DANICA CREAHAN WRITES — Though the elections occurred just a few weeks apart, New Zealanders and Americans are living in seemingly different worlds. With New Zealand at just under 2000 Covid-19 cases as a whole and the U.S. at more than 92,000 on election day alone, the one thing they had in common, heading into election season, was the goal of amassing a progressive majority. Only one country succeeded in its goal, and I’ll give you a hint-it’s the one that successfully handled the pandemic.
What was predicted to be a “blue wave” for the states this election turned out to be a slow, drawn out trickle. Democrats retained the House but lost seats. They have yet to take back the Senate, which will be narrowly decided in a run-off election this January. Regardless of what happens in Georgia, the United States election was so close it kept the world waiting for the results for nearly four days- hardly a “wave.”
Meanwhile, in late October, incumbent Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s center-left Labour Party won 49.1% of the votes, bringing in a projected 64 Parliamentary seats-a clear majority- to her party. The opposition, right- leaning party won only 35 of the 120-seats up for grabs. No party has won an outright majority in New Zealand since it began using a Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP) voting system in 1996.
Despite the two strikingly different outcomes-the U.S. Democratic Party failing to get its hoped-for landslide and the centre-left party’s victory, the parties led by Ardern and Joe Biden shared similarities in messaging.
In Ardern’s victory speech, she declared, “New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in almost 50 years. We will not take your support for granted. And I can promise you we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander.”
President Elect Joe Biden echoed similar sentiments during his victory speech: “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.”
Both candidates emphasized Covid-19 during election season, with Prime Minister Ardern declaring it the “Covid election,” and President Elect Biden making a concerted effort to encourage mask wearing. Both candidates ran on platforms that addressed climate change, education, and raising taxes on top earners.
So, what contributed to New Zealand’s Labor Party’s massive and decisive victory? The country has widely rejected populism. At the ballot box, New Zealanders did not vote for the few populist candidates campaigning on fringe ideas and conspiracy theories. Britain’s left-leaning newspaper “The Guardian” attributes this partially to New Zealanders’ widespread contentment with government since the 90’s.
“When you look at the numbers, New Zealanders have essentially been satisfied with their government since 1999,” Stephen Mills, the head of UMR, Labour’s polling firm, told the Guardian.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s Federal Government Report of 2019, citizen satisfaction with the U.S. federal government declined for the second straight year, slipping 1.2%, to a score of 68.1. And Americans are far from done with fringe candidates. Georgians elected Marjorie Taylor Greene, a vocal QAnon supporter with outrightly bigoted views, to Congress this year.
Will 2022 be the year of the long awaited “blue wave” in America? Or will we forever remain on a distant shore, in New Zealand’s progressive, unified shadow?