Democracy’s biggest weakness – candidates

Winston Churchill said in 1947 that democracy is the worst form of government except all other forms:

‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’

It has also been said that as democracy is the rule of the people that means it is often the rule of the mediocre.

I think that democracy relies on the quality of candidates, and increasingly it seems many of the candidates on offer are mediocre at best. Recent elections around the world feature candidates who are worse than mediocre, but according to voters are not as bad as the alternatives.

But flawed democratic systems help enable flawed candidates and flawed governments. Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton is one example, two quite flawed candidates, and arguably the most flawed, with fewer votes, was able to take power.

This year’s election looks no better. Trump has proven more flawed than pessimists predicted, but Sanders, Trump and the populist juju

The best news for Bernie is that his rivals are so weak

The best news for Bernie is that his rivals are so weak. Joe Biden’s candidacy is a sad spectacle, his mind is gone, yet his zombie campaign drags itself on. Pete Buttigieg is a clear second in the delegate count, yet his pale imitation of Barack Obama’s rhetorical style leaves people cold. Amy Klobuchar is doing enough not to be discounted, yet not well enough to count. Elizabeth Warren has faded dramatically, but she kept her candidacy on life support with a good performance in last week’s TV debate. The person who lost that debate in Nevada was indisputably Mike Bloomberg. He still has enough money to brainwash and cajole large chunks of the electorate.

Team Bloomberg and Team Sanders now loathe each other — possibly more than they despise Trump.

The chances of an ugly election in the US and an ugly outcome look high. All the candidates look quite flawed. US democracy seems to deter decent candidates.

The Economist: Global democracy has another bad year

Democracy is in retreat, according to the latest edition of the Democracy Index from our sister company, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). This annual survey, which rates the state of democracy across 167 countries based on five measures—electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties—finds that democracy has been eroded around the world in the past year. The global score of 5.44 out of ten is the lowest recorded since the index began in 2006. Just 22 countries, home to 430m people, were deemed “full democracies” by the EIU.

File:Democracy Index 2018.png

New Zealand was rated as a “full democracy” at number 4 in the pecking order.

New Zealand decided to try to curb flawed governments by switching from First Past the Post (FPP), that enabled governments with far less than majority support.  The Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) we adopted may be more representative, but it may well have resulted in more mediocre governments and more mediocre candidates.

The leaders and parties on Parliament now are disappointing.

Jacinda Ardern has excelled at some things but overall has looked weak, Her Labour are widely perceived to have underperformed.

Winston Peters won’t have disappointed many because expectations were low. he would have to be one of our most flawed politicians, and his party isn’t referred to as Winston First for nothing. His most prominent co-MP, Shane Jones, has significant flaws too.

Green support collapsed before the last election after the flaws of Metiria Turei turned their campaign to custard. As a Minister James Shaw has worked hard with limited power, as a leader he has been missing in action. Co-leader Marama Davidson has narrow appeal and has not had a good term.

Simon Bridges may have improved a bit as leader of National but that was from a less than mediocre starting point. National maintains good levels of poll support but that may reflect more on the weakness of the alternatives rather than anything.

David Seymour had a good year last year and may manage to get one or two ACT MPs to join him, but will remain small fry on the fringe.

Local (Dunedin) MPs are the disappointing Minister of Health David Clark and the failed minister of a few minor things, Clare Curran.

What are the alternatives? Colin Craig, Kim Dotcom and Gareth Morgan all tried to start up new parties but despite big money their flaws and the threshold defeated them.

Current alternatives look like list causes. The Sustainable Party never fired and has since crashed and burned. The New Conservatives don’t have a leader or candidates that will get them far, they will be lucky to get to half the threshold.

Some are promoting an add-on to our democracy, a People’s Assembly. I don’t think our politicians will hand over power, but it’s hard to see it being any more than mediocre.

Voters in a democracy look for strong leadership. That’s lacking in New Zealand’s current democracy.

