Wednesday 25 January 2017

Trumpism's Shock-Waves Will Reach New Zealand.

Been There, Very Nearly Did That: Imagining how different this country would be if Don Brash had won the 2005 General Election makes the task of understanding how disruptive Trump’s presidency is likely to be for the United States a lot easier.
AS NEW ZEALAND RETURNS to work and the tempo of the year quickens; so too does the pace of politics. The inauguration of President Donald Trump has certainly given the domestic politics of the United States a mighty shove between the shoulders. And because the USA still dominates the world, the knock-on effects of Trumpism unbound will reverberate around the globe.
Even here, in far-flung New Zealand, policies and attitudes which have for long been considered beyond the pale of civilised discourse will coming rushing back at us out of the darkness. Old arguments, from both sides of the Left/Right divide, will be dusted off and thrust back into the political arena.
Rather than a sedate walk to the ballot-box in November, we may find ourselves shoving our way into the polling booth through surging crowds and angry cat-calls.
Too much? We must hope so. But it behoves us to remember the historical transformations made possible by those in authority suddenly signalling a relaxation of taboos and/or a reconsideration of what is and isn’t politically acceptable.
When the former Reserve Bank Governor, and Leader of the National Party-led Opposition, Dr Don Brash, delivered his in/famous “Orewa Speech” on 27 January 2004, for example, ideas and expressions which had hitherto been condemned as “racist” were instantly rendered acceptable to a very large number of New Zealanders.
The political impact of Brash’s speech was registered with dramatic emphasis in the next Colmar Brunton opinion poll. National had improved its position by a staggering 17 percentage points. Overnight, the National Party which had been humiliated in the 2002 general election had got its electoral mojo back.
Brash led National to the brink of electoral victory in 2005 on a radically right-wing political programme. This included, inter alia, downgrading the Treaty of Waitangi and abolishing the Maori seats, along with significant tax cuts funded by a dramatic reduction in public spending. Had the Helen Clark-led Labour Party not edged past National in the final hours of the 2005 campaign, New Zealand would now be a very different country.
Imagining how different this country would be if Brash had won should make the task of understanding how disruptive Trump’s presidency is likely to be for the United States a lot easier. (Allowing, of course, for the fact that Don Brash is a judicious, well-educated, and highly-experienced public servant, and, at the personal level, a generous and tolerant human-being – and Donald Trump is not.)
Cast your mind back to the venomous quality of public debate in the run-up to the 2005 election. Recall the scandalous rumours that circulated about the Prime Minister’s marriage and private life. The level of misogyny in New Zealand society was astonishing. And there was nothing “casual” about the racism on display in the National Party’s “Iwi/Kiwi” billboards.
National’s narrow loss did nothing to still these voices. If anything, they grew in intensity. Those Kiwis who recoiled in horror at the viciousness of Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton, have clearly forgotten the appalling acidity of the vitriol hurled at Helen Clark.
The person who put an end to this Trumpism-before-Trump was, of course, John Key. Though National’s dirty politics continued under the radar of mainstream political scrutiny, Key’s overthrow of Brash in November 2006 signalled a major strategic shift. The most dramatic demonstration of Key’s “pivot” towards the “moderate centre” came in 2008 when he very publicly joined forces with Helen Clark to ensure the passage of Sue Bradford’s controversial anti-smacking legislation.
This was like Trump announcing that he was cutting all ties with Steve Bannon, Breitbart News and the Alt-Right, in order to lead the international fight against climate change!
Key’s deliberate policy of ideological decompression allowed New Zealand to pass through the potentially highly-divisive aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis without serious political disorder. Indeed, Key’s embrace of the policy package dubbed “Labour-lite”, coupled with his relaxed style of governance, allowed him to extend National’s political honeymoon indefinitely.
No such decompression is about to occur in the United States. On the contrary, the needle on the political pressure-gauge is already entering the red zone. Trump’s inaugural address signalled his intention to double-down on the populist manifesto that carried him to the White House. His Cabinet, and the triumphalist Republican congress, cannot wait to give it regulatory and legislative effect.
With America’s leader urging them on, the global disciples of the Far-Right will spring from the political shadows in vast numbers. The demoralised opponents of abortion will be re-energised by the imminent reversal of Roe vs Wade. Cyberspace will be littered with the virtual corpses of out-numbered and out-gunned “social justice warriors”. Accusations of racism will no longer make racists feel ashamed – they will be worn as badges of honour.
Can’t happen here? Oh yes, it can. It very nearly did.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 24 January 2017.


