Tuesday 12 April 2022

Eighty-One Thousand Votes.

Going Down: The question to be answered, then, is a simple one. If the controversial changes to the Green Party’s co-leadership rules proceed, how many formerly Green voters is the party likely to lose? If the answer is greater than 81,000, and Chloe Swarbrick fails to hold Auckland Central, then the Greens will cease to be a party represented in Parliament.

IF THE GREENS proceed with the constitutional changes mooted by political commentator Matthew Hooton, then their electoral future is bleak. The public has learned to live with the Greens’ male and female co-leaders, especially after the rule was adopted by Te Pāti Māori. Doing away with the male co-leader position, however, and replacing it with a co-leadership position open to “any gender” – Hooton’s prediction – will likely strike a great many Green Party supporters as both self-indulgently radical and blatantly unfair.

If Hooton’s second prediction, that the Green constitution will be further amended to require at least one of the party’s co-leaders to be Māori, also proves accurate, then the loyalty of Green voters will be tested even more strenuously.

The reasons for this are fairly straightforward.

The Greens are engaged in electoral politics: being so, they are bound by the rules of the New Zealand electoral system. The most relevant of these for any party promoting radical policies is that they must attract more than 5 percent of the Party Votes cast (or win an electorate seat) to gain a seat or seats in the House of Representatives. Crossing that 5 percent threshold in 2020 meant attracting somewhere in the vicinity of 145,000 votes. With 226,757 votes (7.8 percent) the Greens easily made it into Parliament.

The question to be answered, then, is a simple one. If the mooted constitutional changes proceed, how many formerly Green voters is the party likely to lose? If the answer is greater than 81,000, and Chloe Swarbrick fails to hold Auckland Central, then the Greens will cease to be a party represented in Parliament.

Eighty-one thousand votes may sound like a lot, but consider the fate of the Alliance – a coalition of radical parties of which the Greens were once part. Between the 1999 and 2002 general elections, 133,971 of the Alliance’s party voters took their support elsewhere. Its share of the Party Vote fell from 7.7 percent to 1.3 percent, and it ceased to be a parliamentary party.

Such is the fate of political parties which, for one reason or another, forfeit the trust, confidence and respect of their supporters. The transition from hero to zero can be brutally quick.

All too often the risk of alienating a critical number of party supporters is seriously underestimated by party members. The latter are dangerously prone to believing that their electoral support base is, in all practical respects, indistinguishable from themselves.

Except, this is almost never the case – especially for those parties capable of cresting the 5 percent threshold. Support is won on the strength of a great many considerations – and sometimes for the party’s position on just a single issue. Voters are not required to be either rational or consistent, and an alarming number of them are neither. Party members are almost always more ideologically consistent than party supporters.

All of these factors are acutely relevant to the Green Party.

A large chunk of its support (perhaps most of it) is based upon the perceived urgency of state action to combat Climate Change. Other voters’ will back the Greens for the party’s original commitment to social justice (long since attenuated to “social responsibility”). Some will back the Greens on account of their pacifism and because the party is committed to an ethical foreign policy. Many more will vote Green simply because they are in favour of decriminalising cannabis.

The number attracted to the Greens because they have altered their constitution to reflect their opposition to binary, heteronormative gender relations is likely to be considerably smaller than any of the groups of voters mentioned above. Outside of a very small fraction of the highly-educated professional middle-class, and a similarly modest percentage of their offspring studying at university, such matters display something pretty close to zero political salience.

Certain to display much greater salience with progressive voters will be the obvious disdain evinced by a large number of Green Party members for the political performance of their male co-leader, James Shaw, along with their equally obvious determination to remove him from his position.

While a great many Green voters are dissatisfied with the current government’s performance on Climate Change, this does not necessarily mean that they are dissatisfied with Shaw’s handling of the Climate Change portfolio. Most will realise that the Greens exercise very little influence over the behaviour of the Jacinda Ardern-led Labour Government, and more than a few will applaud Shaw for having parlayed the very weak hand he was dealt to such good effect and with such political skill.

