Castro Mourning by Hipster Lefties Makes Me Sick

Executioner Rene Rodriguez Cruz shoots Garcia Olayon in the head, Jan. 2, 1959.

Executioner Rene Rodriguez Cruz shoots Garcia Olayon in the head, Jan. 2, 1959.

While it is often attributed to him, Mark Twain may not have ever actually said "history doesn't repeat, but it rhymes". Whether he uttered the words or not, it certainly needed saying. 

Jarring echoes of the far left's shameful past reverberated around the Twittersphere yesterday in the wake of Fidel Castro's passing. Current Labour MP Clare Curran and former Alliance Minister Laila Harré were just two of many who took to social media to express grief over the Cuban tyrant's death. Castro, Curran gushed to her followers as if mourning a beloved guitarist, was a "legend"; Harré went further, asking, "who in our Parliament will be able to move a motion capturing the grief and gratitude of millions for the life of #FidelCasto (sic.)?". The answer, one hopes, is nobody. 

But "grief and gratitude" for what exactly?

The banning of trade unions? Threatening nuclear war against his neighbours? Imprisoning and murdering thousands of journalists, dissenters and unionists? Countless, well document human rights abuses, including the systematic persecution of gays and lesbians?

Or is it the 78,000 lives lost attempting to flee the island?  

Anne Applebaum, a brilliant Washington Post reporter, hardly of the right, helpfully disseminated a reminder of Castro's murderous reign in the form of a comprehensive archive that documents the people whose lives and freedoms were ripped away for attempting to bring democracy and human rights to Cuba. They number into the tens of thousands. 

In terms of the magnitude of his many atrocities, Castro may not be in the league of Pol Pot, Stalin or the Hutu Power regime that perpetrated the Rwandan genocide, but it was not for a want of trying.

This affection for a certain category of tyrant among sections of far-left is nothing new. 

After witnessing communism in action during his time volunteering in the Spanish Civil War, the avowedly socialist George Orwell saw clearly, and to his abject and enduring horror, the eagerness of British leftists to apologise for, or turn a blind eye to, the heinous crimes of Stalin, even Hitler.

In more recent times, the Australian author and documentarian John Pilger is one of a crackpot coterie who continue to deny the genocidal crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda on the grounds that the victims were perceived to be closely allied to the United States and NATO. It seems any atrocity is permissible as long as it is costumed in anti-imperialist rhetoric. 

This amoral, selective and hypocritical application of principle to human rights abuses is by no means limited to the left. The Khmer Rouge continued to enjoy legitimacy in Washington and London years after the Killing Fields. Why? Because it was the Communist Vietnamese who marched on Phnom Penh, stopped the killings and backed the subsequent government. Better to join hands with Pol Pot and his henchmen than give credence to a Cold War adversary who handed the United States its first military defeat of the modern era.

There are enough hands, not to mention an abundance of blood, to go around.

But Harré and Curran are not known for their sophisticated geopolitical analysis, although, in the latter's case, the wholesale plagiarism from the Economist discovered in Labour's Future of Work paper suggests she reads (and copies and pastes from) magazines at least. 

What they were celebrating was Castro's lifelong hatred for America. For them, this alone is enough. The fact that Castro's policies led Cuba to become one of Latin America's poorest countries, after being among its most prosperous, is neither here nor there. 

The impoverishment of millions over more than five decades of iron-fisted rule is more than offset by the soaring, anti-imperialist rhetoric that infused Castro's lectern-thumping oratory. He may have been a monster towards his own people, but as long as he was David to America's Goliath, that is clearly more than enough to satisfy the cool kids of the hipster left.

Wikileaks, Sarandon reveal depravity of Trump's far-left enablers

It's hardly original to point out that Wikileaks has comprehensively disgraced itself during this marathon U.S. election season. 

Their massive dump of stolen emails from Clinton campaign boss, John Podesta, may have turned out to be the greatest fizzer since Al Capone's (empty) vault, but there's no mistaking the intention behind it. Julian Assange — poster boy for the Nihilistic left — desperately wants to do whatever he can to prevent the election of Hillary Clinton in favour of Donald Trump. He may well fail, but we should at least give him credit for trying. 

Assange may be the most effortlessly detestable character on the far left to tacitly back the authoritarian Trump, but he's far from alone. Actor and activist Susan Sarandon is backing the Greens Party candidate: anti-vaxxer and Putin fan girl Jill Stein. Sarandon knows as well as anyone this amounts to a vote for the Republicans, however ostensibly pure her motives.  