Nick J said...

Thoughtful comments Chris.

There are a number of things happening offshore that will no doubt be reflected in the NZ election. A dominant theme has been the resurgence of things attributed by yourself to the "Right".

There has been the backlash against "progressive social justice".
There has been the backlash against immigration.
There has been the backlash against the political establishment blithely assuming that it can ignore huge parts of the electorate.
There has been the backlash against the "internationalisation" of labour and the loss of jobs, against "free trade" that only benefits the elite.
There has been the backlash against the lack of law and order being applied to the financial sector.

If you examine all of the above ask whether these are the true preserve of the "Right"? One common factor is that both Left and Right have assumed the tacit acceptance of Joe and Jill Average, these issues are not debated. Permission is not sought. So as with Brexit and Trump the status quo has been given a wake up call by a very large chunk of the electorate. Democracy is not in crisis, it shows remarkable health. The people have been heard.

So when all comes down to it, with the NZ election all of the discontents are going to be on the table. And as a "socialist" I see no issue above that we should not address again with open debate. If people fear immigration rather than calling then "racists" and "bigots" the Left needs to show understanding and actually address the peoples real issue. The "deplorables" are the people the Left grew out of. They are not the "class enemies" of the Left, and if they are not "progressive" it is not them but the "progressive" program that needs to be questioned. If Labour wants to win all past certainties are up for debate.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I would hope, given the events of the last few days, including millions of women around the world marching against Trump, that the advent of this sort of politics might reinvigorate the left in the US. It will be more difficult in New Zealand, because we don't have so much of that utterly barmy religious right that has decided to curtail women's access to abortion and unbelievably – contraception. But to some extent I still quail at people like Trump having access to the repressive powers of the state. The Constitution of the US is going to be put under huge pressure in the next four years. I hope it proves resilient enough. I'm not sure that our society will, given the comparative lack of formal protections. On the other hand, in spite of the fact that there is a mean-spirited streak in New Zealand that has been nurtured by people like Brash, I still have faith in our (mainly) egalitarian attitudes. So I live in hope.

greywarbler said...

I was shocked at the number of white haired red faced old men who came out of the cupboard and stumped into the Constitutional Conversation held recently. These ghastly propaganda creations would like to turn the dial back to where they could be pukkha sahibs and strut around in their whiteness (pink blotchiness) putting everyone down and getting their leg up over anyone without their height on the social ladder of class materialism and conformity.

greywarbler said...

If people don't want to spend some of their time in structured thinking about need for change, and when it should be applied, then someone else will do it for them ie governments who are faced with hard decisions, or hard attitudes from people who fund their promotion for election.

The Left had got to a very complacent stage, as the Right are now. Between two sides concreted into thinking either traditionally or in a reactionary way, people who attempt real thought and analysis and a different approach are between a rock and a hard place.

Colonel JH Blimp said...

