Milloy: Where is the progressive counter-narrative to Pierre Poilievre?

Important question:

As a member of the lefty chattering class, I am not sure what concerns me more — the rise of Pierre Poilievre or the inability of his progressive critics to develop a positive counter-narrative to his message.

The main criticism of Poilievre from those on the left seems to be that he is an angry “nut” with bad policies.  Although he may be popular in some circles, they would argue that it tends to be with the not-too-bright and ill-informed. Clever people from downtown Toronto, Ottawa or other urban centres have no time for him.

Labelling someone early in the game can work — just ask Michael Ignatieff — and maybe Poilievre is simply a crank who is just stirring up a small fringe minority.

Perhaps there is nothing to worry about.

I am not convinced.

From where I sit, it looks like Pierre Poilievre has touched a nerve. Canadians are angry, exhausted, divided, and looking for answers. Poilievre is providing them. He has developed a narrative about how he would address Canada’s problems that has caused many to sit up and take notice.

So, how is the other side responding?

Let’s start with one of Poilievre’s most high-profile promises. If he were prime minister, he would fire the governor of the Bank of Canada for his apparent role in fuelling inflation.

“Ridiculous,” say his critics. Not only does Poilievre not understand basic economics but look at what happened when John Diefenbaker tried to fire the governor of the Bank of Canada in 1961.

I have news for my progressive friends: When gas is two bucks a litre and grown children can’t afford to move out of their parents’ basement, ordinary Canadians aren’t interested in history lessons from the 1960s.

Then there is the issue of restoring freedom — the central theme of Poilievre’s campaign. Once again, the progressive crowd dismisses Poilievre as touting crazy conspiracy theories about big government.

But hold on a minute. I don’t care where you stand on vaccines, lockdowns, and masks. The last few years has seen an unprecedented intrusion in the lives of Canadians. Governments have regulated and curtailed our activities like never before, all in the name of public health.

Where are the limits? What is the progressive narrative about the need to balance personal freedom with the common good? Where is there even an acknowledgement from those on the left that the level of government control over our lives during the pandemic has been scary for some Canadians and they understand and respect that fact?

What about natural resource development and climate change?

Like all Conservative leadership candidates, Poilievre is anxious to cancel the carbon tax and dramatically increase oil and gas production in Canada.

What is the left’s counter-narrative?

Why has it been seemingly impossible for progressives to develop an easy-to-understand story that explains how we need to balance short-term support for oil and gas through actions like the purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and approval of Bay du Nord offshore oil project with a long-term commitment to fighting climate change?

How about defunding the CBC — a proposal that always produces cheers at any Conservative gathering?

Sure, enjoying Canada’s national network over a latte or a glass of chardonnay is a favourite pastime for of every small “l” liberal.  But is it just me, or has the CBC increasingly turned into a northern version of MSNBC? Shouldn’t we be concerned that a big chunk of the population doesn’t see their views represented on our taxpayer-funded network?

Could progressives not even acknowledge the concern and outline a way forward to improve our national broadcaster?

And yes, Poilievre appears to have an unhealthy obsession with cryptocurrency and its growing presence in the global economy.

But how do progressives propose to deal with this emerging phenomenon?

What about the whole style of political discourse these days?

Poilievre claims that Canada is governed by “a small group of ruling elites who claim to possess moral superiority and the burden of instructing the rest of us how to live our lives.”

Ouch!

Be honest all you lefties. Can you see how some people (maybe many people) might view progressives that way? What are you going to do about presenting a style of leadership that is open, prepared to listen and willing to engage?

I end this column where I began. Maybe Pierre Poilievre will ultimately go nowhere.

But be careful. Although I am generally uncomfortable with comparisons between Canadian politicians and Donald Trump, there is one point worth making: Love him or hate him, Trump entered the 2016 election campaign with a whole range of easy-to-understand solutions to the apparent ills facing the United States. The counter-narrative from the other side left much to be desired.

Let’s not make the same mistake here in Canada.

Source: Where is the progressive counter-narrative to Pierre Poilievre?

‘Don’ of a new era: the rise of Peter Thiel as a US rightwing power player

Of note – campaign finance is another issue that will likely never be addressed. The lack of limits worked in Obama’s favour, so this is not just a problem of Republicans:

As the Republican party primaries play out across the US, the most sought after endorsement is still that of former president Donald Trump. But when it comes to the most vital part of any American campaign – money – another figure is emerging on the right of US politics who is becoming equally significant.

Peter Thiel, the PayPal founder and former CEO referred to as the “don” of the original PayPal Mafia, a group that included Elon Musk, is establishing himself as a serious power player in American rightwing politics by wielding the power of his vast fortune.

Thiel, styled as a billionaire venture capitalist and tech entrepreneur, plowed more than $10m into a super Pac backing Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance, winner of the Republican primary for an open US Senate seat in Ohio.

