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Tag Archives: election result

Vote Compass, The Incredible Election Result and How to Beat Abbott

Some people keep asking how Tony Abbott won the election. When they’re told that not everyone thinks like they do, they’ll sneer that some people don’t think at all. And they’re possibly right, but not in the way they expect.

Let’s start with the ABC Vote Compass, which according to the website:

“Vote Compass is an educational tool developed by a non-profit group of political scientists and hosted by the ABC. Answer a short series of questions to discover how you fit in the Australian political landscape.”

So, for those of you who didn’t try it, people were asked to do a survey on how they felt about individual issues and then they were told which party was most closely aligned to their world view.

It’s only when one stops and considers this, that it becomes either frightening or obvious. Or both. So, in spite of the fact that the election was in full swing, in spite of extensive coverage of politics, it was perceived by the ABC that people wouldn’t be aware enough to know which party – in their view – had the best policies. And some people – not just the “uneducated masses” brainwashed by the Murdoch Media – were commenting that the result surprised them

Why do people vote for particular parties? Well, to simplify it into three possible reasons.

In many cases, we have the rusted on party faithful. These will justify any decision their party makes with the same sort of rationality that a football fan views a decision that goes against their team. A classical example of this is the way the Liberals approach the Geoff Shaw situation compared with the way they demanded that Craig Thomson be treated. I should add that, at this point, neither has been convicted of a crime by a court. These people are unlikely to change their vote whatever happens. If someone on their side of politics is found to be rorting the system, it’s only the guilty individual who should be held responsible, but if someone on the other side is doing exactly the same, it will be “typical” and a reflection on the whole party.

In other cases, it’ll be a first impression. “I don’t like that man, so I’ll won’t vote for him”. It’s possible to overcome this, but research does tend to suggest that first impressions count. You probably have the job within thirty seconds of the interview starting, or else you have no hope. And, of course, because many people find politics boring that first impression may no occur until an election campaign starts or on the day they go to vote, so this “first impression” may not be when a politician first become leader.

But for many, it’s what they hear other people saying:

In the 1950’s, Solomon Asch did an experiment involving matching a straight line with one of the three straight lines to the right. Did the line match line A, B or C? It was perfectly straightforward and quite obvious that the line matched line C. However, the experiment was about conformity. The subject was required to answer after the other members of the group (who were part of the experiment) had all given the wrong answer. The results found that approximately 30% followed the group, even though their response was clearly incorrect.

And I suspect that this may help explain the incredible result at the last Federal election. I say incredible, not just because of the election of some of Palmer’s PUP pets, but because Abbott was elected in spite of the fact that very few people agreed with any of his policies. Check out the polls on individual areas. Health, Education, the Carbon tax – even that wasn’t something that concerned people.

No, Abbott was elected because he had a large number of people telling us that Gillard was the “worst PM in history”. When asked as to what she’d done that was so bad, these people would refer to the home insulation scheme and school halls – both of which occurred under Kevin Rudd. And that she was treacherous by “knifing” Kevin Rudd in the back. (Unlike Abbott who promised not to run against Turnbull, but then did.)

Strangely though, when Kevin was returned to the leadership, we were told that he too was the “worst Prime Minister” we’d ever had, followed by a series of ads where we were told to take notice of what ex-Ministers had said about him. (The same ex-Ministers whose opinion was wrong on everything else.)

The policies were of no consequence – it was the repeated message that gained a consensus amongst those only took a minor interest in politics. It was the repeated message that people took in without thinking about it. It’s not that it would have been impossible to make people aware of the issues, it’s just that a repeated message is very powerful!

Now that Abbott is in Government, he hopes to ride a wave of improving economic conditions world-wide and to blame all unpopular decisions on the previous government. We may start to hear a new repeated message about how this was necessary because of the “incompetence” of the previous government. Like Labor’s request to raise the debt ceiling to a total of $300 billion was the end of civilization as we know it, but Hockey is just raising by a further $200 billion is just a temporary thing till we get the budget back under control.

If you want to get rid of Abbott, then I suggest simple message be repeated as often as possible for the next year or so:

“When are they going to stop blaming Labor and get on with fixing things.”

After that, this one might be appropriate:

“At least Labor were building things like the NBN with their deficit, what are the Liberals doing?”

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And The Winner Is …

This is emphatically not an election campaign about policy. Labor’s are mostly already in place and the Coalition doesn’t have any “big ticket” policies that aren’t frankly a total joke or are heartily rejected by conservative commentators and party members alike. Nor is this campaign about political philosophy or ideology.

