Polarisation versus centrism (or can we have both?)

Is political polarisation increasing? Is ‘centrism’ fading away? Is centrism actually a thing?

From Reddit: With the decline of Centrism in global politics, do you see it happening in NZ?

There has a been a trend in the last 2 decade in global politics, in the US, UK Europe etc, we have seen the rise of centrism in politics, New Democrats with Clinton and Obama and New Labour with Tony Blair in UK. Nowadays politics is much more partisan with Democrats going further left and Labour also going left while at the same time the decline of moderates in US and Liberal Democrats decline.

Is politics becoming much more partisan? Or is partisan politics a minority thing that is getting more attention? Controversial politics makes for more dramatic headlines and is more click baity.

Donald Trump certainly drives division as a tactic, but how non-centrist is he?

While their is division in the UK over the Brexit debacle is that because of the strength of partisan politics? Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn look like weak leaders. There is as much division within their parties as their is between them.  This is more poor politics and poor politicians on both sides rather than a rise in partisanship.

Could we see the same thing in NZ, where NZF along with United Future, both centrist parties decline, with Labour/Greens and National/ACT moving further apart?

IS NZ First really a ‘centrist’ party?  Aren’t they more populist? Their last election position on Immigration was right wing-ish, but what they have supported on immigration is the opposite of that, but very similar to what National did and what Labour are doing.

NZ First already declined, dropping out of Parliament in 2008, but came back in 2011 and rose to power in 2017. It is too soon to write them off.

It’s hard to know where National will position themselves under Simon Bridges. Some of Bridges’ policy positions, like on drug law reform and abortion, may be right-ish, but they are unpopular.

Jacinda Ardern has talked up being a progressive and transformative government, but has not actually proven that much yet. Economically the government has been cautious, following much the same line of the last National government.

Proteus_Core:

Short answer…yes, I see growing polarization in NZ politics which I believe will only get worse in the future. I also could easily see the proposition you put forward happening and I actually believe its a probability at this stage and certainly at the next election.

Signs of polarization in social media does not mean that the general voting population is polarising. I think that most people are probably more disinterested than supporting strong positions either way.

Waterbogan:

Yes, in fact it is already happening. United Future has already declined into oblivion, and I see NZ First following them in short order as they have lost a bunch of supporters since the election and again more recently. I would say there is room for another party on the centre/right aiming at the market sector NZ First and the Conservatives formerly shared between them.

United Future faded away, but so is ACT, so did Jim Anderton’;s Progressive Party, so has the Mana Party, and the Conservative Party. Green support has over halved. All small parties have struggled to survive, no matter where they are in the political spectrum.

‘spoondooly’:

There will always be room for populism in NZ but the nature of our political system is that it drives centrism to a degree.

The reality is that parties (by and large) need the centre vote as that is largely where the swing vote occurs. It drives moderate politics to a degree and has brought both our centre left and centre right parties together.

Even populist parties such as NZ First have to largely ditch their manifesto when in power as the majority party would be severely damaged by any coalition arrangement if that manifesto was fully recognised.

So there will always be a degree of populism but by and large NZ is centrist and moderate and our politics recognise this.

This probably reflects two things.

Most Kiwis are fairly moderate (as opposed to centrist) in their political preferences. There are a number of bell curves like this:

And MMP tends to moderate more than polarise, with National and Labour fighting over a fairly large swing vote in the centre.

‘bogan_avant_garde’:

Wait until you hear about the policies of Michael Joseph Savage. Labour are struggling to return to the position on the political spectrum they held from 1916-1983.

Ardern has tried to present herself as a great shift leader, but she is yet to deliver.

The idea that neo-liberal market capitalism with low regulation and free movement of capital is centrism is laughable. What you are seeing when you see Labour ‘shifting to the left’ is in fact Labour shifting to the centre and providing an actual centrist alternative to right wing orthodoxy.

The small noisy left are growing in dismay at the lack of action from Labour and even the Greens. The small noisy right are probably always dismayed and always will be.

The extremes are minorities.

Image result for bell curve politics

(That’s from The Political Typologies of American Educators but is indicative of minority extremes).

One of New Zealand’s most polarising politicians has been Winston Peters, but that’s only when in Opposition. He is currently in Government, and is mostly quite non-controversial.

I don’t think we have much of a problem with polarisation here. We have a much bigger problem with political apathy (if that is actually a problem).

(This is not original) I tried to start up an Apathy Party, but no one was interested.

The spy is falling, the spy is falling!

Does the New Zealand public (and media) have Hager fatigue or apathy over spy stories?

Nicky Hager has been promoting his reports on New Zealand content of the Snowden files, first through NZ Herald on Thursday and yesterday through Sunday Star Times.

Wider media interest seemed to quickly fade, and apart from some devout activists and the Greens there has been largely a resounding “so what?”

Is this because most people simply don’t care about spying, are not surprised that it’s happening but don’t think it applies to them or will affect them?

Or is it Hager fatigue? Perhaps apart from some loyal supporters he is seen too much as a pesky lefty stirrer.

It will be a mix of both apathy and Hager fatigue.

Yesterday the Sunday Star Times featured reports from Nicky Hager et al based on the Snowden files.  See Sunday Star Times – next installments of Hager/Snowden.

This follows NZ Herald on Thursday launching – Spy ‘revelations’ a flood or a trickle? – in what is promised to be a series of reports on New Zealand aspects of the Snowden files that Hager has been given access to.

There was some wider media coverage on Thursday, but little apparent public interest.

Yesterday the Sunday Star Times coverage appears to have been largely ignored by other media. And the public seems to have been mostly disinterested as well. One of the articles appeared at the bottom of Stuff’s “Most Popular” in the middle of yesterday but by evening there was no sign of anything about spying.

This morning Google news doesn’t include any past spy stories on it’s New Zealand news summary page but there is one Stuff ‘Reader Report’ – Spying news ‘should come as no surprise’.

Stuff leads this page with:

REVELATIONS: Edward Snowden’s latest batch of revelations showed New Zealand was spying on its Pacific neighbours.

New documents show New Zealand has spied on its neighbours and allies, including countries in the Pacific. What do you think about these latest spying revelations?

But the only response published is an emphatic “so what?”

The recent revelations by the investigative journalist Nicky Hager that the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has spied on individuals or organisations located in our neighbouring countries and even allies should come as no surprise to anyone.

Our spy agency is there to spy and gather information from those who are seeking to hide something. The idea that terrorists or criminals can avoid detection by basing themselves in a friendly country is ludicrous.

The world is shrinking daily and decisions made in one continent can be acted on almost instantly in another. Information gathered anywhere can have relevance anywhere.

We need to think globally if we are to combat global terrorists and gather intelligence globally too.

As an ordinary, law-abiding citizen I hope that is what my tax-funded GCSB does. I have nothing to hide or fear and to be brutally honest I don’t care a jot where the spies get the information from or who they share it with.

So it seems that when it comes to real life spy stories New Zealand yawns.

To be honest yesterday I posted links to the Sunday Star Times stories but apart from a cursory glance at the lead paragraphs I couldn’t be bothered reading them.

Has Hager cried and cried wolf too often? He may be guilty of over-egging revelations – be it on dirty self interested politics or spying – that lack compelling evidence.

The problem with ‘The spy is falling, the spy is calling!’ approach is that something that’s barely of interest in the first place gets easily ignored.

A few of the most important and concerning aspects of our spying should probably warrant public scrutiny, or awareness at least.

But this is shrouded in a fog of scaremongering.