Euthanise this Campaign
Election campaigns, since 1981, have been show-stopping highlights of my life. Since that tragic night 29 years ago when Rob Muldoon scraped a victory from the bowl of provincial New Zealand racism, I was hooked on the drama and breathtaking intrigue of electoral politics. I ran for election myself twice — winning once in a seat so safely Labour I could have conducted the campaign nude and speaking Norwegian and still won, and losing the second time by merciful handful of votes. Nothing like a hard-fought campaign to pump adrenaline through the veins and send endorphins swimming through my skull; election night counts are like a prolonged and gratifying release. Politics as porn. Psephological filth. I have followed elections in countries that I could not point out on a map. I have taken sides with tyrannical scoundrels in far-off contests just because they seemed less odious than the slightly more conservative-seeming scoundrels on the other side. When the networks called Ohio for Obama in November two years ago, I cried so intensely and with such a mixture of elation and relief that my neighbors must have suspected a domestic incident.
But I find myself in Australia in the middle of a federal election campaign, less enthralled than I typically am by the Tour de France, which is to say not in the least (to my mind, Lance Armstrong is a Bush apologist first, drug cheat second and cyclist a distant third).
This is a truly dreadful campaign, everyone says so. But everyone always says that every campaign is dreadful but I have loved every one of them, even 1990 when I was running marginal seat campaigns in Auckland at a time when the only people voting Labour were its candidates, their family members, the ironic and the dyslexic.
So the horror I experience in the face of the Abbott-Gillard contest may be more a product of changes in me than changes in politics per se, but I suspect not. This strikes me as exceptionally woeful effort all around. The ads are rubbish, the stump speeches tawdry and inconsequential, the issues drummed up and unimportant, the candidates utterly disingenuous and forced. Rudd and Latham are not even amusing to me, they are just stinking the joint up, vain and pompous, grasping and vile. Abbott is a mad right-wing Catholic pretending to be some focus-group-conjured mild-mannered Anglican. Gillard is a Leftist feminist hard-arse posing like a ginger-cougar in magazines she wouldn’t use to wipe bird-shit off her car windshield and pretending that babies don’t smell of sour milk. Their actual selves are quite interesting and present a tantalizing contrast. Their political identities are, to paraphrase Stephen Colbert, as exciting as manila folders stapled next to each other on a beige wall.
I think Abbott will win because of the “stop the boats” nonsense and Rudd’s indelible and putrid stain. I also think that you can’t win elections by telling people who care less about politics than they do about MasterChef that they could hypothetically have had it worse if Labor hadn’t done the things it did, even though these things are not known or cared about. Governments who stake their re-election on receiving credit for preventing worst-case scenarios that never eventuated are not likely to stay governments for very long. It is a dumb and dangerous strategy.
Bring the election forward, I say. Electus-Interruptus. Hold it tomorrow — or yesterday. For my flagging sanity’s sake, stop the fucking votes.