Changing the Opposition

John Quiggen reports on the Australian political situation, where it seems that not only has Labor been voted in and the Liberals (that's the right-wing party in Australia) been given the boot, but in a somewhat unexpected move, the Liberals are tacking to the left and bringing in a new, much more moderate leader.

Here in the states, there's a lot of optimism about the Democratic Part's changes in 2008, and also a lot of debate about which presidential candidate could best take advantage of the opportunity that seems to be presenting itself. In domestic terms, though, I think the key issue will be less about which Democrat wins than it will be about what lesson the Republicans decide to take away from it. The 2006 midterms wound up not having resulted in very much progressive legislation not only because of Bush's steadfast obstructionism, but because the congressional GOP as a whole succeeded in convincing itself that they'd lost primarily because of insufficiently dogmatic adherence to small-government orthodoxy. Meanwhile, the American political system makes it frighteningly easy for minorities to obstruct progressive reform. This same problem will be in place in 2009 unless Republican defeat convinces some non-trivial number of Republicans that they need to take a new direction.