We can hardly be surprised if our concerns – about marriage, safe schools, transgender rights – aren’t on the radar of most working people, because their most pressing concerns have hardly been on ours. They must be, if we are to head off the rise of the dangerous populist right.
There’s a lot of talk right now about ‘liberal elites’ pissing off the ‘ordinary Americans’ who turned out to elect Donald Trump. According to this theory, voters didn’t necessarily agree with Trumps sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia etc., but were willing to overlook them because he promised them the jobs and lives they used to have.
These voters are not necessarily unsympathetic to the inequalities suffered by LGBTI, women, ‘people of colour’, Muslims, migrants and so forth, but for them, they are third or fourth order issues. This chimes with the results of Australian polling, which shows that for most voters, marriage equality is not a crucial or vote-changing issue.
That doesn’t necessarily mean voters are against marriage equality but that it’s an add-on to the things they really want politicians to do. Again, the polling bears this out. People want our politicians to get on with it and pass marriage equality as well as their real jobs of taking care of the borders, the economy and so forth.
Because when politicians are incapable of doing the big stuff (because, for example, an obstructive Republican Congress won’t let them), they get on with what they can accomplish. What Barack Obama could accomplish through executive orders and so forth was good for LGBTI people, but it made him look like he cared more about us than them.
Meanwhile ordinary working people were losing their jobs, losing their homes, and then, as if that wasn’t enough, were subjected to punishing and humiliating welfare regimes, where there were any at all. They had to claim food stamps, and line up at food banks. All the while being told it was all their own fault for not being ‘nimble’ enough, or some such rot. It’s not surprising they got a bit cross.
NO SHE WON’T BE ALRIGHT
Regardless of all the ‘she’ll be right’ rubbish coming out of the Murdoch press, we’re facing some of the same here. It has led to the rise of third parties including Pauline Hanson, because mainstream politicians haven’t been doing the hard stuff. But they have spent a lot of time of Marriage Equality because a) we’re not going away till we win, and b) we’re organized and lobby effectively. Jo Battler isn’t, and doesn’t.
Public schools have been starved of money. The universities battlers might once have sent their children to have been priced far out of reach. Any hope that, although it’s bad for them now, at least it’ll be better for the kids, has been ripped away.
Secure, permanent, full-time jobs have been replaced by part-time and casual jobs, zero-hour contracts, unpaid internships, ‘unpaid ‘trials’ that don’t lead to jobs.
Liberals and businesspeople have a hard time grasping that when you throw workers on the dole, they can’t afford your products any more, and the economy suffers. Full employment for workers means full order books for businesses.
And when you can’t afford to feed your family properly, when you’re working two or three jobs to pay the rent, then sure, it’s sad that homos can’t get married, but you want a proper job that puts a decent roof over our heads and decent food on the table every day.
Privatization hiked the price of necessities like water, power and transport. Publicly owned enterprises, designed as non-profit public services have been turned into for-profit private businesses.
Old v New Jobs
The ‘rust belt’ jobs that kept many alive, in motor manufacture and all the ancillary trades, in shipbuilding, in agriculture are going, if not already gone. The full effect of some of this is yet to be felt in Australia, e.g., the Ford and Holden closures, taking thousands of other businesses down with them. Jobs that need that unaffordable high priced education, on the other hand, continue to do reasonably well. Trade unions, that might once have insisted on, and won, measures to ease the transition, have been relentlessly hammered by the Coalition and are nowhere near the powerhouses they once were.
State owned businesses once provided ‘work for the wage’, instead of ‘work for the dole’, with jobs for many marginal employees the private sector has no use for. This cost the community less than our elaborate, punitive and useless privatized welfare system, plus, it gave people the dignity of supporting themselves doing useful work.
WHERE THE BLOODY HELL WERE YOU?
And where was the Labor Party in all this? Well, they went along with it all. But more to my immediate point, where was the LGBTI community? Where were we? We can’t complain that working Australians don’t give a stuff about our problems, if we don’t give a stuff about theirs.
Most of us have more in common with them than we have with the wealthy white ‘A list’ leadership of organisations like Mardi Gras and Australian Marriage Equality. Many of our own people – especially the young – are poor, marginalized, unemployed or in precarious employment, and vulnerable.
So, what are we going to do about it? How are we going to make ordinary Australian our allies instead of our enemies? To do that, we need to work for a new kind of government that presently isn’t on offer from any Australian Party.
We need A New Manifesto. Check it out.