Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Is Winston Peters New Zealand's Donald Trump?

The Populist Cocktail: Take, ‘Immigrants willing to work for ridiculously low wages preventing ordinary Kiwis from accessing well-paying jobs’. Add, ‘Big cities – particularly Auckland – sucking up the nation’s scarce resources and leaving New Zealand’s provincial heartland starved of everything from decent roads and railways to policemen able to respond when called’. Shake vigorously and decant into the nearest polling-booth.
 
TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP. Has an American president ever dominated the global conversation so effortlessly – or so absolutely? All those foreign policy “experts” who argued that under the lofty administration of Barack Obama American power has waned have been forced to reconsider their position. And no wonder, because practically every hour of every day since his inauguration, President Trump has proved beyond all doubt that the United States remains, indisputably, “the indispensable nation”.
 
So completely does Trump dominate the global news cycle that, even here, at the bottom of the world, political experts have begun speculating as to whether New Zealanders might be in line for an Antipodean version of “The Donald”.
 
Others object that the Americans have, as usual, come late to the party. New Zealanders, they insist, have had their very own populist political leader for nigh-on a quarter-century. His name? Winston Peters.
 
But identifying Peters as the New Zealand Trump merely pushes the question back one space. Instead of asking: Does NZ have its own Donald Trump? The question now becomes: Can Peters replicate Trump’s extraordinary success?
 
The short answer is: No. Trumpism could only be established in New Zealand by a politician drawn from the ranks of one of the major parties. Such a person would then have to take his or her party by storm: over-ruling and over-powering its existing power structures with the assistance of fanatical supporters drawn from both within and without the party.
 
Labour’s rules make such a political eruption much more achievable than National’s, but the absence of a Trump-like figure in its caucus makes one much less likely. National, on the other hand, has Judith Collins who, given the right conditions (and they would have to be very far-right conditions) could place herself at the head of a populist putsch – but only if her caucus colleagues believed themselves to have no other option.
 
Because populism is not summoned into existence by the wiles of an ambitious politician. In fact, the opposite is true. The conditions that make populism viable invariably prepare their own political executors. “Rogernomics” empowered Jim Anderton. “Ruthanasia” called forth Winston Peters. The disintegration of the American working class caused by globalisation and automation; the challenge posed to the hegemony of White America by rapid and irreversible demographic change; these were the principal ingredients of the spell that summoned forth Donald Trump.
 
What, then, are the economic and social forces currently influencing New Zealand society that could enable Peters and NZ First to give the forthcoming general election a populist tinge?
 
Essentially, they are the same forces that drove the United States into the arms of Donald Trump: fear of the “other”, and the hollowing out of the heartland.
 
The ethnic composition of the New Zealand population has changed so dramatically since the mid-1980s that native-born New Zealanders no longer regard their social and economic ascendancy as unassailable. Although Peters has yet to give unapologetic voice to these racial anxieties, their potential to deliver the coup de grace to an already faltering bi-partisan consensus on population policy is undeniable.
 
What populist worthy of the name could have viewed the shocking video footage of an angry young Maori woman abusing a pair of young Muslim women stretching their legs at Huntly and not drawn the all-too-obvious conclusions about the volatility of race-relations in contemporary New Zealand?
 
It is, moreover, very likely that the young Maori woman’s anger was fuelled by more than racial animus. It’s highly probable that envy was also a factor.
 
For those whose lack of education and skills keeps them trapped in declining provincial communities, the presence, however fleeting, of young professionals from metropolitan New Zealand can only remind them of all the things they seek but cannot find: employment, income, accommodation, mobility, freedom … and a future.
 
It is a potent political cocktail just waiting to be mixed.
 
Take, ‘Immigrants willing to work for ridiculously low wages preventing ordinary Kiwis from accessing well-paying jobs’. Add, ‘Big cities – particularly Auckland – sucking up the nation’s scarce resources and leaving New Zealand’s provincial heartland starved of everything from decent roads and railways to policemen able to respond when called’. Shake vigorously and decant into the nearest polling-booth.
 
Peters delivered the latter ingredient straight to the voters of Northland in March 2015. Mixed with the former, and garnished with the bitter fruit of homelessness and poverty, he would have a political cocktail of unprecedented potency.
 
The only question that remains is: will Peters mix it?
 
Is our political culture as irredeemably divided as America’s? Are our core institutions as bereft of competent defenders? Is Winston Peters as blinded by ignorance and narcissistic self-regard as President Trump?
 
Personally, I do not think so. If the drumbeat is Peters, Peters, Peters – it’s unlikely to accompany our collective march to the scaffold.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 14 February 2017.