Trump's left wing enablers reveal their true agenda, and it's nothing new: purposeful destruction. 

A useful analogy is the support of many evangelical Christians for the state of Israel. This is not the product of ecumenical goodwill; it because Israel must prosper in order to fulfill the prophecy fundamentalists infer from the Book of Revelation and in other apocalyptic New Testament-era writings. The Second Coming entails the destruction of Israel, so fundamentalists support its right to exist right up until the moment Jesus sends every Jew hurtling into the eager arms of Satan. 

This is the same logic the propels far left support for Trump (and Putin, for that matter) from leftists like Assange and Sarandon who don't support a word of Trump's platform, but rather fantasise about the mayhem his election would ensue. 

Like the quasi-Marxists they are, the last thing they want is a competent centrist technocrat in the Hillary Clinton mould, who will merely preside over an untenable status quo. To them, Trump-induced chaos and even greater governmental dysfunction will inspire apathetic voters to shed the scales from their eyes and — finally — join them in their remorseless revolutionary struggle. 

This exposes the far-left's Nihilistic agenda. They say they reject neoliberalism — a term with as many meanings as there are people who use it — when what they actual despise is the prevailing political and economic system itself. They don't aspire to reform — it is just another word for dreaded incrementalism — but urge a grassroots uprising to topple and, let's not forget, replace with people like themselves, the ascendant political and economics elites. 

They don't offer a comprehensive alternative vision for a world order beyond the destruction of whatever "neoliberalism" is. Why? Because Marxism, the only theory robust enough to offer a systemic challenge capitalism, is so utterly discredited (see: Venezuela). 

Whatever their privately held views, they can barely bring themselves to utter the M-word, let alone spell out an explicit Marxian programme. They have, therefore, become entirely defined by what they oppose — in broad terms, things as they actually are — with the notable exception of Vladimir Putin. The Russian President, whose Peter the Great schtick seems like textbook fascism to most observers, is beloved by left-wing fantasists because he hates the West as much as they do. As long as Putin keeps this up, leftists will turn a blind eye to geopolitical aggression; stifling of press; assassinations of political enemies; the persecution of gays and lesbians, and cronyism on such an operatic scale that it beggars belief. 

If he loses, the overwhelming focus in the coming days will be on Trump's disastrous campaign, an extension of his troubling personality. Splits within the GOP will widen to chasms. The fight between the Trump wing and whatever remains of the GOP establishment will be prolonged, brutal, and — for political junkies like me — completely thrilling. 

But for all the schadenfreude we may enjoy at the Republican's expense, let's not forget the role played by Trump's leftist allies. It has been a clarifying exercise, and we shouldn't forget what we have learned: the far-left are no less opposed to the perpetuation of liberal democracy than the demagogues and tyrants they so eagerly nuzzle. 

My take (in tweets) on the latest in the never-ending Clinton email scandal

Best Tweets (as well as mine) from the Third Presidential Debate

Trolling might be fun. But it isn't campaigning.

UPDATE: I REMOVED AN IMAGE PREVIOUSLY FEATURED IN THIS POST BECAUSE THE INDIVIDUAL CONCERNED ASSURED ME I MISREPRESENTED HER INTENTIONS. I HAVE NO REASON NOT TO TAKE HER AT HER WORD,

The Wellington Mayoral election was a week ago today. Having spent the past few months volunteering for my friend of two decades, Nick Leggett, it was a blow that he lost — but hardly a surprise.

Ours was an audacious effort. Nick was an outsider — a mayor from another city against an incumbent deputy with the backing of not one, but two, political parties in Labour and the Greens, both powerful forces in the capital. The council-wide results made clear Wellington voters wanted continuity over change. We were on the wrong side of that equation, something we knew from the outset was the most likely of all possible outcomes.

There are zero grounds for bitterness. We did our best. Nick campaigned with dignity and purpose, and everybody involved with the campaign can hold their heads up high. It is impossible to replicate in a few short months the advantages of a ready-made political machine, but Nick nonetheless attracted many hard-working volunteers who impressed with their passion and work ethic. And they were gracious to a fault when the results came in.

To his credit Justin Lester, who won comfortably in the end, ran a good campaign. His team skillfully managed to create the impression of distance between him and the deeply unpopular Celia Wade-Brown — not an easy task. Kudos to them.

