American politics, Australian echo

The structure of US politics is very different to what we know in Australia, but I read something today that really struck a chord:

If a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing.

That quote comes from a joint editorial published in The Washington Post. It was written by three Republican contenders for the Presidential nomination. They put aside their own personal ambitions and political differences, to protest what they see as the sabotaging of democracy in America.

For Australians who are not familiar with the American system, candidates within each political party compete publicly with each other to determine who will be the best candidate to fight the actual presidential election. Usually this is done via state primaries.

But not this time. Four US states have cancelled their primaries on the basis that Donald Trump ‘will’ win in a landslide so why waste the money? But it’s not about the money. Each of those states will vote for Trump to be the presidential candidate without consulting any of the voters in that state. As primaries are a core step in the US electoral process, this is a massive departure from normal democracy.

You can, and should, read the entire post by Jill Dennison to understand how truly disruptive this development is:

Sadly, the Australian experience of politics has been echoing that of the US since the sacking of Kevin Rudd in 2010. Our political system is very different, but almost everything that’s happened in the last decade has been about one party or the other giving democracy the finger in order to be re-elected.

  • Rudd sacked in favour of Gillard
  • Gillard sacked in favour of Rudd
  • Tony Abbot sacked in favour of Malcolm Turnbull
  • Turnbull sacked in favour of Scott Morrison

To be fair, in the Australia system, parties choose who will lead them into an election. Parties also have the right to choose someone else to lead them, even in the middle of an election cycle, so the revolving door of Prime Ministers is ‘legal’:

But is the letter of the law abusing the spirit of the law?

Much of the nitty gritty of Australian politics is ruled by convention rather than laws laid down by the Constitution. As such, our Prime Minister is important to the voting public, but isn’t actually granted special status in the Constitution. That said, convention or perhaps the rule of common courtesy has meant that once elected, a sitting Prime Minister is not ousted by his own party [note: I’m no historian so I’d welcome clarification of this].

When Kevin Rudd was replaced by Julia Gillard – to win the looming election – many voters who liked Rudd and voted him in, felt they had been robbed. In the interests of honesty, I have to say that I’m one of them. Whatever the constitution may say, the Prime Minister who leads his [or her] party into an election is seen by the electorate as having their vote. Ousting that leader may be legal, but it takes something fundamental away from voters. And it undermines the concept of 1 person, 1 vote. Of course that concept has been undermined in a great many other ways, but this post is about the machinations within parties.

Personality politics is not a good thing, in my humble opinion, but once a political party is voted in because of the popularity of its chosen ‘face’, that face should remain until voted out in the next election. The only exception to that is if the ‘face’ commits an actual crime. In the wake of all this political turmoil, both major parties have created rules of their own that prohibit the sacking of a sitting Prime Minister. It should be noted, however, that these new rules apply only to the party concerned. The constitution has not been amended.

Constitution aside, I believe that having a revolving door of Prime Minsters for the sake of political expediency – i.e. just to get re-elected – is cynical and undermines democracy. More importantly, it raises the perception of popularity above the facts of policy.

Sadly, this seems to be the way Western democracy is headed. I hope I don’t live to see democracy wither and die completely.


About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

32 responses to “American politics, Australian echo

  • Widdershins

    The trouble with any ‘ocracy’ is that once the population increases beyond a certain limit they cease to work.
    We’re still a tribal/pack species and although there’s some who transcend that limitation, (usually the revolutionaries who set off the next ‘ocracy’) once we see our ‘tribe’ growing beyond our individual ability to engage with it in any meaningful way, we withdraw our ‘tribe boundary’ accordingly.
    Our modern world is so stuffed with these ‘tribes’, that we’re in a constant state of, perhaps not fear, but anxiety, about how we can negotiate a path through them. Which ones do we engage with and which ones we leave on the table, etc.
    It’s far easier, (in the short-term anyway) to simply ‘close our borders’ and end up with the scenarios that are plaguing us, worldwide.
    If, as a species, we manage to physically survive the next century, I suspect new ‘ocracies’ (or revamped old ones) will be raised up and the cycle will start again.
    I do have hope that at some point we’ll have some sort of ‘racial awakening’ and get our shit together, but I also think it’s a long way away from where we are now.


