Since the release of Dirty Politics, my timelines in various media have been full of activists and party workers from the Left enjoying the discomfort of the National Party and forlornly encouraging people to vote to get rid of them. Their contention is that some combination of Labour, Greens and Internet Mana will be a change of government that will defeat the evil hidden at the heart of the National Party.
Having now read it, this misses the point of Hager’s book (as Hager himself talked about on Radio NZ). Yes, Hager is describing a strategy to ensure National becomes entrenched in the Hard Right by putting the ‘right’ people in the right positions and reducing public confidence in the integrity and character of their real and imagined opponents across the political spectrum. However the over-riding theme of the book is that this cabal of Slater, Lusk, Williams, Collins, and Ede are working alongside corporations (for example the tobacco industry) to reduce the public confidence in democracy so that a very small group of easily controlled people are guiding the development of Aotearoa New Zealand as a nation state.
Dirty Politics is about a deliberate project to delegitimise democracy.
To say get rid of this government is, at best, a hiatus of six to nine years before the same cabal have the reins of power again, and if Lusk is correct the National Party will be dominated by people this cabal have sponsored into their positions, not on the basis of ability but on the basis of their potential for extreme hate and fear. So the most urgent response and project that comes out of Hager’s book is not a change of government (which I would support), but a re-invigoration of democracy in our country.
I want you to get involved in politics.
Join a party. I’ve never done that, however I have helped out in a small way with a local Labour election campaign in the past, I have put policies out there that I agree with. I think it might be time to up the ante and get actively involved. See party membership means you are privy to decisions about candidates, about policy, about campaigns and you get in front of the politicians in your party more often. The people in the party can decide the culture of the party and parties are a projection of the type of democracy we want.
If you are a right leaning voter, now more than ever you need to join the National Party to be change in that party. It cannot be left up to this small group of people who have a destructive agenda; the National Party needs you, right leaning New Zealander. The foundation of the National Party was with business and farmers in the Reform and United parties. It was Sid Holland who really brought it all together, followed by Holyoake. They were both principled men who believed in individual responsibility, opportunity and success. They also believed in consensus, that it was possible to work across a spectrum for a solution. I won’t ever vote for National, but I could listen to a National Party that returned to those roots.
Become an activist. An activist is a vigorous advocate for a cause. So I am asking you to write a blog, write Letters to the Editor, ring talkback, join protests, join counter-protests, print t-shirts with witty statements, print hats with serious statements, talk about politics at dinner and in church. Comment about how I am wrong, and I will reply about how you are wrong, and somewhere in the middle we’ll find something we can agree on. Don’t let others tell you what to think; listen to what they have to say and make up your own mind.
Hold politicians accountable. Go to candidates’ meetings, street corner meetings, listen to interviews, ask questions online and ask ask ask questions so you really know who that person is. I have an idea for one question that should be in every encounter: what does democracy mean to you? I heard Lockwood Smith talk once about democracy and it was a most inspiring speech. He painted a picture of democracy as a force for change in oppression, a force for moderation in the midst of dangerous extremes. He talked about how, with all of his own inadequacies, he had devoted his life to improving democracy. He could name people over years from different parties and points on the political spectrum whom he admired and had modeled himself on. He was exactly what I would hope to see in our parliamentarians: thoughtful, clear, principled, open. What do you know about your MP and your parliamentarians?
I want you to vote this election. I am wavering between Internet Mana and the Greens myself. I want you to vote. I do care who you vote for as I commented in an earlier blog about voting for a good country. You might traditionally have voted right, have always voted National, like my parents. I want to ask you to think about whether this iteration of the National Party represents the values of the National Party you believe in. If it doesn’t, then don’t vote that way. Perhaps your local National Party MP is a good person; then vote for them and choose someone else for the party vote. Even with the best of intentions, a party in which Judith Collins is so influential cannot be reformed by the election.
You may be thinking that all politicians are the same, and there is no-one worth voting for. That is not true. If you do all the above, you will meet good people who want to represent you at Parliament for good reasons. The cabal in Dirty Politics will have succeeded if you don’t vote because everyone’s tarred with the same brush. If you can’t decide or motivate yourself to vote, then vote for those who cannot: your ancestors who fought for our democracy at home and abroad; for children and grandchildren who don’t get a vote this election. There are people in Parliament and who want to get there who will do a really good job; you just need to do yours.
So yes, vote for change, but not because the other parties are the panacea. They are flawed people who will make mistakes, who will let us down and who are as confused as you and I are on how to change it all for the better. No; vote for change to protect our democracy from a project being run by the small cabal of Slater, Lusk, Williams, Collins, and Ede that is anti-democratic and socially destructive. They are using every tool in the book (and a few I didn’t even know existed) to make you hate the person next to you. They don’t care why you hate them – race, ethnicity, sex, gender, economic status, age, whatever – as long as you call those people “them” and say you are not one of them. They desire you to be the most pathetic, small-minded, petty, hateful expression of yourself possible so that they can use your fear and hate for themselves.
Democracy relies on you being the biggest person you can: compassionate, inspiring, brave, accepting and insightful. I have been inspired by reaction across our country to Hager’s book, by the distaste for the actions of those actors that are exposed there. I think that together you and I can protect, nurture and celebrate a great democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand.