How to Start a New Political Party

I looked seriously at how to start a political party. Seriously enough to have a go in 2011, suggesting a party based on more inclusive democracy. That’s actually where the name of this site came from – Your NZ.

It soon became apparent that it was a daunting task, especially with few resources (in other words, I’m not a multi-millionaire with money to burn).

Getting the 500 party members necessary to register as a party is challenging.

Most people who are interested in political involvement are already involved with existing parties. And by far the majority of people are not interested in getting involved in political parties.

Even if you can manage to sign up 500 party members there is then the reality that no new party has managed to beat the 5% threshold. Most get nowhere near it, and with no apparent chance of making the threshold voters aren’t interested.

There were sixteen registered parties this election so they must have all signed up 500 members, but the Internet party only got 464 votes so far – perhaps the rest of their members will be counted in specials.

Anyway, I’ve been sidetracked from the reason for this post – a post by Alex Eastwood-Williams at Right Minds NZ on How to Start a New Political Party

This includes an interesting graph of the historical links between different New Zealand political parties, plus discussion on party formation.

My point was to demonstrate that founding a new political party simply to cater to a more pure strain of a particular ideology is almost always a waste of time and effort (I’m looking at you, MNZGA). To be successful, political parties have to be able to form coalitions, and I don’t mean coalitions with other parties, I mean form coalitions of voters.

Last week I used the example of New Zealand First, currently the third oldest party in New Zealand, and argued that its political survival hinges on its ability to form an internal coalition of working class Maori, upper class elderly white people and disillusioned voters from other parties such as Labour or the Conservatives.

A big talking point as we await the outcome of the election is the Green Party determination to not consider a governing with National, and their exclusion so far from discussions with NZ First in particular and also their supposed ally, Labour.

Greens have successfully managed internal coalitions but have been largely unsuccessfully over 7 elections at forming meaningful coalitions with other parties.

How to form a new party:

So maybe you’ve read all this, but you’re still hell-bent on starting a new political party. What can you do?

You have only two options: You can either attempt to find people on the extreme wings of the left and the right and hope that enough people are annoyed with Labour or National being “too centrist” that they’ll vote for your new party instead – but be aware that as soon as you end up in power, you’ll be absorbed by the bigger, older party.

The alternative is to build a coalition that is neither left nor right and be non-aligned: Either you could be a liberal right-wing party like Bob Jones’ New Zealand Party in 1984, or a conservative left-wing party like Social Credit. You could try and be “centrist” but appeal to urban liberal voters like United Future or the British Liberal Democrats, or you could try to be “centrist” but appeal to rural conservative voters like NZ First (and, again, Social Credit).

As long as you’re consistently attacking both the left and the right in equal measure, and you don’t get into power, your movement will survive. And it helps to go in the opposite direction to the other parties, too.

But too much negative politics can turn potential supporters off. Winston Peters tends to dominate the “consistently attacking both the left and the right”, leaving little room for anyone else in this space.

For example, if Labour are trying to be socially conservative to win National voters, and National are trying to be left-wing to win over Labour voters, then your best bet is to form a right-wing socially liberal party: It worked for Bob Jones in 1984, it works for the Libertarians in the US (where the Democrats and Republicans both try to out-conservative or out-big government each other) and it worked well for the Liberal Democrats in the UK when you had a socially authoritarian New Labour competing with David Cameron’s “Compassionate” Conservatives.

However if things are trending the opposite direction: National are trying to be socially liberal (e.g. John Key) and Labour are trying to be economically right-wing, then you should be trying to win over the conservatives and economic left-wingers.

Basically, if you’re a non-aligned party, you should do the opposite of what the left and right parties do: If they agree on something, it’s your job to disagree.

But if you’re planning to start a new party, and if you’re planning to be successful, be prepared to eschew ideological purity: There are a diminishing number of each type of voter, and you will need to be able to form a coalition that can appeal to as many as possible.

I really don’t think there is much hope for any new party with the current barrier of our 5% threshold. National and Labour have been happy to keep that in place to protect their patches. Even the Greens have been happy with a high threshold, despite their claims to being principled on democracy.