Key’s deliberate policy of ideological decompression allowed New Zealand to pass through the potentially highly-divisive aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis without serious political disorder.
Key and Clark were bedfellows Clark said:
"She said to me that New Zealand was really a very racist country, and she was determined to do everything she could as prime minister to change that.". She was on television scathingly declaring "New Zealand needs a bigger population" (= immigration)
While Key said
"And I always thought what was happening in the opposition of politics (of course they would oppose National, that’s their job actually apart from everything else) but it was a bit negative about out place in the world. So we played a bit about whether people coming here was a good or bad thing whether people should invest here was a good or bad thing, or whether we have a trade agreement with parts of Asia was a good or bad thing, but actually in my mind, the reason that I want to say yes to those things is because they are the opportunities that reflect our opportunities to both get wealthier (which is all about what you can do with that money) and then ultimately the oppurtunities for Kiwis. I’d like New Zealanders to feel (after my time as Prime Minister) they have become more confident outward looking nation more multicultural."

[Campbell says "Thank you" - multiforeignerism needs no justification. Now when Winston says Auckland is "Sin City" he got mega attention from the Campbell Live reporter]

At the UN when pushing her barrow for the top job Helen Clark said: "I come from a multicultural country" (a nod to her achievement). So I don't think either leader had much time for the nation.

Colonel JH Blimp Esq. said...

Money has a voice.
Political power has a voice.
Mai Chen the voice of the underhand (multicultural) revolution is on the Panel (again).
They are discussing multi millionaires buying the lifestyle our great grandparents had (house at the head of Sparklingview Bay)

jh said...

The "deplorables" are the people the Left grew out of
Parr (2000) writes “[T]he views of New Zealanders are not conducive to the population of New Zealanders becoming more diversified globally.” From localism to globalism? New Zealand Sociology, 15(2), 304-. 335
The immigration policy review in 1986 was part of a much larger agenda for change in New Zealand (Bedford 1996). It was not essentially a change in state policy with a primary focus on one region of the world, as Parr (2000:329) suggests, although clearly through the 1980s and 1990s
immigration from countries in Asia was a highly topical issue for both politicians and the public. The attitudes of New Zealanders in the mid-1990s towards immigration may not have reflected the positive perspective on the value of diversity in our society that is contained in the Review of Immigration Policy August 1986. But this does not mean that the globalisation
of immigration to New Zealand was an “unintended consequence of policy changes in 1986”. It was a deliberate strategy, based on a premise that the “infusion of new elements to New Zealand life has been of immense value to the development of this country to date and will, as a result of this Government’s review of immigration policy, become even more important in the future” (Burke 1986:330). The data on arrivals, departures, approvals, refugee flows and net migration gains and losses reported in this paper indicates that “the infusion of new elements” into New Zealand society is proceeding apace. There is no suggestion in immigration policy in 2002 that
this will not “become even more important in the future”, as Burke (1986) assumed in the mid-1980s."
The Globalisation of International Migration
in New Zealand: Contribution to a Debate

Jack Scrivano said...

Chris, I think that I have been a liberal – and, in many ways, a progressive – for almost 60 years. But I also think that the current trend towards stamping out dissenting views as racist, sexist, or whateverist, is dangerous. Just because you are not allowed to say it, does not mean that you don’t think it. Let’s get people’s views out into the sunshine. Let people say what they really think. And may Dame Susan and all her counterparts keep an open mind and listen long before they speak.

Alan said...

Yes of course it can happen here as the heat and horror of the 1981 Springbok tour still can inform us.

However laying bare the deep national disgruntlement that Brash’s Orewa speech brought to the surface in 2004, a perception that a racial PC underpinned the direction New Zealand was moving in is one thing, but somehow painting that onto the racial, social, misogynistic, economic and environmental fascism emerging in the shadow of a narcissistic psychopath in the US is a bridge far far too far.

After all, all Don Brash was doing was articulating the widespread unease at what was seen by many as real racist weakening of the concept of equality before law: one citizen: one vote, in clear violation of the Treaty of Waitangi, a neat reversal of what seems to be ascribed to his position in this article, and those concerns have never been addressed and remain to this day.

Smiling John contributed nothing positive to the principled resolution of this problem, preferring to remain in office with the support of an ethnic party fighting along ethnic lines, and ensuring that the problem will become an ever more bitter one with time.

