politics

Post-truth politics, Trumpism, and cynicism.

The results of the 2017 New Zealand General Election are disappointing.

It’s a little disappointing that we have a national-populist in the position of kingmaker – but what the real issue is that National got 46% of the vote.

If I were to summarise what people were voting on this election, with the caveat that I’m possibly in my own ideological bubble, it was voting on ‘supporting welfare dependency’ vs ‘supporting liars’.

For me, it’s disappointing that in regards to the dishonest tactics National used in this election, that so many voters either believed the lies, or thought the lies were an acceptable technique in our political process.

From an outside perspective looking at Trump-era America, it’s mind-boggling to many that Donald Trump still commands a 40% approval rating.

I wouldn’t equate the National Party with Donald Trump – I don’t think they practise the overtly bigoted, uncivil or hateful rhetoric that Trump does – but they have been practising a similar lack of regard for the truth the Trump does.

Other than that people who voted were apparently ok with National untruths, it’s also disappointing how many people didn’t vote in their own interests. This election had a 78% turnout, up from 74% in 2011, and of those that don’t vote, they tend to be poor and/or young.

This is where it’s tempting to become a bit cynical. Parties like Labour and Green seek to represent the interests of people who aren’t bothered enough to vote.

As an educated person earning more than the median income, it’s tempting to consider that perhaps I shouldn’t be concerned to supporting policies for people who aren’t bothered enough to support themselves.

There are a few points in response to this though:

  • Issues like climate change do affect me.
  • Arguably, homelessness and poor mental health affects our society as whole, through crime, etc.
  • I don’t own a house, and Labour’s Kiwibuild plan would benefit me a lot more than the National’s $10k extra homestart grant.

But let’s continue with this line of thought. Perhaps I should narrow my scope of empathy, and to hell with those less well off.

I suspect, that this is the calculation that many people have made – acknowledging that it must suck to be earning only $25/hour and supporting a family on that, or that home ownership would be near impossible on that income, but ‘The important thing is to provide a good life for me and my family – so long as my kids are ok, then it’s ok’.

I think that the home ownership thing where National got a lot of support. I suspect that many of those who are already on the property ladder, don’t want to see more affordable housing – what they want to see is continuing increasing prices, so that they can make bank on the house they’ve purchased in the recent years.

There’s two main problems I have with this kind of thinking:

  • I think this self-centered (I don’t use that term as an ad hominem, but as a literal descriptor of the philosophy) thinking is counter-productive when it comes to tackling global issues like global warming. This kind of thinking would have one saying ‘Global warming won’t be a problem, so long as I can purchase a piece of land in an area that wrecked by global warming, and purchase the means to protect it’. Possibly a viable option if you’re super rich, but not if you’re just upper middle class – which chances are, you are.
  • The idea of supporting a system that advantages the more well off relies on you being one of those people. In that sense, it seems like this race to be one of the privileged is a bit a scam. Of course, it’s easier to say this, myself not being a homeowner .

So that’s where I’m at. Ultimately I think post-truth politics is a dangerous game. It might suit you today, if your party wins, but there’s nothing stopping a party that you don’t like winning tomorrow using the same techniques.

I do think that both Labour and Green could do more to reform. It makes sense that seperate their bleeding heart welfare platform, from their climate change and housing problem platforms. That way – they might attract the votes of people who want an alterative to National, but who really don’t want to support to welfare dependency. But all of this, is a post for another time.

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