Going by our 21 year history of MMP the only practical way of starting a new party requires a long term and high risk strategy:

– join an existing party
– grease your way up the ranks
– either score a winnable electorate (if in National or Labour), or
– get enough party support to get a winnable place on the party list
– establish yourself in Parliament for a term or two
– get enough other MPs to split off into a sizeable new party
– win an electorate or beat the 5% threshold in an election

If you manage to make it that far your next task is to play a meaningful part in a government. That could take another term or two, or if you’re the Greens, seven terms and still trying.

As well as this expect to get a lot of media disinterest because you are not deemed important enough for them to promote, unless you create some controversy and get hammered by them.

If you look like achieving some success also expect attacks, undermining and dirty politics from opponents in parties and in social media.

Why don’t we get more good quality candidates and politicians?

There is the odd exception.

Shane Jones seems to have been given an easy ride into parliament by Labour, and again by NZ First. But he is part of the club.

A media bored by the Auckland mayoral election last year amused themselves by picking up and promoting Chloe Swarbrick, and she picked up a few more consolation votes than others.

And the media kept giving her exposure, leading to her taking her chances with the Greens. It turned out she was the right age and sex for the Greens to promote her up the ranks, ahead of candidates who had been greasing their way up the party for many years. And she’s now in Parliament. But for every Nek Minit success there are thousands who get nowhere near achieving their political ambitions.

Colin Craig, Kim Dotcom and now Gareth Morgan couldn’t buy their way into Parliament with huge resources.

The most common pathway into Parliament these days is to become a party staffer either as a political graduate or a journalist, and grease your way up the party from there. Many years involved before even getting a shot at the big time.

Trying to start a party and trying to find a way into Parliament can be interesting and fun, but for most it is futile hobby.

If you want to be an MP your best chance is making it a career and wheedling your way into and up the political class.

If you want to fast track pick a smaller party with possible future prospects. Unless you can convincingly join the Green congregation they only option is NZ First, but that means having to approve of Winston and be approved by him. And remaining subordinate.

Someone may come up with a successful way of starting a political party, but the formula hasn’t been found yet. It will take a lot of ability, a lot of nous, and a lot of luck. Even the most successful politicians happen to be in the right position of the right party at the right time.

Peters: whisky and whine

You can tell when Winston Peters has arrived – when the bus motor is turned off the whining continues.

NZ First billboards inevitably got some attention:

But there’s still plenty of whine. He has moaning on RNZ this morning about how bad polls are – NZ First must be not doing well enough for him.

NZH: Winston Peters accuses Labour of stealing his party’s policy to re-establish the NZ Forestry Service

Labour’s pledge to set up a forestry service in Rotorua has been praised by a major timber processor.

However, NZ First leader Winston Peters has accused Labour of “dishonesty” and stealing his party’s long-standing policy to re-establish the NZ Forestry Service.

“The desperate two old parties are obviously rifling through our speeches and documents for ideas,” Peters said.

It’s common for different parties to have similar policies. And it has become more common for parties to poach policies to try to target voters. Whining about it just sounds sour.

Newshub: Winston Peters pulls out of minor parties debate

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has pulled out of tonight’s minor parties debate, saying if Labour and National see no value in attending, neither does he.

“I cleared my programme and accepted that invitation enthusiastically,” he said.

“Hence, I was astonished, on a general inquiry late Tuesday, to be told by them that neither Labour nor National had ever accepted the invitation.”

Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch told The AM Show she was surprised Mr Peters assumed Bill English and Jacinda Ardern would be taking part, as it’s a minor leaders’ debate.

“You have to sort of question things if he didn’t realise that.”

Good grief.

Peters won’t lower himself to debate alongside the other minnows – he probably thinks that Ardern and even English a beneath his stature.

Perhaps he can have his own elder statesman debate, but he would probably whine his way through that too.

Alongside Ardern in particular he is looking way past his used-by date, and Shane Jones doesn’t help NZ First look like a party of the future.

Metiria versus Pākehā men #1

While Metiria Turei has largely dropped out of the media spotlight there has been some ongoing commentary on her rise and fall over the last month. Two articles claim that she has been done over by white middle/upper class males.

