Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: What's the Big Idea?

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  • linger,

    “Vote the Bastards Out” could be another such focus, though Labour seem reluctant to go in that direction, presumably lest it be applied to themselves too…
    Admittedly that's less a Big Idea, more a Gut Reaction -- but that's also true of the "Make Us Great Again" style of campaigning.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1599 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to linger,

    “Vote the Bastards Out”

    Oh they've been explicit about that
    #changethegovt

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19293 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    “Yes We Can”

    “Make Amerka Great Again”

    “Brighter Future”

    “Lotto is our best hope”

    Yes, herein lies the futility of the call for the big idea, and why this thread turned into guys making dildo jokes. If slogans are the best we can do in the big idea stakes then it's no wonder that electoral turnout is crashing.

    I do not think that the "Left" has a big idea at its core. By "Left", I mean the half of people in this country whose political positioning is further from National than they are from Labour. This group has huge numbers of people in it who vote National. Likewise there are many on the "Right" (same definition, but backwards) who vote Labour. The positioning of Labour and National I define as the center of the position of people who vote for them, not where the parties claim to be, or based on some political theory. There are people who sit exactly on these centroids and vote for the other party. In other words their political positioning is right on the Labour centroid, they represent the exact perfect mean Labour voter, and they vote National. And vice versa. People far to the right of National vote Labour. People far to the Left of Labour vote National.

    Like the housing crisis, voter choice is a very complex mix of a great many factors. There are no silver bullets for either one. There are piecemeal bits and pieces that will take a few percent here and there. A sustained effort with a dozen of them might make a real difference, if applied for a very long time, but our political system does not have the kind of memory required to do that. In fact, large change is the one thing that it is most resistant to.

    Of course large change happens anyway, but it comes from outside the system. We have had a very large change in the fundamentals of our housing situation in NZ. But almost nothing has changed in the institutions dealing with it. It keeps weakly swimming against a huge outgoing tide. Small moves are made here and there, most of which have only made things worse. The same goes for poverty, which I think in NZ is now almost entirely driven by the housing crisis. When a basic fundamental of survival starts slipping out of reach, that is the very definition of poverty creeping in.

    Large demographic change is happening. From the passage of time, generations die and new ones are born. From the passage of immigration, the ethnic makeup of the country alters. But the taps that are turned by government are never decisive in any way. Even if they screw one setting down, causing 10,000 less of a particular kind of person to be able to enter the country per annum, that affects the overall demography by 0.25% per annum. It would barely be noticed for 20 years in official statistics. It's certainly not going to have an appreciable effect during an election cycle, except on the people it denies entry to NZ for.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10457 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    There is one Big Idea at the heart of the Left:
    Fairness … in the sense of creating equal opportunities for all – recognising that there are unequal starting points, and working to correct for that.
    The Left, ideally, offers a government that works for the people, that levels playing fields, and that actively encourages the most productive lives possible.

    The corresponding Big Idea on the Right is:
    Fairness … in the sense of allowing equal freedom for all.
    The Right, ideally, offers a government that faffs off and lets the people do their thing. (But this ignores existing inequalities, indeed considers them as a natural part of the world, and something to be maintained.)

    Both sides will look at the other definition, and complain about some being “more equal” than others.
    Note there's also a difference in that the Left's definition requires government action; the Right's doesn't.

    In reality, we don’t have either of those principles being applied consistently. Instead we have had the lazy laissez-faire of “let the market decide”, coming from both National and Labour, with very little variation, over the past 25 years. It’s like they’re both scared shitless of taking any actual responsibility for governing. The nett result is that neither of them offers a government for “the people”, so much as for the corporations.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1599 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to linger,

    I would think that the Left, as I defined it above, are more likely to see fairness in the terms you lay out for them. But how much more likely? I think you'd probably be disappointed when you got down to numbers. There's a good chance that your definition makes your chances of picking a Leftist from a Rightist based on that alone only barely above chance. With that in mind it's hard to see it as the big unifying idea. You have to define the Left in terms of your big idea to get a major separation. But then it's 100% separation and it's not practically useful for anything except having an argument about.

