A sage comment from our reader, Bill, got me thinking. He said “If political news was even given the same modest in-depth coverage as (say) sports news we wouldn’t be living in the NZ that we inhabit today.” I might put it like this: “If you knew as much about politics and how your country is run as you do about the All Blacks, New Zealand would be a better country.”
Unfortunately, there is a very strong tendency to dumb down and sensationalise politics in the media. National too, knows it benefits from voters having cliche view of politics. And the collapse in membership of the major parties has distanced people from political decision-making. All these factors turn people off politics, which allows politicians to succeed based on the Crosby/Textor formula of fear, greed, and resentment.
Democracy’s lifeblood is an informed and engaged population. The political elite (if you’re reading a political blog that’s you, whether you’re of the Left or Right) needs to think about how the rest of the population can be reengaged. A good starting point would be realising that politics is not an elite sport – it is something that everyone has an interest in and everyone is capable of participating in if they are given the opportunity. The media needs to start providing proper, extended, coverage of politics as the process by which decisions affecting everyone’s lives are made (rather than as a soap opera). The political parties need to treat Kiwis with respect by a) putting out real policies and having real debates on a vision for New Zealand and b) making themselves into mass parties once more.