Tuesday 2 May 2023

Is It “Game Over” For The Greens?

Is History Repeating Itself? From 5 percent of the popular vote in 1975, the Values Party’s share was more than halved to just 2.41 percent in 1978. Within months, middle-class social-liberalism was back in the saddle. Unimpressed, the voters’ judgement was even harsher. In 1981, and again in 1984, Values received barely 0.2 percent percent of the popular vote. The party was over. Are the Greens about to go the same way in 2023?

THERE IS NO POSSIBILITY of a centre-left government being formed if the Greens are no longer in Parliament. That’s a sobering thought, and yet the return of the Greens is taken for granted by most political pundits. A party which could survive the self-immolation of Metiria Turei in the weeks leading up to the 2017 general election, it is widely assumed, can survive anything. But can it? Is the Green brand really bullet-proof? Good for 5 percent of the Party Vote – no matter what?

I don’t think so.

What keeps the Green Party in the electoral game is a widespread misapprehension that, at its heart, the Greens are the same rather quirky but highly principled outfit that impressed itself so deeply on the imagination of New Zealanders in the first five years of the twenty-first century. The most obvious historical comparison is with the pre-Rogernomics Labour Party. So great was the political momentum generated by the First Labour Government under Michael Joseph Savage (1935-1940) that the party was able to win four more elections on the strength of it. But, as Labour demonstrated in 1984, parties can change. And the Greens have changed – a lot.

What the Greens are slowly but surely turning into was always there in the political movement they inherited from the Values Party. When push comes to shove, the Greens, like the majority of the Values Party membership before them, will always break in the direction of the middle-class idealism out of which both parties were born. Logically, Greens should be socialists: if this planet’s a corporation, it’s a corpse. In reality, however, the Greens are social-liberals. How else to explain the fact that the party secures the bulk of its support from the well-heeled professionals inhabiting the nation’s leafier suburbs – and their children?

For those history buffs out there, the other exemplars of the social-liberal dynamic at the heart of middle-class progressive movements are the Suffragettes. Like the Greens, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) embraced the cause of social-justice (a necessary indulgence if it was to enlist the support of working-class women) but at the outbreak of World War I its leaders were quick to jettison the WSPU’s socialist wing. A deal was struck with Lloyd George, the firebrand politician poised to become the UK’s next prime minister. The WSPU would back the war effort, and in return, at the war’s end, women (or, at least, women of means over 30 years of age) would be enfranchised. As proof of their patriotism, middle-class Suffragettes took to the streets handing out white feathers (tokens of cowardice) to young men not in uniform.

“Deeds Not Words” – the WSPU’s motto – was always open to multiple interpretations!

The Values Party broke apart over the question of whether or not environmentalism was a cause that could be embraced meaningfully by the working-class. Between 1975 and 1978, the socialist faction of the Values Party did its best to supply a positive answer. Values’ 1978 election manifesto was an unabashedly radical socialist document. The electors, however, had other priorities. From 5 percent of the popular vote in 1975, the Values Party’s share was more than halved to just 2.41 percent. Within months, middle-class social-liberalism was back in the saddle. Unimpressed, the voters’ judgement was even harsher. In 1981, and again in 1984, Values received barely 0.2 percent percent of the popular vote. The party was over.

Values rebirth as The Greens in 1989 represented the conscientized middle-class’ deep distress at Neoliberalism’s ruthless dismantling of the New Zealand welfare state, along with its unwavering promotion of the “free” market. Even more than Values, the Greens “got” that capitalism was killing the planet. As an internationally successful political movement, the Greens’ electability was based on the growing public understanding that the “old parties”, spawned by the exploitative industrial societies capitalism had created, no longer possessed the imagination necessary to rescue life on earth. Their message was encapsulated in the slogan: “The Greens are not of the Left, the Greens are not of the Right, the Greens are in front.”