23 comments:

John Commons said...

Peter's has already shown his willingness to play the race card, using it to propel him to appointment as Deputy PM under Jim Bolger. However, an important factor differentiating Peter's case from the likes of such populists as Trump et al is that he can't properly claim the role of outsider. This is after all, a man who has been part of the political scene since the Hunua by-election in 1978,holding a number of senior government roles over a forty-year political career. In a very real sense, he is the quintessential establishment figure.

greywarbler said...

I like to wish that Winston Peters is a politician with vigour and vision and knowledge of what the citizens want and also what would be good for we the citizens. And that when he talks he shakes our kaleidoscope and shows us a rearranged pattern of our present resources that we could adapt and adopt for short-term stability while we build better policies to prepare us for the otherwise foul future.

He's a great talker, sometimes witty, and seems to reach to the heart of voters and understand NZs problems, promising much and spinning dreams without too much detail. It's a nice dream and I never like to examine it too much in case I wake up too suddenly and sadly. I don't vote for him but it would be good to have him in Parliament if he has honest intentions to better the country through sound policies that conserve the good from the past and look for practical ways to face the future.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Peters for all his faults was a very competent Minister of Maori affairs, who was unfairly sacked by National for promoting policies that wouldn't go down well with their base. I don't remember much about his tenure as Minister of foreign affairs, were there any huge scandals associated with that? Trump on the other hand is an idiot. He's trying to run the US like he runs his business and finding he can't, and he has appointed idiots to work for him. He is also letting his family and by implication himself, make money from the presidency. It's been suggested that he's either suffering from the side-effects of the various drugs he takes, or he is simply barmy , and I confess I wouldn't have a clue. But I don't think Winston would be quite so stupid somehow. He knows how to run a political party.

Nick J said...

Populists like Peters must not be allowed easy points. They need to be beaten to the punch. For example there are rich pickings in the "immigration" card. For example how do we house the equivalent of Palmerston North year on year? And what jobs are they actually challenging "Kiwis" for? And does that do us any good?

I maintain the best way to address these questions is to put them on the table before some populist does it for you. To not do so makes a Winston the recipient of easy votes.

I have worked in the corporate IT sector for years. Currently there are huge numbers of "new Kiwis" from places like UK and SA who earn big bucks based upon qualifications and skills that "locals" dont have. I would maintain that the gap between imported skills and qualifications versus the potential in NZers is not so great as to warrant the granting of residence so easily.

To avoid a populist making hay with this type of scenario a more proactive party would announce "positive" policy to counter this scenario.....for example incentives for employers to train those unemployed youth...appealing to those people who have been left by the wayside. Or new education initiatives that take young NZers into new directions that are funded and easily accessed free of charge etc appealing to those who cannot see any advantage in being burdened by unpayable student debt.

My point is to put the real issues on the table, debate them openly, make policy statements as a result and beat the populists with the logic of that policy.

peter petterson said...

Immigration is the key - reduce it for a couple of years.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

A NZ Trump?

Jackson would have been a more likely candidate that Peters.

Unfortunately Little cut off his Willie, so we'll never know.

jh said...

The short answer is: No. Trumpism could only be established in New Zealand by a politician drawn from the ranks of one of the major parties. Such a person would then have to take his or her party by storm: over-ruling and over-powering its existing power structures with the assistance of fanatical supporters drawn from both within and without the party.
.......
I don't think that is the issue.
Governing elites find it hard to pursue policies that fly in the face of public opinion. But for adverse public opinion on a given question to be an effective political constraint someone has to articulate it. The question has to be placed on the national agenda. This role can fall to the Parliamentary Opposition but when bipartisan positions are adopted, as happened with immigration in 1980, formal political channels are blocked. This does not necessarily stifle adverse opinion but, if it is to be heard and to be effective, it must be promoted by other means. For example, organized protest groups can form, and with competent and articulate leadership they can provide a voice for an electorate disfranchised by bi-partisanship, a voice that politicians will be obliged to heed. Where these groups gain the sympathy of the media, the process will be accelerated. But, if the intelligentsia are not interested and the media unsympathetic, protest groups may not even form or, if they do, they are likely to remain on the fringes. Their activities will be ineffective and they will easily be written off as cranky and irrelevant.
http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc0104/article_56.shtml

