Just how much the world has changed…
So New Zealand has a new Prime Minister.
Jacinda Ardern is 37 years of age. She’s eloquent and she’s photogenic.
Now I know next to nothing about New Zealand politics, and I know even less about Ardern, but when I saw the news it felt totally unsurprising.
To me, she looks like exactly the kind of candidate the progressive left is throwing into elections these days.
I mean, take a look at Ardern, alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Tredeau and French Prime Minster Emanuel Marco:
Am I the only to notice that the Left is using the same casting agency as the hit comedy show ‘Friends’?
Politics, as always, is about branding. If you don’t believe that – if you think politics is about conviction and values and policies (lol), you’re probably wasting your time on my blog. You can go back to reading the newspapers.
So politics is about branding, but have you noticed that the branding has changed? I think this says a bit about where the world is at and where we’re heading.
I mean, go back to the eighties and Hawk vs. Fraser. By modern standards, they’re hard to separate. They look like they belong in the same party.
But at the time, the represented different worlds. Hawk, coming straight out of the ACTU, and holding some sort of record for skulling beer at Oxford, was practically a working-class hero. Fraser represented enlightened new-world economics.
And neither of them were particularly sexy.
Now times have changed. The right is still throwing up characters like Tony Abbott, (though I guess you could say that they flirted with sexy with Malcolm Turnbull – but it was a very safe and boring form of sexy.)
The left on the other hand is turning away from working-class credentials. It’s no longer simply enough to have spent time in the mines. You need to have been an online campaigner for transgender refugee seals in the arctic circle.
Look at Ardern, Trudeau and Marcon – put them in sneakers and they’d look like Silicon Valley execs on their way to a quinoa salad meeting with venture capitalists. And implicitly, they speak for every oppressed minority under the sun.
And in a profound visual way they stand in direct opposition to the old guard of old white-male politics. Trump for example.
I mean, have a look at Trudeau’s photo on his official web page:
How is the imagery here? Looking down on his full and lustrous head of hair, striding up stairs (onwards and upwards), the gold of his wedding ring against the firm gold of the bannister speaking to family values, his face partially hidden, evoking mystique…
(This guy is working with pros.)
He is the embodiment of youth and progress.
But take another look at that photo. Does anything there speak to working-class credentials?
Nope, literally nothing. There is nothing that says that Trudeau knows what it’s like to pack boxes or dig holes. He’s not watching football, motorsports or professional wrestling. He’s not willing to settle arguments with his fists. He’s not telling off-colour jokes in the locker-room with the fellahs after work…
And the left still wonders how Trump won over the working class… How he beat a candidate that was qualified sure enough, but whose central planks included the fact that she was a woman and it was about time the US had a female President.
(That only works if you identify with that sort of branding… and a lot of people didn’t.)
So this is the strange state of politics today. There is a perception that the left has abandoned its working-class roots in favour of identity politics – being the hero of every underdog from homeless women, to refugees, to transgender seals.
But the way I see it, identity politics isn’t anything new. Hawk spoke to a working-class identity.
It’s just that the intellectual left went out on their own journey with respect to what identity they were talking to. And it was a noble journey of sorts. They recognised that oppression (and the exercise of power and privilege) was the true evil. It had many manifestations – there is worker exploitation, but there is also racism, sexism, bigotry, sealism etc.)
You could only destroy these things if you destroyed the very concept of oppression. Either through shame or through force, you had to destroy people’s ability to exercise power and privilege…
… you had to fight the evil at its source.
All very noble. And I think I agree. The only thing that happened though is that working-class people (if anyone even identifies with that term anymore) found themselves recast from oppressed to oppressor. They were the ones who were keeping women out of the workforce, or stopping poor people in Asia from getting a job by opposing the opening of trade barriers.
(And in walked Trump.)
At the same time, it became a badge of pride within the left to have conquered the central evil – to be checking your privilege and to be celebrating diversity in all its forms.
And now, the left’s leaders need to embody this. They need to physically represent the victory over the great evil. Arden, Trudeau and Marcon are the poster children for a future where there is no oppression.
It sells and it sells well. Within their base they are incredibly popular.
FUTURE PREDICTION 1: This dynamic will effectively create positive discrimination in the left’s pre-selection process – expect to see more candidates from diverse backgrounds.
FUTURE PREDICTION 2: Jenny Wong will soon become leader of the Labor party, possibly Prime Minister.
Look, all of this is probably a good thing. I look forward to a world where all oppression has been banished from the Earth.
But a word of warning to the Left: That can only happen if you take everyone on the journey with you. If you keep forgetting yesterday’s oppressed, then they’ll be picked up by your opponents, and round and round we go.
I know the visuals of sexy young techno-hipsters sells well, but it’s only going to get you so far.
What do you make of Ardern’s victory? What's your future prediction (drop it below – let's see how crazy this gets!)