But, in order to remain “in front” the Green brand had to fulfil two absolutely crucial obligations. It had to base its policies on the findings of science, and, it had to repudiate neoliberal capitalism and all its works. So long as Green parties did this, they went from strength to strength. Consistent failure to honour these obligations, however, rendered them acutely vulnerable to electoral annihilation.

It is becoming increasingly clear to green-oriented voters in 2023 that the Green Party is no longer as faithful to science as it was in the early 2000s, and that it is much more willing to compromise with the neoliberal order. Perhaps in an attempt to compensate for these two, critical, failures, the party has embraced a particularly volatile and uncompromising form of social-liberalism. One which a great many green voters find deeply offensive and alienating.

In sharp contrast to the leadership of Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, who, respectively, embodied the movement’s fidelity to science and its duty to challenge the economic status quo, the leadership of James Shaw and Marama Davidson seems to embody constant compromise with the Powers That Be, accompanied by a wholesale rejection of rationality itself. As election day approaches, it is becoming increasingly difficult to construct a rationale for remaining loyal to the off-putting political force that the Greens are turning into.

The brute psephological fact, amply demonstrated by the fate of Values, is that no political party has a core vote below which it cannot fall. The moment small-g green voters feel that a vote for the Greens is no longer a meaningful act of faith in the planet’s future, the party will be over. Ultimately, it is not the members who make or break a political party, but the reaction of the voters watching them.

Those engaged in finalising the Greens’ Party List for the 2023 general election would be wise to remember that.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 2 May 2023.


Archduke Piccolo said...

The Green Party that occasionally induced me to enter a polling booth to cast at least one of my votes in its direction died long ago - probably with Rod Donald. There has for mine always been a taint of flakiness that has clung to the Greens in much the same way it hung about the Values Party. I would have liked to vote Values, but never could quite persuade myself that it would have been a vote well cast.

The Greens looked for some time the real deal, but they kept on doing crap that I could never comprehend. They joined Anderton's Alliance. Stupid. Then they left the Alliance. More stupid. A few years ago they connived with the major parties to game the system to keep out a rising political party that might have proved annoying to the established gallery of rogues and vagabonds. That last, as far as I am concerned, finally sank the Greens as a party worthy of my attention, let alone my vote.

Mind you, none of the other well-established parties make the cut, either. None of them are worth any more than half a bag of earwig's elbows. When we get a political party that has a halfway decent socio-economic programme, then I might sit up and take notice. No one can take my vote(s) for granted.


DS said...

1. The Greens aren't dropping below 5%. The reason is implicit in your post - Labour can't govern if they drop below 5%. Therefore, Labour supporters will party vote Green to save them (even if they do not particularly like them). Moreover, the Greens now have an electorate base in Auckland Central, and soon likely Wellington Central. The sort of places wacky social liberalism is a plus, not a minus.

2. The Values Party is a problematic comparison, since under First Past the Post, third parties were only ever protest votes (as opposed to MMP, where such votes mean something). The late '70s and early '80s were the golden age of Social Credit - the official protest vote party.

3. You are ignoring the Greens' ancestral skeleton in the closet. The sort of people inclined to older Green movements were often the New Agey, bead-wearing, Crystal Karen Mystic Hippies. Such people were NOT inclined towards science at all, rather the reverse - and far from socialism, their ideological forebears had an overlap with certain... Far Right... inclinations. One might suggest that the anti-vaccine nutters have gone back to their roots in that respect. They're not neoliberal, no. But they're opposed to it from the Right, not the Left.

4. The old anti-science component of the Greens manifested itself in things like their opposition to Genetic Modification.

I agree that the Greens have migrated away their old incarnation. It's just that rather than seeing the triumph of the urban liberals over the eco-socialists, the old incarnation also included kooky rural mystics. The rural component's gone - the days when the Greens could win a rural seat like Coromandel are long gone, and those Aging Hippies are now voting for the true anti-vaccine crazies.