    • acflory

      I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re right. It’s playing out in the real world AND in the digital world. The only difference is that here in cyber space, the boundaries are created by our own, personal likes and dislikes.
      Maybe, like ‘countries’, social media bubbles are inevitable because we are so tribal. That ape brain just won’t let up. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  • Scottie

    Hello Meeka. It seems some people only want democracy so they can achieve power. If they have to choose between power and democracy they will choose power and end democracy. That is what we are facing here in the US. The republicans can not keep power by any democratic means, so they are doing all they can to subvert democracy to keep their power. They would prefer a one party rule like China as long as it is their party ruling. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Hi Scottie. Yeah, it seems as if the lines between forms of government are becoming very blurred. And in all our countries, roughly half of all people don’t care. That’s what scares me the most. So many people assume that they’ll continue to get the best that democracy can offer, even after democracy is dead and buried.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Candy Korman

    Many of the “checks and balances” built into the American system have been undermined in the last few years. It started when the Republicans had big gains in the Senate and Congress while Obama was president and it has accelerated during Trump’s first few years.

    The Senate—historically described as a “deliberative body” with Senators working across party lines to hammer out details of legislation—has become a stone wall preventing anything from happening. They don’t even vote on the legislation that is passed in Congress. Some of these prohibitive strategies go back to the origins of the country and the founding fathers’ fear of “mob rule.” The structure of three co-equal branches of government only works if everyone plays their role.

    Right now, they are not. The Senate Majority leader—a particularly recalcitrant Republican from Kentucky—controls the agenda in the Senate and he won’t bring a vote unless he is assured by the president that there won’t be a presidential veto. The president changes his mind five times a day about anything and everything so… it’s a huge mess.

    Just the other night, I tried to explain this to a Dutch friend and he just threw up his hands and said, “That’s not fair.”

    I hope the Australians DON’T follow in our crazy footsteps.

    Liked by 2 people

    • acflory

      It seems as if there’s been a perfect storm of events leading to a worst case scenario that no one thought possible, certainly not those who framed the original constitution.
      Pure happenstance? Or a deliberate strategy?
      Part of me leans towards the conspiracy theorists, but another part of me knows that random chaos feed on itself. Let’s hope that once this is all over, the structures will be tightened to make a repeat performance less likely.
      Of course, that assumes that climate change gives us all time enough to get our houses in order before it hits full strength. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  • Mick Canning

    A lot of Western democracies do seem to be heading that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  • jilldennison

    Hello my friend! Thank you so much for the mention! Sigh. Of late, I have come to believe that we are at a turning point … not just my country or yours, not just the UK or EU, but the entire industrialized world. I could trace the roots, but that’s a topic for another day. Suffice it to say that there is a domino effect in place, and what is happening in western democracies today, what is known as the ‘populist movement’, started back several decades ago with the Arab Spring. It’s easy enough to say, “oh, well, this too shall pass. Once we get rid of Trump. Once we get through Brexit. Once we get Morrison out …” but my thinking is that the problem lies much deeper than any of the men in office who are only doing the bidding of their faithul lemmings. Until recently, I thought this was a temporary thing … a blip on the radar that would soon enough pass. I’m convinced, now, that it isn’t going to resolve itself that easily. And, the truth of the matter is that if all 192 nations on this planet don’t pull together, put their petty differences aside and work together, making many and huge sacrifices in order to address the ravages of climate change, in another hundred years, the politics will be the least of our worries. And now that I’ve cheered you with my views … HUGS, my dear friend! ❤

    Liked by 5 people


    I’m going to resist the temptation to jump on my soapbox because you have made sufficient case. At its best politics is about policies and people. These days at its worst its about profit and personalities. Enough said.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Bette A. Stevens

    A sad state of affairs…Fortunately, many from the younger generations are speaking up and acting on their convictions… Hope is alive!

    Liked by 2 people

  • cagedunn

    Personally, I think there are too many lawyers in government. Need more people with callouses on their hands, knees, etc. Those from the trenches, not the moneyed background who’ve never struggled to find a dollar for a tin of soup.
    Or is that just me showing my teeth?

    Liked by 2 people

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