Election Reflection

By Legal Eagle

Well, finally it’s election day. I have to say that even though the campaign only lasted 6 weeks, I was heartily sick of it by the end. As I said in my post on the worm, I think the immediate attention on focus groups, opinion polls and knee-jerk reactions produces bad policy. It’s not policy of principle, it’s the policy of what we have to do (and who we have to pander to) to get into power.

I was having an interesting discussion/debate with a friend. We were talking about how family history informs the way in which one votes in such an important way. Now, when you come down to it, I’d say that her views and my views are pretty similar. We’re both soft liberals (liberals with a small ‘l’).

My mother has been looking into our family genealogy. Our forebears were utterly working class on both sides of my family. There are five or six convicts in the mix. The first two people in my immediate family to be educated past the age of 14 or 15 were my father and my mother. Both of my parents finished high school, completed undergraduate degrees then completed postgraduate degrees. Their younger siblings followed suit. You can see that my grandparents are very intelligent people; it’s just that they never had any opportunity to continue on at school because their families were too poor, and in those days, you had to go out and work for a living. Can you guess where my family’s historical political tendencies lie?

My friend’s family is from Eastern Europe and some of her forebears were involved in the early communist movement. Some of her relatives were caught up in an early factional purge and were put on a black list, partly, I think, on the basis of their religious background. I understand some members of her family ended up in the gulag, and didn’t make it out again. Life was very hard for that side of her family. The other side of her family hid their ethnic and religious background in order to escape discrimination. When she was a toddler, her family escaped from the Iron Curtain and obtained refugee status. Suffice to say that her family doesn’t have a very good opinion of left-wing politics and factional battles because they’ve seen the unpleasant aspects of socialism in practice, where factional battles have fatal consequences.

Anyway, my friend and I were debating who we were going to vote for in this election. In challenging each other’s presuppositions, we agreed that family history has a lot to do with how many people vote. My friend and I had pretty similar views and desires really: we want sound economic management, not waste; we want refugees to be decently treated; we don’t like factional battles or the manner in which KRudd was deposed; we don’t like the net filter; we’re a bit wary of the Greens; we want the life of indigenous people in this country to be improved; we support women’s rights and same sex marriage; we can’t abide discrimination and we want a government who looks out for those who are most needy in our society. Neither of us really likes the two main political party leaders, and both of us wish there was someone who displayed more principle, less spin.

But, despite our agreement in principle, historically my friend and I have voted on opposite sides of the political fence. Perhaps we need to form our own party, the Purple Party (a nice mix of blue and red, naturally) although I don’t think either of us are tactful enough to be politicians. Interestingly, my husband has none of this family history baggage – neither of his parents were born in Australia, and neither of them have any particular allegiance to one party or another as far as I know. Consequently, my husband is the genuine article: a swinging voter.

Isn’t it weird how voting is almost like football team allegiance in some ways? Actually, I never had a family football team allegiance because my parents come from Sydney, but I imagine it’s something like that. My football team is the Richmond Tigers – I chose it when I came back from England, because it was my initial team in Grade 1 before Miss Candy persuaded me into Hawthorn in Grade 2. Anyway, anyone who follows AFL football will know that the Tigers have been been doing execrably. At the start of the season they lost 10 matches in a row. I did stop watching the matches (too depressing) but I didn’t stop supporting the Tiges, because that would be disloyal. Imagine how much harder it would be if I had a whole family history behind me too? I think people’s attitude to voting has to do with the idea of commitment and consistency. In Influence at page 57, Robert Cialdini says that we have:

…a nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done. Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.

Family baggage makes the choice easier if there’s no party which really represents the mix of things that you want, and if there seems to be little practical difference between the main parties (although see contra here).

It’s an annoying choice in the House of Reps today: no one represents the mix of things I want. It’s a choice of who I dislike the least, with all that family baggage knocking along behind me. I worked out my below-the-line Senate vote last night.

What I do like about Australian elections is the sausage sizzles. I like the carnival atmosphere. When I lived in the UK and I rocked up at British elections, I was most disappointed to see that there was no sausage sizzle and no stall selling shortbread and lemon butter.

Alas, today our local voting venue had none of these things. Robbed! An uninspiring election on all counts. I think we’ll have to go to a new venue next time.