And it turns out that when your remaining voter base is as wealthy and well-educated as the Greens', that does not inherently lend itself to socialism. Poor people do not vote Green. But there's enough urban votes (and desperate Labour supporters) to get them across the line.

David Stone said...

The Greens have suffered like other minor parties in the past of having once been identified as an attractive political movement attracted the attention of people with other fish to fry. Who have managed as has happened before . to redirect the party to their own priorities , It started with Sue Bradford who had gone from party to party pushing her particular barrow.
But I don't share Chris's assumption that green issues necessarily coincide with environmental issues. Traditional unionist labour type socialist issues are about jobs, better pay and conditions etc. . These priorities are often not compatible with conserving resources and reducing poisonous waste. they require industry and entrepreneurship to provide those jobs . Looking after the planet may not be enhanced at all. The planet is much more likely to be the priority of those middle classes that have their living standards established and comfortable and can afford the time to worry about the environment for it's own sake. There is no irony in the class of people who have traditionally been the Green voters and activists.

Patricia said...

Wouldn’t it be good if we ended up with no party having control. A parliament that represented the people of New Zealand not just a particular ideology. Okay there would be problems forming an actual Government but that wouldn’t be insurmountable. I would like that instead of the current situation. Just imagine they would all have to talk and discuss issues. We could have lots of referendums. We could have a Democracy..

David George said...

The Greens will probably get through thanks to the 5% "tribal green" hard core. It looks likely that TMP will get over the threshold as well, Whaitari jumping ship to them strengthens that probability. With Labour down to 30% support people will be looking, with alarm mostly, at the possibility of a Labour/Green/TMP government - a complete disaster IOW. A vote for pretty much any of them is a vote for control freaks, racist ethno-nationalists and far left eco-fascists. Dystopia.

David George said...

On the bigger picture here's a great comment to the Essay "Neoliberalism Killed The Liberal Dream"

Excerpt: "Neoliberalism, libertarianism, woke social justice politics are all fruit from the same tree. The Enlightenment took the concept of the Imago Dei – an image of the covenantal, sacramental self nested in relations of obligation and dependency with others and with God – and severed it first from the transcendent (militant secularism) and then from other people (the disembedded, hyper mobile society of individuals).
The upshot of this is that both the excessive market liberalism (Neo-liberalism) that is catch all bogey of the left, and their favoured pattern of response which is collectivism and the big state – are essentially two sides of the same coin: an atomized society of individuals, hermetically sealed, atomized. They differ only in the balance between market and the state….both of which are mechanisms to aggregate the agency of these [sad, anomic, alienated, depressed] billiard ball selves."

"Woke is liberalism eating itself; it is not the abrogation but the logical extension of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was built on sand. It worked whilst drawing on that non-renewable lode stone of fossilized virtue ….
But now we recognize that lode stone as the source of our moral compass…now that it has become visible, even as it is depleted…..we can’t use it. At least we can’t recombine it with liberalism. We can’t shore up liberalism by embracing traditional virtues that are predicated on completely illiberal premises."


John Hurley said...

I joined the Greens for one year in the 1990's. I soon found out we didn't have much in common.
The two main issues I clashed on were immigration and tino rangitiratanga.

Immigration has seen an extra million people since then with no sign of slowing. As a consequence we now have suburbs that are just a see of flat rooves and the slum enabling bill . Julie-Anne Genter and others are now pushing a Utopian vision likening the possibilities of NZ cities becoming like Paris and Amsterdam. Where do the working class live in those cities? She is supported by Bernard Hickey, Hayden Donnell (trust RNZ) and Arthur Grimes (who front a business advisory company).
This is exactly why I voted for Values in my first ever election: their message was about the dead-end: growth for growths sake.

Tino rangitiratanga is now co-governance (of course)

I think we have a big problem with class and I can contest to that in my own family having 1. upper middleclass (UK) 2.middle class and 3.working class

At dinner:
1.has "never met anyone who was for Brexit" Sister comments on the "great lifestyle" of (2).
3. Cheered Brexit and Trump. Builders digging trench along house on northern side. Breathed a sigh of relief that it was just replacing storm water because has potential to shade all through winter.