    You can, of course, ask people to say if they are Left or Right. But that seems mostly to be a proxy for how they voted. When questioned more widely on their actual values, the distinctions between the groups breaks down a great deal. Those who claim to be Left are not actually homogeneous in opinion at all (and the same goes for the Right), except in so far as self-labeling as being on the Left. You can use this method to find out what people on the "Left", as the term is understood by the population, are most strongly associated with in viewpoint. But absent any statement about where on that spectrum they are, you will almost certainly find it difficult to actually work out from their other opinions. Just because some idea is more strongly associated with Leftism than other ideas does not make it a good indicator. Even a large series of questions about their opinions is not going to help that much. And even if you work out they're of the Left, it's still not going to tell you how they will vote.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10457 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    Large demographic change is happening. From the passage of time, generations die and new ones are born.

    And the biggest demographic change with age in terms of voting is that the new ones are not voting. They don't support one party or another, they just don't vote. They're not inspired to. And I think it's particularly clear in Britain right now, but also the case here, that the right is pretty okay with that. The stuff that happens - like the housing crisis - just happens, it's nothing to do with government, and this is all complicated and boring and all the parties are the same and nothing ever changes so why bother, right?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4589 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    The stuff that happens – like the housing crisis – just happens, it’s nothing to do with government, and this is all complicated and boring and all the parties are the same and nothing ever changes so why bother, right?

    That's one excuse people give. Well, technically it's a bundle of excuses, but let's say it's representative of the most commonly given ones. I've also heard:

    -I don't want to support the system
    -I'm too busy, have better things to do with my time
    -No party represents me
    -I don't know and I don't care
    -It's not my country, I'm not staying
    -I hate all the candidates
    -We just have to wait until all the Baby Boomers die
    -The world is going to hell anyway
    -I don't want a record of which way I voted
    -I don't even want to come to the attention of politicians

    Clearly it's an international phenomenon. Can it be put down to one thing or is it again a function of many, many things? Is some of it almost an inevitable function of human progress? It's hard to believe it would be happening everywhere if political differences were important.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10457 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I want to point out that I’m not disparaging you (Emma) for raising this call, btw. By all means lets have another go at finding the big common ground of Leftists, at least among this very small self selected group of people who probably represent a disparate group epicentering on the Green Party. But to be honest I found what chimed with me most in your post was the sense of helplessness, the sense of losing this battle, of the warm bath beckoning as a sensible choice over getting out there and raging against the machine. For me, the taking stock of life has been a period of self-collection and self-reflection. We are Gen X, you and I. Soon, we’ll be the establishment. Do we really understand ourselves? I don’t think we do.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10457 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to BenWilson,

    (i) these ideals (especially the ideal "Left") are not currently well embodied or contrasted by major parties in NZ (or Australia, or the US, or the UK), so a very low correlation with voting preference would not surprise me.
    (ii) it could depend very much on the exact wording of the question(s) asked, since using the word “fairness” would not discriminate between those definitions, or voter groups supporting them. I assume though that you didn’t fall into that trap.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1599 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    In terms of ‘Big Ideas’, this quote has stuck with me:

    My take has been that this (same-sex marriage) is both easy and popular (relatively). And doing it, as someone has said previously in this thread, makes doing the hard things easier. Whereas if you say you have to do the hard things first, the easy stuff never actually gets done. And it sucks, it absolutely sucks, to be basically saying to people that when it comes to their personal happiness and security (and even basic safety) they should wait.

    This year, compelled in part by that fuck in the WH, we have seen a resurgence in calls to address women’s issues. We’ve seen cases made for the funding of feminine hygiene products, calls to decriminalise abortion, calls for equal pay. Obviously the timing of the latter coincided with Jan Logie’s bill.

    Being an election year, we can expect a raft of issues to rare their heads. However what both interested and troubled me is that rather than sticking with a single issue as suggested above – and sticking with it until the desired result is achieved – we have seen the momentum built for each issue displaced as the next has been prioritised in its place.

    To my mind one of these issues is not like the other. Yes pay inequality must be addressed, but it is an intersectional problem in that Pākehā women earn more than Māori, Pacific and Asian men in New Zealand. Furthermore it’s an issue that requires action by private enterprise as well as the Government and will require changes over a long period to both legislate and enforce.