Newshub:  Metiria Turei’s demise due to ‘race, gender and class’ – academic

For the last three weeks, the actions of former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei have polarised our country.

Māori academic Dr Leonie Pihama described the coverage as “a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right-wing ideologies of race, gender and class”.

There were certainly attacks on Turei and her actions and attitudes to benefits and solutions to poverty.

But she started a highly political and contentious ‘mission’ and media had a duty to examine the whole story, not just the bits Turei wanted to promote to try to grow votes for the Green Party.

Some media coverage may have been over the top, but that’s not unusual in politics. Bill English has been hammered by media for months over the Todd Barclay issue, and he’s right wing-ish, white, male and relatively well off.

Polls showed that many people who leaned left were not comfortable with Turei’s actions and continued acceptance of law breaking.

Three quarters of people polled, including about half of Green voters and about two thirds of Labour voters answered yes to ‘Was it wrong for Metiria Turei to get a bigger benefit?’ – see Newshub poll: Most Kiwis say Metiria Turei was wrong to lie to WINZ

There was clearly:

  • left wing disapproval
  • clearly many of those who disapproved must have been female (at least half)
  • many must have been lower to middle class,
  • there must have been some non-whites who disapproved (as there was whites who approved).

It is fine for Pihama to question whether there has been some bias in reporting the Turei issue. There is always bias in media.

It is also fine to suggest that some ‘attacks’ were based on ideologies, race, age and class. Inevitably they would have been.

But stating that the coverage was “a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right-wing ideologies of race, gender and class” is not something one should expect from someone presenting themselves as an academic.

There was more. Discussion on this at Reddit:

She said a lot more than that:

“What we have is a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right wing ideologies of race, gender and class that serve the interests of domination and which reproduce systems of inequality and disparities. Metiria Turei embodies all of those things that white supremacy seeks to destroy.

“It seems that everywhere I turn there is a upsurge of white supremacy expressed as white privilege.”

A comment in response at Reddit:

What it says is actually the truth. Metiria Turei does embody all that white supremacists (aka Trump supporter type) because she is:

  • Brown coloured (aka not white)
  • A woman
  • Activist for the poor
  • Environment activist
  • Socialist
  • Secularist

The only reason she was hounded by the media is because she failed to anticipate that they would dig for, and find, more dirt on her. Lying about having a flatmate (although it was actually fine for her to have a boarder), and voting in a different electorate to your actual residence (John Key did the same thing while he was an MP) was no big deal.

What actually hurt her was the fact that the residence she put down was actually the baby daddy’s address, so the possible implication was that she she lied about living with him which meant she was never entitled to the benefit in the first place. Despite her years of political experience and the fact she was a co-leader if the Green Party, she failed to anticipate the media uncovering it all and connecting the dots.

But Pihama seems to think that it was unfair for media to join the dots. It was clear there was more to Turei’s story than she was willing to divulge.

It sounds like Pihama is biased based on her political  ideologies, race and gender (I won’t try to judge her class).



‘The fundamental divide between left and right’

Food for thought (and comment);

It’s like we’ve forgotten a basic fact of leftwing politics. It’s built on solidarity.

That’s the fundamental divide between left and right.

We believe in community and cooperation. They believe in self-interest. We’re about the collective. They’re about the individual.

We know that the important question is not “how does this benefit me personally?” It’s “how does this benefit us all.”

Standing together, not because we’re all the same and we’re all after the same thing, but because we have the same enemy: capitalism, which takes many forms: patriarchy, white supremacy, social conservatism.

From The political prospects for 2017: living our values (in which there are some other interesting points).

It is common for those on the political left (and also on the political right) to see their own views and ideologies as close to ideal, and opposing views and ideologies as close to totally misguided at best, and despicable and evil at worst.

On promoting and excusing political violence

Kevin posted this comment: “Usually I’m just taking the mickey with these things but in this case there’s serious underling themes of what is violence, is it ever justified and when, etc, so could make a good thread. And to be honest I find the thread a little bit on the scary side.”