Labour took power from workers widening it to a wider social justice focussed on oppressed minorities: "migrant". When Dalzeil changed our immigration settings to "skills based" it reduced political pressure and was as much window dressing as anything. The working class are (essentially) those less able to compete so now they have no champion.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"With Labour down to 30% support people will be looking, with alarm mostly, at the possibility of a Labour/Green/TMP government "

YOUR people.

Shane McDowall said...

Green Party in no danger of extinction.

New Zealand First is in serious danger of joining the moa.

David George said...

Yes GS.
Sane, reasonable people don't vote for people that hate them.

Brendan McNeill said...

Should the Labour / Green / Maori party win the next election, there is no chance of a centre-left government being formed.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Which David, is why I would never vote for National. As I once said to my son – "individually they can be very nice, collectively they hate your guts."

Anonymous said...

If Maori/Green/Labour form a government in 2023 we will have more of the same racist, inefficient, wasteful, useless and unmandated policies that we have seen promoted since 2020. There will be 3 Waters with Maori veto over everything, the updated RMA with Maori veto over everything and more delays with consenting and producing anything. The diminished and bi-racial health services reaching fewer of the population with priority access for Maori people. The failing education outcomes with priority Maori infusion into every subject, including gender issues to be discussed in subjects across the curriculum including English and Maths (I kid you not).
Any sane person, I beg you to not vote for any more of this outrageous, disastrous monster that looms to remove our civil society as we know it.

David Stone said...

@ Patricia 3 May 2 33
I agree. I have always imagined that the Westminster democracy instigators did not envisage the creation of political parties and that political party invention has greatly damaged the operation of the democratic system. If we just voted fro individuals from our local communities to go down to Wellington and look after business for a few years stint there would be a much clearer decision making process for them to follow.
There is also a problem of self selection for that job. People get into politics almost never to promote "democracy" as any priority, but to further a particular agenda that is more often than not at odds with what a referendum would decide . that and the unusual self aggrandisement that makes some people want to make rules for the rest of us to live by. Most of us don't want to do this , we just wnt to get on with our own lives and get on with each other.
One way of selecting a "representative" government that I like would be to have it selected as a jury is selected. Totally randomly by ballot . Your affairs are looked after by the state while you do a 3 or 4 yr term , with a third or a quarter of the government balloted per year, and go down and do your best.
Some would have more to contribute than others, some nothing at all , so it would be just like it is now in that respect.

The Barron said...

You don't seem to understand the term "mandate". If the coalition you describe has a post election majority and have been honest with the electorate on policy - that is a mandate.

britbunkley said...

The Greens are more left, more Labour than Labour on every stated policy that I have read ...on taxation, housing, spending on health & education and on labour relations. This is clear and undeniably explicit if you look at their easily retrievable policies. They have been the only party to seriously (and scientifically) address climate change. I simply don't understand why you spend so much effort trying to undermine the principled centre left these days Chris with bizarre claims of supposed Green unscientific irrationality? Additionally the Greens consistently are polling closer to 10 rather than 5%. Without the Greens we will have Act/National neoliberalism and de facto climate denial. We live in a world of coalition politics. Buck up. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2023_New_Zealand_general_election#/media/File%3AOpinion_polling_for_the_2023_New_Zealand_election.svg

britbunkley said...

Strangely Chris does not elaborate on what is the "bad science" that he accuses the Greens of engaging in. So I stumbled on this Daily Blog article (another formerly principled left blog that has hopped on the crazy train.)

The article entitled "Adapting To Climate Change." Trotter now uses National/ACT's talking points that for climate, it is useful to look at remedial care versus prevention. (Not that a low tax and spending Nat/Act would actually spend money on anything that would tax their wealthy sponsors).

The other Nat/ACT talking point he uses is that our small size permits us to engage in negligence.