It is well-nigh impossible to mount a meaningful argument in contemporary Australia regarding the ideological differences between Labor and the Coalition. The seismic shift to the political right in this country has all but guaranteed its impossibility. It was once a chasm, but it’s been bridged in what is really a quite remarkable feat of political engineering.

Nor again has this vote soliciting boot-sale been about facts. Of course, truth and facts are always one of the first casualties in any political election campaign, but this one seems especially unconcerned with them. Indeed facts are an impediment to most political strategies.

One might suggest, however, that the plethora of media “fact checking” mechanisms belies this assertion, but I’m happy to dismiss such things as little more than media stunts.

Perhaps the only persons who are seriously interested in facts are the Labor supporters who’ve been reduced to wretched despair over the almost complete disregard for them.

There may well be some more moderate members and supporters of the Coalition who also bemoan this facet of the campaign and of the unseemly nature of modern Australian political discourse and debate, but if they exist, they’re not saying much. Or they’re saying it in places I don’t tend to visit.

No, this campaign has been about one thing and one thing only, and thus far it is completely triumphal – the winner is prejudice.

Mind you, it cheated a little bit and got an early start. Prejudice was the major cultural force in Australia well before the election was even called. It had its pre-selection victory in the Seat of Sovereignty when it saw off our first female Prime Minister. I believe in some places it’s still doing a victory lap.

There was nothing of fact or policy or ideology in any moment of that unwholesome dynamic. It was all about prejudice and pettiness of mind. It was also about fear, which is the primary fuel of prejudice. Fear of the new (a woman), the different (an atheist), the unconventional (unwed and childless). Gillard was all those things, but worse, she also knew how to be successful. There can be only one form of response to something like that when it’s feared and it isn’t reasoned argument.

By the time the election was called the cultural dry rot had well and truly set in and bits of our Nation’s political, intellectual and moral integrity had already become flaky. We could not, for example, tell the difference between an actual carbon tax and an industry-based static carbon price, even though they are economically distinct things. We could barely tell the difference between a $100 leg of lamb and the Loch Ness Monster. The mantra of prejudice was well and truly established and just about set in the public’s DNA: Labor Brand Tarnished. Never mind that the slogan doesn’t actually mean anything. The great thing about slogans is they don’t have to.

So, why has prejudice become the front-runner for electoral success in this election? Well, the first thing prejudice has going for it is that it’s awfully vocal; it tends to shout a lot, though often with the aid of visual and auditory devices.

It simply never goes unheard. Its voice may be annoying but it resonates like the piercing call of a Pallid Cuckoo cutting through a still, dark night. You just can’t shut it the hell up and no amount of wishing and hoping can make it so. The second and perhaps most significant trait prejudice has in its favour is that it’s remarkably contagious. It’s a sort of lickety-split Leprosy. You don’t know it’s affecting you till one day your brain falls out.

This election campaign began life with an already deeply afflicted populace. Its colic was congenital. But it was to become a near piffle pandemic. This is what happens when certain members of the public refuse to immunize themselves with facts and information. They spread their jaundice germs all over the place and infect otherwise innocent bystanders, who subsequently become subject to feverish bouts of irrationality and rancid rodomontade. If you combine the two main facets of prejudice in their purist, most virulent form you end up with something like Radio Shock Jock Alan Jones.

Another important reason that prejudice tends to prevail so effortlessly, is precisely because it is so effortless. It requires and expresses a minimum of thought whilst at the same time engendering the feeling of absolute genius in the one who evinces it. It doesn’t require facts, nor consistency, nor logic, nor integrity, decency, humility, reason, literacy, education or a driver’s license or even an 18 plus card. Hell, prejudice even has anonymity on its side. No wonder it’s so damned popular!

I’m not going to indulge in a repetition of the oft’ repeated observations about who and what has spread this insidious disease throughout our neighbourhoods, and we must remember they are our neighbourhoods. But I will observe that it’s difficult to avoid the flu when significant social forces are happy to cough in your face and feed you a daily dose of bacilli for breakfast.

It’s simply my hope that sometime between now and September 7, even as late as polling day itself, people will wake from the delirium of this distemper and have just enough moments of lucidity to see things for what they are and to consider what they are about to do. I hope we don’t allow prejudice to prevail in this election. The damage it has already done to our social fabric is serious enough, but if Louie makes it to the Lodge and finds there’s no Mortein, he’ll have a field day.

 

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