Referring to this post be ‘weka’ at The Standard: Punching Nazis, and practicing resistance

I’ve been sitting for a few days trying to figure out what I think about punching Nazis and applauding punching Nazis, as a form of resistance. The act spoke for itself in obvious ways, and yet the glee with which the anti-fascists danced around the internet putting the video to song left me discomforted, as did the inevitable stand-off between liberals and radicals about what’s ok.

In comments Marty Mars:

If you don’t punch them they think they are allowed to do what they want including punching others.

because of all that I say punch a nazi every time


I agree with much of that, and I can’t say I have too much of a problem with the original punch.

That some people accept, excuse  and promote physical violence against people with different political views is a concern in the New Zealand context.


I tend to follow the rule of thumb that sometimes, some people need to be punched – but it is never a good thing.

This is why I try to avoid socialising with tories: they might be all amiable and good company, then they tend to say or do something that makes my fists itch.

Nazis are easy to justify punching, like paedophiles. I won’t be overly sad if Rolf Harris gets thumped in prison, for example.

The trouble is that if you don’t have a pretty firm line about where and when and on whom thumping is justifiable, you end up on a slippery slope.

The interesting argument is the dividing line between “someone who disagrees with you politically” and “oh hell, no, thump that guy”. In the case of nazis it’s important to not normalise their existence. So yeah, disrupt their interviews. If that doesn’t work, hit them. And the more political power they gain despite those actions, escalate it again. Because as they’ve shown, as soon as they get a legitimate toehold they’ll expand their campaign of hate.

Yes, that’s me advocating intolerance to the point of violence. The difference is that I’m intolerant to nazi-style organisations, because they’re intolerant of every other group in society. Not one or two groups that are particularly vile, everyone. That’s pretty much what makes them nazis. They glory in violence against inferiors, and see themselves as superior to everyone else (well, overcompensate much, anyway).


Spot on McFlock. I love it when someone else does all the thinking and then encapsulates it so I don’t have to. Thanks for that 😎

I would probably separate out paedophiles from Nazis, although that’s a different conversation I think.

But as McFlock pointed out, if you start trying to decide which political views or social behaviour esxcuses violence or not it becomes a slippery slope.

Phil makes an important point:

My concern with this matter is a little more practical: what is the measurement standard for determining if one is or is not a Nazi?

Someone like Richard Spencer, with his truly vile and hateful views of race and ethnicity, would seem to exceed any reasonable metric of judging Nazi-ness and my initial gut reaction is that he deserves to be punched, repeatedly.

But, each of us is going to have a different standard for measuring Nazi-ness. Your own post hints at it by linking John Key and proto-facist. I’ve seen plenty of people on here, and other blogs, suggest everyone from John Key and Helen Clark, to George Bush and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and Tony Blair and Nigel Farage are Nazi’s.

I have serious concerns that some deluded individual is going to think “I think Politician X is a Nazi, therefore it’s acceptable for me to punch, or shoot, or kill them” and that’s not a political opposition/resistance we should be encouraging in any way at all.

And then in comes Sanctuary:

Waaaaaaayyyy to much over-analysis going on here. The neo-fascist got clocked on camera. Good job.


Jesus, what a bunch of namby pambies! You all sound like the giddy heights of resistance for you is pointedly refusing a second biscuit from a conservative vicar.

Now look here. Right wing violence in the form of cruel infliction of poverty or the humiliation of having to grovel for a dime happens all the time. These right wing neo-fascist types are not playing at politics, unlike the completely useless bunch of pearl clutching pacifists here. Those assholes wouldn’t think twice about stomach punching your granny, or slashing her pension to nothing. I would happily scone any one of them on the noggin with a baseball bat. Assholes deserve it.

Weka responded:

What are you on about? There’s 2 people in this thread who I would consider leftish, that have said it’s wrong to punch people, and 3 RWers. Everyone else is saying there’s a context and are talking about that. Hardly a bunch of namby pamby pacifists. I wonder if you are bothering to even read what people write, or the pos, let alone think about it.

Her response is a bit bizarre, and notably doesn’t oppose the violent suggestions.

I guess it’s ok to raise discussions about whether political violence is acceptable or ever justifiable, but I would have liked to see condemnation of it from a blog moderator who warns and bans people for very trivial things.

