OT an hour ago, I cast my vote in the Australian election. Every election that I’ve voted in thus far in my life has returned a Liberal government to power. That is incredibly depressing; especially the last election which saw the Senate handed over as well as the House of Reps. Voting is a very strange thing, I think. I vote, even though I know that my area is such a Labor stronghold that Liberals don’t even bother putting up candidate posters (which, actually, does wonders for my blood pressure…) and my tiny Green protest-style vote counts for naught at all. I vote, even though I know that the best I can hope for is a Labor party that really can no longer be considered left-wing except in contrast to the extremes of the right-wing party. I vote, even though the whole system feels entirely flawed. I don’t have enough polisci background to be able to explain how and why, exactly, the formal system is, in fact, flawed. But there are some obvious problems: the incredibly coercive system within which political debate takes place (seriously, when the Liberal party can label the Labor party ‘extremists’ on television and not simply be laughed out of town, how can we think otherwise?); the bizarre loophole that enables Liberal advertising to be passed off as government information ads; the extraordinarily right-wing media (apart from our at least vaguely left-leaning/’balanced’ on-line sources [blows kisses to Larvatus Prodeo, Crikey! and Club Troppo]); and the very real absence of political literacy in this country, which tends to lead to apathy, alienation and a serious inability to a) remember political lies and b) recognise the manufacture and manipulation of fear and c) resist the individualising techniques of political appeals.
I was wondering, as I wandered down the street this morning, whether I see voting as part of what feminist and queer and critical race theory have called ‘strategy.’ The non-revolutionary (not in the sense of not-changing so much as in the sense of not really believing that there will be a moment in which all will be tossed into the air and come down the way we imagine it to) kinds of ways of engaging with the existing social order in ways which are recognisable within its limits, whilst at the same time pressing back against those limits. However much I think that Labor is really a probably-not-even-the-lesser of two evils (as Az so succinctly points out), there is still something significant (is there? I sound way more sure than I am!) about the possibility of a Labor government. I suspect that part of my concern is discursive: the increasingly right-wing rhetoric of the Liberal government has reconfigured the political spectrum so that left-wing is no longer really left at all. A left-wing government, even if in name only, has the possibility of adjusting the spectrum again, perhaps making more tenable the holding of left-wing positions in public. Perhaps? Making it more difficult to label left-wing positions as ‘extreme’, or at least so watering down that label that it’s not longer the end of an argument? Perhaps I am too hopeful, but it’s easier to be optimistic if I don’t see this election as an end in itself, but rather something that has this kind of potential for a future… A little like the appeal to essentialism called strategic, which has permitted some of the feminist, queer and critical race politics to engage with a here-and-now on the way to the future. This appeal, however, is pretty problematic in my view, primarily because it reiterates the terms by which injustice is perpetuated. And so the question remains….
And what actually makes me hopeful about the way that this election will, if it follows the polls, come out, is that it would demonstrate something about the majority of Australians. This same majority which believed the ludicrous individualistic logic of John Howard’s hideous promise of lower interest rates, would appear to be saying ‘No longer will we believe that the economy makes the world go round.’ It’s nothing huge, really, and it’s frustrating in its conservatism, but it is something that makes a different kind of politics seem possible. But again, I suspect too much optimism on my part… Nonetheless, there was a bizarre sense of participating in something much larger when I headed to the local primary school today, a sense which challenges the individualism of the Liberal government’s rhetoric, at least potentially…
Either way, tonight I will drink, hopefully in celebration, but otherwise to drown some fairly large sorrows, among friends. And dreaming of futures way more interesting and just than any party can really offer…!