Why do we get such a weak and flawed bunch of candidates to choose from? Is it money? While being an MP has become a career for some there is much better money in private business – and as a public servant – than being a politician in the public spotlight.

I think the way politicians are exposed by media and increasingly social media must deter many potential candidates. Who would want to risk that crap? Better to anonymously earn more elsewhere.

I don’t have any solutions to offer for the generally poor and diminishing quality of candidates. Does anyone have any ideas on how to turn this around?

Perhaps democracy is simply destined to decline.

Leave a comment

54 Comments

  1. Christchurch City Council calls on the Government to lower the voting age to 16.
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/119864272/voting-age-should-be-lowered-and-civics-education-is-needed-in-schools-council-says

    It may be ‘more democratic, but what about 15 year olds?

    I really don’t know how this will improve the quality of our democracy

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  28th February 2020

      The turnout for 16 yr olds would be even lower than for the 18-20 yr olds.
      The fish rots from the head …the problem is the secretive and bureaucratic councils run by the permanent staff.
      Maybe we should think about US style local democracy, where the various senior officials are elected too. We cant elect ‘sheriffs or dog catcher’ , but we could elect the head of finance, the head of planning, the chief engineer ..etc as well as Mayors and fewer Councillors

      Reply
  2. If Simon Bridges manages to pull off an election victory, his next headache will be choosing his Cabinet from a somewhat uninspiring line-up, writes Peter Dunne

    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2020/02/28/1056030/bridges-ego-juggling-challenge

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  28th February 2020

      Well, who says we only need one Minister for one portfolio? Why not a group? What’s happening with these list MPs? Maybe something constructive can be found for them apart from committee meetings?
      What about a provincial parliament where provinces is blitzed by National in support of the local sitting MP. to help with the workload.
      Simon will have to think outside the square if Dunn’s summation is correct. I don’t think it is.

      This makes for interesting reading. Why we have dropped the ball on immigration. I wonder if this would be covered by MSM?

      https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/schedule-of-meetings/

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  28th February 2020

        List MPs can be ministers…maybe you were thinking of the ‘useless ones’ some of whom are captains picks to suit ethnic groups who raise money…well all Nats Mps are supposed to be ATMs for the National party

        Reply
    • David

       /  28th February 2020

      Too much experience and talent to choose from, bet Ardern wishes she had that problem.

      Reply
  3. Duker

     /  28th February 2020

    Thats ‘so Economist’ – a democracy index., with a coloured map made by bright young things… who ‘studied these things’
    Strangely Germany with MMP isnt as highly rated as NZ which uses much the same electoral system.
    Do they even read about Thailand at all to put it into same category as Indonesia
    Like I said , its “so Economist’… neo liberal all the way

    The trouble with the rest of the story sourced from the Spectator about the quality of the candidates, is thats how it looked during previous primary seasons. Obama wasnt some legislative giant -that was Ted Kennedy, and look how flawed he was . Look at Lyndon Johnson, flawed and corrupt but he made the civil rights changes happen. Roosevelt wasnt a great candidate, he just had a great voice for radio. Lincoln didnt stand out during his candidacy
    The primary system only has been around since 1912 and not all states used it to decide delegates for the national convention
    Henry Ford was a candidate in the 1924 Democratic primaries and only won Michigan.

    Reply
    • Pink David

       /  28th February 2020

      I agree. One of the most important features of a western democratic system is that the quality of the candidates is not a major factor in the success of the country. It’s likely a good thing that the ‘highest quality’ people are doing more useful things.

      Reply
  4. Blazer

     /  28th February 2020

    in Western democracies the banks and corporations tell the politicians what to do.

    Plenty of evidence available.

    Reply
    • In NZ its the horsey set who make the rules.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  28th February 2020

        When Simon was first made a Minister it was as Minister of Energy and Resources (from 30/01/213) and they choose a lawyer because the mining/drilling industry had all the proposals they wanted national party to rewrite the legislation to suit them …and they did.
        Crown Minerals Amendment Act 2013
        http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2013/0014/latest/whole.html#DLM4756193

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  28th February 2020

        No,Arty. Terrorists and social media make the rules in NZ.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  28th February 2020

          Which rules have they made ? We had the French terrorists and the Rainbow Warrior and then Brendon Tarrant…which rules have they made ?

