Politics has no “opt out” option – why you need to vote on Saturday

Politics is exhausting. The lead up to an election is tiring – for the politicians, the volunteers on the campaign trail, for the journos and for the public that have a lot of information thrown at them to digest. Politics polarises people, creating tension in workplaces, deathly dinner stares within families, and awkward silences when that sweet elderly lady you’ve seen every week at the supermarket declares that she is yet another sycophant to a politician you felt had their hey day before you were even old enough to vote. With all of this going on, it’s not hard to see why you might be tempted to “opt out” of politics.

However, here’s the reality – you don’t get to “opt out” of politics – politics directly affects so many areas of our day to day lives, by not voting the only thing that you are opting out of is having your hopes, ambitions and values for New Zealand actually mean anything. For that is what a vote is – it’s a statement on the direction that you want to see New Zealand headed. Every party has different ideas of where they want to see New Zealand and different goals for how they are going to get there, and how they are going to spend your money doing it. You wouldn’t donate $10,000 a year to causes that you don’t believe in, so don’t idly sit back and abstain from voting or you run the risk of a government that you didn’t vote for determining your future and spending your money doing it.

I have heard many people in the lead-up to this election saying “nobody is doing anything for me.” To make that statement is to concede that you are uninformed. There is someone out there who is doing something for you. Think about it – if you get sick, who do you best trust to look after you with adequate state-funded healthcare? If you become unemployed, who will help support you until you can work again? If you have children, who is going to support you to have a work-life balance that is conducive to raising children? If you are approaching retirement age, who is going to ensure you have a healthy, comfortable, affordable retirement? If you breathe air or drink water, who is going to make sure that they are around for generations for come? Think outside your immediate silo at this very moment in time, and look at the bigger picture. If you really feel that nobody is doing anything for you, then you’re not sleeping in a car, not wondering where the next meal is coming from, not being discriminated against, not battling a health condition, not struggling to function in your daily life alongside a chronic depression, so it may pay to stop and be grateful for that. Because for so many of your fellow New Zealanders, these things are a daily reality. Try and take a different perspective and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Do these issues sound like boring politics that is a point scoring game between the blue team and the red team in Wellington? Or do they sound like real issues that impact on the lives of everyday New Zealanders?

I would argue it’s the latter, and it isn’t just something that we should be interested in once every three years – although that is our greatest opportunity to put the people in power who we believe are best placed to spend our money to tackle the issues that we feel are the most pressing, and remove any from power who we think are not working towards the New Zealand we want to be living in.

Young people especially, need to vote. There is a lot of apathy, “my one vote won’t make a difference”. Well for a start you get two votes, and they both make a difference. If “couldn’t be arsed to vote” was a party in the 2014 election, it would have been the leading party. That’s right – more people who were eligible to vote didn’t vote than voted for the National party at the 2014 election – i.e. all the people who said “my one vote won’t make a difference” would have made the biggest difference. Don’t let the same be true this Saturday. Not voting is accepting the status quo, and you are so much better than accepting the status quo for the sake of not being bothered. By all means, do your research, and come up with your own conclusion that the status quo is (in your opinion) the best option and then vote to keep the status quo – but don’t just vote for the status quo because you can’t be bothered to investigate the alternatives. Doing independent research is so important – don’t believe the scaremongering you hear. As a journalist who believes in presenting the facts with honesty and integrity, I am saddened to see how many people have accepted and not questioned the National party’s outright lies (which is what they are – any political commentator will agree) that there is a $11 billion hole in Labour’s fiscal plan – this is nonsense and is misleading.

In our country we have a freedom to think for ourselves and vote without fear of consequence. When you have this freedom that others can only dream of, it seems criminal to not avail yourself of the opportunity, or worse, to let yourself be brainwashed by statements presented as fact which are anything but.

As a current affairs presenter, you cover events every week that will get better or worse on the basis of political decisions made by the people we elect into office – it’s naive to think politics doesn’t affect daily life – here are just a few examples of issues I have reported on in the last two years that despite the great work being done by individuals and community groups, are at least to some extent impacted upon by decisions made in the Beehive.

It is not difficult to see how many different areas of our lives that we may not immediately think of as political are so delicately intertwined with politics. As you can see, you cannot merely opt out of politics, all you can do by not voting is merely mute your own voice on the issues that affect you and those closest to you.

Take an hour before Saturday, watch a debate, listen to a podcast, read some policies and articles. Discover whose ambitions align with yours, and then get out there and make an informed vote on Saturday.

Not sure who stands for what?

Catch up with the Plains FM/CTV live debates on demand here (audio only)

Catch up with the Plains FM/CTV live debates on demand here (video)

Interviews with Jacinda Ardern, Nikki Kaye, Paula Bennett, Marama Davidson, Duncan Webb, Louise Upston, Ruth Dyson, Russell Norman, Fletcher Tabuteau and Annette King can be found in the podcast library.