Opinion: When Christopher Luxon described Aotearoa as “very negative, wet, whiny, inward-looking” a few months ago it seemed like it might be a political mistake. In hindsight, he was simply defining his potential supporters, and set about combining them into a possible winning coalition.
His campaign has been a matter of reinforcing those views and seeking to reward those who feel that way.
Labour was drawn into a defensive “it’s not really that bad/it was worse before” campaign until facing defeat. In the final stretch it has been trying to regather its fighting spirit and roots. But it has no broad-based movement of which it is the centre. It has behaved as if the wet, whiny and inward-looking were their constituency too.
To rephrase JFK the two major parties are saying: “Ask not what you can do for yourselves and others. Rather ask what I can do for you.” Hardly motivating and inspiring is it?
It’s even worse on the fringe. Act has done just that (acted). Catastrophising on the side of the stage like a depressed Shakespearean jester.
Winston gathered a motley travelling troupe around his wagon and resold last season’s snake oil on the road.
I certainly observe far less of the wet and whiny and inward-looking among those at the bottom, where more than enough justification could be found. Such people are not “bottom feeders”, as Christopher Luxon described them, but they certainly do not feed as well as the wealthy or squeezed middle where he fishes for votes
Te Pāti Māori has a distinctive voice around its “Proud to be Māori” song (“You’re magic people to me”) combined with its innovative but underfunded video Aoteaora Hou vision campaign. Some may be surprised at this vision of the future, which “seeks to create an Aotearoa where the chorus of where you come from or how you identify is not just acknowledged but celebrated”. Who’s the separatist now? Perhaps these are post-colonial themes for a post-colonial world that is not here yet, but is surely coming.
The Greens “A fair future for all of us” is also forward-looking and inclusive. “A climate-friendly Aotearoa that honours Te Tiriti and meets the needs of everyone within the boundaries of the planet, so that we and the rest of nature can thrive.” And they lead, with Te Pāti Māori, on a redistributive tax policy which clearly resonates as much with the wider population as it is deflected and rejected by the major parties.
If you go to, or even just observe, Green or Te Pāti Māori election events, there is a positive atmosphere. At others, negativity, fear and dread are palpable. The right-wing ones for sure are gatherings of the negative, wet, whiny and inward-looking searching for blame and reassurance. Labour to win had to recreate a positive feel among its people. Its apparatchiks may be motivated by holding on to office, but its voters are not.
It’s not that there is nothing positive to be seen if political blindfolds are removed. Even the commentator-beloved economic indicators are reasonably matched against comparable economies.
True, calamities, cock-ups and concerns are not as hard to find as all might hope. But you can hardly argue we are evenly affected by them or that the “squeezed middle”, let alone the wealthy, are getting the worst of any part of it. By definition the middle is not the bottom, even on a politician’s arithmetic.
I certainly observe far less of the wet and whiny and inward-looking among those at the bottom, where more than enough justification could be found. Such people are not “bottom feeders”, as Christopher Luxon described them, but they certainly do not feed as well as the wealthy or squeezed middle where he fishes for votes.
These people are the ones who are least well served (again by definition) and yet they are increasingly the target of cuts designed to finance relief for those better off. To these people equity for Māori, Pasifika, migrants and the low-paid does not feel like “privilege” or “separatism”. It only seems that way to the wet, whiny and inward-looking and their would-be representatives.
Similarly for the wealthy, some of whom have generously bankrolled the parties of the wet, whiny and inward-looking. Some do so seeking specific gain for their particular area of wealth acquisition.
Some for the wider aspiration of keeping tax on wealth at bay. Some just because it’s what is done in their small tribe. The numbers look big to people with no money in their pocket, but are pocket money to the wealthy. It’s a small investment to provide the parties of the wet, whiny and inward-looking with enough to win the day.
Now I don’t want to foster depression but a winning coalition of the wealthy, wet, whiny and inward-looking could do that.