Friday, March 9, 2012

Electoral Disconnect

It seems that we’re always in an election campaign period of some kind.
Here in Queensland, we’re just over halfway through a five week campaign which ends with the state election on March 24. Local Government elections are being held in late April, and while the Federal Election isn’t due until the second half of 2013, the campaigning never stops in a hung parliament. Add to that the ongoing coverage of Putin’s election maneouvres in Russia, and the never-ending round of Republican primaries in the USA.
The problem is the majority of this activity is just bad campaigning.  It’s not engaging; it’s not policy-driven; it’s not fair to voters.
The Campaigners
Q:           What is the purpose of an election campaign?
A:            To win an election.
Q:            How does a campaign help you to win an election?
A:            By convincing enough people to vote for you.
Q:            How do you convince people to vote for you?
This is where life – or politics – gets interesting. There are two simple answers to this question. You can do some or all of the following:
·         Promise to introduce policies that people want
·         Promise to end situations they don’t like (particularly good if you’re in opposition)
·         Convince people that your opposition’s policies are bad – or worse than yours
·         Make your opposition look untrustworthy, dishonest, weak, morally questionable or worse

The Electorate

                Q:           Why vote?
                A:            To influence the outcome of an election; to help my “team” win.
                Q:           Which is your “team”?

                A:            The one which is going to best improve my life and look after my issues
                Q:           How do you know which team that is?

And again, this is where the rubber hits the electoral road. It will be the best combination of these options:

·         The team that promises to implement the policies that support my issues
·         The team that promises to end policies that make my life harder, or that conflict with my belief systems
·         The team that appeals to me more
·         The team that seems most honest and trustworthy, committed, and with my values

I could ask how we, the humble members of the electorate, make these decisions, but to be honest, I’m a little scared of the answers. I mentioned in a previous blog that one voter stated that she wasn’t going to vote for the party she thought would lose. Other factors that help determine how a voter will vote include a combination of policy, personal appeal, past experiences, name recognition, candidate’s reputation, gut feel and sheer luck.

Despite all of these people running for election, what are we hearing most about? We’re hearing about the personal and family finances of candidates, ancient drink-driving offences, swingers parties, porn on websites, racist comments, who lives where, the name of the candidate’s holiday property, uncertainty around leadership, the usual bullshit about marriage status / children / sexual orientation / ethnicity / religious affiliation and favourite jacket.

I’m sure all of that is interesting to someone, but not much of it helps me to make up my mind about who to vote for.

I’m fortunate in that I have an excellent local member. He communicates well so we know what he’s doing, and he’s always accessible. He has earned my vote, though not through any campaigning activities. He’s just a great local member who scraped in in 2009 and has worked hard.

For me, it’s not necessarily about the campaigning, which is a good thing, because on the basis of the last three weeks alone, I’m not impressed enough with anyone to consider voting for them.

Of course, the media is focussing on two areas: the leaders, and Ashgrove…or they would be, were it not for the constant stream of distractions that are clogging up the news feed. There seems to be an ever-widening gap between what the campaigns want, what the media want and what the voters want.
As voters, we own the outcome. We need to take more responsibility for ensuring that we have the information we need.


  1. Too true, Sal. None of that stuff on the airwaves and front pages is "cutting through" to me.

    I'll be voting "1 Green" to ensure environment issues like CSG and Gladstone harbour get the attention they need. Then my preference will go "2 Labor" to support my hard-working local member. Despite not being in the headlines much, she certainly goes out of her way to make herself available to the electorate and has a great record of getting citizens' problems fixed.

  2. Thanks Mike. Good to know I'm not alone in my disappointment. - Sal