The LDP: Trumpism in Australia

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.

27 thoughts on “The LDP: Trumpism in Australia

  1. The most concerning aspect is that sections of the left could so easily become allied with Trumpism. Xenophobia, opposition to free trade, blanket opposition to immigration, disdain for aca-fucken-demics and instinctive suspicion of government and the media are well-entrenched in many traditional Labor voters.

  2. I agree on the gender politics but disagree on J.Q.s implicit political economy analysis.

    First, on the gender politics. There are claims around the ridges and on the internet that there is a “war on men” or a “war on masculinity”. This claim is the opposite of the reality. While the claim is hyperbolic metaphor, the inverse, namely “a war on women”, is the actual case on the ground. There is a war on women in our “civil” society. Male guerrillas (essentially) are attacking, injuring and killing women at home and on the streets. Attacking, injuring and killing in a systematic and extensive way, be that organized from the top down or emergent from the bottom up is, is actual war.

    Secondly, on the political economy analysis. Neoliberalism has not collapsed. Neoliberalism is more powerful than ever. The major parties are its vehicles. The plutocrats own and control both major parties in the USA and in Australia. These parties are vehicles for the policies of competing capitalists. Insofar as they compete, they represent the competition of capitalists only. The crudest and most rapacious of capitalists favour the Republicans in the US and the LNP coalition in Australia. The smoother, cannier capitalists (with a little more notion of enlightened self-interest for themselves) favour the Democrats in the US and Labor in Australia.

    Many capitalists play both sides of this street, donating to both parties and ensuring that both parties essentially enact policies designed for the interests of capital. There may even be an element of conscious strategy and experiment to this. Get the most right-wing party to stretch the Overton window further to the right. Get extremist views into the mainstream debate. Move the whole debate window to the right. The left side of the more extreme “right-wing” window will now look almost reasonable.

    By all means attack the LDP and Hansonites on these issues. Bit by bit the attack has to be extended at the ballot box and elsewhere by destroying in an ongoing movement to the left, the LDP, the Hansonites, the LNP and then even the Labor Party. Ultimately one would hope to see variants of true Greens and true Socialists as the major parties. Beyond that we need to supersede even bourgeois democracy with socialist democracy which would look markedly different. But that’s another post,

  3. @1 Are there really many such voters? I know people who fit the description, including the “traditional Labor voters” part, but they went over to One Nation or the LNP a long time ago.

  4. I think it depends on what you call a “left voter” – if you include the boss-hating small contractor types, then yes, there are some “greenie feminist foreigner” hating left wingers around. But it’s pretty hard for me to count them as left when they generally also loath dole bludgers and poor people in general, regard tax evasion as an almost religious obligation and frequently wouldn’t join a union at gunpoint. So I end up wondering which bits of left politics they actually support, and mostly it’s “I’m working class, so I’m left wing” … I suspect that explains the hard right wing of the ALP.

  5. “Unsurprisingly, Hanson has backed Leyonhjelm.” On this? I heard a different ABC radio soundbite then. No doubt at times Hanson has backed Leyonhjelm, but has she in relation to the specifics of the matter referred to in the first paragraph “Senator David Leyonhjelm’s recent attacks on women”? She has said amid some typical torturing of the language that Leyonhjelm’s comments were “unacceptable”, that “she doesn’t support either of her senate colleagues.”

    9news.com.au/national/2018/07/06/13/41/pauline-hanson-hits-out-at-fellow-senator
    9news.com.au/national/2018/07/06/11/15/greens-senator-nasty-says-hanson
    news.com.au/national/breaking-news/greens-senator-nasty-says-hanson/news-story/3a630fe26520c1ec390fb2f2abbb8409 (per AAP)

    “the most important ideology opponent of the left.” is/was not “Trumpism in its various forms”. It is the bau fake “left” itself. A stinking sinking pit of tired alienating neoliberal disingenuous clichés. Out with the Keatingite, Blairite, Clintonite established order, and in with the new.. the renewal.

    Ocasio-Cortez’s Next Task: Empowering Other Female Outsiders to Win
    nytimes.com/2018/07/06/nyregion/ocasio-cortez-effect-election-democrat.html

    ‘You can beat the establishment’: Ocasio-Cortez crashes Democratic primaries
    politico.com/story/2018/07/05/ocasio-cortez-democratic-primaries-establishment-2018-694789

    Ocasio-Cortez discusses ‘Democratic Socialist’ label
    politico.com/story/2018/07/01/democratic-socialists-ocasio-cortez-689647

    I see the likes of Macklin and Danby are going. Maybe a new genuine alternative left change is on the way here… There better be.