I find  labeling people left or right or Nazi or fascist in the context of making reasons and excuses for violence, especially in a politically benign New Zealand context, more than a bit disturbing.

Violence on political or religious or ethnic or just about any grounds, especially initiating it, should simply be condemned.

MMP paradise v. duopoly hell

US democracy appears to be headed for hell in a hand basket, with the choices for president in the current election being the devil they know and the other devil they know.

In comparison our system of MMP in New Zealand is a political paradise.

That’s how Felix Marwick puts it at Newstalk ZB: MMP is a paradise compared to the political duopoly in the US

If there’s one thing that Kiwis can take from the US Presidential campaign it’s that we can be damn thankful for the political system we have.

MMP may be much maligned, but when compared to the political duopoly that dominates the US, it is a paradise alongside a festering wasteland.

Our MMP is imperfect but less imperfect than just about every other system around the world.

The US campaign does appear to be a festering wasteland, but perhaps we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Hell hath no fury like a post-election America?

The dominance of the two major political parties in the US, the marginalisation of any potential alternatives, and the lip service paid to the voting public all seems to have combined in the perfect storm that has become Clinton versus Trump.

It is not hard to see why, in a political system dominated by favours, influence and corporate donations, that voters on both the left and the right have been captured in the wave of anti-establishment disenchantment that have characterised the Bernie Sanders campaign and also, in more visceral and angry form, the Trump campaign.

A Sanders presidency would have looked utopian compared to the current choices.

On one hand you have Clinton, a veteran of 40 years public service, yet perceived as a product of the system and tarred by the commercial connections of her political donors and donors to the Clinton Foundation.

Plus the matter of her major email lapses.

On the other you have Donald Trump. A man who has brought political discourse to new lows, a person who has all but desecrated the legacy of Lincoln, and a politician who abandoned any pretence of truth in politics.

Politicians of all stripes have a tendency to bend or massage the truth. But Trump appears to have neither time nor inclination for truth at all. He’s not so much a denier of facts as he is a murderer of truth.

It’s a sad indictment on the GOP that a man so patently unfit for the Presidency has been allowed to rise as far as he has.

Ditto the Democrat Party?

This brings me back to MMP and why we’re lucky to have it. For all the perils of tails wagging the dog under MMP it does at least allow for a more honest political landscape.

MMP has been a safety valve. It’s allowed for the fringe, the niche and the extremes of left and right to have a voice, and it’s done so in a manner where the major political parties are no longer so vulnerable to capture by extremism.

We should be grateful for what we have here in New Zealand – but we have to hope that the US doesn’t  have a fit of sneezing and blow snot over the world.

The truth, the whole truth

The truth is something a lot of politicians seem to have some difficulty with, especially the whole truth (except for a few politicians who seem to have no difficulty promoting mistruths).

Trade Minister Todd McClay learnt a lesson this week about what can happen about not being up front with the truth.

Audrey Young: Harsh lessons about telling truth in politics

Two politicians found themselves in trouble this week, one for not telling the truth, and the other for telling the truth.

Both were damaging.

Todd McClay’s failure to tell the truth reflects badly on him as Trade Negotiations Minister rather than his party. He has held that job for only six months but he has been a minister for three years.

He mishandled a media story that floated the notion of a trade war by the Chinese Government with New Zealand in retaliation against a possible inquiry into Chinese steel imports. It turns out that he and his officials had had enough information since the end of May to cast doubt on it. But he gave the story legs by denials about the Government then two different admissions as to what he knew and when.

McClay gave answers to questions that may have been technically correct in terms of a Chinese Government trade war but were misleading in terms of what he actually knew about comments made by a Chinese importer.

The Opposition tried to paint the political failings of the minister into a story about the failure of the Government to take threats of a trade war seriously. But the facts did not support the claim. Key himself had been kept in the dark by McClay.

Being publicly castigated by the Prime Minister and forced to apologise will be a lasting blight on his career. If in doubt, tell the truth, the whole truth.

It certainly reflected poorly on McClay, and it also added some taint to National.