The idea that he is being eased out of his male co-leader’s role by means of a transparent piece of constitutional revision may not sit well with these voters. By them the manoeuvre may be judged both cowardly and dishonest. Many will feel unable to go on supporting a party that is prepared to countenance such shabby political tactics.

Other Green supporters will attempt to match up the proposed constitutional changes with the four core tenets of the global Green movement: Ecological Wisdom, Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy, and Non-Violence. They will struggle to see very much in the way of wisdom, justice, or democracy in any of these proposals. But, they will not miss the venomous emotional violence inherent in the execution of a political manoeuvre that protects the jobs and careers of some politicians while ruthlessly sacrificing those of others. These supporters, too, may feel unable to go on voting for a party capable of deploying such toxic levels of passive aggression.

Finally, there is the crucial question of political perception. What do these mooted constitutional changes make the Green Party look like?

Do they make the Greens look like a political organisation welcoming to all New Zealanders?

Do they make the Greens look like a group of politicians capable of prioritising the environmental, economic and social outcomes that New Zealand and the planet so desperately need?

Do they make the Greens look the way they used to look, back in the days of Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Sue Bradford, Keith Locke, Sue Kedgley and Nandor Tanczos: like a group of people who both like and support one another in the promotion of causes no rational voter can fail to acknowledge?

Or, do they make the Greens look like a political party that would rather be politically correct than politically successful?

A party on course to lose a great deal more than 81,000 votes.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 12 April 2022.


Shane McDowall said...

"What do we want?!"

"Land rights for non-binary non-heteronormative indigenous dolphins!'

"When do we want it?!"


Odysseus said...

Perhaps the ruthless deselection of longtime Green Councillor Iona Pannett in Wellington last weekend is a harbinger of things to come. Pannett is likely to be easily re-elected to her Lambton Ward this October as an independent while whoever is selected to run under the Green banner is on a hiding to nothing. Pannett's removal had all the panache of a show-trial; she was judged to have deviated from the party line on urban intensification. And just like that, the Greens tossed out of the window one of their most effective assets. Bring on the gender games and stock up on popcorn!

DS said...

A bit silly, Mr Trotter. The Greens are the party of well-educated, wealthy urban social liberals. One suspects their voter base would be just fine with such changes, and if they aren't, they'll conclude that the Greens have enough compensating factors for them to stay put.

What this actually does is solidify the upper ceiling on Green support - and potentially damage Labour by proxy ("a vote for Labour will be a vote for the Greens").

Archduke Piccolo said...

I've been 'telling them at the office' for years: identity politics is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Chris Morris said...

The telling decision on the Green's future will who the Labour Party select as the Auckland Central candidate. If it is a nobody, then they want the Greens in Parliament with them. If it is someone with a big profile, and heavy hitter Ministerial support. then they want to win the seat and be the repository for disaffected Green votes. Doing that runs a real risk of National taking the seat again.
On previous form, Labour aren't likely to give up the seat to a minor party. They want to be the party of the left, not sharing the label.

Barry said...

They seem to be on a pathway of self imolation.
Climate change will be solved by using some solar and wind power and lots of nuclear - and they know this so getting ride of cows etc is a waste of time.
They have been out 'Maoried' by Labour and the Maori party - so what else is left but to tear themselves to bits by trying to out-extreme everyone else.
Ive read several studies recently that only about 4% are or take gender issues seriously. I note that transgender men are being turned back at the ukraine border (males of the defined age range are required to defend their country - and rightly so. No mamby pandy treatment when things get serious ! ! !). So whats left for the Greens?
Theyve taken their eye of the ball.

John Hurley said...