In August, Thiel’s backing will be tested again after shoveling $13.5m into supporting former employee Blake Masters in the competitive Republican primary for a US Senate seat in Arizona.

In both cases, Thiel put his money – his fortune is said to be in the region of $6bn – to work behind candidates aligned with Trump’s rightwing agenda in 2022 midterm elections.

Earlier this year Thiel stepped down from the board of Meta, where he was an early investor, and a long-serving adviser to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “He wanted to avoid being a distraction for Facebook,” according to a person close to Thiel. With his resignation effective this month, the source told Forbes Thiel “thinks that the Republican Party can advance the Trump agenda and he wants to do what he can to support that”.

But there is a vacuum between the entire Trump political agenda and Trump himself. The former president is apt to pick candidates who promote his stolen election claims. Not all succeed, or are likely to. Trump’s failed backing of David Perdue as Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate looked like a personal grudge against incumbent Brian Kemp, who certified Biden’s victory in 2020.

Thiel has so far helped Trump in that cause. By some estimates, Thiel has donated $25m to 15 other 2022 candidates for the House and Senate towing the Trump election fraud line.

Max Chafkin, author of a Thiel biography The Contrarian, recently wrote that Thiel’s goal is to turn Trump’s ideology into “a disciplined political platform”.

For Thiel, endorsements of Vance and Masters follow a $300,000 donation to the campaign of far-right senator Josh Hawley, then running for Missouri attorney general in 2016. He also donated money to help elect Trump president and spoke on his behalf at the Republican National Convention.

Thiel stayed out of the 2020 presidential race, and instead donated $2.1m to a super Pac supporting Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who had proposed creating a registry of Muslim immigrants and visitors.

“Thiel is one of the conservative mega donors that has the ability to shore up candidates that might need additional support. His spending is targeted, and his ability to spend millions can be impactful,” said Sheila Krumholz at OpenSecrets.

Where Trump often seems a single issue political player – obsessed with the 2020 election loss – Thiel is more flexible in terms of what he represents, Krumholz says.

“Often when your’e talking about party-aligned mega donors, there are people who have been active over decades, so Peter Thiel strikes a different figure. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s tech industry, super successful, seen as part of the young conservative vanguard that some see as more libertarian.”

“They might be Trump supporters, but their portfolio and persona waters down the connection,” Krumholz adds.

Like Musk, Thiel – called The Dungeon Master by the New York Review of Books because he played Dungeons & Dragons as a teenager and read J R R Tolkien’s trilogy ten times – presents a contradictory picture.

As an undergraduate, he founded the conservative Stanford Review and in 1995 Thiel co-authored The Diversity Myth, a book sought to question the impact of multiculturalism and “political correctness” at California’s higher education campuses.

“In bright and shallow Silicon Valley, Thiel stands apart for having retained the intellectual intensity of a bookish undergraduate, a quality that has made him an object of curiosity, admiration and mockery,” the publication noted. “He stands apart amid the orthodoxy of tech-world social progressivism as much for his conservatism as for his business sense.”

In 2003, he co-founded Palantir Technologies, a firm to assist US intelligence agencies with counter-terrorism operations. Last week, Palantir and global commodities trader Trafigura announced a new target market to track carbon emissions for the oil, gas, refined metals and concentrates sector. BP is among its customers, Reuters reported.

Thiel’s libertarian credentials, and perhaps in part his political motivation, were publicly established in 2016 when he funded an invasion of privacy lawsuit filed by Terry Bollea, known more popularly as wrestler Hulk Hogan, that bankrupted the news website Gawker. Gawker had outed Thiel in 2007.

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel said of the action. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest … I thought it was worth fighting back.”

Funding the lawsuit, he added, was one of the “greater philanthropic things that I’ve done”.

Blake Masters, the 35-year-old Republican US senate candidate for Arizona, has suggested he would use the same tactics after the Arizona Mirror wrote that the candidate opposes abortion rights and “wants to allow states to ban contraception use”. Masters denies those positions.

“If I get any free time after winning my elections then you’re getting sued, and I’ll easily prove actual malice,” Masters wrote in a tweet. “Gawker found out the hard way and you will too.”

Thiel, said Masters last year, “sees some promise in me, but he knows I’ll be an independent-minded senator”.

But the larger issue for Thiel may be intense cross-currents in the US around big tech, social media and free speech. His former PayPal Mafia consigliere, Musk, is also emerging from the tech world to have influence in US politics – where he recently declared himself a Republican – and free speech as he seeks to buy the social media platform Twitter.

“[Tech is] an industry on the cutting edge and caught in the cross-fire between the parties,” said Krumholz. “There are a lot of conflicting pressures on and from within the tech industry. Tech is being scapegoated by some, and held responsible for much of the disinformation, excesses of social media, partisan division and radicalization we see.”

Moira Weigel, a professor of communications at Northeastern University and a founding editor of Logic magazine, argued in the New Republic last year that Thiel does not really matter: “What matters about him is whom he connects.”

