I saw a newspaper article the other week about the fractious nature of modern Australian politics. Malcolm Turnbull has now lost 30 Newspolls in a row – the number he pointed to when he rolled Tony Abbott.
And now the sharks are circling.
And so it looks like the revolving doors of Prime Ministers is about to take another turn.
How bizarre! How strange! Who can understand politics these days? What is wrong with people?
But I’m hearing this and thinking why are we talking about politics, or even politicians, or even voters.
It’s the system, stupid.
Because there is no centre. It’s a fiction.
It’s this kinda of silly idea that on all issues there is a common centre. That there is some sort of political middle-ground that some fictitious Prime Minister could occupy that wouldn’t offend too many punters.
It just doesn’t exist.
And there’s two reasons for that.
First, every individual is different. Even if you could find two people who passionately agree on 99 things, there’d be at least one issue that they’d come to fisty-cuffs over.
And so even within die-hard Liberal or Labor supporters, there’d be areas of disagreement.
For example, I might be pro-tax cuts. But I might also be passionate about the rights of transgender orang-utans in old growth forests.
That means that right now, there is no political party that can represent my interests.
So being part of a major party, or backing any Prime Minister, is necessarily an act of compromise. If I’m going to back the Liberals, then I’ve got to be willing to accept that my orang-utans will be hung out to dry.
But this isn’t the age of compromise. This is the age of bespoke customisation. This is the age of choosing exactly the right phone case that expresses my unique soul.
I want my internet service provider to cater exactly to my needs. I’m in no mood to compromise.
And so if you want people to settle down and just get along with one Prime Minister, then you have to ask them to let go of their unique preferences.
But people might be well in their rights at that point to say, hang on, if the system can work with my needs, isn’t that a problem with the system?
Isn’t a system that mashes every issue into a simple spectrum of left and right, just a bit broken?
And isn’t a revolving door of Prime Ministers just a symptom of that broken system.
You know, maybe the problem isn’t us, you miserable bastards.
The other factor here is echo-chamber media. With the rise of Facebook et al more and more we’re getting a news feed tailored exactly to our prejudices.
That means that we think that pretty much everyone agrees with us.
That also means that our sense of where the centre is, and what a reasonable compromise might look like, becomes highly skewed.
“Hell no. There’s no way I’m willing to compromise on my orang-utan sanctuary. This is like the number one issue in my news feed right now. The only people opposed to it are fringe lunatics.”
And so you see the political parties getting pulled apart by their supporters. From their supporter’s perspective, they’re being too soft. They’re making too many concessions. They’re drifting too far from where they think the ‘centre’ actually is.
And what would have been seen as simple political negotiations in a by-gone era is now seen as ‘selling out’ to the enemy.
Off to the guillotine with you.
So of course ‘the centre can not hold’.
There never was any centre to begin with. It’s was a fiction from the beginning.
All we’ve got now is a situation where the robes are being pulled of the naked emperor, and everyone’s frustration gets taken out on the sitting PM.
I don’t know where we go from here. But this is a problem that needs to be fixed.
Democracy, as we’ve known it, has past its use-by date.