          We are probably the least affected by terrorism of any country.

          Reply
        • Corky

           /  28th February 2020

          Is Kitty asleep at the wheel again? Of course, law abiding gun owners had their guns confiscated after Tarrant went on his rampage. New Law. Hannah Tamaki lost her spot on Dancing With The Stars after social media and an ex weather girl pressured organisers create a new criteria demanding Christians who believe homosexuals are bad news, be banned from competing.
          .

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  28th February 2020

            That isn’t the same thing as terrorists MAKING the rules. The changes were not made BY the terrorists, they were made after the terrorism.

            The guns were not bought back. There is no reason for people to have these military weapons if they are not in the armed forces.

            The comment about Hannah Tamaki is a gross distortion.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  28th February 2020

              You mean the guns WERE bought back … those that had licenses had their guns bought by the government or were modified at government expense to have the magazine reduced in size for bolt or lever actions, semi autos of course were all crushed after buyback
              Theres a high likelyhood the ‘deaths by firearm’ will have fallen, compared to previously in the period after the buy back ended

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  28th February 2020

              Ooops, the guns WERE bought back, I mean. That was a typo.

              There is no criteriON that Christians who disapprove of gays are banned from competing. That is not why so many people protested.

              The Tamakis’ ads were removed from Face Book where almost anything seems to go, for breaching the community standards. One of Brian T’s ads proclaims that he is ‘hot’ and that people should go to see the hot preacher (he is paid a large sum every time he preaches in a Destiny church other than his own one)

              Hannah Tamaki wants to ban all religious buildings except, of course, churches. She posted a photoshopped photo of Shane Jones holding a target with bullet holes in it and an outline of a Muslim woman in a hijab on it.

              Brian Tamaki equated not being given government money with being gang-raped.

              The Tamakis blamed the Christchurch earthquakes on gays.

              Destiny members protested when prayers were said after the mosque massacre and some were crass enough to stand outside the mosque where most of the murders happened proclaiming that Jesus was the only true God in NZ.

              Having one of the Tamakis on Dancing with the Stars would be the kiss of death to the programme. Media Works were insane to even think of it.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  28th February 2020

              Duker, ours must have crossed; I saw that I had said weren’t when I meant were. I had written something else and changed it, but missed that word.

            • Corky

               /  28th February 2020

              ”That isn’t the same thing as terrorists MAKING the rules.”

              Dear me, I forgot the LITERAL thing again.

              Common sense, one would hope, should have told Kitty it was impossible
              for terrorists to pass legislation. Therefore I’m talking legislation that has been directly influenced by these people; either individually or as a group.

              ”The comment about Hannah Tamaki is a gross distortion.”

              On second thoughts I could have worded that in a more concise way.
              I can do that if Kitty wants. However, I wouldn’t suggest that.

              @ Duker

              ”You mean the guns WERE bought back.”

              No, I mean the guns were confiscated due to a law change. Compensation is a peripheral issue.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  28th February 2020

              How can terrorists making the rules be taken any way other than literally ? You make it sound as if every ‘rule’ in NZ was made by them and ‘social media’. Neither is remotely true. One might as well say that the country used to be run by people writing letters to the editor.

              If you thought that it was impossible that terrorists would pass legislation, what was the point of saying it ? The context was one of legislation. You seem to be unaware of the fact that terrorism is extremely rare in NZ.

              Hannah Tamaki is an unpopular bigot, like her husband. I have little time for Shane Jones, but posting the photoshopped picture of him was despicable. Her idea that all non-fundamentalist (Christian, or the Tamaki idea of Christian) religious edifices be forbidden in NZ is reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

  5. duperez

     /  28th February 2020

    Who are the ‘best’ to be candidates? The best as seen by themselves, electoral committees or voters in an electorate? Could the ‘worst’ candidate be voted in by dint of their party and the particular electorate?

