Helena Catt, head of the Electoral Commission, says the EFA has had a ‘chilling effect’ on democratic participation. I’m convinced that that is a foolish position based on a belief that ‘democratic participation’ is rich lobby groups paying for ads and billboards, trying to market to us. What the EFA has actually done is democratise participation in democracy. No longer are ordinary people drowned out by the rich organisations. Now, people have the opportunity to be heard in whichever way they choose, they just need to get out there and do it. Anybody can be a third party if they choose, you just have to have the decency to tell the people who you’re trying to influence who you are.
One measure of the health of democratic participation is the vibrancy of the blogosphere. Since we installed our stats package in March, our pageviews have tripled. During the first nine days of this month, Kiwis spent over 125,000 minutes on this blog alone, making over 2500 comments. If that’s not healthy democratic participation, I don’t know what is.
In my darker moments, however, I fear that the blogosphere has become a substitute for real-world action for some. On the one hand, its fantastic to be able to discuss issues with some many intelligent thoughtful people and the blogosphere is a source of quality information and debate in a way that the mainstream media simply is not. On the other hand, spending time trying to convince some libertarian that we shouldn’t just let the poor starve is not as productive as getting out there and trying to show ordinary Kiwis that we’re better off with a left-wing government than National.
I would encourage each one of you to spend time in the next eight and a half weeks contributing to keeping the Left in power. That could be by assisting a political party or a third party campaign, or you do something off your own bat. I really encourage the latter. Don’t wait to be led; lead yourself. Get a few mates together, plan and carry out some political theatre. Make up some posters, leaflets, banners and get them out around your community. There is nothing to stop you doing this, nothing. And its great fun too. We had a ball at the ‘Great New Zealand Sell-off’ protest outside the National party conference. The other day me and a mate spent a couple of hours dropping some leaflets in mailboxes – nice walk in the sun, had some laughs, spread the good word. Easy.
To help out, we’re launching the Campaign Hub 2008 page on The Standard which is twinned with a Campaign Hub Facebook group. The campaign hub will carry info on how you can help out and tips for getting active. Best of all, you can send us your poster and leaflet ideas, and we’ll put them up so people around the country can print them off.
Have a gander, sign up, use the resources at the Campaign Hub, or just get into it. It’s only 58 days until the election, make it count.
Remember, voting should not be the pinnacle of your participation in democracy. It should be only the beginning.