My family was addicted to West Wing, a program that has introduced more non-US people, and probably quite a few US people, to the intricacies of US politics. Quite addictive.
The spread of US style presidential campaigning to Australia and the adoption of West Wing influences is well captured in this story. Here we have the serious leader sitting along in a big piece of kit reflecting our futures, In fact, he is probably just recovering with blank mind or thinking of his next lines.
I have never voted for dear leader in my life, and I don't intend to start now. Maybe that's not quite right, Doug Anthony comes to mind, but then I was also voting for a leadership team plus a party I already supported. It wasn't just Doug, but also Peter, Ian and Ralph in particular. And it was also my local candidate. Can you name the top National leadership now? I really can't beyond the hidden Warren or the ever present Barnaby.
The problem with the presidential dear leader' focus is that it sucks the oxygen out of the political debate. Tony Abbott commented that he would never agree to compromise to form a minority government. A commentator pointed out that as leader of the Liberal Party, and bar a total landslide, that was exactly what would happen. Mr Abbott would be dependent on the Nationals, a different party. Maybe the compromises and agreements have been made up front, but the principle would seem to me to be the same.
This election is not a vote for Mr Abbott or Mr Rudd or, indeed, a vote against either. As both Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard found, as Mr Menzies found before them, the position of Prime Minister is first among equals. Success in the role depends in significant part on the strength of your team and your ability to manage them in a collegiate way.
This election is also not primarily a vote about detailed policies or programs, nor about giving mandates beyond the mandate to govern. The idea that mandate = shopping list = delivery on every point exactly as stated is just plain dumb. The vote is simply about who we think best to represent us at local level, who beyond that is best equipped to govern for the next term. Where we are uncomfortable with the main choices, I guess that the question becomes what is the outcome that will best control or limit those concerns that we have.
So what does all this mean as to how I might vote, accepting that this might change as the election proceeds? Here I come back to the choices I might have when nominations close.
I am not going to vote for either the Liberal or Labor candidates in my electorate, Kingsford Smith. I am unhappy with their parties, and I don't know either well enough at this point to say that i am prepared to vote for them despite their parties. I definitely don't want to vote Green, although I did vote Democrat on many occasions in the past. The Greens are not the Democrats. They are far too rigidly ideological on issues where i disagree with them.
Now already i have achieved a small victory, for with Australia's public funding of elections I am denying the Libs, Labor or Greens the few dollars that might come from my vote. The public funding system entrenches existing interests, something that I am opposed too.
Having ruled out the three main parties, I will then study the other candidates to decide who I like best. Since they won't win, I will then think about my second and third preference, Here I will decide at the time about my best worst choice.
In voting in this way, I get three benefit: one is the denial of public funding; the second is support for a minority or independent interest; the third is knowing that my vote still counts, that I may have a tiny marginal influence.
The senate involves different issues. Here I rarely vote above the line, preferring to get my magnifying glass and work through the candidates in a tactical way. But that's another story.