So, an offensive menu was printed up for a Mal Brough fundraiser. And we are, naturally, in quite a flap about it.
And yes, fair enough. It was gross. It was sexist. It was nasty. It was a shitty joke, and it wasn't even original.
And look, I have no problem with anyone asserting that Mal Brough is a sleazebag. There's the whole James Ashby affair, and oh yeah, that little thing called the NT Intervention. Believe me, I need no convincing that Mal Brough is a first-class dickferret of the very highest purity.
But here's the thing about menugate, or quailgate, or big red boxgate or whatever bullshit it's being called:
Tony Abbott will still win.
It has been blindingly obvious for some time now that the Labor Party is going to go down in flames in September. And yet somehow, the True Believers keep seizing on moments like Brough's menu, claiming that this time,. THIS time, the Coalition's goose is truly cooked. The voters simply won't stand for such appalling misogyny, the True Believers squawk. Women won't be treated like this anymore, they scream. Now that the Liberals have shown their TRUE colours, Julia Gillard's dignity and toughness and determination will win the day and all will be well.
I am sorry, True Believers: all will not be well. And every time you say that THIS will be the straw that breaks the camel's back, a new batch of polls come out and show that the camel is doing a buck-and-wing all over Labor's expiring corpse.
The reason we keep going through this is that the True Believers, justifiably appalled as they are by Tony Abbott's appalling character, cannot conceive of any other explanation for Labor's subterranean popularity than that the electorate simply doesn't UNDERSTAND how bad the Opposition is. Once they do, the story goes, everything will turn around.
Once again, I am sorry to be the one to break it to you: they know. Everyone knows. They've all seen him, they've all heard him, they've all read about him. And they either don't care, or see what you think are character flaws as virtues.
When someone you hate does something you disapprove of, it's seductively easy to assume that this will cause everyone else to hate them too, because you've been hating them all along. It's seductively easy to assume that everyone else thinks the way you do, and the only reason they disagree with you is they don't have all the facts.
Sadly, sometimes people have all the facts and still think you're wrong.
Sadly, sometimes people are bastards, and they like it when other bastards are in charge.
Sadly, Tony Abbott is going to be prime minister, and whatever miracle it might take to prevent that is going to have to be a hell of a lot more volcanic than a shitty sexist joke on a menu of murky antecedents.
And given that fact, why should we keep on making excuses for Julia Gillard's hapless Washington Generals of a government?
The fact is, Gillard ain't all that. Her asylum seeker policy is brutality embraced in the name of expediency. She made a mess of the mining tax in her haste to cave to big business and get the issue off her desk. She is continuing our pal Brough's racist intervention. She gave a nice big smack to single parents the same day she electrified the world by bawling out Abbott in parliament. Her stance on marriage equality enrages pretty much all her staunchest supporters. And her government has done many good and admirable things, she is singularly bad at turning them to her advantage, which, whether it be the media's fault, or Kevin Rudd's, or Abbott's, is nonetheless a fact.
So why should we on the nominally "left" side of politics be as eager as we have been to gloss over all that?
Well obviously it's because, for all her faults, Gillard is better than Abbott. No doubt about that. Though Labor has done some stuff badly, the Coalition will be ten times worse, and we have to fall in behind Gillard to stop Abbott getting in at any cost. Wise words.
But the fact is, Abbott IS going to get in. So what's the point of being "better than Abbott" when you're not going to win anyway?
While Labor had a chance, it made sense to bend our energies to supporting them, to keep the Liberals at bay. But that's failed. The Liberals have stormed the parapet. The shields are down. Labor is dead in the water.
So trying to keep Abbott out is now a lost cause. And any attempt to downplay the failings of Labor in the interests of realpolitik is no longer a brave stab at bringing about the lesser of two evils, but rather an exercise in futility that simply continues the relentless lowering of standards in political discourse.
Consider: if you are backing "crappy" because it's better than "crappier", when "crappy" has no chance of winning, you're not staving off "crappier", you're just ensuring that "crappy" becomes the best we can ever hope for.
So why not stop standing up for "crappy"? Why not starting calling out bad behaviour, bad policy, bad government, no matter which party is engaging in it? The partisan battle is over, let's redirect our energies into demanding better from ALL sides of politics. Let's make it clear that we want to raise standards.
Most of all, let's rediscover our integrity and commit to standing up, in all circumstances, for what we really believe, for what we think is RIGHT, rather than desperately trying to rationalise support for better-than-Abbott.
And hey, we've got preferential voting. We'll be putting better-than-Abbott ahead of Abbott anyway. Don't worry, as long as better-than-Abbott has a lower number next to it on your ballot paper, you've discharged your responsibilities to the temple of low expectations.
But when we're out in the world, fighting and arguing and debating and lobbying and tweeting and blogging and emailing ministers, let's stop shouting our disapproval of "them" while we whisper our disapproval of "us". Let's make clear that right is right, and wrong is wrong, and while political realities obviously have always to be recognised, we're not going to support any politician who flat-out reverses the two.
Right now, my fellow travellers on the Lost Bus Of The Left, we are down. We're outnumbered and outgunned. But even at this moment we can be heard, and we can make clear what we want. Even with our worst enemy in the Lodge, we can articulate how we want this country to be better.
And when the worm turns and we find ourselves up and about again, we can make sure that those who would represent us know that we want them to fight for what's right, not just for what's slightly less wrong.
We're about to get beaten. But if we can stand up, we don't have to be broken as well.