So 1.7% greenhouse emission from a nation .062% of the globe's population is excusable? Tell that to a judge the next time you are caught speeding...that you are excusable because you have a small car. FACT: "New Zealand has the second-highest level of emissions per GDP unit in the OECD and the fifth-highest emissions per capita." according to OECD scientists. (I'm confused...WHO is denying science? )

Of course, we need both mitigation and adaptation. No one is denying that. And yes, the 1/5% increase in temperature is looking unlikely. Still, without mitigation, it may go to far more to 3, 4 or 5%, which means a good chunk of the earth (and Kiwis) dead...because people were too busy trying to adapt instead of mitigate. Then these science-adverse denialists aleviet their guilt with really bad science -TW keep away from Mitloehner, Frame and Massey...The New York Times recently released a report on the Clear Center at UC Davis (Oct. 31, 2022) showing that Dr. Mitloehner’s academic group “receives almost all its funding from industry donations and coordinates with a major livestock lobby group on messaging campaigns.” https://www.oecd.org/.../environmental-pressures-rising...

Brendan McNeill said...

For those still worried about human induced climate change and who are carefully following the science, the following four minute clip from Scientists drilling the 3km deep ice core in Greenland provide data on the earth's temperatures over the last 10,000 years.

1875 was the coldest year in the last 10,000 years, which in turn was preceded by the medieval warm period. However since then the temperatures have begun warming to their present temperatures which are still about 2 degrees colder than they were 4 - 10 thousand years ago, and still 1 degree colder than during the medieval warm period.

The scientists conclusions? Very difficult to determine if this is simply a natural temperature cycle or if we humans are having any influence at all. Keep in mind, CO2 emissions from vehicle transport, coal fired power stations etc were at a minimum during the medieval warm period.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

"If we just voted fro individuals from our local communities to go down to Wellington and look after business for a few years stint there would be a much clearer decision making process for them to follow." ... And within a couple of years there would be political parties.

Anonymous said...

So Britbunkly (7 May at 15:28) does not understand "bizarre claims of supposed Green unscientific irrationality".

Gosh, where to even begin? Let's try starting with the scientific view of the evolution of life on Earth. The first fossil record of microbes is from 3.7 billion years ago. Sexual reproduction is estimated to have evolved some 2 billion years ago. The Cambrian "explosion" of some 540 million years ago produced the huge diversity of multi cellular organisms we see ever since. Sexual reproduction confers a Darwinian advantage, and continues to be the dominant way multi cellular organisms reproduce. That applies fully to all great apes, including humans. In humans, sexual dimorphism produces the differences seen between adults of the two sexes. Sex is biological and binary, with deep evolutionary roots. Race is both a recent social construct, and a spectrum. The Greens, among many others, seem to now think it's the other way round, that race is fixed, but sex is a spectrum.

I'm for both defending the rights women have won, especially the right to abortion, and for defending the right to female only spaces and sports. I'm also for breaking down gender stereotypes, not reinforcing them. Let girls wear blue and play sport if they want to, and let boys wear pink and play with dolls if they want to. But don't think that necessarially means they MUST be "trans". It might just be because they're gay, it might even be they're straight, and it's only a phase in their development.

What happens if you really, truely, believe, as the Greens seem to, that "trans women are women", and take it to it's illogical conclusions? One result is prison induced, rapid onset, gender dysphoria. Convicted male rapists claim they now identify as women, and are sent to women's prisons. Another result is that mediocre male athletes "transition" into "female" champions, and "female" record setters.

There are no scientific, rational defences of these outcomes. The only defences are emotional blackmail ("protect the most vulnerable!"), endlessly repeating the mantra "transwomen are women", deplatforming, bullying, ostracizing, suppressing free speech, and slander, using slurs such as "TERF", (Trying to Explain Reality to Fools {or other F... word}),"bigot" "transphobe" and "Nazi". And if all that isn't enough, physical assault, which may be cheered on by Green party leaders.

