I would like to see a genuine contest of values-based ideas
The longer you vote, the more you realise there is no perfect party, no perfect politician, no-one who will offer you everything you want as a voter. Nothing even comes close, to be honest.
I suppose that’s the point. If there was one, of either, we’d have done away with voting by now. We’re human; it’s never going to happen.
That state of affairs impacts, though, on how parties campaign, and, to be fair, on how their campaigns are covered. At times it seems like appealing to voters can be far more about pulling the other parties down than presenting a powerful, aspirational vision of one’s own. I’m talking across the board here.
I saw some comments this week I thought wete remarkably astute, while to a certain extent stating the bleeding obvious. Maybe because it’s so clearly staring us in the face that we don’t even think to mention it. Both major parties are focused around middle income New Zealand, because that’s the largest voting bloc. I remember when John Key led National back to power in 2008, the columns that were written about how National had succeeded by becoming Labourlite. It swings both ways.
So we truck on with two major parties, slightly Left and slightly Right of Centre, and we return first-, and usually second-term governments, until we get to the point where it’s time for a change, essentially. That’s an oversimplification, but, I think, broadly the case.
In 2005, after his divisive Orewa speech, Don Brash hammered the concept of what ‘‘mainstream New Zealand’’ wanted. When Helen Clark stepped up to the podium after it was confirmed Labour had squeaked home on election night, her first words were: ‘‘Thank you, mainstream New Zealand’’. That was plainly a dig at Don, but nevertheless reflective of electoral realities.
It’s all so terribly predictable. And I write this as someone very much part of middle income NZ.
So I started thinking about an electoral wishlist. Hence the self-explanatory content warning. I’m not here to say how I’m going to vote, or to endorse a party or a politician, though I can’t stop you reading between the lines.
What I would like to see, though, is a genuine contest of ideas, but more importantly, of fundamental values. Yes, the latter are there to be discerned, to some extent, from the performances we see on the campaign trail, from the tactics they’re willing to employ to attract votes, but how many Kiwis have time to study those, especially in a year like 2020? As much as I would never vote for him or his party, or buy in to its values, I have to admire David Seymour for his clarity and consistency. Though National’s problems will have played a part too, I suspect his ‘‘upfrontness’’ is a factor in ACT’s current polling.
In some ways I’d really like elections to consist purely of parties saying ‘‘these are our core values, and you vote for us, or you don’t vote for us, based on them’’. Voters would be able to assess the claims against parties’ past performances. Then forget about all the other campaign rigmarole. I know it’s not realistic. But hey, it’s a wishlist, wishful thinking by definition.
Related to that, I’d like to have an election in which the term ‘‘lolly scramble’’ isn’t heard – from the media – in relation to policy; where we aren’t encouraged to vote based purely on individual self-interest, without regard for how the policies we’re effectively endorsing affect New Zealanders across the socio-economic spectrum. Electoral bribes are an effective tool or politicians wouldn’t continue to roll them out. But we should think about what they don’t say, as well as what they do.
I’d like to vote knowing that the term ‘‘hard-working New Zealanders’’ refers to all those who work hard, rather than against the backdrop of policy which suggests the term refers to
In some ways I’d really like elections to consist purely of parties saying ‘‘these are our core values, and you vote for us, or you don’t vote for us, based on them’’.
middle and high income earners. Small business owners are, for the most part, incredibly hardworking, but so are cleaners, carers, supermarket checkout operators, teacher aides, and others earning minimum, or just above minimum, wage, striving to keep body and soul together for themselves and those who depend on them. Many highearning hard-working New Zealanders have got there with considerable help from minimum wage-earning hard-working New Zealanders.
More than anything, I want to vote aspirationally, for policies that make every New Zealander feel valued, that they have a stake in making this a better society, regardless of gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religious affiliation, educational qualification, job title, bank balance etc. In short, policies of radical inclusion, which offer us all the same opportunity to contribute, to better ourselves and society. To adapt an old saying, a rising tide lifts all boats, but a trickle is easily dammed.
I told you, wishful thinking. All I can do is pick the party that seems to me to come closest.
Oh, and I’d like to vote every four years. A three-year parliamentary term is just too short, and too much of it is taken up with the business of elections. If your argument against that is that Australia has a three-year term too, we really need to talk.