NZ First has always been about immigration (I think) but the chink in the patriot's armour is that people's dirty little secret is ethnocentrism. This is used to great effect "why is it only Chinese your concerned about?" A heading dog holds a mob of sheep but cannot bite them all, but the racist jibe is akin to to a heading dog sitting on a brow holding a large mob of sheep: "I will call you racist!". As the argument stood resistance is racist. A kind of test case was The Media (Lush and Spoonley) versus Brown. I can think of better arguments since Lush and Spoonley versus Brown.
1. the concept of exchange of territory" do people from those countries flow each way in comparable rates? They did prior to 1986 US<> Canada<> Australia<> UK<> NZ.
2. while Helen Clark claimed "NZ needs a bigger population" we haven't seen the benefits (in hindsight). The experts didn't know best and contrarian experts were sent to purgatory (Greg Clydsedale). NZ immigration policy was "part of a much greater strategy": diversity versus a perfectly natural slowly evolving "mono" culture.
3. Ethnocentrism is an evolutionary adaptation. It helps societies deal with adversity (but can also be bad) It is common to all peoples. Multiculturalism is based on a flawed view of human nature. There is a world of difference between the slow absorption of the other and a rapid flood.

jh said...

Just to add: the establishment would reject my Brown versus Spoonley/Lush arguments but a populist talks over their heads to the population. Populist is a pejorative term but so is political correctness as it implies a position that needs coercion to be held as true.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

In other words, Winston is nothing like this.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xecEV4dSAXE

jh said...

Chris
The ethnic composition of the New Zealand population has changed so dramatically since the mid-1980s that native-born New Zealanders no longer regard their social and economic ascendancy as unassailable.
......
Which was always the plan of the Labour Party The immigration policy review in 1986 was part of a much larger [secret] agenda for change in New Zealand.
............
Chris
For those whose lack of education and skills keeps them trapped in declining provincial communities, the presence, however fleeting, of young professionals from metropolitan New Zealand can only remind them of all the things they seek but cannot find: employment, income, accommodation, mobility, freedom … and a future.
..........
However people are tribal by nature (they are not a blank slate) and people and place aren't fungible. The lesson for locals of multiculturalisn is: "see: no tribe/ no territory". The last bus stop for the lower strata is a feeling of belonging to a tribe and having a unique place.And I don't mean Iwi I mean New Zealander (Maori and Pakeha See One Hundred Crowded Years 1941 NZ On Screen)
.....
Chris
Take, ‘Immigrants willing to work for ridiculously low wages preventing ordinary Kiwis from accessing well-paying jobs’. Add, ‘Big cities – particularly Auckland – sucking up the nation’s scarce resources and leaving New Zealand’s provincial heartland starved of everything from decent roads and railways to policemen able to respond when called’. Shake vigorously and decant into the nearest polling-booth.
.....
How about:
Winston Peters
Economist Kerry McDonald described our current rate of immigration as “a national disaster.”
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1611/S00115/speech-peters-creating-the-wealth-but-getting-little.htm

Alan said...

Any comparing of Donald Trump with Winston Peters in any way is unfortunate, the one a billionaire narcissist showman with every indication of being a fully developed psychopath, and the other one of the most enduring and skilled political operators this country has seen.

The one has no political experience and communicates in simplistic contradictory tweets. The other is a master communicator.

Whereas Trump is a clumsy Mussolini with similar appeal, Peters is more skilful Reagan, with similar appeal. The comparison is superficial.

Of course principled men and women in politics everywhere today are as common as pterodactyle’s teeth, to the weakening of democracy as a whole. The triumphant nuovo-fascist beliefs impacting as they have everywhere behind innocuous labels like ‘alt-right’, and ‘neo-con’, have created systems where effective politicians are frequently concerned with poopulist poolitics with self at the centre, and little vision beyond ‘ME’. Since that self-centered ‘me’ and ‘mine’ is electorally everywhere, the appeal to populism is a winner.

And that’s not just Trump, or Peters.

Populations are conditioned now to expect nothing better, and nothing better is what they get. Winston is indeed such a master populist knowing exactly what sores to scratch. The Donald is too, but his populism has derived from an American envy/worship of enormous personal wealth and an ability to crudely articulate prejudices at a Winnie the Pooh level ‘understood’ by those many damaged by the corporate state.

Alan Rhodes

jh said...

Taking about lies, we have an elite secret agenda and vested interests oligopoly.

Bushbaptist said...

Or this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfaXILOSEf0

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's interesting that this guy is a little (actually a lot) less sanguine than I confess I was about the institutions of the US government somehow curbing Trump and his excesses. What's fascinating is that there are echoes of Roger Douglas here.

http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/157058066625/we-have-at-most-a-year-to-defend-american

For those who can't be bothered reading the whole interview.