At the moment, Thiel is busy connecting some of the most rightwing politicians in recent US history.

Source: ‘Don’ of a new era: the rise of Peter Thiel as a US rightwing power player

ICYMI – Milloy: Election debates lack real purpose

Valid questioning:

Why do we have leaders’ debates?

I suspect those Ontarians who bothered to watch the most-recent election debate are probably asking themselves that very question — I know that I am.

It’s not that there was anything particularly wrong with the evening and kudos to both the moderators and party leaders for all trying their best. But what was its purpose?

Theoretically, I guess it was to inform voters on the various policy positions of the parties to allow us to compare-and-contrast them.

However, all I remember hearing was the intention of each leader to throw huge amounts of money at every problem in a way that was somehow different from the boatloads of money promised by their competitor. Did I really talk that way when I was in politics?

In fairness, there were a few points of contrast, such as the differing party positions on the building of Highway 413. But let’s be honest, examples like these were few and far between.

Why does this happen?

Mainly it’s because public policy has become unbelievably complex and there are no easy solutions, yet voters have short attention spans. The only way for a party to get noticed is to simplify issues, couch them in bumper-sticker slogans and ditch the nuance.

Source: Election debates lack real purpose

Ben Woodfinden: Canada’s aspiring populists aren’t actually all that radical – Immigration excerpt

Really telling, whether in Conservative leadership debates or this commentary by Woodfinden, just how much all political parties, save for the PPC, have accepted the Century Initiative, the business community, education institutions and other stakeholders arguments for increased immigration to address – or at least to appear to address – an aging population.

While on the right, this may reflect a legitimate fear of being labelled xenophobic or worse, on the left, hard to know why they raise some of the issues raised by increased immigration in terms of labour markets and conditions, housing shortages, environmental and climate impacts etc.

Of course, real politik, the battleground ridings in the GTHA and BC’s lower mainland, with majority or significant numbers of immigrant and visible minority voters, also plays a role.

But these voters also face the same issues and impact of large scale immigration, and I continue to wonder whether the current approach and general consensus will eventually fracture and change, as Woodfinden also raises:

Take for example the great third rail of Canadian politics: immigration. The rise of populism around the world in recent years has many competing explanations, but a backlash against immigration is a common theme in many of the places where populism has caused political earthquakes. Poilievre, nor any major candidate in the race, has shown absolutely no interest in touching this. If anything, he has embraced the political consensus on immigration, making direct pitches and appeals to immigrant communities. This is probably a political necessity given the diversity of ridings in areas like Toronto that anyone who seeks to form government will need to win.

But the present moment might well be ripe for a populist challenge to this consensus. Over 400,000 immigrants came to Canada in 2021, a record number. Yet with a growing number of younger Canadians locked out of the housing market due to skyrocketing prices, it’s a surprise a political entrepreneur hasn’t come along and pointed out, rightly or wrongly, that Canada’s high levels of immigration are likely to keep propping up what feels like to many young Canadians an economic pyramid scheme in which they pay exorbitant amounts for housing so that older Canadians can retire. While the PPC have made such arguments, and while you will see this kind of sentiment bubble up on social media, it’s probably more widespread than we generally assume. Thus far no serious figure has challenged the status quo on this.

Arguments in favour of immigration are often framed in economic terms. We need these immigrants to keep our population growing and to support an ageing society. But of course, there’s no real challenge or consideration given to the deeper reasons why this is necessary, namely that we need high levels of immigration because of our low, and still falling, birth rates. Our discourse and politics just accept this as a fact, given that having children is just entirely a personal choice. To suggest that we should try and increase birth rates and that having children and starting families are a social good we actively ought to be promoting and encouraging seems beyond the pale. Bring this up, and you’ll inevitably get accused of being a secret white supremacist who is motivated by racial concerns. For many pundits and elites, it is simply inconceivable that anyone could be legitimately concerned about birth rates and thus must have ulterior motives. 

Source: Ben Woodfinden: Canada’s aspiring populists aren’t actually all that radical

Australia: How did Labor get it so wrong in Fowler?

One of the more interesting vignettes in Australia’s election, when parachuting a “white” candidate backfired spectacularly:

“Dai! Dai!” they cry from across the street, followed by a burst of Vietnamese.

As their new federal member walks through the Cabramatta mall in a pink suit, people run across to shake her hand and hug her. In Gough Whitlam Place, Dai Le is mobbed by fans and poses for photos.

After a lacklustre election, the electorate feels, well, alive.

There’s shock and amazement that a once seven-year-old girl who fled Vietnam by boat will be heading off to Canberra to represent them. Who would have thought?

“We are the little people,” one man said. “But this time we raised our voice.”

“Kristina Keneally sucks!” a tradesman in fluro added.

It’s all a wild dream, according to Ms Le, who spoke to 7.30 a day after Labor’s parachute candidate Kristina Keneally conceded defeat.

