There’s been much talk of dirty tricks and hidden agendas this election, but I think one thing that’s constantly overlooked by the public is that our media system is set up to reward gutter politics. It’s not interesting to them if someone runs a positive campaign, unless there’s some controversial policy that they can beat up in some way. (which is a much worse result for the party involved)
One of the greatest strengths in the Green Party’s platform to my mind has been our ability to maintain a positive yet critical campaign. We address the issues, we answer challenges from other parties and candidates, and we only attack people when they’re being inconsistent with their own clearly-stated rhetoric. We stick to the facts as verified and verifiable, and we make it clear when it’s our own philosophy we’re talking about so that there’s no spin. It’s a quintessentially honest campaign style that has its roots in three of our policy pillars: Nonviolence dictates that we should be above petty disputes. Social responsibility dictates that we should leave people better-informed after the campaign than beforehand if at all possible. Our democratic, decentralised decision-making principle dictates that we stick to the issues and inform the public, instead of trying to indoctrinate them. No doubt our opponents will disagree with the factuality of our message, (who doesn’t in politics?) but I seriously doubt we will be caught preaching things we don’t believe in.
All of these things are good. But, as I’ve pointed out above, the news media is actively hostile to this kind of message. It does not sell, least of all from a third-party that they are ready to write off as a junior coalition partner in left-leaning governments. And while being above petty attacks makes you look good, it only makes you look good if the other areas of your campaign are resonating and you have high visibility in the first place. Sadly, the Green Party can’t yet afford the kind of high visibility that the two different free-market centrist parties of this country have. We’ll only get it when someone wants to make us look bad- and in that sort of situation, we already do everything we can to get the truth out. Appropriately enough, we’re essentially in a footrace for this election while National and Labour are driving around in flash parliamentary cars. (And sometimes ones from their big corporate/unionist donors)
The constant stream of press releases and open statements on Frogblog from our MPs is helpful in this regard. Often, less-informed voters have complained to me that they don’t know where the Greens stand on a particular issue, but they assume it must be on the fringe somewhere. I can simply email them a series of links to things that the Green Party openly puts on its website. I can point out that even when they might disagree with where the MPs come from, they have the conviction not to hide anything about what they’re saying in parliamentary records, and even sometimes to open it up to free public debate. That these are people who genuinely believe in building trust with the electorate, not just photo opportunities.
What do we need this election? We need to build on that trust. We need to work on long-term relationships, (even those with people who sometimes oppose us) as well as making a good shot for a bargaining position during this crucial term for policy to address global warming. A sense that we’re in this to find supporters for life, and to advocate for things they care about now and in the future, and not just win the next election- that’s our real strength, I think.