Friday, March 23, 2007

Conservative dilemmas

On ABC Gippsland I was asked to comment on whether the government was as right-wing commentator Andrew Bolt claimed on the ABC's Insiders showing the scent of decay (bolt repeats the claim here). It seems curious, after all in the real world of policy the government is active; consider the Murray-Darling initiative. But I suspect that the Australian right, when they occasionally look above their worship of Howard, would like the Liberals to be reformed on the lines of the US Republicans towards a Christian moral conservatism. Yet in the US this agenda is running out of steam. One sign is the shift in voter identification towards the Democrats. But it is also apparent in public opinion according to a recent Pew survey:
Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway. At the same time, many of the key trends that nurtured the Republican resurgence in the mid-1990s have moderated, according to Pew's longitudinal measures of the public's basic political, social and economic values. The proportion of Americans who support traditional social values has edged downward since 1994, while the proportion of Americans expressing strong personal religious commitment also has declined modestly.
There remains strong support for many conservative positions but opinion is shifting. In many respects contemporary conservatives have to be radicals concerned with reversing current trends to moral collapse, but what if voters don't feel that life is getting worse. Still however a long way to go in the US where the Texas House of Representatives has voted against Governor Perry's praiseworthy initiative to add HPV vaccination (which parents can opt out of) against cervical cancer to required immunisations for children.

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