Intriguing analysis in this post from Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post, although Jay Rosen notes that he doesn’t cover the complementary role played in this game by the news media playing up the confected outrage.
Because Australian voters don’t have the option of staying away from the polls, obviously the strategy of getting out your “base” while disheartening the rival’s supporters so they just stay home won’t work here. Yet since many of our politicians are playing from the same gamebook, and we’re starting to see lobbying groups run their own political adverts much as the US SuperPACs do (although thankfully not so blatant in their attacks), how will the continued emphasis on negativity, and the distorted framing of partisan policy positions (that mostly are quite close in ideology and intended effect) as vast gaping chasms of irreconcilable division, end up working out at the polling stations?
Traditionally, those Australian voters who are not particularly engaged with the nitty-gritty of politics have tended to vote for the status quo on the “better the devil you know” justification. But now that the news cycle is so full of harshly negative stories and scandals, with only the heavily engaged wonks doing the background reading required to know just how big most of the beat-ups are, is this electoral shrug behaviour likely to continue? Is there more likely to be “a pox on both your houses” reaction to increase the votes for independent reps & minority parties, or an increase in deliberate informal voting to show contempt, or a swing of revulsion away from the status quo?
I don’t pretend to have answers here, I’m just dreading the build up to the next election, seeing as outside the blog/twitter-sphere, I know hardly anybody who bothers to read a party website or even a broadsheet’s politics section to find out what the actual policy platforms are, for instance – they just repeat what they hear on the radio and TV, with all the superficiality that entails.