If New Zealand’s election period could be likened to a horror movie, or an episode of Scooby Doo, we are now in that slower, duller, second act where the potential victims/Scooby gang wander around the haunted house/spooky cave/darkened museum looking for the monster while the audience waits for something (anything if it’s a really crap episode of Scooby Doo) to happen.
And that’s where we are right now in this election, waiting for the monster (or old man Withers dressed up in a monster costume), to pop out of the woodwork and kick off the exciting third, and final act of the film/episode.
It’s been so quiet in fact that I spent an entire three weeks of my immigration fueled writers block scanning the blogs and headlines for something in NZ politics to really get my juices going only to get tantalized by headlines that promised something but ended up delivering nothing.
Overseas there is plenty of that hot sweaty election action to get excited about: in the US Trump continues to provide endless entertainment as the Muppet in Chief during his first 100 days in office; France decided that it wanted socialist plutocrat Macron over right wing crypto - fascist Le Pen; England’s Brexit driven snap election has turned from a Tory shoe-in to a rather more nail biting affair as ,despite all the hate, Corbyn and Labour start to make up the difference in the polls; South Korea got itself a liberal (except for his views on homosexuality) new president and the rest of the planet has plenty of good times lined up on the electoral front.
Yet here in NZ there is little for the political junkie to get wired on and currently we are all going cold turkey (watching that baby crawling on the ceiling) while waiting for the medicine and shooting up on the political equivalent of baby powder cut with laxatives in the form of budget coverage and minor intrigues in the parties (such as the Greens reshuffling of the list candidates).
On the flip side the lack of new things to sensationalize has led to some rather in depth and extended coverage of older stories such as those of fraudster Joanne Harrison in a great example of digging ever deeper into a story to find the truth.
I hope this situation will inspire more articles of this kind; as bored journalists probe further than normal into stories with what I imagine is an equal mix of genuine interest to get to the bottom of the things and the kind of kinky thrill one gets from really pushing the boundaries when faced with existential levels of boredom.
And I am not the only one to notice that what we are currently missing in this election is the spectacles that previous elections have provided.
Last election we had Kim Dot Com and the Internet Party, while previous elections have had Don Brash and his Orewa speech, Winston Peters vrs Jim Bolger, Nicky Hager books and whatever political McGuffin was needed to switch the rarely used political circuit of the kiwi body politic on, a factor which goes as back as far as I can remember (the oldest I can genuinely recall is “Piggy” Muldoon and the snap election of 84).
And that is what is currently missing from this election so far. There is no spectacle, no Grand Guignol to shock the body politic and send it running, screaming, in terror down the long dark hallways of the nation and thus setting in motion the final dramatic act of the election campaign.
The one thing that genuinely caught my attention over the last few weeks was the Greens enacting the political equivalent of prison yard shanking on Labour, when they voted with National on the budget, which was done in full view of all inmates and had the same meaning and symbolism.
And if I can deviate from the script for just a moment I thought the idea of the Greens/Labour MOU was that they could agree to disagree on budget issues but would have the decency and courtesy to let the other know in advance.
If that was the case then the first Andrew Little knew about it was when he felt the cold steel being driven into his back before collapsing to the ground, twitching spasmodically, his arms twisting behind him, desperately trying to pull out the blade out while the James Shaw stood over him, legs spread, arms akimbo, face flushed, eyes bulging with desperate catharsis (or maybe blood lust) as he makes it clear to all parties that he won’t be tossing anyone’s post-election salad.
Meanwhile in the shadows, Bill English and Paula Bennett, in matching prison jumpsuits, watch the scene unfold and congratulate themselves on the outcome.
Yet this treacherous act barely got any real mention in the media and this blew me away given how much of a big deal their supposed MOU on budgetary matters was supposed to be.
So if we return to our script we now waiting for something or someone (let’s hope it’s not Godot) to bring things to life before we can get it up to go out and vote.
But the past few elections have been so high on spectacle that it’s going to take massive, race horse sized, doses of political Viagra to give the electorate the potency to actually give a monkeys uncle come September 23rd.
Of course there are plenty of issues out there which have been bubbling along for the last 12 months plus on our minds (the housing hernia, water, immigration etc) but these are the same old issues, which while genuine, have yet to reach that critical point where the political mood surges to such a level that they act as a lightning rods for all that discontent that is sloshing around out there.
Because the political stasis which John Key brought about during his run as PM has ended but the effects of that stasis still linger and this was why recent elections descended into such levels of carnival sideshow behaviors as the inevitability of a National win dulled the electorates senses and therefore required increasingly bigger, and more bizarre, shots of political theater to even motivate them to vote.
This election things may be different, the Kiwi voter may be politically jaded and inattentive but under that glazed ennui lurks the same social and economic frustrations that have vomited out, like so much bile in places like the US and the UK, all manner of reactionary outcomes and helped drive a populist (and vindictive) mood in the polls which I have previous labelled Fukyoo Politics.
And if NZ doesn’t get a populist election then there is only one other outcome, another three years of National because given the Greens recent behavior there is no certainty that they will be backing Labour come September 24th, nor that they would not play the field a bit and support National on some issues (ok so this one is a bit of a stretch but who saw the budget vote coming eh?) which has been my analysis of the Greens for over a year now (see my recent re-post on the Greens for more of that).
But even with a populist outcome we may be seeing Dollar Bill English and his feckless miscreants for another 36 months so the question of who will survive this nightmare is yet to be answered.
So what is the silent majority thinking? What thoughts ripple darkly across their minds?
Because the term “silent majority” can refer to the great mass of those who support the status quo or those who are the frustrated and oppressed with said status quo; and in our current situation, given how both the polls and reasonable expectations have failed when the unreasonable outliers came calling, there is no safe indicator of where the silent majority will go come polling day.
Previous electoral outcomes in other countries have seen more than one apple-cart upset and useless political elite tossed onto the bonfire of seething frustrations with all the enthusiasm of a blood thirsty lynch mob.
Or we have been faced with the lesser of two evils when the moral ambiguity of the situation has sucked all the legitimacy out of the candidates and left voters flinching away from any friendly face or lashing out in fear at the merest hint of danger.
Thus if we return to our horror movie/Scooby Doo analogy, we are now standing alone in the dark, nervously awaiting whatever is making those strange noises out beyond the light.
Is it Fred and Velma, some creep in a rubber monster mask or Shub Niggrath shuffling forward, tentacles quivering?
Or is it a twist ending, like Michael Jackson's Thriller video, where he turns to the camera in the final shot, the frame freezes, and while Vincent Prices mocking laughter fills our ears we see his glowing eyes and realize that the person we thought was our hero/heroine come to save us, has been the monster we have been running from all along.
Whatever you do don't look behind you!