But there is one aspect of the campaign that left me worried.

In the months leading up to the election, a number of Young Labor activists organised themselves into a troll army. Seemingly without relent, they inundated Twitter, Facebook and Reddit with vile, invariably baseless, personal attacks on Nick. Far worse, they aimed their vitriol at Porirua, where Nick had been serving as Mayor.  Porirua, they claimed days before the city received a AA rating from Standard & Poors, was broke (false). Rates had skyrocketed under Nick's leadership (false). Services had been slashed (false). Nick closed Cannons Creek pool (go there for yourself; he didn't). Most revealing was their constant, condescending refrain that Nick was somehow selfishly "abandoning" the city, as if Porirua residents are incapable of taking care of themselves. A heady blend of dog-whistling and white man's burden bollocks.

Now, please don't get me wrong. These thousands of nasty tweets and posts and comments did not shift a single vote. The vast majority of voters wouldn't have had a clue what was being said in social media swamps, and are smart enough to ignore it if they had.

But what concerns me is not only that young political activists seem to think trolling of this kind is acceptable; it's that it seems to be the only mode of political engagement they know.

Certianly, my early years in political campaigns weren't all sweetness and light. I tore down signs, wrote hyperbolic, dishonest direct mail letters, made countless bogus talkback calls. Youthful exuberance is not always easy to contain, much less channel productively.

But at least our manic energy was directed outwards — towards voters.

The trolls who made a sport of vilifying Nick (who, by the way, ignored all of it) confuse shouting invective in an echo chamber with campaigning. Not only is it bad for our political discourse to have young people so eager to propagate lies and insults; it augurs badlyfor Labour's electoral prospects to have a coming generation of activists and MPs who think abusing is campaigning. If they had knocked on one door for every nasty tweet, Lester would have won by more.

The trolls themselves can't be blamed entirely. Andrew Little himself personally attacked Nick, calling him a right-winger, falsely claiming his campaign manager was a high-profile ACT Party member. Another senior frontbencher breathlessly lied to the gallery behind the scenes about the state of Porirua's finances. When Young Labour activists witness this from senior leadership, it's not altogether surprising they come to think replicating that modus operandi online is a good use of their time.

When I chatted after the election with one of Lester's campaign team about the troll problem, an especially distasteful tweet was deleted within minutes. Certainly we had no trouble maintaining such discipline in the Leggett camp, despite all the provocation.

I hope this isn't an irreversible trend in New Zealand politics. If it is, you ain't seen nothing yet when it comes to turnout. Voters don't want a bar of this stuff, and don't confuse their disengagement with apathy. It's disgust.

Social media can be great fun, and I rarely go ten minutes without checking my often feisty Twitter feed. But let's not kid ourselves. Accosting adversaries from the safety of our iPhones, however viscerally satisfying, achieves nothing beyond reassuring us and those around us of our superior virtue

Proud of my mate

In a lifetime of poor decisions, opting to stay on in NZ to help out on Nick Leggett's mayoral campaign is a startling aberration. 

I knew Nick from when he volunteered on my doomed 1995 campaign for the Porirua City Council. He was 16. I was 25. To say he went ahead in leaps and bounds would be a gargantuan understatement. 

Even during my worst years of drinking and depression, Nick was a constant in my life. The best kind of friend. Loyal, emphathic, miraculously patient. 

Through it all, we never stopped talking politics, our common obsession. U.S., U.K., Uganda, you name it. I hope the conversation never stops. Nick is smart, intuitive, principled. A natural retail politician who has, over the years, mastered his brief like a true policy wonk. I saw him during the campaign at a consulting firm, and I could hardly believe how complete a politician he has become. He was always a charming, likable guy with a superhuman knack for remembering names and faces. He was always capable of giving a great speech. But what I hadn't noticed until that moment was the extent to which he had added an astute policy brain to the arsenal. I told him, and he brushed it off, saying I must have low standards. 

I am so proud of how Nick has conducted himself during this campaign. And Emily, his wife, as they both juggled the demands of a gorgeous newborn son, Tāne. I've never known a candidate in such a Zen-like state; so utterly unruffled. 

