Campaign Diary: Rust belt politics

Premier Jay Weatherill at our forum on Friday. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

It’s the economy…

My research suggests that Rust Belt populism is rooted in the region’s loss of locally owned industry — not simply because of economics but because of how that loss hollowed out the community structure that once connected people to politics, leaving residents alienated and resentful. – John Pacewicz in The Washington Post

There are many aspects of the Pacewicz analysis, written in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election and mentioned above, that resonate in South Australia.

There’s also this: “Instead of seeing politics as a contest between working people and the business class, many voters seethed with undirected populist resentment at a technocratic, corporate-friendly elite.”

In the final of InDaily’s leaders’ forums, recorded on Friday night, we asked Premier Jay Weatherill to explain the rise of Nick Xenophon and an increasing disaffection with the mainstream political parties.

He started with a general observation: “The world is in fragments now and it’s unsurprising that the political alliances would also be in fragments. I just think this is the modern condition.”

While Weatherill said he had tried to restore people’s faith in politics through his “participatory democracy” measures – such as citizen’s juries and the “fund my community” initiatives – we asked why this didn’t prevent the fragmentation of voting intentions.

He put that down to economic problems – the economic “transformation” of South Australia and the “massive threat” that posed to jobs: the loss of “jobs for life”, the casualisation of the workforce and other changes.

“All of these disruptions that are occurring as a consequence of this change in economic activity causes people to feel upset and angry,” he said. “And, of course, they’re going to reflect some of that on government.”

Naturally, he doesn’t believe that Steven Marshall’s Liberals have persuaded the community of its alternative program – a “vacuum” that he says led to Xenophon seizing an opportunity to try to stake a claim to Lower House seats.

Listen to a snapshot of the interview here.

Meanwhile, in a rust belt pub near you…

Several pieces of research and analysis over the years has shown that poker machines hit poorer suburbs…

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