My revulsion is at seeing Phil Goff and other people I know to be patriotic and intelligent New Zealanders trapped into pretending that they believe in dopey policies (like vandalising our efficient GST with piecemeal exemptions) and dopey arguments (like claiming significance to lost dividend streams on SOE shares sold, without admitting that they may be less than the interest cost savings from borrowing avoided with the proceeds of sale). David Cunliffe pretending that increasing the minimum wage and opposing restoration of a youth wage will have only a "marginal" effect on unemployment is as sick-making as watching Bill English having to pretend that John Key's dedication to the current superannuation policy is statesmanlike.
Labour (and National) are trapped into many policy and debate positions that you and I may correctly believe to be stupid. But the Leaders are not talking to us. The major parties must now ruthlessly focus on their conversations with the swing voters in the middle. Only their votes matter. And not many of those voters know enough of public affairs to be worth talking to for long or in any depth about matters fiscal, or indeed any other complexity. Elections are won and lost on whether the causes espoused and the arguments used – as boiled down to the 10-15 words on each point that might get through the media filter to nationwide TV - will make the Leader look like a nice non-scary, familiar and safe person to the 10-15% of voters who swing to vague sentiment.
I was not surprised to read in a Herald report yesterday morning of the vox pop interview with a woman who will vote for John Key and thinks he leads the Labour Party. Many of the swing voters would pay less attention to policy and politics than most New Zealanders would pay to World Wide (WWE) Wrestling. Both are now similarly staged.The main exceptions: earnest idealists who ought to know better but don't (the Greens' Gareth Hughes) and those with so little chance of affecting outcomes that they can afford not to pander (ACT's Stephen Whittington, though I expect he'd not pander regardless of his position).
My revulsion is from watching and listening to smart well-meaning men and women betraying their intelligence in demeaning debate, offering policies and justifications they know to be nonsense, or even worse, bad for their country, because of how they are forced to engage under the dynamics of elections in lazy democracies like ours. It is shared across the english speaking world.
It may be worse than Franks thinks. In equilibrium where voters cannot tell what policy works but can sniff out liars, politics selects not for the panderer but for the demagogue who actually believes his own rot.
I hereby propose that, on election day, TV1 hold a Coronation Street Marathon with special new episodes and new scandalous character developments throughout the day. TV2 can do the same with Shortland Street. TV3 can air highlights from the Rugby World Cup. Meanwhile, we put on a V8 Supercar race someplace sufficiently distant from any polling place combined with nearby classes in spiritualism, healing, and crystals. And, crucially, that all of this be set and heavily advertised now so that political parties can adjust policies to suit the median of those who would still turn out to vote. It's apparently passé to support knowledge tests for voters. But why not raise the opportunity costs for those who would otherwise reduce the average quality of the ballot?
I don't advocate voting. But if you do decide to vote, you have a duty to not reduce the quality of the median vote.