After Andrew Little publicly attacked him for being a "right-winger", Nick was taken aback for a second but soon laughed it off. As Young Labour trolls launched one nasty, baseless attack after another on Twitter or Reddit or wherever basement-dwelling fanatics like to spend their time,  Nick either didn't notice or simply shrugged. If I ever prepared to respond, he would gently tell me not to bother and go deliver some leaflets. (The dog-whistle attacks on Porirua by so-called lefties, including senior Wellington-based MPs, took even more discipline to ignore, but Nick somehow managed).

They never once got into his head, or caused him to deviate from the campaign he wanted to run. One about making Wellington City Council as good as the community it represents. 

Whatever happens tonight, my mate Nick Leggett and all of those who support him can hold our heads high in the knowledge that we ran a good and decent campaign.

I've always been proud to know Nick, from the time he lobbed up to my house in Camborne to help me out in 1995. But I've never been prouder to count him a friend than I am today. 

Are you one of Justin Lester's "Little People"?

What Justin Lester's "Little People" Tells us About Modern Labour

No secret I'm supporting Nick Leggett, so I was listening to the Newstalk ZB mayoral candidates debate this morning, and one exchange stood out. When asked about the Living Wage, Labour's candidate Justin Lester said he supported it because he wants to support "the little people".

Excuse me?

Who on earth does he have in mind?

Moderator Tim Fookes asked him to clarify.

Cleaners and security staff, Lester explained.

So, cleaners and security guards, as long as you know you are the little people and people like Justin Lester are here to save you, you have nothing to worry about. What condescending, messianic bullshit. 

I could write 100,000 words on why Labour is failing -- in fact, I probably have –– without getting close to encapsulating Labour's problem as well as this off-the-cuff truth bomb from Justin Lester.

Here's the clip. The other voices you hear are Nicola Young and Nick Leggett.  

 

Excerpt from Newstalk ZB's Mayoral Debate, 22/09/16  

The Wellington council elections in a nutshell

Nick and Harry at Newtown Market on Saturday  

Nick and Harry at Newtown Market on Saturday  

I'm in New Zealand for the next couple of months to help out an old mate, Nick Leggett, who is running for the Mayoralty of Wellington.  He's a great friend, so I'm biased; that said, I have no doubt Nick will be less a breath than a brisk northerly of fresh air for the capital.  I've worked with more politicians and candidates than I care to remember, but few can rival Nick's blend of policy smarts, natural gifts as a retail campaigner, compassion and common sense.  

Anyway, on Saturday, I joined Nick Leggett as he went about the city meeting voters and enjoying beautiful weather in the nerve-wracking few hours before the Bledisloe Cup.

At the Newtown market, Nick and I stopped to chat with Harry (pictured above).  Harry, a highly engaged and astute observer of the local political scene, has been homeless for the past four years. "I'm over it," he told us, without a trace of bitterness. Nick and he shared notes about the various iwi and community-based agencies Harry interacts with on a weekly basis, before the time came to set off the next stop.

As we left, Nick asked Harry what really fired him up this partciular election season.  In an answer that seemed to encapsulate this campaign in a nutshell, he didn't bat an eyelid: "the Island Bay cycleway." 

Celia Wade-Brown and Justin Lester's costly, disruptive and disastrous cycleway, a case study in top-down heavy-handedness and ideological belligerence, is the beetroot in the sandwich of this election. It stains everything. 

Twitter Reacts to Trump's Acceptance Speech

 

 

Herald Column on Why Hillary Should Choose Liz Warren as Running Mate

NZ Herald, 19/05/14

NZ Herald, 19/05/14

 

Since the NZ Herald didn't put my column from yesterday on their website, here it is for my records.  

 

___________________

 

The success and durability of Bernie Sanders' presidential run is often put down to his unexpected gifts as a campaigner, but the truth is far scarier for establishment Democrats. The 74 year old Independent Senator from Vermont, who has raised close to $200 million and defeated frontrunner Hillary Clinton in nineteen states, is actually a deeply flawed candidate. Had another populist insurgent been in the running –– someone with a surer grasp of policy detail, a defter and less bellicose style, and broader demographic appeal –– such a candidate could clearly have defeated Clinton.

As it happens, precisely such a prospect existed in Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. A former Harvard Professor who oversaw the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Obama, Warren has since usurped Bill Clinton as the most compelling Democratic voice on middle-class economics. In recent days, Warren has also emerged as a ferocious Twitter combatant, taking aim at Donald Trump and firing up the Democratic base in ways Hillary seems entirely incapable of doing.

