The Illusion Of Political Party Choice

Are there 1 million non-voters because there aren’t enough political parties on offer in New Zealand? I’m not sure that this is the right way to think about the “problem”.

Under MMP, as long as a party wins an electorate seat, just 1, they can obtain a level of political power disproportionate to their actual electoral support. Both left wing and right wing governments have taken advantage of this under MMP in order to form coalition governments.

A non-trivial proportion of New Zealanders don’t like it – there are no clear winners except people who for some reason think politics is the best use of their brief time on this earth. In the 2008 election, NZ First received over 100,000 votes but didn’t enter Parliament. Because NZ First is definitely not an Approved Political Party, no one said boo except NZ First supporters who felt disenfranchised. Is it fair that parties that received less votes ended up in Parliament? I think it offends the Kiwi sense of fairness – but is completely acceptable to the political class.

It doesn’t help that everyone is still in love with the myth of democracy. The idea that every 3 years, non-elites somehow have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean is naïve in the extreme. That’s simply not how the world works. MPs are simply the temporary government – their power may have cosmetic appeal to the simple sorts who run for office, but the damage they can do to the long run trend of history is negligible.

A recent happening I found interesting was the revival of this idea that journalists are “off limits” for criticism. It is brilliant misdirection – disavowing the idea that the most powerful political actors aren’t politicians with their own human frailties open to criticism but some privileged form of interlocutor above reproach.

Back to the 1 million non-voters – the idea that you have to vote because the political class think you must is nuts. This campaign to “get out the vote” is silly – a complete waste of money because voting never changed anything, anywhere in the world. Winning an election and then having your policy platform implemented is only possible if it’s compatible with what the political class have already decided.

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