Next Year is Election Year

By   /   December 30, 2013  /   10 Comments

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As the end of the year draws near I am keenly aware of what 2014 will be about.

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As the end of the year draws near I am keenly aware of what 2014 will be about.

This year we watched as National hurriedly did as much as they could to implement unpopular calls in case of their removal. I came to feel that it’s in National’s best interest to keep voters feeling demotivated and powerless by ignoring people – specifically ignoring the citizens-initiated referendum on asset sales –  because low voter turn-out more or less cements a National win.  I’m not sure how much bad stuff it will take before we stand up in unified indignation, but surely we are reaching that point.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about voting because of my position on the dynamics inherent to oppositional partisan systems and the overall legitimacy of government; many people will say that the act of voting supports and perpetuates a flawed, illegitimate system that demands reduced transparency. I agree the system is problematic but I reckon we can critisise the system irrespective of whether or not we vote. However I did vote last time and I will vote next time for one reason alone:

I vote to protect my family and friends.

Last time I recall being very vocal about my decision not to vote, when my closest friend sent me a private message on Facebook. She is a mother on what is now referred to as sole-parent support. She was in a difficult situation and explained in detail how vulnerable she was to the decisions made by government. She told me she needed me to vote to help protect her family – and she was right. National got in again and things got less equal; things got harder for her. We all recall how this year single parents were being pitched a highly implausible “life management strategy” requiring a Nana who just happened to be able to offer free child-care while the parent worked; somehow this is supposed to happen despite the fact that many grandparents work into their late 60s to pay their bills. And as always National revitalised tension around the perception of beneficiary privilege for their benefit. Not only do I find it grating that people perceive sole-parents as lazy  – having a child redefines work, especially for sole-parents who often don’t have a moment’s break from their children for years at a time – but people who think beneficiaries are rolling in dough and blowing money on ciggies have simply no idea at all what people are really doing to survive. It’s this – feeding themselves and their children on $20 or $30 a week. As a result child poverty is unbearably bad. Right now the minimum wage is so low that those receiving it look upon beneficiaries with envy.

It sucks that we have to vote out of fear, but so many vulnerable people are harmed by thoughtless decisions made by government for reasons of politics, power and money – not pragmatism – and certainly not to improve our communities and quality of life. I vote against the shady unknown of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, against the exploitation of animals and harm of the environment we depend upon. I vote against economic decisions that show little foresight, and at the same time I demand transparency in regards to deals even if the government maintains the elitist view that they cannot negotiate a deal in the public eye.

Voting is a small act and the least of what we ought to do to eliminate that which does not serve us. Voting could be said to encourage complacency by offering itself as a decoy that ultimately undermines engagement in real struggles for change. In the ideal world people would be resourced and empowered enough to rise up firmly against forces that would cause harm – there is so much we can do together beyond voting that has the ability to influence outcomes – however this is the real world, not the ideal world. For many people just finding the time-resource to vote is a big thing. I get that we don’t want people to feel like voting is their only avenue to enact change, and while intellectually I accept the legitimacy of not-voting to me it seems the need for protection is so personal and of such profound importance that we just ought to.  Voting is a very personal call and many friends told me I ought to avoid this topic, but next year – person-to-person – I hope we do see a good voter turn out. I will encourage people to vote hard left and vote loud because a big turn out should herald a swing to the left; we really need that swing.

P.S. I’d also like to add that like many I feel Labour are centerist, rather than left. It’s left that we need, not left-looking. I would agree that on many issues there is no difference between a National or Labour-led government and that the illusion of option is part of what is problematic, but the truth we all know National is harder right than they make out – and their policies so overtly target the vulnerable, with a heavy focus on sale and exploitation for profit – so a vote hard-left offers better left-influence and offers the possibility of being more protective by virtue of bargaining advantage.

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10 Comments

  1. I concur Jesse. We need to vote. It is our only protection, as we have no enshrined US-style Constitution nor a Supreme Court that can strike down unreasonable laws.

    I recall a conversation I had in the late 1990s, as the Shipley-led National government was running amok. Cuts to healthcare were so bad that people were dying on hospital waiting lists.

    I was talking with some young people at the time about voting. One or two proudly said they’d given their Party Vote to McGillicudy Serious.

    As an Alliance party worker who spent a lot of time canvassing, leafletting (in good weather or bad), attending meeting, organising, telephoning (this was pre-internet days), etc – I was truly fucked off.

    Here we were, the Alliance, trying to fight the new right and roll back destructive “reforms” – and some people were throwing away their vote.

    So my reply was this,

    “Well, you have a right to vote any which way you want. You can even choose not to vote.

    But you know what else? Those who are National and ACT voters won’t be wasting their vote by casting it for something silly. Nor will they not be voting. Because they understand that would make them irrelevent. National and ACT voters understand the power of the vote and by god, they will use it. They will use it against us, and we’ll end up copping another three years of National and their repressive policies.