I don’t expect we will ever get many politicians prepared to tell the whole truth unless it benefits them, but telling a decent chunk of the truth, and not misleading or telling lies, should be an essential.

The truth is important, even though we can’t expect to always get the whole truth. Nothing but the truth should be a basic minimum of elected representatives.

Political chaos following referendum

British Prime Minister has resigned following the failure the country chose via referendum to leave the European Union. David Cameron says he’ll be gone by October.

The British economy may be gone by then too as the politicians have raised the risks substantially. There are reports that Jeremy Corbyn’s position as Labour leader is at risk too.

David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU

Prime Minister David Cameron is to step down by October after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Mr Cameron made the announcement in a statement outside Downing Street after the final result was announced.

He said he would attempt to “steady the ship” over the coming weeks and months but that “fresh leadership” was needed.

Also: Jeremy Corbyn to face Shadow Cabinet calls to quit

Jeremy Corbyn will face calls to stand down as Labour leader at an emergency meeting of the Shadow Cabinet this morning, PoliticsHome has learned.

The party’s frontbench is set to gather at 10am in the wake of Britain’s decision to quit the European Union.

But the meeting is likely to be dominated by discussions about Mr Corbyn’s own future – with senior sources saying Labour is in a “blind fury” with his performance during the campaign.

PoliticsHome has also learned that least 55 Labour MPs will put their name to a letter calling for Mr Corbyn to quit next week.

The pound has already taken a pounding, along with the FTSE.

BBC: Shares and pound plunge on Leave vote

The London stock market has plunged more than 8% in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

In the opening minutes of trade, the FTSE 100 index fell more than 500 points before regaining some ground.

Banks were especially hard hit, with Barclays and RBS falling about 30%.

Earlier, the value of the pound fell dramatically as the referendum outcome emerged. At one stage, it hit $1.3236, a fall of more than 10% and a low not seen since 1985.

They still have most of Friday to go in Britain.

An interesting breakdown of pre-referendum polling




Politics getting too nasty

In Political Week Tracey Watkins asks Max Key cyberbullying a sign that politics is getting too nasty?

It’s one of many signs. You only need to look at political pages on Facebook, Twitter and political blogs like Kiwiblog, The Standard and Whale Oil to see that signs have been growing for years.

Politics was already too nasty. It’s just being allowed to get nastier.

Is politics getting nastier? Prime Minister John Key talked about his concern this week after son Max revealed some of the ugly abuse he has copped on social media.

Some have dismissed this because ‘Key is nasty’ and because Key used to associate with Cameron Slater etc etc. But that is a poor excuse for others being nasty.

It’s a symptom of our increasingly hard-edged politics. Yes, we’ve seen it before – during Helen Clark’s tenure the hatred got just as ugly, personal and visceral towards the end.

Nastiness towards Clark may have abated a bit but I’ve seen plenty of it continuing at Kiwiblog over recent years.

But in general the opportunity for nastiness to be seen has increased substantially since 2008.

When Helen Clark was prime minister an ugly rumour or meme may have been shared among a comparatively small circle. The internet has exploded since then and smartphones make us connected in a way we have never been before, amplifying and exaggerating everything

So while back in Clark’s day the memes and personal attacks were circulated mostly among those who held roughly similar political views, the potential audience these days is exponentially huge and politically indiscriminate.

And as people get away with nastiness and aren’t challenged on it then it increases.

One meme apparently doing the rounds on Facebook, for instance, has Key standing in front of a flag bearing a silver fern which slowly morphs into a ponytail.

That nastiness it not just directed at Key personally, it is dirty politics thrown at the flag referendum and at all those who want a clean flag choice.

It has always been seen as something of a truism that personal attacks boomerang in New Zealand politics because the public find them so distasteful. We saw that to an extent at the last election when a concerted assault on Key by his opponents – while not personal in its nature – ultimately fuelled a backlash that helped propel National back into power.

But those who think dirty politics might achieve something keep trying it. Or else they don’t car and just like being nasty.

The big question has been whether social media and its massive reach in some way tips that thinking on its head.

That is still unanswered.

A major problem is that our top politicians appear to act nastily towards each other in Parliament and vie media.

