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Liability Church?

Fri 24 Jun 2005 In: Comment

In the latest National Business Review, David Young and Ben Thomas argue that Destiny Church might turn out to be a threat to the Labour Party. Sorry, I beg to differ. Don't get me wrong. It's an excellent article, and Thomas and Young do carpet Tamaki unmercifully, while rubbishing Destiny Church and its electoral chances. They view it as a social conservative version of South Park, with attitudes that the mainstream centre-right dare not express. Ah, so that would make Muriel Newman and Stephen Franks...?? Odd, especially as both gentlemen appeared to agree with my own prognosis that both of the latter are social conservative zealots within ACT in an earlier article last week. What...? Don Brash voted against the Care of Children Act, is on record as anti-abortion, betrayed our communities over the Civil Union Act and Relationship Act, and sings in chorus with Winston over binding citizens initiated referenda. Also, look at the voting records during this parliamentary term. National is manifestly not as committed to bipartisan social liberalism as it was during the Bolger and Shipley eras. Thomas and Young argue that Labour's gay, Maori, Pacific Island, working-class and pensioner constituencies are incompatible. While I grant that their observations about volatile populist elderly voters are valid ones, I am at a loss to ascertain the sources of their other claims. During the prostitution law reform bill debate, one poll actually showed that working-class respondents were less puritanical about decriminalisation of sex work than conservative middle-class respondents. And will working-class voters really desert Labour, given that 'Tory' is a four letter word in most households like the one I grew up in? Will they really place principle over bread and butter issues like industrial relations and social services? As for the Maori Party, Turiana Turia is a social conservative, but are any of her colleagues? I note that Atareta Poanaga is fronting up at a Wellington GAP 'Meet the Candidates' meeting. Maori-centred opinion polls show Destiny at the bottom, much as with more general polls. And hello? Takatapui and whakawahine don't have whanau of their own? And Maori aren't turned off by pakeha fundamentalists conspiratorial nutter views about the justice of Maori land, language and resource allocation claims under the Treaty of Waitangi? When Pasifika congregations joined the debate against prostitution law reform, it was the first time that they had entertained such co-belligerency. We aren't that far away from the Muldoon era racist 'dawn raids' of the seventies, and palangi fundamentalists enthusiastically backed the Little Porker. I suspect, rather, that the reverse may be true. Destiny Church and its puppet party may turn out to be a liability for the centre-right, not the centre-left. Why? In New Zealand, fundamentalists are single-issue obsessives who don't care about more mainstream centre-right issues like economic policy, and they lack pragmatic presentation skills. Look at the "Enough is Enough" fiasco, which might well have won the Civil Union Act debate for us. People got scared at the legions of militaristic black t-shirted Maori guys with the severe attitude. More seriously for National, its current social conservatism backfired on them, much as it did when it displayed similar opportunism in 1987 and 1996. Rather than centre-left constituencies, it might well be centre-right social liberal professionals that change allegiances -toward the Labour Party. There is evidence from overseas that this may be the case. Look at the 2005 US Congressional and Presidential elections. In demographic terms, John Kerry won the professional vote in many states, whose adherents had voted Republican until the fraught term of the current White House incumbent. In New Zealand, fundamentalists don't have the advantage of pragmatic political strategists like Ralph Reed, the US Christian Coalition and Republican activist who turned fundamentalists into a core Republican constituency in the mid-nineties. If anything, that showed decisively during the Civil Union Act debate, when the Maxim Institute failed to impose discipline on the Christian Right Old Guard. So what happens if Tamaki goosesteps across the country and reminds people of his scary Nurembergesque tendencies? Result, fundamentalists end up looking like militaristic nutters and scare people away from voting centre-right, as they did in August 2004. After National abandoned bipartisanship over civil unions, guilt by association dragged them down in the polls. Tamaki doesn't care- he's as inclined to bag Don Brash as Helen Clark. Oh, Bishop B is a liability all right... but to whom? Recommended Reading: Tamaki's "A Nation Under Siege" nutterama. National Business Review: David Young and Ben Thomas "Disenfranchised From the Voters?" NBR 24.06.05 [print edition only]. David Young and Ben Thomas: "Curtains for ACT?" NBR 17.06.05. Ralph Reed: Politically Incorrect: The Emerging Faith Factor in American Politics: Dallas: Word: 1994. Ralph Reed: Contract With the American Family: A Bold Plan by the Christian Coalition to Restore Families and Commonsense Values: Nashville: Tennessee: Moorings: 1995. Ralph Reed: Active Faith: How Christians Are Changing the Soul of American Politics: New York: Free Press: 1996. Ralph Reed: After the Revolution: How the Christian Coalition is Impacting America: Dallas: Word: 1996. Craig Young - 24th June 2005    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 24th June 2005 - 12:00pm

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