I've been watching Holly Walker of the Helen Clark Foundation she can't say what level of population is sustainable but anyway we have a moral obligation to take climate change refugees. You can't set limits on migration as people will accuse you of xenophobia; you can't suggest limits on birth due to feminism. The solution is always be ahead with infrastructure to build "world class towns and cities"; "20 minute cities"; "connectivity" (parks, Joes Garage, the office)(built by Peter Jackson).
Migrants don't cause house prices to rise [politicians cause migration to cause house prices to rise](Chloe Swarbrick; Jan Logie); Sunlight isn't the issue "it is houses built on uninsulated slabs" - Julie-Anne Genter.
Listen to John Key

Phil Saxby said...

Sorry to hear this news about Iona

Jack Scrivano said...

@ Shane McDowall - This would be funny - if it wasn't for the fact that it's true.

David George said...

The adherence to plainly ridiculous gender ideology burns off almost all your voters and gives an indication of their general craziness; Marama (and sidekick Golriz, of all people) ranting about colonisers and siding with their "trans whanau" against the interests of women confirms it.

Less obvious to many is just how unreasonable and unworkable most of their core policies really are. James Shaw was on the other day saying how we need to de-intensify farming, at the same time they want no artificial fertilizers, sprays or GMO crops, no fossil fueled tractors and the like and to implement bio-fuels. None of this is workable: we would need to double the area under-cultivation (presumably by almost complete destruction of remaining natural wilderness) and double the price of food at a minimum, billions of people would starve to death. Maybe that is what they really want.

There's a real and potentially very dangerous anti-human element in there - humanity as a virus on the planet?

THE GREEN REICH — GLOBAL WARMING TO THE GREEN TYRANNY. Ban everything we can, eco-tax the rest: this could be the motto of the environmentalists in politics. If human CO2 is the problem, then Man must be restrained, controlled, suppressed in every one of his CO2-emitting activities: that is to say, in the totality of his actions. Researching environmentalism from the root of its anti-humanist ethic to the staggering heights of its actual demands — banning cars, aircraft, meat, nuclear energy, rural life, the market economy, modern agriculture, in short, post-Industrial-Revolution modernity — Drieu Godefridi shows that environmentalism defines a more radical ideology in its liberticidal, anti-economic and ultimately humanicidal claims than any totalitarian ideology yet seen. "Dividing humanity by a factor of ten” is the environmentalist ideal. "Godefridi says we have good reason to be alarmed. Not by climate change, but by the endless, hazardous-to-humans measures that activists propose in response. We need to read Godefridi’s book. And re-read it. Before it’s too late."

Mike 22/7 said...

not dolphins, aquatic mammals, no discrimmination please!

The Barron said...

Many years ago I delivered Treaty workshops. One example I workshopped was a progressive organization that had decided that in order to met Treaty aims the Annual Conference would have one key note speaker that is Tauiwi and one which is Maori. At first glance this seemed to the workshop in line with the Treaty, but when asked about a situation where two outstanding Maori speakers were available, people thought again. Then asked about the Maori wing of the organization having an indigenous speaker from North America available, most agreed this was limiting the scope and autonomy of the Maori wing. After discussion, the workshop generally concluded that to acknowledge the Treaty good intentions can be seen as tokenism.

The workshop usually proposed that the Treaty is structural and acknowledgement of the Treaty requires structural solutions. Empowering the general body of the organization to nominate one speaker and the Maori wing the right to nominate a speaker was seen as a structural partnership.

I have always despaired of the Greens. Wonderful ideals clouded by a complete lack of Political nous. This is often an impediment to achieving the goals they articulated. This wouldn't be so bad, but it is a very comfortable membership that devotes policy to the disadvantaged and then obstructs the implementation by refusal of the realpolitik. The comfortable remain smug, the disadvantaged burnt.

