What’s better: a political opponent who knows what they’re doing? Or one who is a complete goofball? Would you rather that the politician you vote against knows how to fulfil their agenda? Or not?
The effective tyrant erodes your own political preferences, but pleases someone else. The ineffective tyrant makes a hash of it, leaving nothing but a sense of schadenfreude to those who crow: toldja so!
PM John Key makes an interesting test for this question. I oppose more or less his entire agenda, which – so far as I can tell – can be summarised as socialism for the rich (e.g. tax cuts at the top bracket; staunch support for the TPPA; privatisation; poor environmental policies; systematic erosion of social services …). But there’s one thing I like about him: his ability to fulfil his agenda.
Sure, it’s the wrong agenda. But put that aside, briefly. His electoral heartland (propertied, landed, corporatised wealthy people) have had it good under his reign. They’ve earned well and been taxed lightly. Indeed, maybe never has so much been given to so few at the expense of so many.
But John Key is also a success in another way. Not only has he managed to siphon government wealth into the hands of a few corporate overlords, but he’s also managed to do it in a way that hasn’t flushed the entire operation down the gurgler. The worst you can say is that he has:
- Increased inequality
- Trashed the environment
- Trampled human rights, especially of indigenous people and women at risk
- Spied on us
- Made a farce of home ownership
- Sold our sovereignty once to a casino, and again to the corporate interests behind the TPPA and TISA
- Blocked good urban design at every opportunity
- Made schools worse, and
- Created an utterly imbalanced economy favouring wealthy property owners.
Actually, you could probably say a bit more. Most of these contain yet further travesties. On the plus side, he signed the UN declaration of indigenous rights and legalised gay marriage. He also did the right thing by ignoring the non binding referendum seeking to legalise the whacking of kids. Interestingly, at least two of those would be fairly unpalatable to the conservative folks who vote for him.
But now compare this track record to some of Key’s counterparts in other countries. Nobody could have made more of a mess of Britain than David Cameron did. Obama’s economy improved after the GFC (and that’s quite a turn), but his health reforms are a mixed bag. He’s nowhere on Guantanamo. His military-powered foreign programme is chaotic, thanks largely to Hilary. If TPPA, TTIP and TISA come about, they will make him the most supportive president of corporate power, ever. Those deals plus TTIP will make him a success alright, just not for the people who voted for him.
Donald Trump? It’s tempting to regard him as ineffective, simply because he offends so many people. His policy programme is as unpredictable as he is (and just as predictably offensive). But if a career politician like David Cameron can flush the entire concept of Britain down the toilet, the mind boggles at what a guy like Tump might do. It’s hard to know what’s worse: whether he’d fulfil his own agenda, or not. People reckoned Reagan would be ineffective, and it turned out he was. The cost of his presidency – war – is untold to all but the Blackwaters and Carlyles of this world who issue the invoices.
Alongside all those people, John Key is practically saintly. That’s damning with faint praise, and an indictment of our democratic structure and process. It needs a lot of reform. But that’s another song.
I’d hate to vote in America this year. Democrats don’t really have a candidate that thrills them. In Hilary, they have a manipulative tyrant, which is probably better than a volatile bigot. At least, she’s got a better chance of getting it right for someone. Just that it probably won’t be the people who vote for her.