Tea Party Down Under

by Adam Brickley
Weekly Standard
December 14, 2009

It turns out that insurgent, populist Conservatives are scoring victories Down Under as well as in America — and Tea Partiers and Palinistas here in the States would do well to watch conservative Aussie leader Tony Abbott very closely.

Abbott became leader of the right-wing Liberal party two weeks ago after the party’s parliamentary representatives turfed ex-leader Malcolm Turnbull in the wake of Climategate. Turnbull had announced that the party would support Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s cap-and-trade legislation, causing a rebellion in his caucus, and he was tossed in favor of Abbott — a right winger and climate change skeptic.

The media labeled Abbott’s elevation a disaster. After all, they said, the public was fully behind Rudd’s climate schemes — and a blunt-talking “extremist” like Abbott would force moderates out of the Liberal party and cause the vote to collapse. Turnbull supposedly proved them right by “going rogue,” posting a blog that labelled Abbott’s climate stands “bulls**t”. He further declared that any future Liberal climate plan would be “a con.”

Abbott’s goose was cooked before he even found his feet.

Or was it? Polls last week showed that 23 percent of Australians think Abbott would be a better Prime Minister than Rudd — 9 percent higher than Turnbull’s dismal 14 percent showing the previous week — and the Liberal party has picked up 4 percent in general election polls. Today, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports the Abbott is trying to reclaim the working-class voters who put Liberal John Howard in the Prime Minister’s office and then deserted him to install Rudd — and he has the message to do it. Rudd is pushing a huge cap-and-tax plan, and many Australians are rightly worried about whether the prime minister is too busy playing global-warming-messiah to worry about the recession. These Joe Six Pack voters were once known as “Howard’s battlers”, and as of today their new leader has re-christened them “Abbott’s Army”. In a way — it’s like watching the Tea Party movement swallow the GOP from the inside, and the polls are going up rather than down as a result.

If this is a collapse, then parties should collapse more often.

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