    With Emma’s quote in mind, it’s the criminilisation of abortion which is the easiest and most popular of these issues at this juncture, and I’d hesitantly admit to feeling a certain degree of disappointment at what might be construed as neoliberal appropriation in the way #mybodymychoice has been outmaneuvered by economic concerns in the popular discourse. To someone whose never had a job I imagine it’s seen as an irrelevancy.

    Mybodymychoice on the other hand is a call for recognition of fundamental human rights to people on both the left and the right. Addressing structural discrimination implies the need for a structured approach, in order to ‘makes doing the hard things easier’. Once abortion legislation is fixed, there remain in its shadow many other mybodymychoice issues including disability issues, abuse of children in state care, Government sanctioned Intersex genital mutilation, medical intervention contingent trans ID, euthanasia, drug prohibition etc.

    In recent years humans rights in ANZ – rather than improving – are being eroded (privacy being the most obvious example), currently the NZ Government is in contravention of a number of UN recommendations.

    So that’s my attempt at a contribution to a Big Idea: a renewed focus on human rights, on the sovereignty of our bodies above all; with a suggestion that we attempt to tackle these issues with a singular focus as opposed to a month of cheerleading every couple of years before returning mybodymychoice to the back-burner where it structurally buries other mybodymychoice issues.

    Virtue signalling? Perhaps we’re signalling too virtuously.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2067 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to linger,

    Even if you make your question highly specific about the kind of fairness you mean, and asked people the extent to which they agree with it in some kind of Likert scale, and you get half on one side and half on the other, perfect even division, I still think it would not tell you a lot about how people will vote. It could even be the one question that maximally divides the population, the ideal question, the perfectly formed question. It’s still not going to be a good explanation of how they vote. Because the criteria people use are all different. For some people it would be all you have to ask. But for most people you’d need a lot more.

    ETA: I guess what I’m saying is that you might very well find that this question is a less powerful predictor of how they will vote than “How old are you?” or “Are you female”?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10457 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    But Corbyn/Labour in Britain do have big ideas at the core of their campaign. Taking key industries - rail, energy, mail - back into government ownership. Putting serious resources back into the NHS. Bolstering workers rights. Building houses and scrapping tertiary fees. Changing the tax system. Whatever you think of the manifesto (here's the telegraph version - of course they hate it all) these are big ideas which if implemented would change Britain.
    Simon Wilson had plenty of big ideas for Labour to run on here.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2006 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to BenWilson,

    It could even be the one question that maximally divides the population, the ideal question, the perfectly formed question.

    Some people EH! wont get behind a good idea unless it benefits them directly.
    The Right's favourite whipping cliche DAMN HIPPIES arent to blame for that.

    Just in case no one has noticed. The right wing of the political spectrum is out of ideas that will help humanity. They can talk it up all they like, its smoke and mirrors.
    United we stand, divided we're fucked.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1612 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Yes, together that's a big plan. Will it inspire? We shall see.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10457 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to andin,

    Some people EH! wont get behind a good idea unless it benefits them directly.

    That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that even if Fairness is the number one question dividing Left and Right, it's not a sufficiently strong reason for most people to vote the way they do. Because there's the number 2 question, which could be almost as important, and so on down the list. At each step down, the people in the groups subtly change, so that by the time you get to question 10, even it if divides the population neatly into 2 groups (and there is always a way to do that), they won't be the same 2 groups as question 1.

    In fact, I'd say this also goes for question 2. If fairness were question 1 and divided everyone into Left and Right wing, question 2 would divide both groups into 2, and the opposition between those divided on q2 could be not much less fierce than that dividing those on q1.

    In other words, if you divide our political spectrum into broadly:
    1. National and ACT on the Right. Labour, Greens, NZF on the Left .

    then the next division is really what separates Greens from NZF. Find a nice way to divide them cleanly with a single question and I think you'll find they don't much like each other. The Right can also be divided this way, but I don't think the two groups that would result are quite so far apart in this question.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10457 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    And the biggest demographic change with age in terms of voting is that the new ones are not voting. They don't support one party or another, they just don't vote. They're not inspired to. And I think it's particularly clear in Britain right now, but also the case here, that the right is pretty okay with that. The stuff that happens - like the housing crisis - just happens, it's nothing to do with government, and this is all complicated and boring and all the parties are the same and nothing ever changes so why bother, right?