No surprise, then, to see reports that top Clinton aides are urging her to select Warren as her Vice-Presidential running mate, and that Joe Biden would have done so had he contested and won the nomination. It would be a wise choice for Clinton, but not because she needs Warren to win in November –– nothing will persuade me Donald Trump is electable. The best reason for Clinton to ally with Warren is to keep from losing her own party to a populist uprising in the months and years that follow.

Consider the alternatives. If Hillary follows the Clintonian playbook and goes for a centrist like Tim Kaine, former Governor and now Senator from Virginia, she risks factional disharmony that could end in a primary fight from the left that would complicate her reelection in 2020 (Ted Kennedy's debilitating challenge to Jimmy Carter in 1980 springs to mind).

Meanwhile, the case for selecting an Hispanic Veep, such as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, has weakened in light of Trump's emergence as the GOP nominee — labelling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers and proposing mass deportation should be enough on its own to turn out Latino voters in droves.

Co-opting Warren amounts to a stability pact by reassuring the party's activist they will have a powerful voice in the White House, especially on the key question of economic inequality. The current volatile political climate is far less conducive to the crafty, triangulated moderation of the previous Clinton White House.

And then there's gender; as Michelle Goldberg argued in Slate last week, putting a second woman on the ticket "would make it blazingly clear what an epochal moment this is for an American women".

Now to the downsides. Coming from the reliably Democratic Massachusetts, Warren doesn't bring a "swing state" into contention, but it will be a Republican governor who handpicks her temporary replacement in the Senate. This may diminish the Democrat's chances to reclaim a majority in the upper house, at least immediately (Massachusetts law requires a special election between 145-160 days after the vacancy arises –– a contest Democrats should win).

Resistance to Warren will be fiercest from predictable quarters. Old Clinton hands like former Treasury Secretaries Lawrence Summers and Tim Geithner will contend that Warren's hostility to Wall Street, as well as her protectionist instincts on trade, will hurt the Democratic Party's hard-won economic credibility and damage its appeal to moderate voters.

These are all surmountable arguments.

The ability of vice-presidential nominees to win states that the candidate at the top of the ticket otherwise can't is vastly overstated. Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, failed to move the needle in his home state of Wisconsin; Al Gore couldn't help Bill Clinton, or even himself atop the ballot, in Tennessee. A possible six month delay in claiming a hypothetical Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate doesn't seem enough on its own to preclude nominating somebody otherwise well suited. As for concerns Warren will force Clinton too far to the left, two rejoinders: Vice Presidents rarely play much of a role in shaping domestic economic policy independently of the West Wing; and, by placating the left, Warren's nomination would ironically free up Clinton to make more conventional (and Wall St-friendly) choices for key economic posts.

After Trump has fallen to Hillary in a thumping landslide, the GOP will enter an even more chaotic period of recrimination and disunity. But Bernie Sanders has uncovered a potent strain of disenchantment on the Democratic side as well. With Liz Warren at her side, Clinton can enter the Oval Office confident that Democrats are unlikely to descend into a civil war of its own.

NZ Herald column: Australia's Labour shows the way

The New Zealand Herald ran a contribution from me last week which amounted to a comparison between the state of politics in NZ and Australia, their respective Labo(u)r Parties in particular.  I was grateful for prime placement in the print edition, but it hasn't gone up online for some reason.  As such, I repost here for my own records as much as anything else:

___________________________

If the normal laws of political gravity applied, Australia's latest PM, Malcolm Turnbull, ought to be coasting to re-election on July 2nd, while the long-serving John Key should be staring defeat in the face next year.

As it is, it is Key's National-led Government that looks unassailable while, despite a 20 point lead to the Liberal-National Coalition in the early months of Turnbull's tenure, a recent flurry of polls have the major parties across the Tasman locked at 50-50. It's uncommon to see a honeymoon as thoroughly wasted as Turnbull's outside Las Vegas.

The Coalition may yet survive the election. As I discovered working for Labor's deputy Gareth Evans in 1998, turfing out first-term governments after just one term is a tough ask in Canberra. That year, John Howard’s landslide of two years prior gave him the buffer he needed to hold off a resurgent Labor, even as the ALP won more votes nationally.

This year, Bill Shorten faces a similar uphill climb. Given the distribution of marginal seats, along with the advantages of incumbency, he will need to do better than 50-50 to win. That said, it's a minor miracle he has guided the party to within striking distance – especially when you recall the Rudd/Gillard fissure, a near-extinction event for the party.

