The last several days have been dark ones down under.
When Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott lost his job in a mid-month leadership challenge, no shortage of folks were overjoyed. Abbott, having served in his country’s top parliamentary slot for just under two years, was unpopular with many crowds after pursuing one of the most conservative agendas in modern Australian history.
His successor is Malcolm Turnbull, an unabashed moderate who counters Abbott on, among other things, global warming, same-sex marriage, and whether or not their nation should continue under the British Crown.
Some might choose to look at this situation in a purely political sense. At face value, what took place is none too extraordinary. The centrist beat the right-winger and with a new sheriff comes new rules. However, the sacking of Abbott has far wider implications than what can be seen through routine election analyses.
In 1999, Australia voted in favor remaining under the Queen’s dominion. However, the outcome was not a blowout. Roughly 55 percent opted to keep the monarchy, while just over 45 percent chose to declare a republic. The anti-monarchist position won decisively in Australia’s Capitol Territory.
The ringleader of republican forces was - quelle surprise - Malcolm Turnbull. Although his team lost, he charged full speed into the realm of elected public office. One must give him credit for persistence; when others would have backed down, he doubled down.
Turnbull is a man well suited for leadership in what has become the mainstream of Anglocentric civilization. He would find success among the corridors of Washington no less easily than he does in Canberra. Turnbull made a fortune as a trial lawyer, supports fashionable sociopolitical causes, and seems to have few hangups about breaking with tradition. Abbott, on the other hand, is a career civil servant, far from wealthy, and a passionate defender of Australian heritage.
Earlier this year, he amended Australia’s honors system so knighthoods could be reinstated. This was met with negative reaction not only in most media cliques, but broad swaths of the general populace. When Abbott selected Prince Philip for a knighthood, public furor erupted from which the former was unable to recover.
Such a scenario begs the question of how much longer a country can remain monarchical if its people not only disdain royal honors, but refuse to honor royalty itself.
Sure enough, Turnbull called for scrapping knighthoods within one week of assuming office and has a deputy who shares his republican zeal. Abbott’s loss was sad on many levels, whether his efforts to aggressively combat illegal immigration, strategically cut taxes, bolster national security, or promote the English language are considered.
However, his attempt to cement union with the British monarchy was valiant on a grand scale. Abbott gladly diminished the prospects for his own career so Australia could prosper in the long run. This, more than any other of the man’s accomplishments, proves how qualified he was for being prime minister. To stand against popular trends for long-term public interests is the epitome of civic service. History will show that when push came to shove, Abbott chose the long, rocky, and honorable path as opposed to the easy way out.
This did not secure him a long tenure as prime minister, but it allowed for a legacy of grace and dignity.
Now, Australia is left with the increasing prospect of republicanism. Its citizenry would do well to realize the turbulence most, if not all, countries experience after abolishing royal rule. Even republican governance’s indisputable success story - the United States - went through numerous hostilities against indigenous peoples followed by a full-scale civil war, itself succeeded by further armed conflict. Need the sad sagas of Ireland and South Africa be mentioned?
Hopefully Australians will realize that humans never know the true value of something until it is gone.
Abbott did all he could to promote Western civilization and just governance under the Crown. This cost him dearly. Such can be the price of fidelity to one’s values and country. Still, he walks away a man of integrity, which is much more than can be said about most politicians.
There is someone deserving a knighthood.
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at email@example.com