We’re in the midst of a federal election campaign in Australia. But if, in 2000 years time, scientists sliced open my preserved brain and looked at all my thoughts in order to glean insight into the lives and concerns of people in Melbourne in 2010, they probably wouldn’t have much of a sense of there being any election at all. They might see a few thoughts about how much I’m looking forward to the next episodes of Gruen Nation and Yes We Canberra, but that’s about all.
I think it’s a sign of the relative stability of your nation when you stop caring about elections. I care about how the country is run but I don’t care about the election campaign. Even though the outcome of the campaign decides who will run the country, I’m quite sure that’s where the relationship ends. None of the guff that is the focus of an election campaign is meaningfully telling of whether one party will govern better than another.
Speaking of stable nations, Belgium has had a rough year, government-wise, and it barely makes the news. The country still functions in caretaker mode. Hell, they can even take on the Presidency of the EU. Now that’s stability.
With the collapse of the Belgium federal government earlier this year, the six-month presidency will be headed by a caretaker government. While this sounds like it could put the EU in an awkward bind, in practice it is expected to have little impact.
The Vice-Chancellor of my uni, Glyn Davis, wrote about the election in The Age a few weeks ago (in the State of the Nation lift-out. Did you see it? I really enjoyed it). His piece, Engaging with the Contest, made the point that “the process, not the content, will dominate coverage”.
At the extreme end of the spectrum, the radio I listen to actually really only reports on the strategy of the election. Policy is only mentioned in terms of how it will be received by the electorate. It’s as though we become election-watchers, all of us, instead of the electorate.
I would despair at this, but it doesn’t really matter all that much. Sure, I wish more important things were filling the pages of newspapers, but Australia is not going to come a cropper because of it. I would also dream about longer terms of government so we didn’t have to go through this every three years, but I actually really do enjoy seeing the Chaser team on TV again.