So plebs in social media take that as a signal that dirty politics is normal and an acceptable part of democracy.

To stem the nastiness our leaders need to send different, strong signals. So should our leading political blogs and prominent social media participants.

The nastiness in our politics can be stemmed and turned around, but it will require leadership and determination.

Nastiness will never be eliminated, but it should be seen as negative and unwelcome in a healthy democracy.

Are Republicans revolting?

It appears that the popularity of Donlad Trump in the US is a sign of Republicans revolting against the Grand Old Party stuck in the past, and against big Government and Washington, and against ‘political correctness’, and probably against many other things, a pent up rage against the machine finding a way out.

From The Atlantic:

The Great Republican Revolt

The GOP planned a dynastic restoration in 2016. Instead, it triggered an internal class war. Can the party reconcile the demands of its donors with the interests of its rank and file?

The angriest and most pessimistic people in America aren’t the hipster protesters who flitted in and out of Occupy Wall Street. They aren’t the hashtavists of #BlackLivesMatter. They aren’t the remnants of the American labor movement or the savvy young dreamers who confront politicians with their American accents and un-American legal status.

The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans. Middle-class and middle-aged; not rich and not poor; people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English, and who wonder how white male became an accusation rather than a description.

We get some of that here in New Zealand – both accusations and reactions.

White Middle Americans express heavy mistrust of every institution in American society: not only government, but corporations, unions, even the political party they typically vote for—the Republican Party of Romney, Ryan, and McConnell, which they despise as a sad crew of weaklings and sellouts. They are pissed off. And when Donald Trump came along, they were the people who told the pollsters, “That’s my guy.”

They aren’t necessarily superconservative. They often don’t think in ideological terms at all. But they do strongly feel that life in this country used to be better for people like them—and they want that older country back.

Funnily here in New Zealand anyway it’s also the far left that want their older country back too, the pre-neoliberal one.

You hear from people like them in many other democratic countries too. Across Europe, populist parties are delivering a message that combines defense of the welfare state with skepticism about immigration; that denounces the corruption of parliamentary democracy and also the risks of global capitalism. Some of these parties have a leftish flavor, like Italy’s Five Star Movement. Some are rooted to the right of center, like the U.K. Independence Party. Some descend from neofascists, like France’s National Front. Others trace their DNA to Communist parties, like Slovakia’s governing Direction–Social Democracy.

But we keep chugging away herewith one of the most popular Prime Ministers ever. John Key seems to be keeping his National fans happy-ish.

Except that the hate against Key also seems to be mounting.

But if the anti-ists find something that strikes a chord here amongst the masses, something far more meaningful to the non-political than trumped up and overblown asset sales or TPPA campaigns, could revolution also blow into the land of the long white cloud?

This year, they are counting for more. Their rebellion against the power of organized money has upended American politics in ways that may reverberate for a long time. To understand what may come next, we must first review the recent past.

Not so long ago, many observers worried that Americans had lost interest in politics. In his famous book Bowling Alone, published in 2000, the social scientist Robert Putnam bemoaned the collapse in American political participation during the second half of the 20th century. Putnam suggested that this trend would continue as the World War II generation gave way to disengaged Gen Xers.

Sounds similar to here, apart from some who are desperately willing the missing million to stand up at the polls and be counted.

Putnam was right that Americans were turning away from traditional sources of information. But that was because they were turning to new ones: first cable news channels and partisan political documentaries; then blogs and news aggregators like the Drudge Report and The Huffington Post; after that, and most decisively, social media.

Here in New Zealand at the moment Facebook is the hidden power. Can any party or political movement work out how to tap that potential?

Or is it a matter of chance, like Nek Minit?

I think there are significant differences between the US and us right now. Their right wing party is in turmoil while our right-ish wing party is enjoying ongoing strong support at up to double that of it’s main opposition.

But at some time a revolution may emerge out of social media, as The People get fed up and want something different.

It could happen gradually, or something could tip us over the edge and ‘easy does it’ suddenly becomes to hard too sustain.

Despite the frantic fulminating for revolution of a few hard core activists it doesn’t seem to be anywhere near imminent here.

But there could be a social media fuse waiting for a real reason to be lit.