On Saturday night, as the results trickled in from booths across Fowler in Sydney’s south-west, the veteran local councillor’s pleasant surprise turned to shock and disbelief.

The very safe Labor seat of Fowler hadn’t changed hands since its creation in 1984, and it had been held by retiring incumbent Chris Hayes on a margin of 14 per cent. Ms Le won narrowly but enjoyed a 16 per cent swing towards her. A political miracle.

“I sat there in my lounge room and I literally looked back at that time when I was on a boat in the middle of the ocean with my mum and two younger sisters and I remember how fearful that moment was for me because we thought we were going to die,” she said.

If the 2022 election was about flipping the bird to the major parties, then the result in Fowler speaks volumes.

Questions over Labor’s multicultural legacy

Gough Whitlam is known as the father of multiculturalism and used to live in Cabramatta. There’s a monument to his legacy in the heart of the mall. It sits in front of a cafe where old men gather around tables to play traditional games.

So how did Labor, the purported party of multiculturalism and the working class — the people of Fowler are both — get it so wrong?

Some blame Labor’s Sussex Street headquarters, but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese played his part by backing Kristina Keneally over young lawyer Tu Le.

Ms Keneally would have lost her Senate spot had she stayed there, and needed a safe Labor seat to return to parliament.

Mr Albanese described Ms Keneally — a white American-born woman from the northern beaches, who did not grow up in south-west Sydney — as a great migrant success story.

Ms Keneally was unavailable for an interview.

“Fowler shows that people will see through cynical ploys,” Per Capita research fellow and Labor member Osmond Chiu told 7.30.

“They don’t want to be taken for granted, and when they feel like you’re taking them for granted they’re more than willing to punish you.”

The Keneally decision sparked an outcry among some Labor MPs at the time, but the increase in cultural diversity among Labor ranks in this parliament is likely to neutralise the anger.

Either way, the end result is the first Vietnamese Australian to enter federal parliament, just not on the Labor side.

‘I’m not a teal’, Dai Le declares

If blue seats turned teal this election, then Dai Le’s Fowler turned from red to pink. The politics are slightly the same, the shade is a little different.

The disparity between Fowler and the wealthy teal electorates in Sydney and Melbourne is stark.

In Fowler, most voters are labourers and tradespeople, clerical and administrative workers, machinery operators and drivers, and community service workers.

According to the 2016 Census, 60 per cent were born overseas while more than 80 per cent have parents born overseas. Vietnamese is the top ancestry.

The rise of the independents in Australia is as uneven as our country.

Dai Le is quick to say she’s not a teal even though she’s happy to sit down and “have a cup of tea” with them.

How she votes in the parliament remains to be seen.

When 7.30 asked her how she would vote on climate change, Ms Le seemed to echo Scott Morrison who told 7.30 last week that some parts of the country were more insulated to such issues.

“The teal independents are very much affluent,” Ms Le said. “They have other things they can worry about. Whereas my electorate, we actually have to worry about food on the table.

“The climate change issue, the federal ICAC issue, I mean it is important to us, but for me it’s our health system.

“For me, the priority would be how to make sure there is affordable and cheap electricity prices.”

As she embarks on a life in the Canberra bubble, Ms Le is promising to be her same, genuine self, and on the streets of Fowler, voters are proud that one of their own will be in parliament.

“Menzies, years ago, talked about the forgotten people,” said Than Nguyen, a former Vietnamese community leader.

“We are the real forgotten people.”

Politicians be warned. If you forget the voters, they’ll remember.

Source: How did Labor get it so wrong in Fowler?

Soutphommasane: We’re about to have Australia’s most diverse parliament yet – but there’s still a long way to go

Still less than 10 percent (Canada is just under 16 percent):

The message from Saturday’s election result was clear: Australians want a political reset. And not just about issues such as government integrity and climate change.

While much attention has been directed at the teal wave of independents, another change is taking place to the composition of parliament.

This Australian parliament is shaping to be the most diverse yet in its ethnic and cultural background. Capital Hill is about to see a substantial injection of colour.

A fitting result

Newly elected members Sally Sitou, Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Sam Lim, Zaneta Mascarenhas, Cassandra Fernando and Dai Le will bolster the non-European representation of the House of Representatives.

The Indigenous ranks of parliament are also set to swell, with the additions of Marion Scrymgour and Gordon Reid in the House, and Jacinta Price in the Senate.

In many ways, it is a fitting result to an election that had its share of controversies about representation.

Labor caused consternation when it parachuted former Senator (and ex-NSW Premier) Kristina Keneally into its then safe southwest Sydney electorate of Fowler, cruelling the prospects of local Vietnamese-Australian lawyer Tu Le.

A second captain’s pick from Anthony Albanese, millionaire former political adviser Andrew Charlton, ran in the western Sydney seat of Parramatta, to the chagrin of local aspirants from multicultural backgrounds.