    Clearly best will never be good enough anyway because there is always someone who will know better, would have done better, would definitely do a better job. According to themselves. Of course they’ll never put their name in the hat and there’ll be many reasons for that.

    They would want to get involved if the system were an autocratic, dictatorship model with them the one in charge.

    Reply
  6. David

     /  28th February 2020

    Trump is no way as flawed as the pessimists predicted, Lowest minority unemployment, rising wages, no new wars, no North Korea firing missiles over Japan, opiod death rates finally reducing, Europe paying billions more for their defence, no Russia collusion, prison reform, reduced carbon footprint and you could go on and on about how fantastic things are there.
    Seriously if the worst thing is Trump is a bit unorthodox and not always presidential well I can think of worse times. Look at his poll ratings, look at the surveys on how happy Americans are with their economic well being.
    I go there every year, Texas in September, and the place is going great aside from people being particularly grumpy in NY last time round.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  28th February 2020

      Trumps poll ratings have been since his election a majority for unfavourable ….. which is amazing when you consider all the ‘benefits’ you list.
      Some one with that economy would normally be in the 60% favourable , why do you think Trump has consistent high unfavourable ratings

      Reply
    • duperez

       /  28th February 2020

      I posted this on the virus thread. It gives pause to consider what ‘Trump is a bit unorthodox and not always presidential’ actually means. It’s all interesting but from 5:34 reflects on leadership.

      Reply
      • David

         /  28th February 2020

        Cant be bothered watching but lets assume half the press conference was good and half bad. I listened to Robertson this morning and he got in all the buzzwords, smack National around politely and all very articulate but the guy has delivered half the growth he inherited and we have more people on the benefit and he has delivered nothing that he promised.
        Trump drives folks nuts, friends and foes, but he is delivering real prosperity to a long neglected part of society.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  28th February 2020

          NZ s growth slow down was a match to everyone elses….. you cant really compare with the peaks and troughs of the nats
          RBNZ

          Reply
          • David

             /  28th February 2020

            I didnt, what on earth are you talking about. This urge to reply to every comment and display how awesome you are should be controlled.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  28th February 2020

              “delivered half the growth he inherited”
              RBNZ says thats incorrect, plus it was falling before election
              Other countries are down too.. So Im correct

            • Blazer

               /  29th February 2020

              an obsession with ‘growth’ is counter productive.
              The biggest area of ‘growth’ is DEBT!

            • Like this?

              The tax cuts, focused on corporations and the wealthy, will raise the already large federal budget deficit by nearly US$1.5 trillion over the next decade, according to Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

              Trump administration officials acknowledge that the deficit will jump in the short term. But they said that’s worth it to boost economic growth from the sluggish 2 per cent level that has marked the recovery from the 2007-09 recession and to further strengthen the US military, where much of the additional funding will go.

              https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/world/101762858/president-donald-trump-claimed-credit-for-rising-us-stock-prices-now-he-owns-their-fall

  7. David

     /  28th February 2020

    I dont think there is any reason to cry about democracy or the quality of our MPs. We are living in the best times ever on every available measure, we have riches our forebears could only marvel at and we take them for granted.
    I think our politicians on the whole have done a brilliant job in the last 30 years, the current crop are just caretakers but as long as they dont change much everything will be fine.
    Think about how great it is that Twyford turned out to be useless and didnt build 10,000 houses a year. Its saved the taxpayers billions. Because Genter is absolutely the crappiest ever transport minister nothing got done because her ideas were awful but now saner heads are back to building roads. I think the health minister is probably the only one who will cause actual harm by his uselessness and total lack of ability.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  28th February 2020

      Kiwbuild houses are sold to owner occupiers, so the nett cost to taxpayers would be zero.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  28th February 2020

        If they sold. That was the second failure after the building part. It takes a socialist to be that clueless.

