I’ve been agonising over which party to vote for ever since the campaign started. I bet I’m not the only one, still dithering over whether/how to vote tactically, two days out from election day. Even if you know which side of the spectrum you’ve got your bottom parked on – centre-right or centre-left -, there is that niggly issue of Do I vote for the major party to ensure they’re the biggest they can be … or Do I vote for a minor party that will push the big centrist party further in the direction I think is needed?
Ever since the Great Upheavals in both Labour and the Greens right at the start of the campaign, this question has consumed my life. I have gone through the classic stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, fresh despair …) over idiocies committed on all sides. I have read, obsessively, and watched online and TV debates. The more I laboured (!) at this, the deeper I dug a hole for myself. I became more and more incapable of making a decision at all, the more I listened to endlessly repeated slogans, phrases, and lies. Oh, so many lies. So much outrage. I forgot what an election is really all about.
Max Harris expressed this so well in his article Personal Values Matter this Election and after reading it, I had an epiphany. OK, enough with the fancy words – I had a light bulb moment. I needed to go ‘back to basics’. For instance, I can’t vote for a party simply or mainly to help ensure it makes it over the 5% threshold. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a perfectly valid reason, but I need more than that. Whether it’s a small or a big party: I need to recognise my Personal Values; otherwise, how can I truly connect with what/whom I am voting for?
That was the moment when all that anger and frustration just dissipated, like morning fog. What really matters to me? The people and what they stand for, that’s what. Who is that person parking their bottom, on my behalf, as elected representative on those august benches? Is that the person I really want there? So I went to the relevant party candidate lists and decided – on the spot – that the first 10 candidates are the ones I need to look at very closely. Why 10? It just seemed a manageable number, and it sounded good to me. The Top 10!
I spent this morning (with lots of cuppas and bikkies) checking 20 candidates. I read all the profiles and portfolios as presented on their parties’ websites. I combobulated this info with everything I had seen and heard in the media about these candidates over the last years. With more media-prominent people, this proved quite easy. However, some candidates were nearly unknown to me. This highlights a problem in how our election campaigns are conducted these days: high exposure of the leaders, and often little to no opportunity for other candidates to present themselves in the national media. This applies particularly to the minor parties. I found it strangely ironic that I often had better recognition of Maori seat and list candidates simply because I had been watching Maori TV (MediaTake and other election-related programmes) a bit over the last 6 weeks. They do a really great job of giving as many candidates as possible a platform to discuss (not just 10 seconds to “state their vision”) a whole range of issues.
So … did I finally manage to overcome the deadlock? Yes, I did. This approach actually made it easy and gave me that A-ha! moment I had been longing for. OK … it wasn’t numbskull-easy. Both parties have excellent top 10 candidates and for a moment I floundered. But then I realised 2 crucial points: On one of the lists, there were 2 or 3 candidates whom I had seen exposed in debate or over a news issue, and they hadn’t impressed me. And then the all-important Personal Values question: Which list really stood out and spoke to me about the values, and the commitment to those values, that I treasure? And there, Dear Reader, I had my answer. Those are the people I long to see in Parliament, speaking on my behalf.