ELECTION FEVER: The people feel unwell


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Elections have always made me feel a little queasy. In these post-Covid times, they make me feel outright ‘head in the bowl’ bilious.

Politicians have always worked themselves into a frenzy of deflection, denial and personal attacks come election season. Even the nicest politician – the one you’d feel genuinely comfortable to have hold your baby while you take a phone call – inevitably morphs into a rabid attack dog a month out from polling day – don’t be fooled by the fake smile, they bite!

There is no appetite for objective discussion or cordial dialogue, no room on the podium for genuinely caring, likeable personalities. When the silly season arrives it’s not a time to show weakness: nice guys finish last, and in the gladiatorial arena that is a leaders’ debate, or the candidates’ panel discussion, its dog-eat-dog.

This time round however it’s gone next level bad [if that is possible]; That is because there’s a new political force, one I like to call ‘nutters’, violently espousing a whole new swathe of nonsense ideologies.

Where did they come from? They used to just post videos on Facebook and could largely be ignored as … well … nutters. Now they’re on billboards, at political debates and marching in the street. What I don’t understand is who is funding them. And why?

Today they have their own political parties and are out there in public, in force. They are chanting and marching and haranguing any politician who’s not them.

Sadly, it appears nothing was learned from, and there were no significant consequences to, the parliamentary invasion of 2022. As a result, the mindless malcontents are still determined to have their say – they may not be sure about what exactly, but they’re still really pissed, and now they’re more emboldened.

The big challenge is for politicians to know who to cosy up with, and conversely, who to give a wide berth nowadays. As a party leader you can’t even be sure if your own troops have gone to (or come from) the dark side – too often idiotic conspiracy theories seem to have become fodder for the masses … and even a few politicians. And they can’t say they weren’t warned that things they post on social media will come back to haunt them one day, and yet some of them just couldn’t help themselves.

Despite the queasiness in past election years, I could tolerate politicians taking pot-shots at each other over policies and personalities.

But now I almost feel sorry for them as they flounder to mount rear-guard actions against the anti-vaxers, the three waters opponents, the co-governancers, the anti-flouriders, the reo’ists, the anti-vapers, the gang patch ban’ers … hell, they’re not even sure who they should be diametrically opposed to, and who they should wholeheartedly support – well not that they’re prepared to announce until they’ve gone back to the changing room in the colliseum to check their gladiatorial manifestos.

While Russel Crowe’s Maximus may have said, “Are you not entertained? Is that not why you are here?”

Our political gladiators are now more inclined to say, “Let’s focus group that one before we make a policy announcement about mortal combat for entertainment?”

Conundrums abound for the political classes: “We can support banning gang patches, but what about our freedom of expression stance? And the Maori vote?

“We supported vaccination mandates, but we don’t want to lose the anti-vax vote, even though we don’t support their ridiculous anti-vax ideas.

“We don’t want to spend so much on prisons, but we definitely want to go harder on law and order, but we don’t want to lock up more people, unless they’re wearing gang patches. But if they’re fully vaccinated gang members, maybe they should be entitled to a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card.

… and on it goes.

By the time you read this column, the general election may have been and gone. Irrespective of who has won, one thing will not have changed – my appetite for more election debates.

“No more for me thanks, I’m full up and feeling nauseous.

“I hope I feel better in three years’ time.”

Read more: Make your vote count

Alan Neben
Alan Neben
Alan Neben is a Mount Maunganui local and experienced New Zealand publisher. His columns provide a light-hearted perspective on social changes effecting New Zealanders

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