That all very clearly adds up to anti-scientific irrationality, in my view. To very dangerous anti-scientific irrationality, in fact.

Extra dangerous because these biology deniers also want to impose their ideology on farmers. If they ever get the chance, expect a severe general economic contraction, rampant food insecurity, and huge food price inflation. The egg shortage, and egg price rises, from regulations with good intentions, but also with unintended consequences, is only a small early warning of what lies in wait down that path.

britbunkley said...

OK, that is the only example of the Green's supposed unscientific irrationality? It is a petty one at best. They have much bigger fish to fry including inequality and not letting the planet fry..the only party to take these issues seriously (Brendan McNeill's bonkers ignorant denialism notwithstanding). And all parties seem to agree on that. Why pick on the Greens?

Sex is a spectrum according to the science (e.g. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sex-redefined-the-idea-of-2-sexes-is-overly-simplistic1/). Obviously genitalia is not unless one is intersex (estimated to be 1% of the population, and a significant portion of trans people). Many on the LBTG edge of the spectrum have had a significant amount of increased violence. Most contemplate suicide at poit intheir lives. They are vulnerable. I went to university beginning in 1973. All bathrooms and shower rooms were co-ed then. No one had a problem.

Anonymous said...

Same anon. as 12 May at 14:01. I thank Britbunkley for their contribution, and you, Chris, for hosting the discussion. If you would be so kind as to indulge me, I'd like to unpick the "1 % intersex" claim a bit.

This is not new, though figures vary. Some claim as much as 1.7%. That claim ignores the fact about 1.5% is late onset (non classical) Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). It can affect both males and females. There is no genital ambiguity, and females may be able to bear children to term. (which is pretty unambiguous, I'd suggest). Known Differences of Sexual Development (DSD) account for about another O.2%. "True hermaphrodites" are about 0.018%, or 1.8 people in 10,000.

A great pity the Census was not used to try and gather actual, relevant, data. It could have asked both "sex recorded at birth" and "gender identity now (if any)". That could have generated useful data. Myself, I was doubtful about participating in the Census at all, with the unclear questions actually asked. I did, in in the end, but I think I'll sit the next one out, and see if I get prosecuted for that. If I am, my defence will be I'm avoiding possible prosecution for recording biological untruths on official documents.

If sex is indeed a spectrum, should some scientist not be getting a Nobel prize soon for such a novel, surprising, and unexpected result? When did this evolve? Does it apply just to humans, or also other great apes, other primates, and other mammals? If it does apply to other mammals, why have farmers not noticed it in their livestock? Can a bull identify as a cow, and be treated as a cow in the milking shed? I suggest trans activists are shamelessly just making stuff up to suit their cause. They should be given a well deserved Ignoble award for it.

Britbunkley also appeals to "kindness" towards the "vulnerable" trans community. The problem is the trans rights activists deny any consideration of kindness for those adversely affected by their claims. This is women in general, and lesbians in particular. Indeed, they are pretty much as misogynist and homophobic as it gets these days.

Among the worst policies must be incarcerating male rapists and murderers in women's prisons. The female prison population is pretty much among the most marginalized and discriminated against group of women anywhere. Now they also face the possibility of assault, rape, and pregnancy from men cynically abusing "self ID" to get both an easier "lag", and more opportunities for offending. I'm pleased that vile policy cost Nicola Sturgeon her job. Many more should also loose theirs over it, and the men transferred back to where they belong, a men's prison.

All the Green MP's should also lose their jobs. They are now just too distracted by gender ideology, among much else. Saving the planet seems to have completely dropped off the bottom of the priority list. They now openly despise transparency, truthfulness, actual science, free speech and democracy. The internal struggles seem to have turned their caucus into a snake pit. They are cynically using "trans activists" as a rainbow shirted thug force to physically shut down their political opponents. It is a pitiful, shameful and unworthy travesty of the Green Party of old, and it's time to clean House.