At Australian Ballot Boxes, the Left’s Empathy Deficit Came Home to Roost

At Australian Ballot Boxes, the Left’s Empathy Deficit Came Home to Roost, by Claire Lehmann.

Progressive politicians like to assume that, on election day at least, blue-collar workers and urban progressives will bridge their differences, and make common cause to support leftist economic policies.

This assumption might once have been warranted. But it certainly isn’t now — in large part because the intellectuals, activists and media pundits who present the most visible face of modern leftism are the same people openly attacking the values and cultural tastes of working and middle-class voters.

And thanks to social media (and the caustic news-media culture that social media has encouraged and normalized), these attacks are no longer confined to dinner-party titterings and university lecture halls.

Brigid Delaney, a senior writer for Guardian Australia, responded to Saturday’s election result with a column about how Australia has shown itself to be “rotten.” One well-known Australian feminist and op-ed writer, Clementine Ford, has been fond of Tweeting sentiments such as “All men are scum and must die.” Former Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, who also has served as a high-profile newspaper columnist, argues that even many mainstream political positions — such as expressing concern about the Chinese government’s rising regional influence — are a smokescreen for racism.

In an interview conducted on Sunday morning, Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek opined that if only her party had more time to explain to the various groups how much they’d all benefit from Labor’s plans, Australians would have realized how fortunate they’d be with a Labor government, and Shorten would’ve become Prime Minister. Such attitudes are patronizing, for they implicitly serve to place blame at the feet of voters, who apparently are too ignorant to know what’s good for them.

What the election actually shows us is that the so-called quiet Australians, whether they are tradies (to use the Australian term) in Penrith, retirees in Bundaberg, or small business owners in Newcastle, are tired of incessant scolding from their purported superiors. Condescension isn’t a good look for a political movement.