“There’s a difference between simple and deceptively simple” – Frasier Crane describing a painting of a big red dot
Here’s Tony Abbott’s entire game plan for how he’ll deal with the challenges of government and failing to deliver on all of the ridiculous and unrealistic promises he’s made if he wins the next federal election summed up in six simple words: “If I win, it’s Labor’s fault!”
No complex models. No sophisticated policy proposals. No thought about dealing with the big issues and problems of everyday Australians and their families. No concern for how he’ll deal with the bureaucracy in Canberra. Just six simple words: “If I win, it’s Labor’s fault!”
He’s like the kid who takes the test, avoids the questions he doesn’t know how to answer, gets full marks and beats all of the smart kids because he defined the rules. That’s sort of how life is in a way. If you stick to your circle of competence and let the chips fall where they may, all the intelligent people who are caught in the anxiety and complexity of issues get confused by the simplicity of what you’re doing and you’re able to beat them.
Here’s his plan for dealing with not being able to repeal the carbon tax: Devious and undemocratic Labor who were controlled by the Greens. MANDATE, MANDATE, MANDATE!
Here’s his plan for dealing with not being able to repeal the mining tax: Australian’s support it, Labor messed it up! (this type of communication resonates with something extremely irrational).
Here’s his plan for dealing with not being able to stop the boats: Who cares, we’re in government now. It’s no longer an issue.
Here’s his plan for dealing with failing to deliver a budget surplus: Labor broke their promise to get the budget back to surplus. Labor deceptively hid the true extent of how bad things were.
Here’s his plan for dealing with the moment when he’ll inevitably cave in to pressure from within the Liberal Party to reintroduce WorkChoices: Look how Labor treats unions and their own constituents who do the right thing.
And on and on and on. I could probably predict their entire manifesto but this type of stuff gets very tiring and tedious. In short, it’s all about Labor in the past tense.
There’s nothing ingenious about any of the above. The concept is that complex and seemingly intelligent people trip over themselves when they encounter something that ignores them and is simple. If all of this fails for some reason, he’ll simply fall back to two simple words painted in a negative hue: “Labor” and “Tax” (he’ll never say ALP).
This sort of one dimensional tactical game playing is entirely dependent on the ALP falling for it, getting drawn in by it and emotionally abandoning people in order to fight it. If the ALP attempt to use these tactics back at Abbott, they lose because he’s controlling the frame of the communication.
It’s so ridiculously simple that ALP supporters who are dealing with what’s happening in the real world react to it with extreme anger which gives him more and more openings to exploit. In his world, it’s all about stockpiling ammunition in order to return fire at his opponents.
If you’re someone who supports the ALP or progressive politics, this can seem very disheartening but it’s not really. When you objectify what he’s doing it loses most of its power and becomes irrelevant.
What people want besides competent government with sensible policies is an interpersonal relationship, peace of mind and emotional reassurance. These are also very simple concepts and they’re far more consistent with the views and values of the ALP than they are of the Liberal Party.
The electorate has bought the ALP’s social inclusion agenda since Mark Latham became leader of the party in 2004. On the balance, people agree with things like building social capital, improving the health and education systems, making sure people on lower incomes are included and aren’t left behind, the democratic right to collectively bargain at a workplace and investing in the greater good of humanity. The problems have always revolved around Labor scaring people away from what Australians desire which usually revolves around the values underneath economic prosperity, personal achievement and the various benefits that come with those things.
In the end “Tony Abbott” is a simple idea that emotionally triggers Labor who right now are so absorbed in the complexity, detail and process of issues that they can’t see the forest from the trees. When you realise this simple point, the idea the conservatives have put all of their faith in loses all of its power.