Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Green & Gold Lantern Theory of the Prime Ministership

Ezra Klein details the Green Lantern Theory of the American presidency, something which the US Left uses constantly to bash Barack Obama. In short, the theory is that even though the US Constitution built in all sorts of safeguards against executive power including vetoes all over the place, filibusters, congressional conventions and other rules to stop the President shooting lightning bolts from his fingertips... if the President just closed his eyes and pointed his superhero equipment at the baddies they would be vanquished and all of the comic book theorists' pet policies would be enacted by magical Marvel fiat. Thus you have wailing like this Jesse Eisinger piece, attacking Obama from the left for not passing financial industry reform laws, as if that was going to be possible via a click of the fingers.

In Australia, the talk is similar when the Prime Minister can't get his agenda implemented, but mostly we talk about a democratic "mandate". For instance, Alan Moran has a whinge today about Tony Abbott's failure to bone the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and other green instruments of the Gillard administration, which were established through acts of Parliament and would require the consent of either the Greens or Clive Palmer for repeal bills to pass the Senate. His view is that the green industry has "sandbagged" the CEFC and other encouragers of environmental investments which the right dismisses as "green hedge funds". The comments are filled with utter stupidity, ranging from calls for Cyprus-style bank account confiscation to Thailand-style martial law.

If Tony Abbott has a mandate, it is to implement Labor's policies, at least for this term. That is the corner he boxed himself into by promising not to cut most of the Labor spending areas. He will have to deal with Palmer as the founding fathers intended back in 1901. There are good reasons why America, England and Australia have safeguards in their constitutions to give competing mandates to politicians in different chambers, and bestow veto powers upon them. The end result should be a centrist compromise, if both sides are willing to make concessions. This is not Russia where you can send Clive to the gulag, much as the right might wish. Abbott is not a superhero, and nor is he a supervillain. He will have to find common ground with at least one other member of humanity on this one.

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