Alan Rhodes

jh said...

If you follow Johnathon Haidt there are 5 moral foundations which are universal (across cultures).
They are: harm/care; fairness/reciprocity; in-group/loyalty; authority/respect; purity/sanctity.
Liberals are strong on the first two whereas conservatives are more even across all five. I can see where someone (Gareth Morgan) who wants to change the flag would sit. I’m not sure how the first two would relate to the treaty but that is because I’m high on group loyalty (at the other end). Two German hitchhikers once told me “it’s their country”: which leaves us stateless or subjugated (easy for them to say - “jump in the sea Israelis”). Gareth Morgan called people who oppose Maori wards “bigots” and Judd sees himself as a “recovering racist”: when I voted for my local environmental councilors I chose those who were fresh water ecologists (authority/respect)?
Chris talked about the Treaty as being "a litmus test of authentic revolutionary praxis" which suggests sacrilisation (non negotiability/end of reason).
David Slacks book Bullshit Backlash and Bleeding Hearts would fit with Johnathon Haidts view that liberals and conservatives need each other (Yin and Yang). He canvasses many people and we look at the problem form different directions. Alex Frames view on the Treaty describes it as flawed due to it's circumstantial genesis. It became sanctified until some European and Maori academics tried to use it as a weapon of social change.

Nick J said...

Grey, we are indeed in terms of thinking between a rock and a hard place. We do have one great advantage: the orthodoxy is constantly showing signs of failure without any change in the dialogue. There is a cognitive dissonance between what is the picture painted by the orthodoxy and the results. This screams out for a new dialogue, and to some degree this explains Trump.

Jack / Alan / jh, am I hearing a call for open honest appraisal free from the claustrophobia inducing labels like "sexist" and "racist"?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"If you follow Johnathon Haidt" ... You are an idiot.

jh said...

Trumps clamp down on immigration and his wall is a bit like the neighbours building a double garage: "how come we don't have one?"

Barry said...

I agree with the last two paragraphs of Alan Rhodes' comment on 25 January at 22:02.

Jack Scrivano said...

Nick J:

Yes, you are. We need a proper conversation. As is usually the case, there will be divergent opinions. But let's get those opinions out into the open.

jh said...

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"If you follow Johnathon Haidt" ... You are an idiot.
Was just reading Public Address re Chinese sounding names. The focus of the debate was: is this racism or isn't it? That was # 1 consideration, superior to: are people of Chinese ethnicity buying houses out of proportion to other groups and what does that mean? The telos of the argument was to defend Chinese rather than get to the truth. That suggests sacrilisation and a need for dogmatic social policy = political correctness.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jh in so far as I can make out what on earth you going on about as usual, some things we need to be dogmatic about. The racism is a separate issue from the house buying. We do need to be dogmatic about racism. And sexism. And every other form of Bullshit you seem to espouse. And again – political correctness – you lose the Internet. Being anti-PC just means you want to make racist and sexist jokes and not get pulled up for it. It's beyond the bounds. You can't be prosecuted for it but you can be criticised for it. So suck it up.

Charles E said...

Nick J I think your post at the top nails it. The 'it' being this whole Brexitrump thing. It could be a paradymn shift. If so it will affect us too similarly if the establishment here, both left and right do not listen to the majority view on matters of national identity. That's the core of it. I'm late to see this on immigration. I've been fine with the high numbers and thought I was mainstream but I reckon now I'm in the minority. But conversely with biculturalism. I've long thought it seriously divisive for the government to push it but with few agreeing with me, yet now I feel a large majority really are getting fed up with the establishment fawning before a minority who have a few ancestors born in the right bed.
Yet NZers are pretty slow to get wound up to action so the establishment can move to let the steam out gradually. Key was good at that and English should be too. Little is similarly cool headed so as long as these types prevail we should ride out the great shift underway.