Sunday, November 25, 2007

U.S. Democratic Party leaders, please pay close attention!

Richard Blair, The Liberal Party of Australian Prime Minister John Howard received a true lashing at the polls yesterday. Not only did Howard lose his prime ministership, but he won’t even have a seat in the newly elected Aussie parliament. He’s done. Cooked. Fini.

Howard has long been a lapdog of George W. Bush, much in the mold of Tony Blair, and that hasn’t been sitting well with his constituency. Many pundits will be pointing to his unfettered support for Bush policies in the middle east, and the continued deployment of a few hundred Aussie combat troops in Iraq as the primary reason for his defeat. But it’s more than that - it’s the Howard administration’s total intransigence on almost all social and economic issues affecting the working class in Australia.

Also, consider this: while Australia suffers through its worst drought in a millennium, Howard continued to give mere lip service to the global warming debate, and the sense is that his refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol (thus acknowledging the issue) was part of the reason for his party’s trouncing at the ballot box. The newly elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has a nice majority to work with in Parliament, and has promised that his first act as Prime Minister will be to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Guess which country that leaves as the only major industrialized nation in the world that is holding out signing the treaty? The U.S. of A.

The depth of Howard’s defeat can’t be explained in mere references to populist-driven regime change. No, this was truly a “throw the bums out” movement. Even as recently as a couple of days ago, the world press was characterizing the election as too close to call. In the end, it wasn’t even close. A tidal wave of political change swept ashore down under, and rolled through the outback.

One of the most frustrating political dynamics for progressives in the U.S. is the sense that the Democratic Party leadership just. doesn’t. get. it. Poll after poll tells them the same thing that the Labor Party in Australia listened to: Get us out of Iraq, become a full global partner in dealing with climate change, pay attention to the working class back home, and return to the constitutional values that once defined our nation.

Lastly, let’s put one more reason on the table for John Howard’s crushing defeat: David Hicks’ detention at Guantanamo Bay.

The Hicks case brought home to Australians the topic of torture and unlawful detention in a way that America hasn’t had the opportunity to consider. For the better part of Hicks’ five year detention, the Howard administration was AWOL, and did nothing to press for his release. The absolutely kangaroo court nature of his legal proceedings played out nightly on Australian news, and Howard took much of the blame for lack of action on behalf of one of his citizens.

You won’t hear much about the Hicks case today as the U.S. press does a post election analysis. But it was a big - very big- piece of Howard’s defeat.

So, what about it, U.S. Democratic Party leaders? What about Guantanamo? What about torture and illegal wiretapping and cell phone triangulation? Yeah, those pesky little “civil liberty” issues. Ms. Clinton? Mr. Obama? Mr. Edwards? [[crickets]]

Damn. Maybe Ron Paul is actually onto something.

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