Into the darkness
Greg Sheridan has posted the first in what's likely to be an avalanche of materials - articles, books, interviews etc. - with a theme of "W(h)ither the Liberals?". He identifies for the first time why the Howard government is not worth your vote on 24 November, and why conservatives were wrong to regard its flaws as small and its virtues as over-arching and generally wotrthwhile.
The appointment of Keith Windschuttle to the editorship of Quadrant is not so much a line in the sand as a bovine pawing the ground. It had to go to a man who'd accept (next to) no money, as Frank Devine points out:
Coleman, the longest serving Quadrant editor, says what's needed is a civilised and educated person, versed in political and literary matters, with "a sense of the crisis of our times and an ability to identify the issues to live and die for"
There'll be nothing collegial about Quadrant. Under Windschuttle it will be less quad, more rant.
He will have to define what he means about "culture wars": to regard culture as a battlefield, it means you require nothing of it but desolation and silence, where once the combatants move on the only beneficiaries are scavengers:
Consider Wagner's Tannhauser, that myth of the sacred and profane now on show at the Sydney Opera House. "There's a guy painted in gold (who) stands there with a giant erection - symbolises lust or something," Windschuttle said yesterday.
This is an attempt to conscript people who don't like opera and don't go out of their way to experience art in an attempt to cut the power of art to confront and question. If you see a fair bit of art, things like that aren't shocking and you can develop a response to it. If you heed the rabble-rouser's call, this sort of thing gives you apoplexy and will probably do so again. Like a vaccine containing that which it fights against, art can not only help you deal with other art, it can help you deal with life. Speaking of life, how does Windschuttle help you deal with Iraq, Muslim fundamentalist-nihilism, or infrastructure?
I'm not confident of Keith's ability to arm you with much: Fabrications was based on a feeble premise. I'm still not proud of violence against Aborigines. Windschuttle has been singularly ineffective at the ABC, despite a decade of the most conservative government since Lyons. I stand by what I said on Andrew Norton's blog about this: Windschuttle will need to be big enough to allow himself to be outshone by his contributors (which will be fine as long as he limits himself to refugees from News Ltd papers, such as Tony Abbott).
There are two broad areas that conservatives need to think about. It's too early to take positions: those who take positions now will be exhausted when the victory is won. Sometimes you just have to sit and think, once the pace and the burdens of office are taken away. Maybe art will help. Any position you'll take will be more defensible once you've done some thinking. The power of keeping your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut is greatly underestimated, particularly in building support.
First of all, the ridiculous numbers of old communists in their ranks. The "long march through the institutions" has taken them into the vacated ranks of the God-Queen-and-country mob, who have welcomed them with open arms and killed fatted calves etc., to the point where the old reds have the numbers and they've run out of fatted calves. What they haven't left behind is a) their Hegelian certainty that history moves like a train and they're in the van, baby; and b) that the left is a real and potent force, as they thought they'd been in their day: wrong on both counts.
Second, the division between free-market libertarians and ban-thrash-and-imprison conservatives is real. Foreign clowns like Grover Norquist and David Cameron think they can paper over this, and they're wrong. You can celebrate an environment where you work hard and reap the rewards, but if you get home and your daughter is behaving like Britney Spears then you've fucked up so badly that a tax cut just won't do.
Then there's the liberals. They have to bring together the remnants of the Democrats, the GetUp! and NotHappyJohn joiners and persuade them that their best hope is to join with George Brandis and Chris Pyne. The less said the better about that, the better.
At least Greg hasn't gone the full Albrechtsen:
THIS election campaign is far from over and John Howard could yet win.
Every other sentiment in that article rails against this figleaf. It calls to mind the mournful Bonnie Prince Billy:
Did you know how much I love you
There's a hope that somehow you
You'll save me from this darkness
Liberals should be made of sterner stuff and not simply yearning to be saved by Big Daddy.
Sheridan offers no contribution to the debate, other than shoulda/ woulda/ coulda. So while he sees the darkness approaching, he won't be able to sit by the fire and describe to any as might sit with him what the landscape might look like once glad confident morning comes again.