Such picks left many asking, with good reason: if worthy candidates from non-European backgrounds can’t get preselected in multicultural electorates like Fowler and Parramatta, how can we get more diversity into parliament?

It’s a question that lingers, notwithstanding what this election has delivered.

Still a long way to go

If it feels like a surge of diversity will flow through the parliament, it’s only because there was so little to begin with.

While those from a non-European background make up an estimated 21% of the Australian population, they made up just a tiny fraction of the 46th parliament.

The 47th parliament could feature up to 13 parliamentarians with a non-European, non-Indigenous background, along with nine or ten (depending on final results) parliamentarians of Indigenous background.

That may sound like a strong result – it’s certainly an improvement, and better than how many other major institutions in Australian society perform – but we should put it in perspective.

It would still mean just a tiny fraction of the parliament (no more than 10%) having a non-European or Indigenous background – far less than what you’d see if the parliament actually reflected our society accurately. Australia lags significantly behind the US, UK and Canada and New Zealand.

It’s not all about numbers, of course. We can’t judge the calibre of our parliament solely on whether it’s proportionately representative.

Yet when sections of society can’t see themselves within our public institutions, it is a problem. The very legitimacy, and quality, of those institutions can suffer

A new phase?

For a long time, calls for greater multicultural diversity in politics have been typically greeted with indifference. It wasn’t an urgent problem. Gender diversity was a higher priority. Political parties didn’t feel the pressure from those supposedly excluded from the system.

That now has changed. Labor has been brutally punished for its Fowler move. A swing of more than 16% saw the seat fall to independent (and former Liberal) Dai Le.

Clearly, being from a non-European background isn’t the electoral handicap political parties have sometimes feared.

Something generational is at play. Australia may once have comfortably accepted that newer arrivals were expected to play the role of the grateful supplicant in their “host society”.

But the children and grandchildren of yesterday’s migrants don’t see themselves as guests in their own country. They aren’t happy refugees or cheerful migrants who are content to know their place. They’re taking their lead less from the Anh Dos of the world and more from the AOCs (Democrat politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) of US politics.

Demands about access and equity for non-English speaking background people have been replaced with calls for the equal treatment of “people of colour” and for attention to “intersectionality”.

We could be seeing a new phase in the evolution of Australia’s multicultural project.

While a triumph in many respects, Australian multiculturalism has to date fallen short on several counts. A celebration of cultural diversity has never been accompanied by a sharing of Anglo-Celtic institutional power. Or, for that matter, by a full reckoning with racial inequality and injustice.

That’s why it will be interesting to observe this new parliament. The very presence of this new ethnic and cultural diversity will, in subtle and not so subtle ways, be felt in Canberra and beyond.

Critical mass matters. It is hard, for example, to imagine a more diverse parliament trying to wind back racial hatred laws (as parliament has done on more than one occasion with respect to the Racial Discrimination Act).

Or to imagine a diverse parliament indulging other periodic bouts of race politics (think of the scaremongering over African gangs in Melbourne or the McCarthyist targeting of Chinese-Australians).

All such excesses become much harder when the people debating such matters have skin in the game.

So don’t mistake the wave of multicultural politicians for being a mere symbolic adornment in Canberra – like the political equivalent of having exotic foods and festivals.

It may feel like a subplot for now, but this could end up being just be as significant as the teal revolution.

Source: We’re about to have Australia’s most diverse parliament yet – but there’s still a long way to go

Australia election: Why is Australia’s parliament so white?

More on the lack of diversity among Australian politiciants:

Australia is one of the most multicultural nations in the world, but it’s a different story in the country’s politics, where 96% of federal lawmakers are white.

With this year’s election, political parties did have a window to slightly improve this. But they chose not to in most cases, critics say.

Tu Le grew up the child of Vietnamese refugees in Fowler, a south-west Sydney electorate far from the city’s beaches, and one of the poorest urban areas in the country.

The 30-year-old works as a community lawyer for refugees and migrants newly arrived to the area.

Last year, she was pre-selected by the Labor Party to run in the nation’s most multicultural seat. But then party bosses side-lined her for a white woman.

It would take Kristina Kenneally four hours on public transport – ferry, train, bus, and another bus – to get to Fowler from her home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where she lived on an island.

Furious locals questioned what ties she had to the area, but as one of Labor’s most prominent politicians, she was granted the traditionally Labor-voting seat.

Ms Le only learned she’d been replaced on the night newspapers went to print with the story.

“I was conveniently left off the invitation to the party meeting the next day,” she told the BBC.

Despite backlash – including a Facebook group where locals campaigned to stop Ms Kenneally’s appointment – Labor pushed through the deal.

“If this scenario had played out in Britain or the United States, it would not be acceptable,” says Dr Tim Soutphomassane, director of the Sydney Policy Lab and Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner.

“But in Australia, there is a sense that you can still maintain the status quo with very limited social and political consequences.”

