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On Charlatans

Chris Bowen

Top 10 Best Quotes

“[The right-wing populist] narrative centres around division: dividing the world into the virtuous and non-virtuous. Convincing an electoral majority that they are among the virtuous, and that the non-virtuous - that is, free trade, China, migrants and refugees, and those who would impose meaningful action on climate change - need to be dealt with via tough policies. This right-wing populism turbocharges identity and grievance politics and weaponises it through the amplifying support of both social media and elements of the traditional mainstream media. (p.20-21)”

“Whether it be in the Latrobe Valley or anywhere else impacted by economic change, our message needs to be clear: we do not expect one town or one group of workers to bear the burden of economic transition. The mantra of the pandemic has been: 'We are all in this together.' The same concept needs to be at the centre of our compact with the Australian people. (pp.120-21)”

“When an earthquake hits, things don't usually quickly return to normal. The rise of the populist right-wing charlatan has been a political earthquake. We can't expect normal programming to simply resume and the political battle to return to more normal fault lines. The charlatans are going to be around for a while. But there's one incontrovertible truth when it comes to charlatans: they eventually get found out. (p.125)”

“These [swift COVID responses to health resourcing and homelessness] and other examples are important reminders of the power of government. There is an opportunity for parties like ours to argue that big problems shouldn't be consigned to the too-hard basket. Imagine if the same force of will was applied to Indigenous disadvantage, domestic violence or any of the myriad other social ills on which precious little progress has been made for decades. Imagine if governments applied the same 'fierce urgency of now' approach to difficult issues that have previously been relegated to the realm of the intractable. (pp.103-104)”

“The most important lesson [of the 2019 federal election loss] is the same one that parties of the centre left around the world are having to learn: our traditional support base cannot be taken for granted. Working-class voters have plenty of choice when it comes to their vote. (p.11)”

“The lesson from the [2019 Australian federal] election is not that we shouldn't have key points of policy difference with the opponents. It's that we need a policy agenda that better connects wtih the everyday lives of the people we are asking to vote for us. It's also the case that we need to much better distil our program down to key priorities. (p.103)”

“The first thing to do is recognise that the rise of charlatans is a symptom of people being left behind. Charlatans are a symptom of the ills in our society more than they are a cause. And we need to be as angry about the ills that are making some voters seek out an alternative as they themselves are. Charlatans have been successful because they have effectively sold false remedies to the people who feel that the existing political structure hasn't worked for them. Just as the original charlatans could only ply their wares because a lot of people were very ill, so the modern-day charlatans are selling false remedies to legitimate grievances. Charlatans have employed two of the most powerful emotive forces to further their aims: anger and fear. Even if voters are sceptical about the alleged solutions of the charlatans, the fact that the populists are seemingly angry on their behalf has registered with them in a positive way. (pp. 98-99)”

“The defining feature of world politics post the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has been the rise of right-wing populists, who have disrupted politics. It wasn't meant to be this way. Conventional wisdom at the time was that the GFC would lead to the 'social democratic moment'. The theory went that in the aftermath of the GFC - an event which exposed the dangers of relentless deregulation and fuelled an already existing rise of inequality - progressive parties, with a preference for appropriately calibrated regulation and redistribution, would benefit. Like much conventional wisdom, reality proved otherwise. Instead, it's been the right-wing populists' moment. The charlatans' moment. First, they disrupted their own parties, then they disrupted politics more broadly. (p.14-15)”

“Less trade is the last thing most countries need if they are to improve their economies and the standard of living of workers of a lower socio-economic status. Reducing immigration is one sure way to stymie economic growth. And then there are the policies that this populist mantra is designed to mask: cuts to essential services like health and education to fund tax cuts for higher income workers and corporations. It's like a pickpocket who arranges a distraction while happily fleecing his victims. (p.22)”

“It has become the central question of modern social democracy: why have working-class communities beome less supportive of our cause? Our sister parties around the world are grappling with the same question. The social-democratic project can recover but social democrats have to face up to why populist charlatans are succeeding and what we have to do to regain the initiative in rebuilding trust between urban, suburban and regional Labor communities. (p.7)”

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Book Keywords:

election, political-norms, political-disenfranchisement, government-priorities, elections, voting, centre-left, essential-services, political-priorities, climate-change-policy, government-compact-with-citizens, refugees, free-trade, social-democracy, fear, china, regulation, government-power, populism, grievance-politics, world-politics, working-class, voters, political-policy, gfc, social-disadvantage, political-structure, tax-cuts, covid-19, identity-politics, economic-transition, inequality, political-agenda, deregulation, social-media, climate-change, right-wing-populism, immigration, anger, corporations, societal-ills, social-issues, trade, mainstream-media, migrants, conventional-wisdom, redistribution

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