Across the Western world, there is a brooding sense of inevitability about the triumph of wokeness. But what if that inevitability is overstated?
Australia and New Zealand each held important electoral contests over the weekend, with voters in both nations rejecting woke ideas and woke politicians in spectacular fashion.
First, New Zealand.
The Land of the Long White Cloud recently gained worldwide infamy for the fanaticism of its pandemic-era prime minister, Jacinta Ardern.
Left-wing Ardern mandated mask wearing outdoors, vaccines for entry to restaurants and gyms, and 28 days’ quarantine for people who refused a COVID test.
She spoke gleefully—yes, gleefully—about creating a two-tiered society that punished the unvaccinated. Most Orwellian of all, Ardern called her government “your single source of truth” on all COVID-related matters.
Judging by her demeanor, she enjoyed every minute of it:
The best of Jacinda Ardern being a tyrant👇👇 pic.twitter.com/G8Y4SOiq3O
— MilkBarTV (@TheMilkBarTV) September 21, 2023
While Ardern quit in unusual circumstances at the beginning of the year, Kiwi voters had their first chance to provide a post-pandemic appraisal of her Labour Party’s performance.
In what analysts have dubbed a “bloodbath,” Labour’s support virtually halved from more than 50 percent at the last election to 26.9 percent over the weekend. It was the biggest swing ever recorded against a ruling party in New Zealand and Labour’s second-worst result since 1928.
The center-right National Party will now form a government, with leader Christopher Luxon, former CEO of Air New Zealand, set to become the nation’s 42nd Prime Minister.
Now to my home country of Australia.
It was not a normal election in which Aussies took part on Saturday, but a constitutional referendum: a direct yes-or-no vote on amending Australia’s constitution.
In what would have become the 9th amendment if passed, Australians were asked if they supported altering the constitution “to recognize the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”
As a backdrop to these events, it is important to note that Indigenous people in remote parts of the country endure higher than average rates of poverty, incarceration, violence, unemployment and early death—and that decades of welfare and beltway solutions have failed to make much of a difference.
The proposed amendment, put forward by Australia’s left-wing Labor government, sounds sensible enough. But the devil was in the details—and throughout all six months of the campaign, the details were, to quote Winston Churchill, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
The Voice was to be an advisory body comprised of Indigenous Australians—who make up just over 3 percent of the population—that would “make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government.” But without further details, many Australians were left wondering whether they were simply approving the formation of a new committee on Capital Hill or effectively enshrining a third chamber of parliament into their nation’s constitution.
There were also widespread concerns that the Voice would, like earlier failed projects, be stacked with inner-city activists who were out of touch with the real problems in remote Indigenous communities.
The campaign took a dramatic turn when the truth came out about the political manifesto behind the Voice proposal, known as “The Uluru Statement From the Heart” (named after the Uluru geological formation, which is associated with the Anangu Aboriginal people). The statement was first sold to voters as a docile, one-sheet document but was ultimately exposed as a 26-page gripe against colonialism.
The secret pages of the Uluru Statement called for new land taxes and “reparations” in the form of a “percentage of GDP.” It imagined a nation divided by race, with Indigenous people as perpetual victims, and all non-Indigenous citizens charged with the sins of 18th-century British settlers.
“The invasion that started at Botany Bay is the origin of the fundamental grievance between the old and new Australians,” the document claimed. “Our sovereignty preexisted the Australian state and has survived it.”
The Uluru Statement spoke of the “potential for two sovereignties to co-exist” in Australia—effectively, a form of separatism and ethno-nationalism that privileged one class of people above another.
Australia’s left-wing government advertised the Voice as a “modest proposal” and a “generous and optimistic invitation” to the Australian people but lost control of the narrative as its resentful and radical inner workings were exposed.
For the referendum to be successful, it needed to secure a “double majority”: a majority of voters nationwide, along with a majority of voters in more than half of Australia’s six states.
Early polling indicated that around 70 percent of Australians would vote in favor of the proposal, which would have secured a resounding double majority. But polls slid and slid for the “Yes” campaign until almost the reverse was the case.
On Saturday, every single state in Australia voted “No,” and over 60 percent of voters nationwide rejected the proposal.
Global media outlets have almost uniformly echoed Australia’s left-wing press in calling the result a “setback for reconciliation” and implying it reflected a nascent racism in Australia’s body politic.
In truth, the “No” campaign triumphed thanks to its two outstanding leaders, both of them Indigenous Australians: political strategist Nyunggai Warren Mundine and Federal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
Australians had been led to believe that 80 percent of Indigenous citizens favored the Voice, but the weekend’s result suggested otherwise. The five electorates with the largest proportion of Aboriginal residents voted “No” by an average of 71 percent.
Meanwhile, the few electorates to vote “Yes” were clustered around Australia’s biggest cities—worlds apart from where Indigenous disadvantage is most palpably felt.
In short, Australians did not reject their Indigenous compatriots. Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians together voted down a poor solution to issues that call for an actual cure.
Moreover, they did so while staring down toxic identity politics, accusations of racism, colossal corporate spending, elitist hubris, and endless woke gaslighting.
An impressive result indeed.
The events in both Australia and New Zealand provide a happy counterpoint to years of negative cultural and political headlines. Be encouraged that the victory of wokeness is not inevitable; there is still a lot of commonsense and goodwill among Western voters; and treating each other as equals is not out of fashion—at least, not yet.
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