On the surface, similarities between the respective political classes of Australia and New Zealand border on spooky. Turnbull and Key are both men of considerable net-worth, much-vaunted communication skills and an appealingly moderate political disposition. Their opponents, Shorten and Andrew Little, former Union bosses, are pragmatists steeped in labour movement politics. Neither enjoy warm popular support: in a Newspoll published earlier this month, the ALP had a two-point edge over the Coalition, but Turnbull trounces Shorten as preferred Prime Minister by 21 percent; on the equivalent measure, Key leads Little in the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll by thirty-two.

If the similarities are interesting, the differences are striking.

Why is Australian Labor within a whisker of toppling the newly-installed Turnbull, whereas their Kiwi counterparts have slumped back to 28 points, with John Key's National cruising along at fifty? How is it possible for any leader in civilian garb, much less one in a typically competitive liberal democracy like New Zealand, to retain such dominance after so long in office?

The Australian experience suggests the answer for Labour in New Zealand is not "change the leader", the knee-jerk response most often preferred. The ALP is within reach, if not exactly favoured, in the coming election despite having a leader with frankly atrocious numbers. Traumatized by the Rudd-Gillard wars, MPs and activists have by and large rallied behind Shorten (albeit a loveless loyalty in many cases), who has in turn worked hard to restore the party to viability.

Compared to Shorten, Phil Goff had it easy in 2008. Helen Clark and Michael Cullen had left Labour in decent shape. And yet, despairingly, Labour's share of the vote has declined in each subsequent election as the party turned inwards, interpreting each defeat as anything but a repudiation; blaming instead the electorate's inability to "see through" the diabolical Key, the spectre of "dirty politics" (known in Australia and elsewhere as "politics"), one million dogmatically left-wing voters who habitually forget to vote, David Cunliffe, the mythic ‘Anyone But Cunliffes’, or, at barrel's bottom, residual fury at the party's embrace of neoliberalism in the Eighties. That voters might have got it right in their intuition that Labour fails to demonstrate readiness for government is never countenanced.

Labour's refusenik posture was never more graphically on display than in the review of Cunliffe's defeat by former UK Labour MP Bryan Gould: the key to Labour's rejuvenation, Gould insisted, is pretending to get along at all costs – perpetuating the self-serving myth that internal bickering, real and imagined, is all the only thing standing between the party and its destiny. Proponents of this position would point to the Rudd/Gillard experience, but they are confusing an ingredient for the whole recipe: not tearing one another apart is a necessary prerequisite to electoral success, but it is not, on its own, sufficient.

Across the Tasman, rejuvenation has sparked Labor’s revival.

Along with the principals themselves, many veterans of the Rudd-Gillard years have made room for new talent on the frontbench, including, critically, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke who have proven more than a match for Abbott’s, and now Turnbull’s, economic A-Team. Meanwhile, the ALP’s backbench is fizzing: a coterie of up and comers like Andrew Leigh, Tim Watts and Clare O’Neil are busy writing books, floating policy ideas and energising the political left.

In the past few weeks alone, the ALP has rendered dead-on-arrival Turnbull’s tax plans, as well as a proposed rollback of education reforms. Shorten’s calls for a Royal Commission into Australia’s banking and financial services sector has struck a nerve, especially after the leak of the so-called Panama Papers. According to the Australian Financial Review, two-thirds of voters support such an inquiry – and pressure mounts daily on Turnbull to acquiesce.

By contrast, on the same issue, Andrew Little opted to go after Key personally, as well as John Shewan, the expert anointed by the government to review tax haven rules. Such an approach is petty and ineffective. National won’t be worried until Labour shows signs of expanding their appeal beyond those voters who already can’t stand the sight of John Key.

On balance, Malcolm Turnbull is more likely than not to win re-election in July, but the fact Labor is competitive is testament to Shorten’s discipline and focus, as well as a party culture that values professionalism, fostering and rewarding talent. But even if he loses, Shorten will leave the party in better shape than when he took the job. It’s been a while since a Labour leader in New Zealand could plausibly make such a claim.

