The reaction to Senator David Leyonhjelm’s recent attacks on women have mostly focused on Leyonhjelm personally. If he were a private citizen or an independent member of Parliament, that would make sense, and would lead to the conclusion that best thing to do is to ignore him.
In fact, however, Leyonhjelm is the most senior elected representative of the Liberal Democratic Party, a national political party. His statements on the matter give his position as Parliamentary leader of the party and appear in the media section of the LDP website. They may be taken as official statements of the LDP position.
Leyonhjelm’s statements are entirely consistent with the general position of the LDP which may be summarized as “well off white men should be able to say and do whatever they like with no adverse consequences”. That’s pretty much the essence of Trumpism.
It’s also, in operational terms, the position of most of those who describe themselves as “libertarian” or “classical liberal”. That’s why so many self-described US libertarians voted for Trump in both the Republican primaries and the general election. The handful of true believers dismayed by this have mostly decamped to become “liberaltarians” organized around the Niskanen Institute.
The LDP is a minor party, but not a negligible one, especially when taken together with One Nation. Although there are differences between the two, they mainly come down to style. The LDP base is urban and well-off, while One Nation’s core supporters are rural/regional voters with limited education and middle or low incomes. However, the parties are united by their hatreds, in for environmentalists, feminists, and lefties, all categories embodied by Senator Hanson-Young. Unsurprisingly, Hanson has backed Leyonhjelm. The same enemy-driven politics characterizes a a large section of the LNP and their supporting commentariat.
In these circumstances, the suggestion that we should ignore Leyonhjelm and the LDP makes no more sense than the suggestion that we should ignore Trump. With the collapse of neoliberalism, Trumpism in its various forms is now the most important ideology opponent of the left. It’s necessary to face up to the fact that, despite its racism, misogyny and general ugliness, this is a movement with mass support in Australia and elsewhere. Pointing up its ugliest manifestations, such as the Liberal Democratic Party is a necessary part of the struggle against it.