The Lesson From Rudd's Sudden Collapse

Daniel Berman tries to find lessons from the remarkable demise of the Australian prime minister:

In many ways Rudd’s election and subsequent problems mirrored those of another candidate of change, and his difficulties may well preview the challenges Obama would have faced had he buckled and failed to pass health-care in February, as many observers urged him to do. And the lesson from Australia seems to be a reinforcement of the axiom that “one who stands for nothing, is nothing.” ...

Kevin Rudd took over as one of Australia’s most popular politicians, but things seemed to move much less rapidly than many of his supporters had hoped. Rudd reiterated his determination to keep Australian troops in Afghanistan, and went so far as to block a number of progressive policies, intervening to invalidate a law passed by the local government of the Australian Capital Territory legalizing Gay Marriage.

On the major issue, global warming, and its policy heart, the Emissions Trading Scheme or ETS, effectively identical Obama’s proposed “Cap and Trade” system, the government seemed in no hurry.

Now, Labour is reduced to running for re-election by demonizing their opponent as a far right boogeyman. Voters, one suspects, are more sophisticated than that. Of course, Australia's parliamentary system means that Rudd had far more leverage than Obama and his failure to move on his agenda was therefore more damning. But the warning signs are there ...