“In choosing Tony Abbott, the Liberal Party has chosen the least electable of the three candidates who were on the ballot today.”
That was Sydney Morning Herald political editor Peter Hartcher’s take way back in December 2009 on Tony Abbott winning leadership of Australia’s right-of-center Liberal Party.
All the smartest people in the room said he couldn’t win, but by sticking to his principles, four years later Abbott went on to win the general election on Sept. 7 in a Reaganesque landslide with 54 percent of the popular vote.
Hartcher’s analysis could not have been more wrong: “We see the Liberal Party choosing to fight on climate change knowing that they go into this fight with only 25 percent public support.” He called Abbott “combative,” “unpopular,” and said that the party thought that it was “more important to fight on climate change than it is to be readily electable.” Whoops.
Hailing Abbott’s example, Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens urged House Republicans to fight like Australians on defunding Obamacare, contending that if it came to a government shutdown, the outcome would not be as purveyors of conventional wisdom predict.
In a letter addressed to House members, Mehrens called attention to Abbott’s ascension in Australian politics. In 2009, when Abbott became leader of his party, it was by just one vote, defeating Malcolm Turnbull who Mehrens wrote “had agreed to go along with the leftist majority in Parliament and fund a carbon tax scheme in Australia.”
The carbon tax “was about as popular as Obamacare is in the United States,” Mehrens noted. In the 2013 election, Abbott promised to roll back the unpopular tax on emissions.
“He did not make the mistake of believing that the talking heads of the media’s opinion givers had anything to do with the views of the public,” Mehrens wrote. Instead, Abbott went against the grain and reclaimed the identity of his party, which in 2009 was acquiescing to the Labor Party’s agenda.
On health care, Abbott also ran on privatizing Australia’s Medibank, a government sponsored enterprise that is currently the country’s largest insurer, even as Nicholas Reece of the Center for Public Policy at the University of Melbourne acknowledged it would be a “a political hard sell” in the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald.
The oped by Reece, a supporter of Abbott’s privatization proposal, underscores the new prime minister’s commitment to good policy even in the face of predicted overwhelming political opposition.
Days before the election, Abbott proclaimed, “We will put it into the private sector at what is the best time for Commonwealth taxpayers.”
Similarly, Mehrens urged House Republicans to “put policy before politics and fund the government with the exception of Obamacare.”
“On Obamacare funding, the media opinion is unanimous that in a test of wills the President will win. After recent events in the foreign policy arena that conclusion is laughable. Who with a straight face could believe that Obama will shut down his beloved bureaucracy for a prolonged period in order to save a program that is despised by the voters?” Mehrens asked.
For now, the media elite and political establishment in Washington, D.C. are of the view that a government shutdown over funding Obamacare would favor Democrats politically.
But a recent poll by Rasmussen Reports found “51 percent of voters favor having a partial government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans agree on what spending for the health care law to cut.”
Moreover, Mehrens wrote, “As in all government shut downs (i.e. weekends) essential government employees are kept on the job while the non-essential are furloughed.”
He continued, “When Obama realizes that this means his Environmental Protection Agency will be slowed down in its attempts to shut down power plants, the Department of Justice will be hampered in filing frivolous lawsuits, the Internal Revenue war on anyone who disagrees with him will be hampered, and various other of his efforts to transform America will be hindered, he will no doubt rush to the bargaining table.”
Meaning, a shutdown might not only win public support if it means cutting Obamacare, but that it could force concessions by the Obama administration on the health care law.
In other words, it might actually work. “Good policy is good politics as the recent Australian election demonstrates,” Mehrens concluded.
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