"He also notes that the speed with which the Trump team has worked to hammer home its agenda is a strategy designed to cause fatigue and depression."

Which if my memory serves me correctly was exactly the strategy employed by Douglas to get his economy ruining "reforms" through Parliament.

Trump's cabinet is apparently also at loggerheads with each other. And Godwin be damned, that's exactly what Hitler encouraged in Germany to make sure they couldn't gang up on him. Mind you, I'm not sure if Trump's efforts are deliberate or just incompetence. Take your choice there I think – I tend towards incompetence. :) But it's instructive that as a businessman he prefers loyalty to efficiency. I'm not sure what Peters' take on that would be. Possibly much the same as he does tend to be a one-man band.

David Stone said...

@Alan Rhodes

You have to admit some similarities; They are about the same age.
D J S

Victor said...

Alan

I agree that Winston isn't another Trump.

And I also agree that the current "populist" wave vastly resembles the fascism that my dad's generation seemed to have knocked on the head, at the cost of so many lives.

Furthermore, I can't abide neo-cons either.

But I'm not sure that neo-cons are the same thing as the alt-right, although they might turn into the same thing now that the latter hold office in Washington.

This new mob are vaguely "statist" and not given to proselitising the US model a la neo-con. But that too might change once the model has degraded further.

Personally, I can't see myself voting for Winston, as he wants to reduce my Super because I've only spent 31 years working in NZ and despite the fact that payment of my entire UK state pension to the MOD (plus my ongoing payment of income tax and GST) means that, even in my semi-dotage, I'm a net benefactor of the New Zealand taxpayer.

Even so, I'm pleased that New Zealand has an experienced parliamentarian, steeped in our constitutional traditions, at the head of a party with populist tendencies. I suspect this will help dampen down support for any would-be Duce who emerges.

And I must also concede that the old boy has done a more than respectable job in any office under the crown that he's occupied.

But the thought of Shane Jones as his successor somehow or other fails to impress me.

Victor said...

GS

It's true that, inspired by a sort of faux-Darwinism, Hitler deliberately fomented rivalries amongst his ghastly coterie, as they all scrambled over each other to gain profit and power from "working towards the Fuehrer".

But he also had a naturally shambolic and self-indulgent approach to life that wasn't all that different from Trump's.

They're both examples of the type of personality who's happiest when swimming through a sea of chaos of their own making.

I've met minor versions of this type on committees. They're simply hell to deal with, even when they don't have legions of thugs at their command.

sean said...

Don’t populists at some point have to be popular ?

Arthur Xenophobe said...

My friend is back from overseas and looking around Dunedin for a house. The realestate agent is thrilled the Chinese are buying up.
Aucklanders are selling up and buying in Twizel and TeAnau.
New Zealanders are getting squeezed from their own country

jh said...

I have not yet felt much need to compare Trump to anyone. The Trump story is about how he chalenged the media. One similarity to WP is that Winston packs town halls (so bypassing the media party). Trump said shocking things: the media took great delight expecting Trump to crash but Trumps popularity increased. Previously politicians would have folded over. Polls rate journalists with used car salesmen and the reason is they are part of the big lie. Try telling the Jews and Palestinians that relaxing zoning or density is the answer.

Alan said...

Yes Sean. Populists do have to be popular, and 'popular' government is the heart of real democracy. Guess it is, like most things, degree....principles interfacing with power.

Alan Rhodes

Bushbaptist said...

Could this be Trumpy?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPnuar6tkrM

Jh said...

Auckland University has a European interest group. Last night (TV3) our journalist/ commedians/media-layer/denizens of what is acceptable ) were on to it. One woman loudly exclaimed: "o.k If you are from the alt-right make yourself known, so we know who you are and we can avoid you!!!".
What's going on here? It's OK to have benign expressions of ethnicity (what did Ghent is Khan ever do/ where did "thug" come from), but if it is European, it is an *outbreak* of (possible) Nazis resurgence.
You would have to wonder why people are attracted to Nazi-ism. Some extremists are deluded (the Holocaust never happend) or blame the Jews as an out- group behind multiculturalism etc. Johnathon Haidt, Gaad Saad and Steven Pinker are Jewish and leading voices in the opposite direction.
What is threatened here is multiculturalism: the idea that the old New Zealand was a racist state and needed fixing. In order to cement this lie the media are well and truly behind the benefits of immigration. And the media are bedfellows with all the people doing well out of it. I have a friend raking it in from a motel in Queenstown whereas a porter at the Crown Plaza told me he is quitting because he "just can't afford to live here"

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/commentary_by_fran_coombs/how_the_media_spins_the_immigration_issue