There’s lots of crowing by opponents of the right in both Australia and the US that the right are in grave trouble. It always looks that way. And in Australia it does look like oppositions spend a lot of time out of power. But there’s always a lot of luck involved. Howard was cruising to a loss in 2001 before the audacity of Howard’s hope with the Tampa and Sept 11 turned things around. Now John Quiggin says that the Libs can’t go anywhere if they don’t get more credible on greenhouse.
Likewise everyone’s laughing at the Republicans and Bruce Bartlett tells us they’ve got to get themselves together and get back into that middle ground.
All of which leads me to say . . . Perhaps.
I haven’t noticed that it matters that much whether parties are credible to the policy elite. If a government gets into trouble, they can get credible pretty quickly because the pressure comes on the other side. For instance the Lib’s slipping and sliding on greenhouse looks weak right now. But electricity prices haven’t started rising, firms haven’t started blaming the trading scheme for closing them down (whether it’s true or not). And that’s when their shilly shallying can come in handy. Because they can say “it wouldn’t have happened under our policies”.
And I recall the last US election. For a time there it looked like McCain and Miss Credibility (Not) Sarah Palin were on their way to overtaking Obama’s lead. Their mud was starting to stick and they were pegging Obama back. And then the GFC really took off and McCain proceeded to handle things very badly – as did Palin. Now those guys had about as little cred as you can imagine – on top of GWB’s extraordinary string of stuff ups. But they nearly made it over the line, and may well have done so if the GFC wasn’t so exquisitely timed.
So I’m afraid I think that, while it takes bad luck or bad government to lose an election, once a government is in trouble, Oppositions, even pretty hopeless ones can cobble together sufficient cred to survive a campaign of ‘he said – she said’ reporting and scramble over the line. But I would concede that being in as great a disarray and discomfort as they are right now obviously doesn’t help their chances.