Dammit — I love this time of year.
The Prime Minister called an election today. Well he didn’t, but he sort of did, and he may as well have.
And I tell you what, it’s bloody great. Seriously — I love what’s going to happen in this country for the next few months so damn much that I wanted to write about it.
For all it’s faults, nothing sharpens our national conscience like an election campaign. No other tradition in Australian history better brings to the fore the things we care about, the conversations we need to have about them, and the world-changing work of democratic engagement.
In case you can’t tell — I’m excited.
In the next 75 days, some crazy shit is going to happen. People vying to get elected as our representatives will say really dumb stuff. Everyone will go nuts. There’ll be a whole lot of stupid image macros (that might become memes). There’ll be tears, and there’ll be laughter. There’ll be super embarrassing interviews on national television. There’ll be a scandal over some young hack desecrating someone else’s yard sign. There’ll be a gaffe that will become part of our national lexicon. There’ll be dank memes, ludicrous stunts, and misread poll, after misread poll, after misread poll. But you know what else? There’ll also be some really great, really honest, really important things that get said. Things that don’t get said any other time. Things that need to be said, and need to be heard — and they finally get shared now. And how good is that?
Let me put it this way: Every three years we get this chance, for a month or more, to really, genuinely discuss what we want our lives to look like. We get to hold a magnifying glass to the systems and processes that affect our lives everyday and ask: could we be doing this better? Things like schools, and hospitals, and housing, and roads, and our role in the world, and our working lives, and our social security, and our social contract, and our environment. We get to look at the role our leaders play in managing those things, dissect it — deeply — and then make a singular direct action that can change its course. And we do it in this uniquely Australian way, that is (dare I say it) both “warm and direct”.
Australians will knock on doors and have conversations with strangers. They’ll stand on the side of the road and wave corflutes, they’ll make phone calls, send letters, sign petitions, write emails, and get in huge fights and it will be glorious. All of it. And at the end? We’ll go to a local state school, give a few dollars to the P and C for a hot sausage, and cast a ballot in one of the best run elections in the world.
Sure, some bad stuff is going to happen too. This is the time when we remind ourselves of the things we do poorly, the things we’re failing at, and all the myriad ways we’ve let ourselves down, or been let down by those who should know better. But what a way to do it! Big, and loud, and messy and with a real decision point at the end.
It won’t be easy. For many people, this election will be a disappointment. They’ll have a clear view of the way they think this country should go and they won’t get that. And for many more Australians, a bad election result could be disastrous.
But what’s great about our elections is the way we react to that prospect. Hundreds of thousands of people will be putting in huge efforts to try and get a good result for themselves, their friends, their families and their loved ones. No other part of our national life brings that out. No other part.
I love elections, and I love Australian elections a lot. I’m so looking forward to the next few months, the chance for change, the chance for progress, and the chance to make lives better for millions of people.
It’s going to be a hoot.