 

Tweets of 26 April Primary Night

Bernie Sanders bores me to tears

Bernie Sanders has achieved something I never thought possible: he causes me to experience mild enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

Oh, how I tire of the sanctimonious lecturing from the lofty heights of permanent opposition; the wilful neglect of the reliaties and restraints of constitional government; the lack of scrutiny applied to a batshit-crazy platform that would expand the federal government by 50 percent, and has as much chance of passing as a basketball through a hose.

Of course the economy is rigged to benefit the top one percent, Bernie. Of course the campaign finance system is a rort.  Bellowing these truisms from a rooftop of self-styled moral superiority has a political degree of difficulty of less than zero.

The question for somebody in the business of enacting change, as opposed to merely calling for it in front of adoring crowds, is how to confront and overcome such challenges in a political system designed to make doing so as difficult as possible.

Bernie has no interest in this, of course. Apart from his tenure of Mayor of Burlington, Bernie has luxuriated throughout his entire career in the warm bosom of the backbenches.  Actually, scratch that: not the backbenches as much as the cross-benches, because, until Bernie decided he wanted to be the party's presidential standard-bearer, Sanders wasn't even a Democrat.  Being member of a political party was beneath him; would implicate him in too many messy compromises and imperfect policy outcomes.  Much safer to holler from the outer, like a soccer hooligan who lashes both teams with equal ferocity to demonstrate fealty to the purist conceivable manifestation of the sport.

Bernie cannot win more than a handful of minority voters.  He has no plausible excuse for this.  If any other candidate scored so poorly among blacks and Hispanics, the Bernie crowd would –– for good reason –– argue that such a person has no right to occupy the top of the Democratic ticket.  White college towns and ethnically homogenous caucus states shouldn't be enough –– in 2016 for fuck's sake –– to propel any Democratic candidate in the vaguest direction of the White House.

As for head-to-head polls that show him stronger than Clinton in a general election match-up, here's two points:

1.  Try as I might, I can't think of a single thing less meaningful than a general election poll in March;

2.  Bernie has been subjected to next to no scrutiny (in contrast to Hillary, who's been scrutinised without pause for 25 years).  As soon as swing voters get wind of his radically expansionist agenda, they would run a mile.  Not that it will ever come to that.

So, Bernie, get back to the Senate where you belong (well, stay in the primary race if you like; it's only making Hillary stronger).  Rage against the machine.  Fight the good fight.  But stop this charade that you have anything near what it takes to occupy the White House in anything other than an Aaron Sorkin-penned fantasy. 

Twitter Highs and Lows of the Detroit GOP Debate

A Minor Tweetstorm on the Australian Republic and the New Zealand Flag

In two superb columns, mortified conservative intellectuals Brooks and Kagan elucidate Trump's rise

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnists, is infuriating because he has a tendency to write almost-brilliant opinion pieces that disintegrate on scrutiny.  He is also prone to infatuation with whomever he happens to be reading at the time.  That said, like a broken clock, he gets it right from time to time.  Never more so than his column today in which he traces the rise of 'anti-politics':

 Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

The anti-politics tendency, Brooks correctly says, is self-serving because it's effect is to degrade the political process, a self-fulfilling prophecy: 

 The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process. The absence of accomplishment destroys public trust. The decline in trust makes deal-making harder.

We’re now at a point where the Senate says it won’t even hold hearings on a presidential Supreme Court nominee, in clear defiance of custom and the Constitution. We’re now at a point in which politicians live in fear if they try to compromise and legislate. We’re now at a point in which normal political conversation has broken down. People feel unheard, which makes them shout even louder, which further destroys conversation.

Inevitably, he turns to Donald Trump, who he describes as: 

...the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.

....

Trump’s supporters aren’t looking for a political process to address their needs. They are looking for a superhero. 

This is insightful stuff, and it helps explain the rise of anti-politics way beyond America's borders. 

Meanwhile, Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, a neo-conservative known mainly for his foreign policy views, has taken to the Washington Post's opinion pages to weigh in on Trump's rise, placing the blame squarely at the feet of the GOP establishment:

 Let’s be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker. Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements, the persistent calls for nullification of Supreme Court decisions, the insistence that compromise was betrayal, the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at? Was it not Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among others, who set this tone and thereby cleared the way for someone even more irreverent, so that now, in a most unenjoyable irony, Cruz, along with the rest of the party, must fall to the purer version of himself, a less ideologically encumbered anarcho-revolutionary? This would not be the first revolution that devoured itself.

 

Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institutions and The New York Times' David Brooks  

Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institutions and The New York Times' David Brooks  

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