For the average battler, idealism is but a word.
For philosophers, idealism is a concept, locked in an ivory tower. To those who are politically minded, idealism is a transcendent principle, a practice derived from “Idea” and the Greek Idein, ‘to see.’ It is idealism which guides Labor in progress and reform and likewise, it should be idealism which guides you.
Most come into the sphere of the progressive left’s political space by way of a desire to generate the abstract conception of change; change from the status quo, change towards social justice, change for a truly competitive economy without the uncontrolled, rampant path of toxic free-market rationalism.
As politically minded individuals, we should strive for the highest forms of political participation, beyond singular commitments to protests, marches and grassroots activism. We can acknowledge their worth but avenues for change are not zero sum gains. We can also aspire to render broad change through law, as policymakers and lawmakers.
From this class of people, it can be easy to forget lawyers despite them representing an overwhelming number of current federal and state politicians with 2010 Lawyers Weekly article “Lawyers lean to the left” bringing to light the extensive representation of Lawyers in the Labor party over any other political grouping. In Australia’s 43rd government, 27% of Labor Party MPs had qualifications in law according to the Parliamentary Library with Terri Butler, Michelle Rowland and Murray Watt, amongst others aligned with this consistency.
Making change through law is certainly imperfect. Most of the time, like with same sex marriage, reform moves at a glacial pace, lagging behind social values and consensus. But we recognise its importance because it underpins the heart of democracy: legitimate, due process and we acknowledge that without these democratic boundaries, we fall into the trap of heavy handed, knee-jerk policy. The types of which Mike Baird exemplified through lockout laws and the greyhound ban before his timely retirement.
Perhaps at the heart of this relationship between law and politics is the nature of change itself. Most would not disagree that the law is one avenue of change, if not the primary avenue for legislators. It follows that to create change, we need social phenomena. Change can begin with hope, a hope for an alternative then births political change.
This hope underpins idealism.
You’ve probably heard of Idealism’s ugly half-brother, pragmatism, you’ve heard that it trumps idealism with its rigidity and its shuffling loyalties for the sake of power and power alone. You’ll hear ‘fiscally pragmatic’ often if you talk with those people who dress up self-interest and ideology in the quasi-science of the economic laissez faire.
A party of idealism is a party which accepts perfection is unrealistic but aims to believe in better.
The Australian Labor Party protects and wins victories for workers’ rights, fighting the rule of law infringing ABCC and restoring the employment of the CUB55 in 2016 because idealistically, unions represent a higher form of political participation in the labour movement and are an unmatched means of advocacy and protection against political apathy, the very same cancer which ravaged democracies in 2016.
The ALP fights for sustainable bottom lines in welfare because it recognises the consequences of our privilege and birth lottery, that riches are not the sole product of hard work and homelessness, poverty and destitution is not born of a lack of such.
The ALP fight for government intervention and Keynesian demand-side stimulation because it places trust in the people and institutions of our democracy and not in an uncontrolled, amoral market.
The ALP argue for housing affordability reform because uncontrolled investment creates housing bubbles while locking out otherwise deserving people across the spectrum from decent living and transport standards.
The ALP are the architects of our modern multicultural Australia and believe the average citizen, small business owner does it tougher than multinational corporations and deserve a quality, future proofed NBN.
The ALP is a party of all classes because its ideals are principles of reform and fairness, not socio-economically defined market maxims.
If you believe that economic prosperity and fairness can coexist in the search for measured and meaningful progress; if you agree that government has a role to pursue the balance of the two and if you are disappointed, frustrated, angry even that there are more similarities between “jobs and growth” and “stop the boats” than there will ever be differences, the broad church of Australian Labor is the party for you.