  6. Right wing libertarianism, or propertarianism as I usually call it, is a callous, inhuman ideology. The LDP’s economic and welfare policies would immiserate millions and create a small plutocratic elite.

  7. ‘ 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” ‘

    Of course, being libertarians, the LDP’s position is that *anyone* ‘should be able to say and do whatever they like’. Do you really want to treat a libertarian senator being a yobbo / sexist brute / deplorable as the epitome of what the left has to defeat, and say it’s about his race and gender too? You thereby actually play to one of the right’s strengths, namely that leftism is now authoritarianism that sells itself as protecting hurt feelings. It’s “the road to serfdom” 2.0 – first they just come for TISM, but before you know it, you’re in the diversity reeducation camp.

  8. Mitchell, surely if that was the case Leyonhjelm would back Hanson-Young’s right to do and say what she wants, rather than attacking her for speaking? I recall him also being very unhappy when The Chaser exercised their right of free speech… so perhaps it’s not just well-off white men he supports, but *conservative* well-off white men?

    I see two strands: anyone who supports his ideas is welcome to speak, provided they’re somewhat deferential to their betters; and anyone who disagrees had better have privilege to back up their effrontery. But I freely admit to not having paid much attention to him, Boris Johnson does that style of performance much better than Leyonhjelm does.

  9. Given the way senators get elected, this whole affair will bring enough attention from like minded people to ensure his reelection.

  10. Is hate speech protected in Parliament? Perhaps laws and standing orders affecting this issue could be amended. Of course, the LNP and anyone right of them have no interest in preventing hate speech which affects their political targets, namely women, blacks, LGBT and other oppressed groups.

  11. ‘A war on men’ is hyperbolic but ‘a war on women’ is not? This is absolutely ridiculous. Women (and I am one) are protected AND have the right to say anything and do anything to men with no repercussions. Men don’t complain when confronted with extreme behaviour from women. That’s the difference. However it gets to a point where some women go too far and DO declare an all out war against men l. It’s become fashionable. There are women out there like me who are sick of the extreme feminist narrative so I am not surprised men are now saying ‘enough’.

  12. Again I’ll say the problem here is when you group everything from John Stuart Mills to Mao under the heading of “Left”. I, for one, do not classify myself as leftist because I do not associate myself with group-think. However I do stand on the left, if not more than a lot of self-proclaimed leftist on many issues (e.g. UBI, Job Guarantee, Public Debt and Public Infrastructure etc.).

    The fact is during Trump’s election campaign, there really are a lot of voters who would traditionally vote Democrats, voted for Republicans not only because of sexism (I acknowledge there are problems of sexism the USA), but simply because of the narrative “people overseas are taking over our jobs and are ripping us off and voting for Hilary Clinton will just be more of the same”. This is a really strong argument regardless of whether it is true or false in an economy that has lost close to a decade of growth. I firmly believe people find excuses when things are not going well for them and the easiest excuse for them is that it is always other people’s fault. I also believe that the illusion of the “collapse of neoliberalism” (anti-globalisation, anti-immigration and support for government intervention), is simply because of this mentality.

    We often argue that “Reality has a well-known liberal bias” (Stephen Colbert). If this is true, then it means there are portions of Left who self-proclaim themselves as leftist because of reality bias, not because of group-think. And so it is easier to divide and conquer the Left once the Right captures some narratives that is traditionally leftist narratives e.g. local manufacturing, local jobs.

  13. Misspelt Mill’s name, how embarrassing, if only I proofread more before I click the comment button…

  14. @Mitchell Porter “Of course, being libertarians, the LDP’s position is that *anyone* ‘should be able to say and do whatever they like’.”

    I agree that this is the position usually imputed to libertarians, but I’m not aware of any instance of the LDP actively supporting this view except with respect to well off white men. Certainly this group is their top priority. As I said in the OP, the fact that the LDP chose as their representative a yobbo / sexist brute / deplorable isn’t a mistake on their part – he represents them correctly.

    Like it or not, it’s this group, and not the tiny minority of propertarians who actually adhere to the theoretical libertarian position who are the enemies the left has to fight.

