I'M finding it really difficult to adjust to the reality of being on the losing side of the recent electoral battle.
The Wellington political scientist, Jon Johanson, talks approvingly about "the peaceful circulation of elites" (and I'm certainly not decrying this aspect of our democratic system) but it is definitely a lot less enjoyable being part of an elite that has just been "circulated out" of power, than it is being part of one that's just been "circulated in". For the past nine years, no matter how insufferable right-wing politicians and commentators became, the Left could always cheer itself up by mentally repeating Michael Cullen's immortal quip: "We won, you lost - eat that!"
Well, they've won, we've lost, and now we're just going to have to get used to the taste of it.
Some will say, like good little democrats, that "the people are always right", and that, since we lost their confidence, we must have been doing something wrong.
To which I say: "Well of course we did things wrong! We're human-beings!"
What did we do wrong? Quite a lot. We got horribly disconnected from our base. We became arrogant and intolerant towards those who didn't sign-up to our point of view right away. We were too timid - too unwilling to upset a few apple-carts. But, most importantly, we were far too sanguine about the readiness of the news media to go on reporting politics in a fair and balanced fashion after we'd forced the Electoral Finance Act down the New Zealand electorate's collective throat.
In short, Labour forgot it was the representative of the people who, in order to get their fair share of what this country has to offer, are obliged to take it from those who have a great deal more than their fair share, and who acquired it at the expense of others and the natural environment.
Redistribution is, ultimately, a zero-sum game. And if our side is winning, it is only because in real, or relative, terms the other side is losing. And they don't like to lose - especially not for three elections in a row.
We'd been in power so long that we thought we had an entitlement to it: that, somehow, it belonged to us by right. We'd forgotten what it was like to be on the outside looking in, always unable to effect the changes we believed were so important.
Labour liked to think of itself as a government of "competent managers", and was supremely confident that "the people" would remember all the things it had done for them, and that, with hard economic times coming, the voters would show little enthusiasm for changing horses in mid-stream.
But, in making all these self-serving assumptions, we on the Left were forgetting that the people are not necessarily the rational beings we believe them to be.
Oh, to be sure, over most human beings you will indeed find a veneer of rationality, but it is periously thin. Scratch the surface of the average citizen and you'll uncover a seething cauldron of drives and passions, hatreds and resentments. Unleash the atavism of the masses, and you can reduce the most competent of governments to a smoking ruin in just three years.
When you're out of power you know this.
When you've been in power for nine years - you forget.