They Did It; Why Can’t We?

November 25, 2007

On Saturday, the voters of Australia finally voted Prime Minister John Howard out of office.  

Howard, for those of you who don’t know, was the dominant political personality in Australia for the past decade.  He led Australia’s Liberal Party (the equivalent of our Republican Party) and continually outsmarted and outmaneuvered the hapless leaders of the country’s Labour Party.  He was, aside from Tony Blair, George Bush’s most reliable ally in the Iraq War.  He refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, making Australia one of only two Western industrialized nations to opt of the treaty.  He was the bane of Australia’s workers, he cynically coopted Australia’s burgeoning religious right for his own political purposes, using their issues when it suited his needs, and he was willing to do pretty much anything else that was necessary to hold onto and consolidate his political power.

In short, if you want to understand who John Howard is and was, imagine George Bush, but with a bit more native intelligence and no term limits.  I know:  it’s not a pretty picture.

Finally, though, after four terms of John Howard as their leader, the people of Australia said “Enough!”  And they said it emphatically.  The lower house of the Australian parliament, majority control of which determines who leads as Prime Minister, is made up of 150 seats.  On Saturday, Howard’s ruling coalition had a net loss of 22, going from an 82 seat majority to a sixty seat minority.  And best of all, John Howard appears to have lost his local parliament seat, as well.  Not only has he been voted out as Prime Minister, he’s been voted out of the government entirely!  The new Prime Minister-elect, Kevin Rudd, has already vowed to sign Kyoto and improve industrial relations (we’d call it labor relations).  It remains to be seen what he’ll do about Australia’s military presence in Iraq.

After spending a year living in Australia and listening to my progressive friends lament of ever getting rid of John Howard, I find these results incredibly encouraging.  I know that George Bush won’t be on the ballot next November, but the fate of his right-wing agenda will be.  And if the good people Down Under can give such a resounding victory to their progressive political party, maybe, just maybe, we can do the same.

Fingers crossed.

Today’s music:  Roy Hargrove (Diamond in the Rough)


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