Guns, Greens, and Gladys: Lessons from the NSW Election

After any electoral defeat, there is always a brief period of analysis where blame is attributed to anyone foolish enough to be involved in politics, with major parties and candidates turning their focus outward because of course it’s the fault of everyone but themselves.

In 2016, Malcolm Turnbull took issue with Labor’s Mediscare campaign, crying long into the night that it wasn’t fair for Bill Shorten to tell people about the Coalition’s plan to privatise Medicare.
Following the election of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and much of the Democratic establishment sought to condemn white people, the working class, black people, men, young people, Bernie Sanders, and every American living in a state between the East and West coasts.
And after the Brexit vote, everyone who voted to leave the European Union was declared racist or ignorant, as though it was really that simple.

In NSW this week, there have been a few groups and individuals looking to put the failure of the Greens and the wholesale rejection of NSW Labor on the new minor party Keep Sydney Open. While they still (briefly) acknowledge the splintering of the Greens between the socialist moderates and the communist fringe dwellers; or the complete absence of Labor as an opposition (alongside Michael Daley’s racism and Luke Foley’s sexual predation), the expectation that Keep Sydney Open should simply support the existing parties is ludicrous at best.

Throughout the election there was a relentless misinformation campaign waged against Keep Sydney Open, claiming they were racist and anti-immigration, that they were funded by the gambling lobby, that they didn’t support workers rights and opposed penalty rates, or that they had no policies beyond repealing the lockout laws.
It was all so laughably false and easily debunked that the success of this whisper campaign speaks volumes about the trust voters still have for anything they read on social media, even after the reporting of Russian troll factories and the Victorian election dirt units.
Also, for anyone wondering why Keep Sydney Open wouldn’t run in the seat of Sydney: they have no better ally than Independent Alex Greenwich, to run against him would be selfish and stupid.
A question that needs to be asked after this election: forget the average voter, how many journalists bothered to read the policies of the parties they were writing about?

A party that can only attract 1.4% of the vote should not be considered a spoiler in an election that was won by a margin of 9%, especially when the state Coalition have managed to form a majority government.
One thing is clear, despite the efforts of larger parties, the success and support for Keep Sydney Open highlights the desire for a progressive party willing to call out the failings of those that have come before. The Greens were (and still are) abused for stealing Labor votes, and the Sex/Reason Party have been attacked by the Greens and Labor for their existence and failure to genuflect in the presence of the presumptive rulers of left-wing politics.
That much will never change until those on the left learn how to play nicely with others.

The NSW Greens have long been a thorn in the side of the national Greens movement, their splintering around varying interpretations of Marxist theory is something that should have been dealt with at university, but, Bob Brown decided it would be better to work with radicals than ignore them, and so here they are.
The Jeremy Buckingham sexual assault allegations was a fairly minor issue for Greens voters once he left the party. However, spending the last eight years having very public spats was a far more pressing concern for potential voters than their plan to legalise weed.
A house divided against itself cannot stand, and a progressive party that leaks factional gossip to Murdoch tabloids cannot be trusted.

For what it’s worth, there are very few lessons to take from this for the federal election beyond the continued and growing support for One Nation, and the potential for the Nationals to be destroyed by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.
Some have looked to the success of a guns party and a white supremacy party a week after a white supremacist terrorist gunned down over 50 Muslim New Zealanders in Christchurch as an endorsement of a twisted ideology, but in reality, it highlights the downfall of the Nationals.
One Nation has been campaigning as the voice of rural racists for years, and the Shooters added “Farmers” to their label at the last election. If it was about white identity politics and guns, David Leyonhjelm would have been elected instead of Mark Latham.
It’s not sinister, it’s jaded bush voters who are sick of being ignored and they just happen to be raging racists (or can ignore racism for policies that might benefit them).

Now, the federal two-party preferred vote isn’t suddenly going to show a Liberal lead just because the NSW election went off the rails; and even then, voters have never had more information about the difference between state and federal parties.
While pre-internet voters would punish state parties for federal issues, in 2019, with a 24-hour news cycle and a plugged-in electorate, the state/federal polling paradigm has become a myth.

That said, for Labor, there is a real need to consider what happens when you have a cardboard cut-out for a leader, especially when you exist as a vacant opposition. Young people are crying out for a party that will take a stand on issues that matter, instead of a party that tries to play to both sides by offering very little in the way of opposition or support for Liberal policies.
Constantly waging war on ideological allies for fear of being rebuked by fringe elements in the media says more about the inability of the ALP to present their case in simple terms, than it does the small parties they try to crush.

Michael Daley gained more credibility when he took on Alan Jones than he did waffling on the stump.
The biggest boost Shorten ever got was when he called Cory Bernardi a homophobe.
Paul Keating.
Are you getting it yet?
Voters want real leaders who are passionate, articulate and prepared to call out bullshit. The propensity of the modern to cut pre-emptive deals and compromise before a debate has even started goes a long way to explaining why so many voters have lost faith in the two-party approach.

The NSW election only had one real lesson for anyone who watches politics: the minor parties aren’t about to go anywhere. Their continued success in the upper house and growth in the lower house means that this may be the last majority government NSW elects for a long time.

This post originally appeared on Ausvotes2019.

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