    As I also observed in the OP, if self-described libertarians actually held the views you suppose them to be, they wouldn’t have voted for Trump.

  15. John says: “As I said in the OP, the fact that the LDP chose as their representative a yobbo / sexist brute / deplorable isn’t a mistake on their part – he represents them correctly.”

    Absolutely. Reading the comments on right libertarian/ propertarian websites like Catallaxy is like bathing in acid.

  16. Hugo: Sometimes, reading Catallaxy is fun. If you can point out that Henry Ergas has failed to correctly interpret a linear function of one variable simply because of his biases, there is some reward. I regard that as a high point in my life. Admittedly, they stay away from things like mathematics where they can be easily tripped up.

  17. I gave up reading Catallaxy after Jason Soon left. Soon was capable of intelligent thought and genuine insight. The others are just plain ugly and unimaginative in my view, kind of like an army of Orcs.

  18. If you look at comments on Catallaxy a great many hate DL and will never vote LDP due to left leaning positions on SSM, abortion, euthanasia and so on. It’s true that DL is copying aspects of Trumps style (offend and never apologise), but how soon till we see an anti-Trump appropriate a similar style? He also has some crossover points with Trump policies like Paris Deal and gun control, and it will be interesting to see if those positions change after Trump leaves office or if the impact will be lasting.

  19. We’ve gotta start reading the spirit of the times – when the MSM joins together in unison and tries to character assassinate a public figure – that’s our man, it’s a dead giveaway that we’ve got ourselves a truth-teller here. The media pile on with Bernie Sanders, Brexit, Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, Roseanne, Jordan Peterson, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Senator Leyonhjelm – these are the prophets speaking truth to power in today’s world. The mainstream consensus is just the media propaganda that’s spoon fed to us by an out of touch ruling establishment – and they are demonstrably flat-out wrong about everything these days… So the only ones calling Senator Leyonhjelm a creep are unwitting dupes of the corporate state, the regressive lefts professionally offended cry-bullies – they are the most cowardly dipshits you’ll find anywhere and are so emotionally invested in the manufacture of victimhood that they end up infantilizing the very people they want to protect. I’m with the silent majority 100%. And yes – if the silent majority even dares to mention the real problem beneath the nonsensical bullshit, we get branded the crazy ones by the proto-fascist language police of a politically correct and utterly unAustralian brainwashing cult (mainstream media = social consensual reality). But that’s where the truth is these days – on the margins and at the edge of experience, with those who have no place in the system as it is, and these banal media attacks are just part of the deal until a critical mass realizes they’re being played by psychopaths…

    The Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) is a diverse and wide-ranging network of counter-cultural thinkers, and the Senator fits with its core ethos – a repudiation of Leftist dogma, a defense of free speech and a willingness to pay the price of being a dissident voice who speaks unpopular, unsettling truths. We all need to tell someone to “fuck off” sometimes, and sometimes that’s person happens to be a misandrous woman. The fact this is even a news story is ridiculous, but if you take another look w/out the MSM (mainstream media) filter you see the IDW taking on a regressive intolerant establishment left-wing ideology, this is all part of a deeper wider paradigm shift in the West these days. But either way, who didn’t enjoy Leyonhjelm telling our hollow shell of a PM to stop being a pussy? Turnbull’s had that one coming for a long time now…

    But while there is a real diametrical opposition here, it’s not so much a left/right thing it’s really about what it means to be Australian. And we have developed a national character that has this rebellious, larrikin anti-authoritarian spirit, we call out sanctimonious bullshit, we all know that men are bastarda deep down and that women can be real bitches sometimes, and so this precious all too fragile victimology that we see in the discourse of the left is more than anything else, just completely and utterly unAustralian. Sarah Hanson-Young needs to grow up, she’s only received a sliver of what Pauline Hanson gets and you don’t see her crying about it. So I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say Leyonhjelm will be comfortably re-elected. He’s the only MP that consistently displays he has a pair.

    And let’s take this all the way – what would you do if a Royal Commission exposed the Port Arthur Massacre (PAM) as a government staged event? Tasmanian Senator David Leyonhjelm has put just such an initiative on the table. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear right, John?

