Interesting competition going on in Australian politics at the moment – wow, it’s actually pretty interesting to be able to write that for a change – with the ‘Dream Team’ (yawn) challenge of Rudd and Gillard (left wing, supposedly) taking on arch-conservative Prime Minister Howard. Howard and his Goverment have looked rattled: their stock-in-trade tactics – playing to the nation’s insecurities around money and minorities, attacking the man and not the ball – have fallen flat for the most part. Rudd just seems to take it all in, smile confidently and then direct the nation’s attention to some altogether more positive topic. It’s a huge change from the reign of Kim Beazley, who had the air of the reactive, ever-complaining bloke down the pub – an armchair expert who’d never actually get beyond the living room with his ideas.
It’s easy to assume that Rudd’s popularity is merely a nation’s honeymoon and penchant for something new, but the similar tales playing out overseas of David Cameron (Conservatives, UK) and Barack Obama (Democrats, US) suggest something more. Even if none of the above have yet proven policy detail to match more than a fraction of their optimism, their suggestion of actually having a vision – outlining at least a sketch of a potentially happy nation and society – has drawn the punters in droves. Would it be fantasy to suggest that the nadir of losing community has been reached, and people will again look outward to what they can do for others?
Howard has 6 months to pull it out of the fire, and the indications so far are that he will use APEC to pose as a statesman, compare Rudd to Latham and Whitlam, and set the hounds after any perceived points of weakness or insecurity in the nation’s confidence. But there’s a sense people have stopped listening to these kinds of arguments. What an irony it would be if Howard, after so many years of being the average man’s representative, found the average man looking down on him.