Political Football

I was pondering things last night, deep and meaningful things. I’ve talked before about our cultural idea of loyalty and how its a concept that’s dissipating throughout society. Divorce rates are sky rocketing, careers, cars, houses, allegiances, promises – everything is disposable. There was an article in yesterday’s SMH talking about the restructuring of wedding vows to do away with “till death do us part.” The only allegiances that seem to be held to are those to a football team. Which has interesting ramifications for other ill conceived allegiances – and particularly those to a particular political party.

With no real research, or anything to back up these figures, I’d say the electorate is divided into three types of voter – the party member, the swinging voter, and the uninterested (otherwise known as the stupid masses). Swinging voters will decide their vote on the issues in a campaign (or the personalities involved – which I believe is more likely but what voters see is how a candidate handles the issues that the political theorists have decided should be the election issues… which generally works out to be financially motivated), the uninterested masses will either donkey vote, vote for the most visible candidate, or vote against a candidate they have an arbitrary dislike for. These people don’t really interest me – well not when it comes to this post anyway. I’m wondering what it is that draws people to a political party to begin with. Ideology must play some part but there are other factors at play – from personal experience I decided which parties I support in principle before I knew what each particular party stood for. Anecdotaly other people choose their party alliance based on who’s in power (or not in power) in their electorate when they have to start voting. Rabid support of a party based on the party identity only is an interesting beast. Toeing the party line as a supporter lacks rationality – toeing the party line on an ideological basis is just as irrational – there’s no real underlying ideological differences between the major Australian parties these days. Elections are now fought on who will govern best based on implementation of economic policies rather than based on who has the better ideological policies. Economic rationalism and a stance as close to the political centre as possible seems to drive both the Labor opposition and the Coalition government more than any stance on social justice, industrial relations (including traditional union movements) and this is the current government’s great strength – by bringing the opposition on to their platforms they should be able to beat them in that particular fight at any given time. Rudd seems to be trying really hard to move away from that with his policies on education and the environment. I’ve spoken to a couple of people about how they decided who to vote for and traditional family pressures comes up as a reason quite frequently. The problem with that model is that the traditional positions of the major parties no longer exists because the political and socioeconomic climate has changed (ahha haha ha – climate change joke). Why anyone chooses to be a party member or support a party any further than the ballot box these days – without a vested interest in a party getting to power – is beyond me. At the same time, I’ll still probably vote the same way I did last time just because they’re the team I support. And that puzzles me.

I’d be interested to hear, without anyone having to proclaim their particular position – why you’ve chosen who to vote for in past elections – or who you’ll vote for in the future. I have a feeling that for the majority of educated people heartstring loyalty gives way to purse string rationality while for the dumb masses its a matter of the candidate who runs the most impressive public relations campaign who’ll get the nod.


Anonymous says:

it’s really quite simple for me – i vote for who God votes for. if only Australia was more like America. God wishes George W. Bush wasn’t limited to two terms.

Mark says:

So, anonymous, in every election you’ve voted for the winner, well done.

As for how I choose – well I’m very circumstantial –

if there’s a Christian candidate (whom I know to be genuine – some benefit of the doubt given, but not a blank cheque) then they get the nod, as I would have greater trust (perhaps misguided) that they would represent me better than a non-Christian – after all, the Holy Spirit is prompting their conscience too.

If it’s a choice between a couple of Christians, or no visible Christians at all, then the political theorist’s “relevant” issues come into play, trying to crystal-ball-gaze for potential ramifications – how will this affect my family’s pocket/our privacy and security/our quality of life – and also despite all that, is it a thing that we should really do anyway, even if it hurts.

There’s also a smattering of ideology – I really don’t like the Labor policy of ousting members if they vote against the majority view . I think that their candidates will be less able to represent me personally, as my views aren’t always mainstream.

Anonymous says:

Mark, I like it how you don’t like Labor! I don’t know how someone can vote for the Greens and call themself a Christian.

Stewart says:

I really wanted to post for this topic because I find it interesting, but I also found it very hard to figure out my own view and type it up succinctly (I studied Pharmacy, not arts – and you can tell) – I like Mark’s system, I dare say mine’s very similar, for want of anything original…

Anonymous says:

this is a good guiding principle for you stewart (and i’ll type it succinctly) – “anyone that votes green is a JACKASS!”

