The South Australian Liberal revivial

The strong performance by the Liberals in the South Australian election campaign has surprised many and driven Labor to resort to a highly negative campaign as shown. One clear pattern in recent Australian politics has been the recasting of the national Liberals as a strongly conservative party. Malcolm Turnbull’s downfall was evidence of this. Here there is a parallel with the US Republicans. However this shift is not uniform if the US Republicans were at all levels as their national leadership than they would unable to win elections in states such as New Jersey. In the US it is standard for pollsters to distinguish ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ voters. A quick overview of the South Australian Liberal campaign suggests that they are trying to appeal to ‘liberal’ voters. The official biography of Liberal leader Isobel Redmond declares:

A life-long sense of community service and social justice led Isobel Redmond to enter politics in 2002 as the State MP representing the people of Heysen in the Adelaide Hills – this was after a long career in law and raising her three children. Born and raised in the very outskirts of Sydney Isobel’s parents instilled in her and her four siblings a strong work ethic and understanding for people less fortunate than themselves. Isobel continues to take a great interest in ageing and disability issues as a result of the volunteer work she and her family undertook when she was younger.

This is the female terrain of Judith Brett’s ‘moral middle class’ or Jennifer Cashmore’s A Chance in Life. Such themes are even echoed in part in the Liberal’s’ prisons policy (pdf). Labor has targetted this, claiming that Redmond is ‘soft on crime’. Will the Liberals’ appeal assist them to make up ground among ‘liberals’? Labor governments have prided themselves on their ruthless and hard headed approach to campaigning (see this alleged masterstroke from Tasmania) but is this style eventually counterproductive? The federal Liberals are headed in a different direction. The question is how much of a new Liberal liberalism would survive in government. The actions of the new Republican Governor of New Jersey suggest not much:

Christopher J. Christie, the first Republican elected governor of New Jersey in 12 years, unveiled a $29.3 billion budget on Tuesday that relies almost exclusively on spending cuts to reverse the sagging fortunes of a state he sees as battered by the recession and choking on its tax burden…To close a deficit that he asserted was approaching $11 billion, Governor Christie called for the layoffs of 1,300 state workers, closings of state psychiatric institutions, an $820 million cut in aid to public schools, and nearly a half-billion dollars less in aid to towns and cities. He also suspended until May 2011 a popular property-tax rebate program, breaking one of his own campaign promises. Democrats were quick to characterize Mr. Christie’s proposal as falling disproportionately on the backs of the middle class, the poor, the elderly, schoolchildren, college students and inner-city residents, while leaving largely unscathed the wealthy and most businesses.

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