An insiders’ game

At least one in five Australians have a non-European background and speak a language at home other than English, according to the last census in 2016.

Some 49% of the population was born or has a parent who was born overseas. In the past 20 years, migrants from Australia’s Asian neighbours have eclipsed those from the UK.

But the parliament looks almost as white as it did in the days of the “White Australia” policy – when from 1901 to the 1970s, the nation banned non-white immigrants.

“We simply do not see our multicultural character represented in anything remotely close to proportionate form in our political institutions,” says Dr Soutphomassane.

Compared to other Western multicultural democracies, Australia also lags far behind.

The numbers below include Indigenous Australians, who did not gain suffrage until the 1960s, and only saw their first lower house MP elected in 2010. Non-white candidates often acknowledge that any progress was first made by Aboriginal Australians.

Racial representation: parliament v population. .  .

Two decades ago, Australia and the UK had comparably low representation. But UK political parties – responding to campaigns from diverse members – pledged to act on the problem.

“The British Conservative Party is currently light years ahead of either of the major Australian political parties when it comes to race and representation,” says Dr Soutphomassane.

Progress in diverse political representation. .  .

So why hasn’t Australia changed?

Observers say Australia’s political system is more closed-door than other democracies. Nearly all candidates chosen by the major parties tend to be members who’ve risen through the ranks. Often they’ve worked as staffers to existing MPs.

Ms Le said she’d have no way into the political class if she hadn’t been sponsored by Fowler’s retiring MP – a white, older male.

Labor has taken small structural steps recently – passing commitments in a state caucus last year, and selecting two Chinese-Australian candidates for winnable seats in Sydney.

But it was “one step forward and two steps back”, says party member and activist Osmond Chiu, when just weeks after the backlash to Ms Le’s case, Labor “parachuted in” another white candidate to a multicultural heartland.

Andrew Charlton, a former adviser to ex-PM Kevin Rudd, lived in a harbour mansion in Sydney’s east where he ran a consultancy.

His selection scuppered the anticipated races of at least three diverse candidates from the area which has large Indian and Chinese diasporas.

Source: Australia election: Why is Australia’s parliament so white?

Australia: Only 8% of candidates in the federal election come from diverse backgrounds

Sharp contrast with Canada where 18.2 percent of candidates in the 2021 election were visible minorities:

Of the more than 1,200 candidates in the federal election running for the House of Representatives, just 100 (8%) come from backgrounds other than Anglo-Australian, according to lists compiled by the Asian Australian Alliance and the Centre of Multicultural Political Engagement, Literacy and Leadership (Compell). There are a further 38 diverse candidates running for the Senate.

According to a report from the Australian Human Rights Commission, 21% of Australians have a non-European background and 3% an Indigenous background. Over 300 ancestries were identified in the 2016 census.

Less than 40% (458) of House candidates are women, with the majority of both diverse and female candidates running as challengers in safe or fairly safe seats.

The most commonly self-identified occupations of House candidates – aside from existing members of parliament – are managers, retirees and businesspeople. Some unique occupations listed by only a single candidate include a showman, firearms dealer, humanitarian and a carbon farmer.

Although the lists are largely crowdsourced via public statements and may not be comprehensive, as the Australian Electoral Commission does not release extensive data on candidates’ backgrounds, they nevertheless highlight a troubling lack of diversity in the electionwhich “is not representative of multicultural Australia”.

Most diverse candidates are challenging safe seats

Of the 100 House candidates identified as having backgrounds other than Anglo-Australian, just three are incumbents in safe seats: the Coalition’s Ian Goodenough and Labor’s Linda Burney and Peter Khalil. Labor’s Cassandra Fernando is contesting in Wills, where the incumbent Labor MP Anthony Byrne is retiring.

The majority of diverse candidates identified (57%) are challengers in safe or fairly safe seats. There are five diverse candidates in marginal seats currently held by their parties, including Dave Sharma, Marion Scrymgour, Gladys Liu, Anne Aly and Ken Wyatt.

Tharini Apolline Rouwette, the CEO of Compell, says the makeup of parliament and the candidates isn’t reflective of Australian society. “Our parliament is not representative of multicultural Australia, hence why we need diversity in parliament and also to normalise people of colour in leadership roles,” she says.

“There’s about 4% of people of colour in parliament today which is hardly reflective of the Australian population that is increasingly becoming multicultural. The information collected, together with my follow-up surveys/interviews will hopefully be the beginning of a long journey towards collecting information that will inform us as to what we need to do to get more people of colour elected in government.”

More candidates in marginal seats are women

Men make up over 60% of the 1,204 candidates in the AEC list, according to data compiled by Ben Raue at the Tallyroom. There are four non-binary candidates and two whose gender is unknown.

Both major parties have more male than female candidates, but a slightly higher percentage of Labor candidates are women.

Women make up a disproportionate share of candidates in marginal seats – they represent 38% of all candidates, but 41.6% of candidates in marginal seats. Some 263 women (56%) are running as challengers in safe or fairly safe seats.

Occupations

Guardian Australia compiled a list of occupations from the AEC candidate list, identifying around 254 unique occupations – an approximation, since there can be a number of names for the same occupation, and some candidates wrote expansive job titles such as “finance” or “business”.

Aside from member of parliament, lawyers, directors, consultants, managers, retirees and the unemployed are among the biggest occupations for candidates in the major parties. Some candidates who quit their jobs to contest the election are listed as unemployed.

The most common occupations for Coalition members are lawyers and directors (nine each), followed closely by consultants and managers. Union officials and unemployed are the top occupations for Labor candidates.

Students and retirees make up the top occupations for the Greens. Managers and businesspeople top the list for the United Australia Party, and retirees is the most common occupation listed for One Nation.

Source: Only 8% of candidates in the federal election come from diverse backgrounds

Essential Politics: Conspiracy theories and fear of immigrants — a toxic mix

Of interest:

Long before Donald Trump descended the escalator to the Trump Tower lobby, where he launched his presidential campaign while labelling Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” immigration was playing a powerful role in motivating voters on the right. 

Along with opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the effort to stop immigration reform played a key role in mobilizing conservatives during President Obama‘s two terms in office. Trump’s candidacy further ramped up the political focus on immigration. It also allowed the spread of toxic falsehoods that had been largely relegated to the fringe. 

One of the most pernicious is “replacement theory” — the belief that elites (big business, Democratic politicians, major cultural figures and so on) have conspired to bring large numbers of immigrants to the U.S. in a deliberate effort to replace the native-born population with more subservient people who will work for less and vote for whom they’re told. 

The conspiracy theory, which gained traction on the far right in Europe before being popularized in the U.S., has become a staple of some prominent cable television figures, like the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who said last year that President Biden wanted to increase immigration “to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the Third World.” 

Nearly 1 in 5 American adults believe at least a couple of major tenets of that theory, according to a new study by the National Opinion Research Center and the Associated Press.

Conspiracy theories shape debate

Overall, the American public remains largely supportive of immigration, the new AP-NORC study found. Almost 40% of Americans say that the number of immigrants to the U.S. should remain at about its current level, while 25% think the number of immigrants should be larger.

On the opposite side, 36% say the number of immigrants should be reduced, with 19% saying the number should be cut “a lot.”

Support for immigration restriction continues as a major rallying cry for the Republican base. A lot of the rhetorical ire is aimed at illegal border crossing, but proposals to dramatically reduce legal immigration became official White House policy under Trump and remain important to a large segment of his core supporters.

The AP-NORC study asked a number of questions about immigration, including two aimed specifically at gauging how many Americans believe key parts of the replacement theory.

One question asked whether “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.” About 1 in 7 Americans said they “strongly agree” with that. A similar share said they were “very concerned” that “native-born Americans are losing economic, political, and cultural influence in this country because of the growing population of immigrants.”

About 1 in 5 Americans agreed with both of those tenets of replacement theory to at least some extent.

That finding was “the primary thing that got our attention” when analyzing the study results, said Jennifer Benz of NORC. The researchers were struck by “how widespread the belief in these core arguments of replacement theory are,” Benz said. “It’s a larger segment of the population than we may have expected going into this who have this fairly extreme view.”

Viewers of right-wing media especially shared those ideas: Among people who said they most often watch OANN or Newsmax, 45% agreed with both of the replacement theory statements. So did 31% of Fox viewers, compared with 13% of CNN viewers. 

That reflects the partisan nature of America’s immigration debate, but something else as well: The most widespread support for ideas central to replacement theory came from Americans who believe generally in conspiracy theories. 

The AP-NORC study used a four-question scale to measure a person’s belief in conspiracies. The questions ask if people believe that major events are the result of plots executed in secret, whether events are directed by a small group of powerful people, whether those people are unknown to voters and whether that group controls the outcome of elections, wars, economic recessions and other major developments. 

People who scored high on the conspiracy scale were, in most respects, very similar to the general population. Comparing the 25% who scored highest on the conspiracy scale with the rest of America, the researchers found no significant difference by education, for example — people who believe events are controlled by a small, secret cabal are as likely to have graduated from college as people who don’t hold that view, Benz noted. There’s no gap by income either.

There is a partisan gap — people who score high on the conspiracy scale tend more often to be Republicans and also tend to identify as evangelical Christians. That’s especially true of white conspiracy thinkers, who are heavily Republican and voted for Trump in 2020.

By contrast, people of color who scored high on the conspiracy scale were more likely to identify as Democrats. They were as likely to have not voted as to have cast a ballot for Biden.

Conspiratorial thinkers also are more likely to believe they have been discriminated against, the study found. That’s especially notable among white conspiracy thinkers: On a series of questions about whether people believe they have been discriminated against because of their race in seeking jobs, getting a house, obtaining healthcare or applying for a loan, about 30% of white conspiracy thinkers said yes, compared with about 10% of whites who aren’t conspiracy thinkers.

