Friday, October 13, 2023

Getting on the bus

Tomorrow is Election Day in New Zealand, the final day to vote in this year’s General Election. The result will be close, and it’ll come down to who who actually votes—of course. The people who vote always determine who leads government, and the people who don’t vote don’t factor in that equation—of course. I have my own prediction of how this could play out in New Zealand this year (more about that later in this post), but it basically comes down to who gets on the bus.

I realised recently that I subscribe to the “Bus Theory” of voting (I don’t know that’s an actual name for it, but it’s what I call it). Here’s the analogy: Suppose I’m in the centre of the city, a long way from where I live, and I need to take a bus to get home. I could wait for a bus that will take me directly to my house—door to door!—but I know that such a bus doesn’t exist. Or, I could take a bus that’ll take me closest to home, even though it won’t go past my house, and it may even drop me off a block or so away and I have to walk the rest of the way. Finally, I could curse the bus for not going exactly where I want it to go and stomp off to walk an hour and a half back to my house. In rush hour traffic. And it starts to rain halfway there.

The point, of course, is that for the vast majority of people, no matter how much we might like a political party, we know no party is perfect, none of them will always do what we think they should do, and they’ll all get it wrong at least some of the time. We also know that somebody WILL win the election, maybe someone we dislike a LOT. What do we do?

For me, I vote for whichever party is going to take us closest to where I want us to be. Maybe some day the bus service will produce the perfect bus that will go exactly where I want it to, but I’m not going to wait for one that doesn’t and can’t exist today, and I’m also not going to stomp off on foot because it doesn’t exist today. I’ll take the bus that’s closest to what I want. I won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I’ve voted Centre-Left my entire voting life, and in that time there have been plenty of times I metaphorically held my nose and voted for candidates/parties that disappointed me because their bus was going closest to where I wanted to go. Sometimes, the bus even got really close to the destination. In any case, I always got on the best bus available at the time.

There are, of course, people who feel perfection is the only acceptable option. Such people can, and often do, take the stomp-off option. Personally, I think it makes far more sense for such people to vote and deliberately spoil their ballots. If large numbers of people do that, politicians can see how many potential actual voters they’re not winning over, even grudgingly.

There are also true-believers who back their chosen parties 110%, and I honestly think that’s great for them! However, that’s seldom an option for many, possibly most, voters.

I’ve talked many times how the core of my politics is pragmatism, how I choose to work with what’s in front of me even as I also work for better and stronger progress. Honestly, I can’t even imagine a time that won’t be true—and, as a pragmatist, I can accept that, because making any progress toward the things central to my personal values is, for me, better than remaining pure and making no progress.

Which brings me back to my prediction about this year’s NZ General Election. If voters under 35, those who care about fighting climate change, if Māori and Pasifika people, and poor and working people vote, it’ll be a Centre-Left government. If large numbers of any of those groups don’t vote, or vote for parties on the Right, it’ll be a rightwing government with some quite hard-right policies due to coalition agreements. Put another way, if the people who ordinarily vote for Centre-Left parties get on the bus that’s actually there, they’ll determine the government. We know that the voters on the Right will do that, because they almost always do—but they’re more determined this year.

Based on what I’ve seen over a lifetime of watching and studying politics, everything comes down to who gets on the bus, maybe even especially so in these polarised times. After all, I want the bus to at least get close to the destination, not see it careering off a cliff from the wrong side of the road.

We’ll see tomorrow which scenario may be happening.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I get the Bus Theory. In 1980, I voted for neither Carter nor Reagan, going third- (or fourth- or sixth-) party. In 1984, I voted for Mondale, not that it mattered. I've voted for the Democrat ever since, except in 1996, when I voted for - wait for it - Ralph Nader. But the way the US does its elections, I knew that Wm J Clinton was a lock in NYS.