Democrats on a wide range of issues. The problem, says Douthat, is that only 18 percent agree with the Democrats on all those issues. The game is won or lost based on which issues people feel most passionately about. Trying to please all left-liberal constituencies won’t work. If you cut loose one, you need to have something in place to goose turnout for another. Douthat writes:
Alternatively, if you want to make crushing religious conservatives your mission, then you need to woo secular populists on guns or immigration, or peel off more of the tax-sensitive upper middle class by not going full socialist.
But the liberal impulse at the moment, Buttigiegian as well as Ocasio-Cortezan, is to insist that liberalism is a seamless garment, an indivisible agenda that need not be compromised on any front. And instead of recognizing populism as a motley coalition united primarily by opposition to liberalism’s rule, liberals want to believe they’re facing a unitary enemy — a revanchist patriarchal white supremacy, infecting every branch and tributary of the right.
In this view it’s not enough to see racial resentment as one important form of anti-liberalism (which it surely is); all anti-liberalism must fall under the canopy. Libertarianism is white supremacy, the N.R.A. is white supremacy, immigration skepticism is white supremacy, tax-sensitive suburbia is white supremacy, the pro-life movement is white supremacy, anxiety about terrorism is white supremacy … and you can’t compromise with white supremacists, you can only crush them.
In his most recent piece, Times columnist Bret Stephens — a strongly anti-Trump moderate conservative — predicts that the left is going to hand this next election to Trump. Why? Looking at the Australian and Indian election results, as well as those in Brazil, the Phillippines, and Israel, Stephens writes:
The common thread here isn’t just right-wing populism. It’s contempt for the ideology of them before us: of the immigrant before the native-born; of the global or transnational interest before the national or local one; of racial or ethnic or sexual minorities before the majority; of the transgressive before the normal. It’s a revolt against the people who say: Pay an immediate and visible price for a long-term and invisible good. It’s hatred of those who think they can define that good, while expecting someone else to pay for it.
When protests erupted last year in France over Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to raise gas prices for the sake of the climate, one gilets jaunes slogan captured the core complaint: “Macron is concerned with the end of the world,” it went, while “we are concerned with the end of the month.”
Favoring “the transgressive before the normal.” Yep. A major UK bank tweeted this out the other day, but took it down after social media pushback:
We know exactly where left-liberal parties and politicians stand on religious liberty: they think it is nothing but an excuse for bigotry — and there is nothing more important to the left than forcibly creating conditions of equality (“equality”), even at the expense of basic liberties. Maybe, just maybe, ordinary people who pretty much carry on their lives by a live-and-let-live standard, are sick and tired of having their noses rubbed in Drag Queen Story Hour, and rightly fear for their churches, businesses, religious schools and other institutions should left-liberal politicians like this come to power, and wield the crowbar of the state against them: