Why Isn’t JA Channelling AOC?


WHY ISN’T JACINDA ARDERN channelling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC)? This is not a frivolous question. Labour found itself swept into a winning position at the end of 2017 almost entirely on the strength of Jacinda’s extraordinary appeal – especially to voters under 40.

Central to Jacinda’s appeal was the widespread perception that Labour’s new leader represented a definitive ideological break: not only with the Labour Party of Roger Douglas, but also with the woman who did her best to clear away the worst of the mess Rogernomics had made, Helen Clark.

A very similar set of perceptions has fuelled the rise of AOC. This twenty-something, student-loan-burdened, former-waitress from Brooklyn, who proudly proclaims herself to be a “democratic-socialist”, has come to stand for everything that the Clinton-dominated Democratic Party is not – but urgently needs to become.

So far, AOC hasn’t put a foot wrong in the complex dance routine that must be executed to secure a hearing for the aspirations of her locked-out generation. Her energetic sponsorship of a “Green New Deal” for America has made it impossible for House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to nudge the radicalism of AOC and her newly-minted congressional comrades into the long grass. In similar vein, the young Brooklynite’s outspoken call for the USA’s wealthiest citizens to be taxed at 70 cents in the dollar on all income in excess of $250,000 has given Overton’s Window a much-needed shove to the left.

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A politician of Jacinda Ardern’s acute sensitivity can hardly have failed to notice the bright red glow currently pulsing from the heart of the zeitgeist. She would have watched in awe as Bernie Sanders’ “Children’s Crusade” forced Hilary Clinton to call in all her favours (and Super-Delegates) to head the old socialist off at the pass. But that awe would have turned to horror as Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist revival rolled up Blairism like a threadbare carpet and set the crowds cheering at Glastonbury.

Suddenly, Jacinda’s carefully scripted lines about being a “pragmatic idealist” seemed likely to have a very limited shelf-life. Certainly, her “politics of kindness” trope continues to inspire, but the problem with throwing around such kindly words is that, sooner or later (and preferably sooner!) they have to be matched by kindly deeds. Helping with the barbie at Waitangi looks good on the six o’clock news, but more is needed. Much more.

Does Jacinda get this? Does she understand the huge political potential – and risk – posed by the “surplus consciousness” of tens-of-thousands of young adults laden-down with professional credentials and student debt but denied the security and status attached to well-remunerated employment and a solid career-path? The precarious position of young people in the labour market is amplified even more pitiably for them in the marriage and property markets.

These voters are too well-educated to find solace among the angry populists of the Alt-Right, but they are signing up in droves to the system-challenging – and changing – agenda of democratic socialism. After all, what favours has neoliberal capitalism ever done them?

It’s one of the great mysteries of this government that, on the night the Labour-NZ First coalition was announced, Winston Peters got this – and Jacinda didn’t.

Then again, maybe not. One of the first big political gigs offered to Jacinda was an internship in Tony Blair’s Cabinet Office. It’s hardly the sort of ideological grounding to generate a surge of enthusiasm and support for Bernie Sanders or (God forbid!) Jeremy Corbyn.

Nor should it be forgotten that Jacinda was for a good portion of her life a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. One has only to recall the shining eyes and broad smiles of those Mormon missionaries on your doorstep, or tipping you that friendly wave as they ride by on their bicycles, to remember suddenly where you have seen Jacinda’s political style before.

Those familiar with Jacinda’s CV will object that her stint as President of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) equips her even more impressively than AOC for the struggle to advance democratic socialism. A little more is required of a true democratic socialist, however, than the ability to call people “comrade” with a straight face. Nor is the IUSY quite the bastion of radical socialist internationalism that its name might suggest. Any organisation that welcomes a far-right CIA stooge like Venezuela’s “Interim President”, Juan Guaido, into its ranks, has some explaining to do!

Finally, there is the problem of the company Jacinda has trained herself to keep. Throughout her entire political career she has surrounded herself with – and been surrounded by – right-wing social-democrats. Blair’s New Labourites; Clark’s incrementalists; Cullen’s DNC-endorsed economic policies; and, most recently, Grant Robertson’s “Budget Responsibility Rules”. She was an enemy of David Cunliffe and, by implication, the hopes and dreams of the thousands of Labour Party members who supported him. And, lastly, it’s a pretty safe bet that, like Labour’s current president, Nigel Howath, she has no time at all for that bane of Blairism, Jeremy Corbyn.

No. Jacinda may envy AOC’s extraordinary political savvy and covet her social media skills. She may even decide to crib some of her best lines about saving the planet and soaking the rich. But anyone anticipating an Ardern-led shift towards democratic socialism (which is still, ironically enough, the official ideology of the NZ Labour Party) is bound to be disappointed.

Democratic Socialism, as practiced by AOC, will be DOA in Jacinda’s NZLP.



  1. Big difference Chris… AOC is not in Govt nor leading the country, AOC is not unlike the Greens when in opposition, and different when in power. (not unlike Winstons pledge to get rid of Maori seats whilst campaigning)
    Also, don’t forget AOC isn’t in any position to tell the voting public ‘ALL taxes will increase, and not just on the rich’, it’s only talk and she doesn’t have to walk the walk.

  2. Sad but true.
    I’ve said it before – we might have been better off with a 4th term of National which I think would have resulted in a desire for the radical change that voters in the UK and US are looking for.

    My big fear is 9 years of this government, will be followed by a National government – and only then will we get the change we want.

    My big hope are the kids organising the Climate Strike, by becoming politically active in their teens they won’t be susceptible to the grooming strategies that Jacinda and every other MP in the Labour Party went through in the 20s.

    • Agree totally, I had wished that Labour had reformed more from inside, and resisted to take over go vernment responsibility. What is unfolding is what I warned about, fulfilling my worst fears.

  3. Came down to reality towards the end there Chris. If Jacinda was AOC she would never have been pushed into the leadership position. The labour party hierarchy is the NZ equivalent of the US Democrats and they would be just as troubled with AOC as the democrats are. They certainly would not have been comfortable with her in charge.
    Jacinda is appealing , but she is a career politician, not the radical socialist that you tried to portray her as during the run up to the election. A bit too much optimism went into that.
    Neither do I agree that Hellen Clarke did anything much to redress Rogernomics. Just maintenance and selloffs to balance the overseas deficit.
    If she had a mind to oppose that disaster she had an excellent opportunity to join forces with Jim Anderton before it was established.
    AOC is quite a different thing. Similar perusable appeal and communication skills, but no compromise in what she says whatsoever. She is saying what everyone knows to be true whether it is likely to advance here career in the democratic party or not. She is going to force them back to their proper ideals because shutting her out or up will cost them dearly at election time. They will be left with having to control her actions afterwards like the GOP are having to control Trump.
    Good stuff though Chris.
    D J S

  4. Um, because Jacinda isn’t a Democratic Socialist, she’s a Pragmatic Centrist.

    Unless of course you are suggesting she should fake having some Left wing policies.

    Which would be a start I guess.

    Other than that I have no idea why you keep comparing Jacinda and AOC. (gives a knowing, slightly depressed, smirk – with eye roll)

  5. Write what is central to ‘t’Cause’, as my Socialist , and North Country, Great Grandfather called it, Chris. The comments are often so silly. Almost as much my GGF.

  6. “Nor should it be forgotten that Jacinda was for a good portion of her life a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. One has only to recall the shining eyes and broad smiles of those Mormon missionaries on your doorstep, or tipping you that friendly wave as they ride by on their bicycles, to remember suddenly where you have seen Jacinda’s political style before.”

    Yes, those LDS Mormons, they have a style, but it is a brainwashed lot, sent out to win over souls, often the ones who are lost. But what they do with them is something not that sincere, they are instrumentalised by one of the largest legal sects there are, sucked in to serve as servants to a new cause, hardly liberated.

    And Jesus weeps at the cross, he never meant to have such ‘servants’ use his name in vanity and for such causes.

    • LDS go where the money is.

      Poor and stupid folk do as they are told and are not to question without group reprisals.

      $37m a year is not a bad haul, mainly from poor families who are scared and brainwashed.

      Jacinda treads a path leaving that behind.

      Some people do grow up and develop critical thinking.

  7. Jacinda is just a shallow middle class wannabe careerist, only difference is, she chose politics to advance herself, rather than business. Maybe once she had ideals, but now in government, I see a cold and stern face, one calculating, one as being part of the very system that takes over everybody who dares venture into politics in NZ Inc..

    You sign up to the establishment, or you will be out as soon as you got in, that is the truth. Principles and valued become hollow phrases, so the same may happen with Alexandria in her Democrats Party, but it may take a little longer, as in large countries everything takes a bit longer.

    Rogernomics would never have been possible in places such as the UK, Germany or the US, the way it was done and implemented here, only a post colonial back stop experimental lab kind of political, social and economic environment would make such an experiment possible, and Kiwis rolled over to become Sleepy Hobbits almost over night. they did not dare fight the crap.

    They soon rather fought each other, to this day.

  8. My theory is that Jacinda IS the Kiwi equivalent of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But you know how Americans culturally like to do everything big and flashy, and Kiwi officialdom has a much more “steady as she goes” attitude? e.g. The Pike River disaster and the Chch earthquake aftermaths stretched out over eons and still not resolved… compared with everyone rushing in to help at 9/11. I tend to think of what kids are told in school these days — that “your idea was brilliant, it’s just your execution let you down a bit” when the kid makes a complete hash of something. Well, Jacinda’s intentions are great. The rest?… Can anyone else see her already climbing down on her gun control idea of yesterday?

  9. The government lead by Jacinda and her cabinet has a moral responsibility to steer away from gun violence and terrorism against the people. Just before the Aramoana incident hundred of NZ army SLR’s was put on the open market and gun violence rose with the assailant being able to over whelm police, it wasn’t until SAS operatives was airlifted in by RNZAF helicopter were they able to overwhelm the gunman. In 2016 Tai Pualson went on a P fuelled rampage with an astortment of weapons including a home made machine gun weapon, if he had of had access to production weapons the carnage would have been higher. At an organisational and doctoral level the goal is the government maintain the arms gap between potential mass musrderers and the police.

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