It’s almost over. Finally. One more evening blessedly free of election advertising, a day of voting accompanied by traditional election food1And here’s your link to a live map of polling booths where you can get your democracy sausage and maybe a tasty cake or two, and at least a glimmer of a result by the time we all go to bed tomorrow night. It’s only been two weeks, but wow, it seems so, so much longer. Part of it is that we’ve been living in a state of shadow campaign for months. Mostly, though, is that the sheer ugliness that’s been on display has contributed to a feeling that it was never going to end. That somehow time stopped and we were going to be caught forever in an endless cycle of photo ops, promises, attack ads, lies, and hate. But thankfully, we finally get to move on. It may not be the actual end of time, but hopefully it’ll at least be the end of some of the worst behaviour I’ve ever seen or experienced during an election campaign.
Investigating the policies of those who would govern us is usually fun for me. I love the research, I love digging through the rhetoric, talking to experts, and writing all of it up in the hope that it might provide some help to voters. This election campaign, though, has not been fun. It has been day after day after wading through relentless bigotry. I’ve read thousands of words vilifying already marginalised groups, recommending that it would be a great thing if those people were further abused. I’ve forced myself to examine even the most hateful of policies, the ones calling for me and my friends to be actively persecuted, and tried to provide perspective. There was no way to keep my feelings out of this, but I wasn’t going to make a pretence of objectivity about issues that were based on a tissue of easily provable lies.
I’ve lost count of how many times I read policies or heard people say that Premier Dan Andrews and his government should be jailed, attacked, and even killed. I watched a candidate pursue a young person handing out election flyers for another party even after they tried to walk away, and I watched her get right in his face and then complain that he’d “pushed” her. A Labor Party volunteer ended up in hospital requiring surgery after he was knocked down by someone who was upset about past lockdowns. Centrist candidates were subjected to some really disgusting comments by social media trolls. All the while, the loudest media voices acted even worse than they normally do. Not content with the usual spin and distortion, they conducted a smear campaign full of hit pieces that were utterly hysterical and riddled with lies and bias.
Right now, there are probably people reading this who are saying to themselves, “Well if Dan wasn’t such a dictator, we wouldn’t have to act this way”. Or maybe, “But we are just doing what God wants us to do”2And yes, I’ve heard these exact sentiments from many groups – anti-vaxers, paranoid sovereign citizens, certain media outlets, anti-LGBTQIA+ people who claim to be Christian, just to name a few.. To them I say this: no one forced you to assault people. No one forced you to lie. No one held a gun to your head and told you to harass, vilify, and abuse people. You have always had the option to disagree and criticise, but that doesn’t give you a licence to throw any form of respect or decent behaviour out the window. And it doesn’t give you the right to try and silence other voices with violence and hate.
I want to believe that the outcome of this election will make some of this vile behaviour die down, I really do. I fear that it won’t, no matter who wins. I fear that if Labor wins again, there could be reactionary violence from certain quarters. And I fear that if unhinged, hateful parties hold the balance of power, that Victoria could start to look very much like certain states of the USA.
I desperately, desperately, want to be wrong about that.
For the record, this is how I voted.
Legislative Assembly: The Reason Party received my first preference, followed by Labor and the Greens.
Legislative Council: I numbered 15 boxes below the line. Reason was first, followed by Labor, the Victorian Socialists, and the Greens.
I will not tell you who to vote for. I’ll simply ask that, when you step into that booth, you think about which parties and Independents are providing concrete policies aimed at the good of all Victorians, and which are promising divisiveness and inequality.
Good luck out there. And may your democracy sausage be tasty, and your onions be appropriately placed.