That reflects a basic fact about people who believe in conspiracies, said political science professor Joe Uscinski of the University of Miami, who for the past decade has studied conspiracy theories and who developed the scale the AP-NORC study used to measure conspiratorial thinking.

A certain set of personality traits seems to lead some people to believe in conspiracies, and belief that they belong to an oppressed group is a part of that, Uscinski said.

The fact that belief in conspiracy grows out of personality types helps explain “why we find so much stability” in the share of the population that’s conspiracy minded, he said. A decade of work has produced no evidence for the widespread belief that conspiracy theories are on the rise, he noted.

“A lot of people worry that people see these ideas on cable TV or on the internet and start believing in conspiracies, but that’s not really how this works,” Uscinski said. “People are either disposed to those particular kinds of ideas or they’re not.” 

The problem for American democracy is not so much the share of Americans who believe in conspiracies, but the political system’s weakened ability to keep those ideas at bay.

Through most of U.S. history, “we’ve generally counted on our elites” not to exploit conspiratorial thinking among their followers, Uscinski noted. Some presidents “would dabble in conspiracy theories now and then,” but mostly, they steered clear of them. Trump changed all that.

“The way that Trump used it was at a level and volume we haven’t seen,” he said. And other ambitious political figures have taken note. “They’ve seen the prototype,” he said. “It works.” 

Source: Essential Politics: Conspiracy theories and fear of immigrants — a toxic mix

 

Sears: Where did Canada’s famed civility go?

Indeed:

At the beginning of this century, former senator Hugh Segal — one of the few politicians with genuine friendships across all party lines — made a plea. 

He called it “In Defence of Civility,” a book published in 2000. Segal is the classic Red Tory, fiscally somewhat conservative, socially somewhat liberal, always courteous.

His plea made the usual case for civility, especially in public discourse where its absence lets dangerous currents rise to the surface. Segal’s effort to put his finger in the dike came at a time when the decline in civility was still in its “Your mother wears army boots” phase. We had yet to fall to today’s depths, where a would-be prime minister once thought it was acceptable to attack a former Liberal party leader as the father of a policy “tar baby.” (Pierre Poilievre was forced to apologize.) 

Or when an MP can accuse Justin Trudeau of behaving like a “dictator,” although in his defence one must also note that Stephen Harper was regularly denounced as a “traitor” by opponents. 

This might all be dismissed as adolescent male schoolyard dissing, except for what comes in its wake. Some bewildered Canadians — like the man who rammed his pickup truck into Rideau Hall with the intention of killing the prime minister — decide traitors need to be “dealt” with. Or the vicious attacks on politicians — more often on women than men — on social media; attacks frequently include obscene death threats. 

Alberta MLA Shannon Phillips discovered that Lethbridge police officers had illegally surveilled her every move, stalked her into restaurants and then published covert photographs of her online, along with threatening commentary. All are still unpunished and on salary. 

Canadians used to be famous, even mocked, for our civility, tolerance and willingness to compromise, as in the joke: “How do you get a Canadian to apologize? Stomp on his toe.” 

It’s hard to nail down why a commitment to such an unusually mild public discourse emerged. 

It is certainly not part of the social DNA of Americans, Aussies or Brits, with whom we share so much common history. Traditional French incivility may be more elegantly framed, but no less wounding for all that. 

Perhaps it grew out of the need to pretend to show respect to Canada’s Indigenous peoples, so as to beguile them into suicidal concessions. 

Or as David Graeber and David Wengrow point out in “The Dawn of Everything,” their monumental study of how we made the societal choices we did, the influence may have been that of Indigenous peoples on Canadian settlers. Contrary to myth, most Indigenous peoples had deeply layered forms of courtesy and respect for each other and their enemies, communicating with eloquent formality on state occasions. It was part of how they kept the peace. 

Another thread in our effort to maintain a harmonious social tapestry must have been the often painful relationship between francophone and anglophone Canadians, and the need to manage mutual concessions on an ongoing basis. 

It is evident in our remarkable, if unfathomable, success at growing from an all-white, somewhat racist and socially rigid community to the most successful multicultural nation on earth. Surprisingly, we are in overwhelming agreement that adding nearly five million immigrants and refugees a decade — more than ten per cent of our population — to Canada is a good and necessary thing.

So why are we so frivolously throwing away the social civility that makes that possible? We can blame Americans, social media, too little civics education and more. More usefully, we might examine why over-the-top insults are so appealing to most of us, when directed at a hated target, or why Trudeau knows that when he uses insulting invective to attack his opponents, it’s a political plus for him. And then putting ourselves in the shoes of those under attack — especially the young and the vulnerable — before spitting a slur at someone who offends us. 

Perhaps even acknowledging that we are the masters of the fate of our civility, and that “ the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Source: Where did Canada’s famed civility go?