A further 25% are made up of more passionate voters who will adopt or accept extreme positions on the basis of principle (about 10% each to Greens or the extreme conservative flavour of the month) or who will avoid major party politics by voting for a fringe party or informally (about 5%). These voters may change sides, but their behaviour is less predicable and is already captured by The Greens.
The moderate 25% swing vote is far more politically attractive to The Greens than the ten percent represented nationally by the rural vote.
- It larger,
- it is already swinging and
- it carries far less loathing for the Green brand.
The fundamental reason for the failure of the Greens to capture any of this vote is a perceived failure to present an economic vision that the voter cannot only believe in but is prepared to fight (or change sides) for.
Greening the greenback
According to our detractors, Greens are anti-business, anti-progress and will take us straight back to a pre-industrial dark age. As much as the Greens might complain that the misrepresentation of these policies is the work of a media owned and operated by vested interests, the real-politic is that the public believes them.
Greens are anti-business. Support for control on carbon-emissions, higher corporate taxes, stronger environmental laws and opposition to coal-mining have been successfully portrayed as anti-business positions. In fact, they are all reasonably moderate, well thought out policies in accordance with most international think-tanks advising national governments as well as global institutions such as the United Nations.
To carry the mainstream toward a Green economy, individual positions have to be put in the context of a broader economic plan. The broader plan has to be popular, simply described and achievable.
Greens oppose economic growth. The simple and fundamental principle that economic growth must be limited to that which does not harm the environment is easily presented as an anti-growth position. In a world where the movement of share prices can cause governments to fall and occupies a similar hold on the public attention as sporting contests it is easy to see why. Any opposition to economic growth as the primary measure of success and well being is dangerously heretic.
To avoid the charge of economic heresy The Greens must articulate a high level economics that discredits the ‘growth at all costs’ mantra that currently dominates and also present a simple an achievable economic plan for the near term.
Greens have no economic policy/oppose everything. I have dealt with these two different criticisms together because they have the same source and, hence, solution. While the rest of the world is focused on building wealth, the Greens primary focus on protecting the environment firmly faces it in the opposite direction to mainstream society. In an election campaign dominated by state bankruptcy and the management of a two speed economy, The Greens limited focus on opposing both Coal Seam Gas and expansion of the Coal industry put it in a very poor position to win mainstream votes. Without criticising or retreating from either of those policy positions it is absolutely critical to provide a broader economic context in which they make sense.
To gain the attention and respect of mainstream voters The Greens must understand the priorities of the voter and articulate the Green response to those concerns.
Is mainstream Green an oxymoron?
A critical question for both the voter and the party is whether this focus on the mainstream has any place in Greens politics. It is valid to ask whether a focus on mainstream concerns distracts and detracts from the party’s ability to deal with the critical environmental issues.
The Greens is a party of principle. Most activists and many thinkers argue that it is much better to put the effort into greening existing politicians and policy than to go through the compromised and compromising process of building a new party.
Those of us who continue to engage in Green politics, though, see that it is not only possible to subordinate the economy to ecological limits but to take the public with us as willing participants in a project to turn the economy round. More importantly, the only way to prevent an ecological disaster of epic proportion is to take control of the reins of government as possible to avert disaster.
The Greens have to resolve in favour of this fundamental question or allow the public to continue to assume that our role is simply to protest on behalf of future generations and non-human constituents.
The economy is not the problem. Many people come to The Greens with a view that fixing the economy is not really such a big deal for The Greens. Some believe that innovation will provide a technological fix, others that we can solve these global crises through consumer awareness campaigns that will drive the market to develop and deliver greener solutions.
On careful analysis, these are precisely the reasons that the Greens cannot get political traction with the mainstream. The mainstream view is that there is no real crisis; that small modifications of our behaviour can successfully allow the progress of civilisation to continue in some revised equilibrium with the environment.
To successfully activate mainstream concern for the future Greens have to connect pain caused by the human induced collapse in planetary systems with human activity, at the same time as offering alternative, sustainable activities. Inevitably, voters will have to feel some pain (even if vicariously) to respond to these messages.
This is part of a longer article Green gold | Redneck Rage | Rusted on Reds | Clear directions | Sidebar – Red herrings | Greenslanders? Not!