        Reply
      • David

         /  28th February 2020

        Funny Duker, down the road from me robertson/twyford put in a guarantee for Mike Greer on a row of townhouses that are literally sale proof. Greer has been trying to sell them for 4 years with zero luck because they are overpriced, wrong design for the area etc.etc.
        The taxpayer will burn a million bucks on them now imagine if Twyford got to do that 10,000 times over each year. 200 metres down the road is Burwood hospital where they deal with skin cancer and my mate has just been delayed further from having a mole removed now where should we spend the money…please tell me Mike Greer is more deserving.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  28th February 2020

          Every developer has some houses that take longer than the rest of the development to sell. Its called the market…..you don’t know much about development do you?
          Easiest example is say apartment building, very very rarely do they sell out , same goes for sections in a new subdivision, say 1/3 sell quickly , another 1/3 take some marketing , and you might have 10% left that take years ….that’s where the money is made. Dumping product at whatever price just crashes the market and only happens when the bank steps in.
          That not all KS developments don’t sell out immediately is because they follow normally selling cycle. Over and under supply in an area makes it slower or faster to sell, it’s never ‘just right’

          Reply
          • David

             /  28th February 2020

            Please would you just listen to someone else. Greer built 2 of these houses and couldnt sell them in 4 odd years, Twyford came along and guaranteed him he would buy them so Greer built a row of unsellable houses and will just wait until no one buys them and he triggers the kiwibuild guarantee.
            Greer isnt even bothering listing them with an agent and avoiding that cost, he hasnt listed them on trade me only on his own website. Follow the dots and do the maths and put yourself in Greers position, its a lotto win because Twyford was desperate with the taxpayers cheque book.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  28th February 2020

              The buyers at the low end they have found dont like the idea of buying off the plans,but they are advertised long before consents are issued. They will sell, some area only have a limited market at that price and type of house. Thats normal as I said. ( they would sell more quickly if investors were allowed in , but they arent.)
              You dont know much about land and house development do you? Ive had many years experience, I remember a small development of new houses where one didnt sell as quickly , the reason was the entrance was ‘too kiwi’ , asians like a more formal door with porch etc. It shows their status as a standalone house rather than just an flat .

            • David

               /  29th February 2020

              I am a property developer, a successful one and this is my local market. That price range is scorching hot I am getting 20 plus people through open homes in that price bracket and dealing with multiple offers. There are so many first home buyers with their kiwisavers and 3.5% interest rate and 90% borrowing.
              A row of townhouses in a subdivision on the outskirts of East Christchurch is never going to stack up, if you want a townhouse its because there are amenities/work etc nearby and there is nothing out here except suburbia. You can buy a 20 year old 3 bed, 2 bath home on 600sqm for less.
              Mike Greer will build these for 1200 per sqm and Twyford is buying them for $2100 sqm. Dumb ass transaction.

            • Duker

               /  29th February 2020

              They arent buying them , theres a range of development contracts. Sometimes they develop the land and contract the build, others are ‘underwritten’ when a developer has his own site and project. I have seen developments in Auckland where kiwibuild is only say 5 apartments in a 25 unit block.

              Where do you get the idea that even a volume builder like Mike Greer can ‘build’ at $1200 psm.
              A body corporate in Auckland Im involved with has insurance for a ‘rebuild only’ thats more like well over $3000+ psm. Thats a rebuild on existing simple site, so no land cost , long driveways, water and power network connections, council development contributions.
              Christchurch cant be that much cheaper and with volume discounts from the suppliers,

            • David

               /  29th February 2020

              I can build for 1300 per sqm, 3000 a sqm gets you an architectural build on the hills in Christchurch. The townhouses are completed and built and staged and you can walk through them. Greer didnt build until Twyford came along with an underwrite when he was desperate for a headline.
              Have a look at the townhouses and apartments built in central christchurch which havent sold for 12 plus months, there is little demand down here in the garden city. Have a look at Press articles about saleproof townhouses in suburban subdivisions from the last few tears.