AndrewF says:

The interesting thing about the christian vote is that the leadership of both major parties are currently playing the christian card to some degree or another. I think many would like to think that the conservatives are the “christian” party, but Rudd and Garrett throw that out the door…

Nathan says:

Why should a candidate’s Christianity impact your vote? If they’re representing their electorate, and only one vote in the party room their vote and personal convictions won’t necessarily play a part in any decision making. Shouldn’t you be looking at party policies and choosing those which will serve the people of Australia (including yourself) the best?

p.j.s. says:

I’m not sure you can label yourself a Christian, Anonymous, while being so derogatory towards Greens voters…

I am certainly not a donkey voter, but surely aren’t some of us placing to much emphasis on our own efforts of choosing a leader? Ultimately we know God decides. Isn’t it suffice to say that if our motives are humbled to serve our Lord, then it’s irrelevent who each person votes for?
In saying that, I realise the wedge that sin creates in aligning our motives in such a way, but don’t you think that it’s ok for another faithful follower to vote in a different manner to you, and yet remain true to the Gospel?

Anonymous says:

I always voted for one party, under my parents recommendation. I did then research into particular party ideologies etc, and another party converted me – well, sort of, I found they were the best of a bad bunch. You really have to rank what issues are most important to you, don’t you? It’s difficult finding a party as well as a candidate who addresses those issues – you end up having to negotiate. In saying that though, I’ve yet to bring myself to vote for a politician that I had a personal distaste for.

Mark says:

Why should a candidate’s Christianity impact my vote? … their personal convictions won’t necessarily play a part in any decision making …

The converse is “why would I vote for a candidate with whom I have nothing in common” – the person who is meant to be my representative in parliament”. I think it better that my views are represented in the party room/and hopefully parliament than not at all, even if the actual policies are swayed in another direction.

I think that it’s impossible for a person’s Christianity not to affect how they themselves make decisions. It doesn’t necessarily make them the perfect public servant, but I feel it helps them to represent me.
Whether or not others agree with them to influence party policy is another issue.

But to look at that issue, doesn’t voting at the local level, to get the people you trust into the arena to influence policy make sense – it’s not a short term voting strategy by any means, and not a reactionary strategy, and may completely bypass the “issues” of the day – I’m sure there are times when it’s important to find standing room on these.

Even so, I think the voting local is an interesting concept and it does place a great deal of trust in the system.

Personally, I think it would be worse to vote for a candidate that really did not represent me, just for the sake of party politics (even policy-based decisions), but then I’m an idealist and see it as a conscience issue – does the end justify the means of achieving it? Should I put my vote toward getting the right people into power so they can influence policy?

If a party had a particularly abhorrent policy to me then it would make the decision harder, and I’d need to determine where the candidates personally stood on the issue.

And anonymous, I don’t like one of Labor’s internal party policies, it doesn’t mean I haven’t/won’t vote for them – I just trust their candidates less to be able to represent me as they are constrained by the party machine.

Nathan says:

It’s interesting that you bring up the Labor Party Machine policy at the end of your post Mark, I have a feeling it rules out voting for an individual Labor candidate on the basis of their personal stance simply because they’ll never be able to express it. You’d be better off actually joining the party and encouraging others to do the same – the party room debate is particularly important in shaping party policy and it strikes me that it’s an the church could be more involved in. Although picking a party for the church to endorse is very messy business.
How much weight should we give the biblical idea that God is in control of/appoints government – at that point I think we need to rest easy when it comes to the election, vote with our conscience and continue to work hard at serving God’s kingdom – obviously we’ll experience different levels of hardship or freedom under different governments – but such is life.

DanielS says:

At the next state election, I’ll probably vote for my current standing member. Not because of the party that he belongs to, but because on a particular issue that came up last year he a) voted against his party’s policy, not because of his personal opinion but because of what he perceived to be the opinion of his electorate and b) he gave me a call in response to a letter I wrote to him.

In my book, that makes this particular fella a good “representative” of his electorate – at least until he does something that changes my opinion.