    Dead right.

    And from everything I've seen NONE of the parties want them to vote.

    National is very happy courting the boomers and businessMEN
    NZF - well duh
    ACT would like there to be young capitalist pigs and there are some but it's such a small number
    Labour has Little doing his best to pack in more middle aged men into the ranks and never says anything remotely interesting to anyone under 50

    leaving The Greens - who for some unfathomable reason decided to pick old folks to go to parliament and made damn sure the one young person who has actively engaged younger voters has no chance of going to parliament.

    It's hard to blame the next generation for saying fuckit why bother.

    I don't think it's because they don't care - rather none of the parties has given them the slightest reason to choose any of them. With the exception of The Greens none of the parties have policies for anything like the next fifty years they're all just focused on the next 9 months and maybe 3 years beyond.

    If anyone presented the younger voters with actual policy designed for a real future that benefited them they might just vote.

    Wouldn't that be interesting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4294 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to BenWilson,

    That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that even if Fairness is the number one question dividing Left and Right, it’s not a sufficiently strong reason for most people to vote the way they do.

    Sounds to me like that is exactly what you are saying.
    The numbers get to be meaningless after a while.The problem is people/ us/you/me/the fuckwit down the road/the megalomaniac leader.
    And we still stubbornly refuse to see it, belittle anyone who dares point it out to us.
    If we ever came close to resolving it, it was when various sects tried to unite us around their designated sky fairy. As messy as that was.
    But its not an option anymore

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1612 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    If anyone presented the younger voters with actual policy designed for a real future that benefited them they might just vote.

    Plenty of evidence in political studies that most people do not vote on policy. Feeling respected by the system and its actors might help.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19293 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I think Jacinda's policy announcement of mental health support in secondary schools is aimed at young people - or is it for their anxious parents?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3069 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Schoolchildren don't vote - answered your own question. Fortunately at least some adults beyond parents also care about their welfare.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19293 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    It's true that youth vote is declining and also true that for the most part, no party aims at them. But they also never have. So something has actually changed and it's not just the fact that politics is dominated by older people.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10457 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Older white people who vote are now more powerful as there are more of them statistically. Winston just reflects his demographic.
    But I have faith in the power of younger people, particularly the under 25 year olds. Many are doing politics differently in fighting for their future.
    We had a conservative government right through the 1960s but an explosion of rights advocacy and activism by young people and minorities that transformed society more than the Holyoake government ever did.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3069 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    Plenty of evidence in political studies that most people do not vote on policy. Feeling respected by the system and its actors might help.

    Most voters don't vote on policy.

    But even then if you believe voting is purely tribal and policy is pointless then why don't any of the parties actually present candidates who are part of the tribe to which young non-voters belong?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4294 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But even then if you believe voting is purely tribal and policy is pointless then why don’t any of the parties actually present candidates who are part of the tribe to which young non-voters belong?

    Well, I don't believe it's purely anything, tribal included. "Tribal" is not the same as "Demographically similar" either.

    But why don't they put up young candidates? Without excusing it, I'd say there's at least 3 main reasons:

    1. Young people don't vote so what's the point. Yes, I know it's circular. But it also happens to be true, and betting on a different outcome would involve taking a risk against the known trend.
    2. Because young people might put old people who do vote off.
    3. Because young people haven't worked their way through a party hierarchy, haven't proved they have leadership talents or party loyalty, or ability to organize their way out of a paper bag, or shown their discipline in presenting the party

    Yes, all of these reasons are inherently ageist, conservative, and 2 and 3 could easily be altered slightly to justify why every demography that isn't the usual masters of the universe shouldn't be getting representation. They're all part of the feedback loop of political disengagement. They show a total lack of vision and courage, but that's how our political system works. And it works that way because to some extent our society also works that way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10457 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    It's about confidence, and we're swimming in stereotypes that old white men deserve our trust most. Me, I'd rather have some of the impressive young people I've seen lately in charge. Skips my generation but then we're used to that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19293 posts Report Reply

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