Stepping back from the politics of the moment, have we as a country become caught in an electoral bubble that can only give the rich and powerful power?
To be extremely crude, I think you have three main voting blocs in NZ.
The first are older and whiter who have property and who have benefitted from the cradle to grave subsidisation of Governments who believed they had an obligation to help build civil society upon universal provision of crucial social services. They are loosely the Boomer Generation but more important than their age bracket and left wing economic culture that nursed them is that they own assets and fit alongside the wealthiest, the property speculators, the bankers and the self-invested farmer groups. They are stakeholders in the status quo of National’s economic direction and they vote in huge numbers for their own assets interest.
Then there are millennial and Generation Xers, the renters, the teachers, the students, the nurses, the social infrastructure, the working class, the Police, the Firefighters, the council workers and pensioners who didn’t take neoliberalism’s greed to heart. Each have been failed by the current economic settings and are the ones who are demanding political change. Unfortunately while they have the most to win by a change at the ballot box, they are disorganised and too splintered to produce a clear political voice.
Then there are the poor who feel so disconnected from the political system because of the constant grind of poverty that they see no reason to participate in the political process because the desperation of their lives requires far more than $650 000 ‘affordable’ houses. Research tells us that once a person doesn’t vote twice in a row, they are near impossible to engage again.
The first pool of voters whose assets benefit from the current economic direction will vote in large numbers, the second pool of those demanding a better future than the user pays cancer of debt they’ve inherited don’t vote in numbers large enough to prevent the first group winning and the third group just opt out altogether.
Unfortunately there are more of the first group participating than then the second and the third group have walked away in disgust.
Can this change? It does post 2020 when the demographics alter and Gen Xers and Millennial voters will outnumber Boomers but by then the pressures put upon by NZs inequality will rupture the political spectrum. Currently Labour and the Greens are putting out watered down policy that promises little change, post 2020 those parties will either start promising the second group of voters something meaningful or they will be overtaken by radical political movements that will do it for them.
Unti, then the perfect storm of self interest and political disconnection will continue to cripple progressive politics in NZ.