On Saturday, a state election was held in Western Australia, resulting in a big win for the Labor party, after two terms out of office. The election turned in part on declining economic conditions and in part on the incumbent government’s proposal to privatise the electricity industry, an idea that has almost invariably proved electoral poison (it keeps coming up because of the massive financial and career benefits to those who can push it through). But the biggest factor was a deal done between two Trumpist political parties (a guide to our many versions of Trumpism here), the governing Liberal party (selling a combination of Trumpism and neoliberalism in the manner of the US Republicans) and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. (The Liberals cut out their current coalition partners, the National Party, which had only one representative).
The result has been a disaster for both Trumpist groups. After polling near 10 per cent, One Nation got less than 5 per cent of the vote, and Hanson repeatedly made a fool of herself. The Liberals dropped 16 per cent, the biggest swing in WA history.
The problems don’t stop in WA. The Liberals and One Nation were well on the way to forming a national electoral alliance, with the possibility of a coalition government in states like Queensland. That now seems unlikely. But there are all sorts of obstacles to a clean break. One Nation has a bloc of votes in the national Senate, without which the government can’t pass rightwing legislation (it needs more minor party votes, but if ON votes against, there is no option but to deal with the Labor/Green opposition).
More importantly, as I argued last time around there is hardly any difference, except stylistic, between One Nation and the mainstream right. An all-out attack on ON from the notionally centre-right PM, Malcolm Turnbull, would almost certainly spell the end of his already precarious leadership. So, he is temporising and ducking the issue.
The hopeful indication is that, at least in Australia, support for the different varieties of Trumpism seems to have topped out at around 40 per cent, at least when the choice is posed in explicit terms, and with Trump increasingly acting as a reference. Although the Liberal-National coalition scraped back in at last years election, but they are now lagging badly in opinion polls.
So, a small piece of good news, in a generally depressing world. Let’s hope coming elections in Europe show a similar reaction against Trump and Trumpism.