  1. Posted August 21, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    At the booth this morning we were commenting on some families turning up to vote together, sometimes three generations. Generally they would all take the same how-to-vote cards, and would only take one kind. I wondered if it was pressure, agreement or that kind of team-loyalty you are talking about.

  2. Posted August 22, 2010 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Well, the campaign may have been boring, but the results are quite exciting 🙂

  3. Posted August 22, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    The tribal loyalties in my extended family have been fairly consistent on values and policy over the last 100 years (probably 150), so the voting patterns have changed. Small l liberal wet, pro state education, state health and pro-small-farmer votes have moved “left” as the parties have moved to the right.

    The /really/ tribal loyalties for a south western victorian family on the Geelong/Warrnambool line since the gold rush, however, are to the blue-and-white hoops (and to corriedale over merino, border collies over kelpie, guersney over angus)

  4. Adrien
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I was stoked this morning, truly. I haven’t been this happy with an election result in a long time. A minority government. The Australian people have decided, they’ve decided they don’t like either of the rovbotos on offer and they want to speak to a human voice.

    And the Greens have got real power. Oh well guys, honeymoon’s over. Time to get your souls dirty.

    Congratulations to Richard Di Natale whom I’ve known a little. I don’t agree with the Greens policy approach at all. But I agree with them on the fundamental issue. Di Natale’s fundamentally decent. And I’m happier with him than the ALP especially the nefarious Conroy whom Richard beat to the bronze medal.

    Anybody else think a dismissal might be in the mail?

  5. Patrick
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I loved giving Conroy no 53 (or something around there, ahead of only the greens!).

    On-topic, I disagree with the sentiments of the first paragraph. How else do you really think it might be? Where do you draw inspiration (even partial) for such a model (whatever it is) working in real life?

  6. Miss Candy
    Posted August 23, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Adrien – exactly! Let’s see what the Greens are made of!

    I have also been thinking about a reverse Whitlam situation – imagine if the lower house were a coalition-Katter majority, with the upper house clearly dominated by the Greens.

    I suspect that for that reason alone the independents will go with Labor.

    If not, I wonder how closely Labor and Coalition will have to snuggle up?

    Interesting times.

  7. Miss Candy
    Posted August 23, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    And I have to say this: carna Hawks!

    LE did you know that my Pa actually died at a Hawthorn-Footscray footy match in 1990? So there’s no going back now – if I didn’t barrack for Hawthorn I’d be thrown out of the family.

    As for family politics, Dad’s a blue blood from the leafy suburbs and Melbourne private schools and Mum was practically in red nappies, being from a poor and very working class family.

    Although they both follow their family traditions (at least I’m pretty sure they do), I’d like to think that the combination has left me a very independent thinker on politics. Although I’m now progressive politically, I interrogate my own views mercilessly and am very open to change – as my devotion to your esteemed blog evinces.

  8. Adrien
    Posted August 23, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I have also been thinking about a reverse Whitlam situation – imagine if the lower house were a coalition-Katter majority, with the upper house clearly dominated by the Greens.

    Comedy Gold!

    Adrien – exactly! Let’s see what the Greens are made of!

    You are what you eat. And the Greens are made of simply superb dishes like fresh bok choy bean bean with organic goat’s cheese and a disc of omelet balancing a truffle gilded with gold leaf dumplings.


  9. Posted August 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Actually I think that there is a lot of commonality between farmers and a green agenda, where the farms are family farms rather than corporates, because farming families are in for the long haul, think about the value of the investment a couple of generations down the track: both greens and family farms are into sustainability.

    So, it makes a difference if the independent ex-nats are more beholden to extractive rather than sustainable rural economics.

  10. Posted August 24, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Actually I think that there is a lot of commonality between farmers and a green agenda

    There is. In terms of political-economy they’re on the same page. Trouble is that rednecks and latte sippers hate each other. 🙂

  11. Posted August 24, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    [email protected] “rednecks and latte sippers”

    I think it’s unfair to call farmers as a group “rednecks”. I suspect if some actually do deserve the label, they are more likely to have no social interaction with their stock, apart from pulling them in then shipping them off to abbatoirs, or croppers. Perhaps just as dairy cattle are selected for gentleness and co-operation with humans, dairy farmers are similarly tame, or the gentler climes for dairy don’t burn the necks as much.

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