Many progressive groups have looked at gender identity and the balance in their organizations. Some feminist groups have recommended sport competitions separated into women and 'others'. This is seen as protecting women only space and fair competition, while allowing those with changed or differing gender identities to compete. This proposal is in sport, where physical advantage can be seen as unfair and unsafe. It would be my guess that the Greens proposal is a ham-fisted attempt at this solution out of context.

I have previously written in this blog that other cultures, Polynesia and throughout the Pacific basin, have not traditionally limited their society to two gender classifications. Western society has ignored other cultural models and insisted on a binary structure. The Greens proposal is no less binary by pushing all non-women into one grouping and then defining 'women' as an exclusory zone as another grouping.

Limited marks for trying, but more effort required.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

David – sigh – every group has its extremists. You seem to feel the need to constantly stress the extremism rather than the majority who would be in most political parties anyway, pragmatists.

The only have to look to the USA for right wing extremism just short of fascism.

See, I can do it too.

“How did she (Ketanji Brown Jackson) do on the LSATs? Why wouldn’t you tell us that?”

"if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that's what's happening actually. Let's just say it: That's true."

"You know, some teacher's pushing sex values on your third grader why don't you go in and thrash the teacher?"

Tucker Carlson

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Last week, Rufo told a friendly audience, “in order to achieve universal school choice, it’s necessary to create an atmosphere of universal public school distrust.”

Oh hey, just found this one – don't you love it?

greywarbler said...

David George 13/4
It seems time to adopt some new routines - if a suggestion is made about change in society then how can it be done best, who will it suit best or disadvantage, will it need extra equip- ment, what cost, what will he outcomes, are we being a bit OTT, sort of thing?

The Greens preaching about the environment and specific social changes apart from what is needed for fairness to all; Labour about prosperity and exports - they neither can get their heads around the needs of people labouring in life to have a good one. They thought we were tall poppies and cut many of us at the knees and those of women are always suspect I think.

They are both afraid of making policy changes actually, so they have to impose them for good, or forbid the ones they find unsuitable. It would be so much easier if a new system of having a look at new policies then adopt as pilot schemes, monitoring outcomes and problems, watched over by critical people from both sides, negative and positive. Having a meeting to iron out problems at the end. And no disastrous outcomes dredged up or manufactured to disprove the benefit of the new.

Anonymous said...

My first reaction after reading Matthew Hooton's column was to think he had switched from commentary to satire. Then further coverage, including yours, Chris, made me realize he had not.

I feel quite sorry for James Shaw. I think he does want to be as politically successful as he can be on the issues he really cares about. He is being increasingly handicapped by a caucus that would seem to prefer political correctness over any sort of success that involves any sort of compromise.

I think James saying publically he was open to being persuaded by the science on any environmental benefits of using
GMOs will be a political epitaph. That was, and still is, unforgiveable heresy to Green fundamentalists.

David George has a point on the unworkability of some Green policies, at least at scale. We have, unfortunately for the people of Sri Lanka, an example of how badly things can go wrong currently unfolding there. In the name of saving foreign exchange, as well as setting an example to the world, the government banned all imports of chemical fertilizers and agrochemicals. This decision in April last year was followed by a decree in May that Sri Lanka would become the first fully organic agricultural producer in the world. Only local and natural fertilizers would be used. The predictions of greatly reduced production, from farmers and agronomists, turned out to be accurate. After six months, the government reversed the ban. Too late to restore production of tea (the main agricultural export) and of local food. The shortfall in export earnings from tea deepened the crisis. The acute lack of foreign exchange has meant shortages of fuel, electricity and medicines, as well as food. Exams have been cancelled due to lack of paper to print the questions on. Unsurprisingly, there are mobilizations in the streets demanding the government resign. Equally unsurprisingly, police have responded by opening fire on demonstrators, killing at least one.

There is a niche for organic, but it is only a niche. Sri Lanka is a warning of what can go wrong expanding organic beyond that niche. I think we can feed the whole world, without wrecking the planet, but it will take 21st century methods. It can not be done by returning to 19th century methods.