|Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez : Centrism can't defeat climate change.|
2020 is election year. Just like last time you will be invited to choose from a slate of Political Parties offering little more than 'business as usual'...
IN 2020, I'm afraid to say, talk will increasingly be about the general election in November. It will be the subject of many newspaper columns, countless opinion columns, even more blog posts and more than a few opinion polls. It will dominate radio talkback and panel discussions. There will be television debates. The same old talking heads will be invited to provide opinions we've all heard many times before. And party propaganda will begin to appear in mail boxes up and down the country. And there there's the social media... what horrors are in store? I also hear speculation about a wedding later in the year?
Despite the frenzy of activity as the political parties jockey for position in the great parliamentary sack race, it will not be able to hide the fact that, once again, the potential voter will be presented with no other option than to vote for a political party that subscribes to market policies and ideology. Nothing else is on offer. Any differences between the parties is one of emphasis rather than substance. There will be a lot of sound and fury but it will signify very little and will be told by many idiots.
Presented with no alternative other than 'politics as usual', its hardly surprising that a significant number of New Zealanders now say 'thanks, but no thanks'. In 2017 the Electoral Commission noted that while voting non-participation was prevalent in most developed countries, New Zealand's decline in voting numbers over the past thirty years had been 'particularly steep and persistent'. The two general elections in 2011 and 2014 saw the lowest and second-lowest voter turnout ever recorded since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1893.
The Electoral Commission's ' report on the 2017 general election provides us with several insights as to why more and more people, especially the young, are not voting.They range from a general alienation from the political process itself ('can't be bothered with politics and politicians') to the popular view that voting 'doesn't make a difference and nothing changes.' The report also observes that the non voter is often not for turning; the decision not to vote has been made long before election day arrives.
None of this should come as a revelation. The policy convergence between the parliamentary parties and the crushing of real choice has been a potent recipe for disenfranchisement and disillusionment. In their article 'Voter Turnout Decline and Possibilities for the Rejuvenation of Politics', Jack Foster and Dylan Taylor observe:
'A general cross-party consensus regarding the management and implementation of Economic Policy has developed over the past three decades between the two major political parties, Labour and National, and is largely shared by minor parties such as New Zealand First and the Green Party. While there remains a distinguishable left–right policy divide between Labour and National,both parties have demonstrated a consistent ideological commitment to opening the economy to global market forces, constraining fiscal investment, and disempowering organised labour. Both parties, that is, have shifted their economic policy rightward in absolute terms, beginning in 1984 with the Fourth Labour Government’s surprise ‘neoliberal’ turn. This lack of substantive difference between the major parties on economic policy appears to have depressed turnout over time.'
Jacinda Ardern, Simon Bridges, James Shaw, Marama Davidson and other politicians of the ‘centre ground' do not inspire people to vote. While people are wanting change, the political establishment will only offer more of the same. This presents something of a problem for much of the New Zealand left. Its continued loyalty to the Labour Party in the face of a growing popular disaffection with the political status quo means it can only be increasingly viewed as part of the problem and not part of the solution.
American congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right in her observation that centrism won’t defeat economic inequality or climate change. As she says, ‘Moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude to life like, ‘meh’'. Unfortunately we live in a country where ‘meh’ politics prevails while progressive policies are condescendingly rejected as ‘unworkable’.
There can be only one path forward and that is the path to real transformation. And that means nothing less than a revolution in the political infrastructure and the economy. If the New Zealand left can't, or is unwilling to provide the leadership required, then it leaves the landscape clear for the emergence of a similar kind of right wing populism we have seen develop elsewhere in the world.
I won't be voting again next year.