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O wad some power the giftie gie us…..


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Jafapete has one of the more interesting blogs on current affairs with an internationalist flavour, not just domestic. It is a must read for Adam. A recent post was in fact the pick-up of a comment on another post, on Chris Trotter’s new blog, by Tom Semmens. JP thought the comments were worthy of Guest Post status. Adam agrees. The post has engendered a number of comments in it’s thread from other bloggers, both from the left and the right of the political spectrum in NZ terms.

The post comments on blogosphere reaction to Chris Trotter’s blogposts at Policy Blog in the run-up to the recent general election. Adam would suggest as well that some of that reaction was to articles penned by Trotter which appeared in the Sunday Star times, Dominion Post and the Independent.

With apologies to Tom Semmens if this interpretation of his comments is incorrect, but in essence he was saying that with the exception of Trotter who took a ‘street fighting approach’ the left wing blogs were essentially latte drinking chardonnay socialists who had let the paranoid right of the NZ blogosphere set the agenda with Limbaugh like attack sites. Further, that these sites had provided considerable input into what was covered by the media and reflected in comments in op-ed articles in the MSM.

Interestingly the post and comments have become the topic of a post on another blog, Foreign Correspondence, written by John Liebhardt. Liebhardt is a freelance journalist living in Fiji, who has also spent sometime living in Africa. He posts at Global Voices and Voices without Votes as well.

Adam has noted the Jafapete post that sparked Liebhardt’s comments so as to provide context.

Liebhardt freely admits he is not deeply knowledgeable about NZ and Australia. In some ways this lends his remarks a validity which one deeply immersed in NZ and Australia may not have.

He had as he writes posted an item on the ETS on Global Voices which provoked some comment. This caused him to look further into the NZ blogosphere, which is when he found Jafapete’s place.

Shortly after posting the piece on the Emissions Trading Scheme, I came across this debate (and navel gazing) among left leaning bloggers (I hate that term, but I can’t find another) on why the Labour Party lost after nine years in power.

This post commences as a discussion regarding a lefty commentator (Chris Trotter) who recently re-appeared in a new blog after stalking off the web following New Zealand’s November 8 election. The underbelly of the argument here, I guess, is which politically affiliated blogosphere — right or left — are merely party tools and which side employs writers of independent analysis.

To me, however, the post really seems to be a Post Mortem on the election itself from a decidedly left slant.

This Adam thinks is a reasonable presumption.

Liebhardt makes some observations on politics in general in Australasia, which is where my point about a newcomer’s perceptions comes in:-

Just to generalize, I’d argue that:

– From a US perspective, politics in Australia and New Zealand feel closer than European politics. By this I don’t mean the governmental framework — like Parliament and Prime Ministers and whatnot. Of course, that is heavily borrowed from Europe. Rather, the layout of the political spectrum and how that influences debate. Those people arguing about immigration, free trade, climate change, the economy all seem to line up pretty much like you’d expect from within the US. Another case in point: Read how many allusions bloggers from either country make to US political personalities (Rush Limbaugh, Obama, Reagan, etc.) and political thinkers.

– With the first point in mind, however, the converse is most likely not true. My guess is that most people from Australia and New Zealand feel politically closer to their European brethren. The outlines of policy debate may somehow resemble US politics, but the power structure in these Oceanic countries remains very different. On the surface in New Zealand and Australia, politics feel very much to the left of the US. This isn’t earth shaking information. Regardless of what New Zealanders may think of it, the country does have a carbon emissions trading scheme, something I doubt will happen in the US, no matter how much a reasonably popular new administration will push it. The same goes with health care reform. Yet the critiques of these programs — and many others — remains decidedly familiar.

Like many outsiders he points up the fact that our politics are to an American to the left of US politics. Many on the right of the blogosphere might well bridle at that remark.

Indeed, a response will be from a number that if they had been able to vote in the recent US election, they would have voted for McCain not Obama, but would they.

It has long been my belief that in NZ, Australia and Europe our overall viewpoint is to the left of American politics. Our right wing politicians excepting a Jean Le Pen for example in France, or Haider in Austria may be towards the right of the Democratic Party, but are not in reality kindred spirits to the hard right, evangelicals who currently dominate the GOP. One of the reasons for this is that despite the constitutional seperation of church and state in the US, religion and single-issue matters, play a far greater part in politics there than in truly secular nations such as NZ. We have not and hopefully will not get involved in the culture wars that flourish in the US.

Liebhardt concludes:-

Name dropping aside, this is a good follow up on my theory tying New Zealand and US politics. A theory, you may say, that works from a certain distance. The closer you get, the less it seems to make sense.

More importantly: In the comment section — which includes cameos from a few above-named right wing and a couple lefty bloggers (and an interesting feminist critique) — you’ll find a weighty introduction to New Zealand’s political blogosphere.

He is right in his conclusion, where he essentially moderates his iinitial belief, that we are not left of left US politics as such, but in the main the great majority of us probably would fit within the broad spectrum of the Democratic Party.

An illustration is the Pundit Election Quiz.

Adam took this quiz, twice. Once the NZ one and once the US one. On the NZ one, he came out as a likely ACT voter to his dismay somewhat. On the US one, applying the same values prism he came out as to the left of Hillary and to the right of Obama.

In fact in US terms our left and centre is more akin to a faction fight between arms of the Democratic Party than a rela left/right argument. Much of what we take for granted is seen as socialism by many Americans including Democrats. Now Adam is certain that there will be many who disagree with what he has written, but this is my interpretation and comment on what Liebhardt has observed.

It is useful sometimes to stand back and take a look at ourselves through the eyes of another.

As Burns wrote:-

O wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel’s as ithers see us!

  1. adamsmith1922 permalink*
    20/11/2008 18:34


    ACT worries me on a number of fronts, there are policies that I can agree with, others that I cannot.

    How the apparent concessions pan out will be the issue.


  2. 20/11/2008 17:23

    Well summarized, Adam. Did you see that we were recommended by a British academic sociologist, along with Farrar, as the NZ blogs to read? Incredible.

    While I agree that the NZ mainstream would all fit reasonably comfortably inside the Democratic Party, it’s ACT that worries me. I am deeply disturbed by the concessions made to ACT — who polled significantly less than NZ First, remember — although the short-term pain resulting from this may be worth it should it clear the scales from people’s eyes and lead to a change of government in 3 years’ time.


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