2012 Apocalypse Edition: The Year of the Black Dragon

 Political Notes from 2012: o'seas & domestic political rants of a purely existential nature - no strings attached version

The dragon is a sign of power, virility, of the yang. I suppose the signs of it have been everywhere but it’s taken me all year to catch up to their rhythm.

After all, two presidential candidates spent a couple of billion to make the other look hopelessly inadequate. Supreme Court-enabled conservative billionaires got to spend hundreds of millions taking a very personal interest in the election. Unfortunately for these studs they chose to channel their madness through Bush’s brain, Karl Rove, someone for whom the zeitgeist has passed; fighting, as he was, to win his 2004 electorate over, all over again.

The problem for Rove and his mates was that it was 2012 and that old shit didn’t work anymore. But selah to that. The party of personal responsibility quickly socialized blame to candidate Romney and the bludging masses – something Charles Darwin might find maladaptive, although evolution’s architect did garnish 4,000 votes as a write-in candidate in Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, so had some flesh in the game – but I suppose a liberal hippy like Darwin lived outside the grid, so would never have understood the weird energy that makes some conservative minds recoil at the prospect of historic black success.

Then there was Romney. On the night before the election I had this nightmare that when he lost I would come to witness, aged 85, one of Romney’s cloned sons – Brad, Chad, Glad, Sad or Mad – run for the big house and the whole nightmare of a Romney candidacy will come flooding back, like déjà vu all over again. Back in 1968 his old man was the presumptive favourite for the Republican ticket for 18 whole months, right up until the time that voters were about to get implicated in proceedings. That’s when Romney the First’s campaign collapsed. So Mitt went one better than dad. He managed to out-wit Rick Perry by adopting an insane immigration position (let’s drive you Hispanics out through constant harassment); out-spend and out-vicious old crazy Newt and then out-last Rick Nedemeyer Santorum to win the primaries. But damage he received there carried through to the general election.

Then, alas for Romney supporters, the Mitt never managed to out-wit Obama. In 2036 who knows how Romney III will go, but ultimately Romney II was only ever a loser who looked like a president. The key mistake Romney’s campaign and its supporters made was to think that the president was a loser. He and his people were not. I enjoyed the result: four more years.

Macho adrenaline also seems to have flowed through David Shearer’s blood too, late in the year. He survived a year of inner turmoil within the party, uneven performance by him and his colleagues, and disunity from most places to emerge much strengthened. At last. Phew.

Despite weird (National vs Labour) framing by some in the commentariat who still haven’t realised we exist in a multi-party politics, Pundit’s poll-of-polls now shows parity between National and Labour-Greens. You’d think that with this upswing in the bank to end 2012, then jointly submitting the anti-asset sales signatures to parliament to close off the year, along with some sort of unified murmuring about how encouraged Labour and the Greens are at their increasing levels of support; well some might think this reasonable strategy.

Instead a giddy David Shearer seems to have slyly penned an opinion piece under John Armstrong’s name to vent about those pesky Greens trying to usurp the great red machine. Bollocks. An alternative interpretation might be that the Greens have waited rather optimistically all year for their likely senior coalition partner and its leader to gain control of his own internal environment. Or appear competent. Or appear united. Or purposeful. Or stop the endless self-flagellation. Here's a free advertisement from the New Zealand electorate to Labour, circa 2011: it's not about you. 

It’s been my stock analysis since the election that National can’t win the 2014 election and the other lot probably won’t. In these circumstances Key will win a third term because he has an easier argument to make that Shearer/Robertson and Norman/Turei. One of the reasons why National is still only leeching in the mid-40s in polling and the rate of their decline is still slow is the absence of a credible alternative government in voters’ minds. If there was, I think the rate of National’s decline would hasten and prove decisive. Given this, and instead of framing the best of David Shearer – his experience in bringing disparate forces together to unite around shared objectives – as someone to unify the centre-left parties, we instead get more macho posturing that could just as easily have come out of the mouth of Clark or Simpson or Joyce. Hopeless. 

This is sort of where our politics is right now. Hopeless. National has competency issues of its own: for its management of the economy; living in denial about the dreadful unemployment situation (our youth unemployment remains a disgrace) and its terrible leadership in education. Our Prime Minister is also getting ever closer to crossing his personal Maginot line where his forever changing metrics – as well as forgetting too much, pretending everything is fine, or blaming someone, anyone else for poor results – will no longer work. He talks a good book does John Key, as one would expect from someone with his professional socialisation. But that alone will not win him a third term if better results are not forthcoming or if the other lot organise themselves better as a credible alternative.

Since 2008 the government’s narrative has collapsed: ‘Step Change,’ reversing the bleeding to Oz, and the promised ‘brighter future’ have given way to a bullish ‘you should all feel good because others have it worse.’ Hardly aspirational. The attack on Massey academic Mike Joy embodied for me the new macho aggressiveness that has driven National’s brains' trust and hangers-on since the election. Hilarious really when you think about it; single out any who think our nation’s claims to the world should have both integrity and depth if they are ultimately to succeed over the long haul. What a disgraceful proposition. Treason. Those who lined up to smash Joy preferred the shallow, the inauthentic, which must be protected at all costs.

I’d have been more persuaded if at the same time that Joy was being taken to task, so too were the still large number of dairy farmers who refuse to even comply with the reporting requirements of the already less-than-taxing voluntary accord. Bullshit everywhere…so let’s drink the putrid cool aid. Hopeless.

If our politics has been less than uplifting in the year of the black dragon, at least in this writer’s mind, the thing that most surprised in end-of-year assessments of our politics was how little, if any, focus was paid to the ultimate expression of power politics – War. War and its effects that is. Virtually nothing has been written about the needless loss of too many Kiwi lives in Afghanistan, this year and last.

I don’t believe in our involvement there. Never did, at least not since Bin Laden escaped Tora Bora back in 2001 (2003 at the latest) because no vital strategic interest of this country has been implicated in our continued involvement there since. Yet, I hugely respect our troops and their commitment to protect the weak. It's what our forces do best. Our soldiers do what I cannot or would not do. They are brave in ways that I am not. I mourn their loss, these brave New Zealanders.

They have been, however, in my opinion let down by their military and civilian leaders. Future history will, I predict, reveal our redeployment there as more or less an unmitigated disaster. Other than our nation’s gratitude for their courage and sacrifice there will prove to be no solace for those who served there and for the survivors of those who were killed there. That is the tragedy of Afghanistan.

For family and friends of Lieutenant Timothy O’Donnell, Private Kirifi Mila, Corporal Doug Grant, Lance Corporal Leon Smith, Corporal Doug Hughes, Lance Corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, Corporal Luke Tamatea, and Private Richard Harris this Christmas, I salute your loved one's sacrifice and your courage: Kia Kaha.