  20. ” … what it means to be Australian.” … “national character” …”unAustralian”. To what extent can a literate being be unconcious of its’ identity range? I regard myself first as an organism, then as a chordate, then a mammal and then valuably as a human. After that in decreasing significance, comes man, partner, name, vocation, politics etc. Approaching the trivial, I also have a cultural/territorial (read reptilian) Australian identity which I appreciate and enjoy, but which (after 68 years) now seems a bit superficial to my global human existence, with its’ virtues of honesty, integrity and mutual respect, and its’ exemplary potential to feel, love, rock and evolve I think.

  21. camparadox – you’re a weird one. You blog all this Lacan-Badiou high theory, you think the IDW is significantly anti-establishment, and you propose that Port Arthur was a “government staged event” (and that this could be revealed in a government inquiry!). That’s academic pomo left, centrist right, and conspiracist far-right all in one mix, I’ve never seen that before.

    Let me try, perhaps fruitlessly, to explain why Port Arthur as “government staged” is highly unreasonable. I see this idea as a product of a comfortable sheltered existence, a failure to look at the wider world. It’s like how some “9/11 truthers” seem to have believed it was an inside job, simply because they thought the US government is the source of all evil. But years later, after thousands of suicide attacks in dozens of Muslim and non-Muslim countries, it should be obvious that there is a real cult of martyrdom at work.

    Similarly, in a country where such things never happen, maybe you can look at this unprecedented horror (I mean Port Arthur) and say, is this not what it seems? But just look across the ocean at a country that doesn’t have “gun control”. Anyone can buy a gun and kill you, in service of any irrational grievance or agenda they have. People have been targeted for being young women, journalists, Youtube employees, Batman fans. In a country awash in guns, gun massacres happen regularly, like bad weather.

    Now if you probe into an individual event, you may well find dirty secrets that involve government agencies, but that’s because it’s their job to stop terrorism and mass murder. So there are stings, informants, clues that were missed, attempts to protect sources or to cover up mistakes. But the deep paranoid scenario, where a government deceptively massacres its own people in order to bring about war or dictatorship, just doesn’t happen, I can’t think of a real example. (When governments do kill people, it’s usually quite open; it’s done for the sake of peace and social order, and with some degree of popular support.)

    The closest thing might be in the middle of war or civil war, when the blood is already flowing and there are atrocities all around. Then you might have one side staging an outrage and pinning it on the other side, in an attempt to win the propaganda war. But obviously Port Arthur did not occur under such circumstances.

  22. I’ll leave the comment from camparadox up since it illustrates the thinking that is typical of Trumpists, LDP supporters and the modern right in general. Even if they don’t buy the whole package of conspiracy theories, virtually all of them endorse some such theory on global warming.

    The handful who don’t are committed to the equally absurd view that, despite having little or no scientific education or understanding, they can see through claims that have fooled all the scientific academies in the world (Don Aitkin is a prime example of the latter category).

  23. Any further exposition of conspiracy theories should be sent to the sandpits. The meta-question of why the right has fallen for such theories in such a big way (while the left has largely dropped this style of thinking) can be discussed here.

  24. I read Don Aitkin’s blog from time to time. The foolishness of the man is as breathtaking as it is embarrassing. I recall one time a real scientist with expertise and an extensive record of peer reviewed publications on sea level rise turned up at Don’s blog to take issue with a post, so Don made some excuse about being too busy to engage. A couple weeks later, after the scientist had departed, Don put up another post in which he declared himself right all along.

    If I ever get like Don in my Golden Years, somebody please shoot me.

  25. Hi Sarah, you raise some interesting points that I have been wondering about for a few days now. So I do hope you will clarify a few things for me.

    When you wrote “Women (and I am one) are protected AND have the right to say anything and do anything to men with no repercussions”. Did you not hear about the most recent example of a woman who wasn’t protected from her husband and the repercussions were that he killed the children.?

    It seems to me clear that it is not true that all women have the right to say and do anything with no repercussions.

    When you write “Men don’t complain when confronted with extreme behaviour from women”, do you mean ‘all men’? I know that isn’t true because I read Catalaxy, which is apparently Australia’s leading libertarian and centre-right blog, and there one reads comments from many men who do complain vociferously and in quite confronting language about quite ordinary things that women do.

    When you write “There are women out there like me who are sick of the extreme feminist narrative” what exactly is this ‘extreme feminist narrative’ that causes you so much concern? And why do these extreme feminist narratives worry you so much? Are other women, those women not like you, so very dangerous do you think? Are they destroying our Western Civilisation?

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