    Think of that when it comes time to vote.”

    As a popular meme doing the rounds on Facebook states,

    “Not voting isn’t resistance, it’s surrender”

    I refuse to surrender.

  2. Wayne McIndoe says:

    A case in point are the voters of Epsom, Act would not have got a look in as far as representation in our Parliament if Epsom did not vote Hide or Banks in as their MP, as Act were way below the 5% threshold to gain representation without an electorate seat. And in a tight MMP election race, one seat can make the difference between holding the treasury benches or being in opposition. Remember because the “good” people of Epsom voted Banks in, we now have Charter Schools – so one electorate seat can make the difference. Yes get out and vote, make your vote count, otherwise we will have another three years of a National led government, shudder to think what that could be like

    • Francis says:

      If either Epsom or Ohariu didn’t vote as their masters orderd them to vote, we wouldn’t have this government at all. Even if they did manage to somehow get together a coalition with NZ First or Maori, there’s no way they would have been able to get through their worst policies.

    • Debbie Brown says:

      So how exactly should one vote, if one happens to live in Epsom?

      It’s all very well to give one’s party vote to Labour or the Greens (and I intend to), but given that it is historically the home of the Act party, isn’t it a wasted vote to select a left wing local representative?

      Serious question. I would really be interested to hear some opinions on this, cos I don’t have a clue. (And no, I have never voted Act in my life, despite them sending me personally addressed and stamped invitations to do so.)

      • fatty says:

        Debbie – that’s a good question, and its one that people left of National have not been discussing.

        At the moment its too difficult to see how Epsom are going to shape up – you may have many different options. Could be a new ACT leader, a new neoliberal party leader, or even Colin Craig?
        So its best to look back at 2011. Your party vote can go to whoever – Mana or Greens, or Labour I suppose (lol). Then you were given two local candidates: Paul Goldsmith for National and John Banks for ACT. The pre-election polls indicated that Banks would win and Goldsmith would come 2nd, with David Parker a distanced and irrelevant 3rd.
        Assuming you have a rational hatred of ACT and National, it may seem that you possess a useless local vote, but actually you have a very powerful vote for the left because you can vote for Goldsmith and knock Banks out, and therefore finish off ACT. If Goldsmith had won Epsom, then National have no support for their more oppressive policies (as Wayne and Francis have pointed out above). Looking back at the 2011 results, its fair to say that Epsom voted in Banks…but we could also argue that Labour supporters voted in Banks. If all those Epsom voters who threw away their vote on Parker gave it to Goldsmith, then Banks and ACT no longer existed. Logic would suggest Labour should not have put Parker up in Epsom, but hey, its Labour. Their campaign involved motorbikes. I blame meth.
        So at the 2011 election Labour voters in Epsom should have voted for the National MP. Some people find this unacceptable, but I cannot understand why. When we vote, we do so under an MMP system and as a result we should ALWAYS vote tactically. As a general rule, you should vote for the party you like so long as they will be over 5% or have a seat. However this can also be tactical because if you think Labour should be more left, you should vote for Mana or the Greens to drag them that way. But voting for you local MP is where it gets tricky and you need to be aware of the political landscape; usually voting for local Green and Mana candidates are a waste of votes, and in the case of Epsom, even a vote for the Labour MP is a waste.
        I voted for a Labour MP in Chch central even though I find Labour’s policies too neoliberal. Nicky Wagner from National won the seat by 48 votes, and over 2000 were wasted on the Green candidate. I’d say the Green voters in Chch are as responsible for voting in Nicky Wagner as the National voters. Silly votes gave us Wagner for 3 years, and we have suffered because of it. Chch central is an unfolding disaster (human-made). In that instance of Chch central 2011, as with many others, Labour and the Greens need to think about how they are enabling National.
        In summary, the answer is yes to your question: “given that it is historically the home of the Act party, isn’t it a wasted vote to select a left wing local representative?”

        I would say that voting for the Greens or Labour MP in Epsom will be exactly what National want in 2014. It will most likely be that you will be best to vote for the National MP to help prevent a coalition party emerging from Epsom again

      • Jessie Hume says:

        Strategic voting is counter-intuitive, especially if someone tells you “Just vote National.” Don’t do that if you’re wanting a left shift. That doesn’t make any sense at all.

  3. Stephen Howard says:

    I agree with the needs both to vote and to have a viable left wing party to vote for. Labour is as you say centrist to right of centre depending on whether you have Cunliffe or the ABCs doing the talking.

    The thing about ignoring the centres of powers as we did back in the late 70s and the 80s is that while we were thinking of a hippy ideal the right were completing their Mt Pelerin revolution, taking up the space we had vacated by turning on tuning out and dropping out. We need to be more realistic and ensure the left has a live

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