            • David

               /  29th February 2020

              https://www.mikegreerhomes.co.nz/homes-for-sale/profile/1503

              Have a look at what 549k will get you in Burwood,Parklands,Marshlands,New Brighton which are all neighboring suburbs.

            • Blazer

               /  29th February 2020

              As I told u..Greer is killing it in Auckland.Glen Innes former state house area..(..now very desirable…he is going gangbusters .
              Get up there David.

  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  28th February 2020

    Cometh the need, cometh the candidate.

    NZ is just cruising so there is no perceived need for quality in Parliament. Arguably the less they are competent to do the better.

    Trump and Johnson turned up in response to a need both have addressed by making their supporters happy with actions that inevitably those who wanted no change hate and denigrate. It’s pointless to judge them as people rather than as change agents.

    As we discussed yesterday, Gandhi was 100% weirdo but an effective change agent for his supporters.

    Reply
  9. David

     /  28th February 2020

    The other thing too is the government is less in our lives thanks to great leadership from Thatcher, Douglas, Reagan et al so we make far more choices for ourselves not having them made for us.
    NZ was appalling for government control, outside of a communist country one of the worst in the world and now look at us, always in the top 5 for freedom and one of the best places in the world to do business and the best quality of life and its all because we dont have too many interfering MPs. Ardern has been great for this but largely because she isnt that much interested in the job which is a great thing, she has a new child to distract her from meddling.

    Reply
    • duperez

       /  28th February 2020

      You see some glib rubbish people chuck around about politicians. As much as my reservations about many of them over a time most of them have been earnest and wanted to make a difference.

      Every now and then I see stuff about what Ardern does and doesn’t too. Often with that are claims about her being lazy and ‘part time.’

      Others have her toddling off to talk to little kids and do another photo shoot. They have her doing only that day after day. You simply have it that ‘Ardern isn’t that much interested in the job.’

      I’d like to know how so many seem to know how she spends her days and what she thinks about her job. I would think that the regime she has and what she has to deal each day would be a little more daunting that what the brave keyboard intelligentsia have on their daily lists.

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  29th February 2020

      David trys dark humour…
      ‘thanks to great leadership from Thatcher, Douglas, Reagan et al so we make ‘

      Reply
      • David

         /  29th February 2020

        Blazer I can remember the winter of discontent in the 70s before Thatcher transformed Britain into the dynamic awesome place it is now.
        Dad, a lawyer, was only allowed to work 3 days a week and his marginal tax rate was 98%, constant power cuts and half the country out on strike, it was bloody awful.
        Apparently in NZ prior to Douglas the only way you could get a new car was applying to the government and getting on a waiting list. Trucking companies couldnt travel outside the district without a government permit. The only broadcasters were state owned. The government ran the phone system…the whole thing was hideous.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  29th February 2020

          The economy was built differently then, housing for all and full employment werent just aspirations. They were facts.
          The country had to live within its means , so that the value of imports was restricted to align with imports ..hence the new car waiting lists, although by the 80s that had mostly disappeared but certainly was around in the 1960s. To increase employment and make the most of the foreign exchange allocate to new cars , almost all were imported as CKD kits with say 30% of the value as NZ content. ( Australia followed a similar line but made its own cars from scratch)
          TVs were the same, imported as components to be assembled in NZ factories along with many other types of appliances . Clothing and shoes was made here.
          It was developed to live within the countrys means and it worked to achieve the goals they set, being fiscally responsible and providing full employment.

          Reply
        • Blazer

           /  29th February 2020

          Thatcher transformed NOTHING…she was an evil witch,one of the horsemen of the Apocolypse that resulted in the GFC…and the ludicrous financial situation of global unpayable debt that we have today.
          Roll on a bloodbath in the financial markets,the biggest magic show ever imposed on humanity.

          Reply
  10. Pink David

     /  28th February 2020

    You are missing the most important thing. The simple fact is politicians really are just not that important.

    Reply

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