Standing and being counted

I’ve been remiss not posting about the election (or anything), but I’ve also been reluctant to comment too early. While I’ve been waiting, it seems like everyone’s already said it, so this is more a reflection on the past week than brilliant political analysis. (Because I could have thought of it all myself, of course.)

I have a bit of a thing for full disclosure, so here’s my political background. It would be churlish of me to say too much about my family members’ political opinions, so let’s just say that I had more leftish influences than rightish ones while I was growing up, with a fair bit of socialism in the mix. I was not discouraged (much) from my (brief) involvement with Socialist Alternative. Protecting the environment was a no-brainer; it was just obvious that plundering was not the way to go, even before climate change became a mainstream concern. We talked about politics and current affairs, and I developed my own opinions about social justice and other issues along the way.

So that’s politics. Civics, conversely, was murkier. A 10-minute rundown on the Australian political system stuck in my mind because it was delivered by a teacher I admired; this probably stood me in better stead than many Australians. I’ve lived in safe seats all my life and have, in the past, rocked up with opinions but without doing much research. I’ve relied on reading the instructions carefully and how-to-vote cards to get me through.

If Wikipedia serves me correctly, I’ve voted in three state and four federal elections. (I was too young for Howard’s first election and the 1999 republic referendum.) Thinking back on them doesn’t yield much information. I know I tended to favour the Democrats in the Upper House and Labor in the Lower House, but my memories are vague at best. I can’t remember voting in Melbourne at all, but I must have done so at least twice.

This time, I voted below the line, armed with the how-to-vote card I’d made for myself with the help of I live in a safe Liberal seat so I spent more time thinking about the Senate, but I don’t think I’ll forget putting the Greens first in the Lower House (I don’t think it’s the first time I’ve done so, but the fact that I can’t remember doesn’t please me).  It was kind of (nerdily) cool to look at my electorate’s results on the Australian Electoral Commission’s Virtual Tally Room and think of one of those numbers in the primary votes as being mine.

Maybe the voting age is too low, but 10 years after I was first eligible to vote, I finally feel like I’ve really participated and known what I was doing and what it meant. Or maybe it’s Twitter that’s helped me get my head out of the sand (I’ve blogged about that already), or just having time to “read about it” while breastfeeding. Either way, I’ve somehow become many friends’ election expert, although I haven’t forgotten how little I really know.

Ultimately, though, I’ve had a change in mindset since the last election. A couple of years ago, I laughed at a friend who claimed that Australia collectively made some decisions about which way the country should go by voting Howard out. And I still don’t think that was really true. But in 2007, I was firmly convinced that my vote, at least, didn’t count or mean anything.

But now? I feel like things are maybe, maybe happening and changing and that I’ve had a part in it, albeit a minuscule part. I’ve felt it since Gillard took the helm and I’ll feel it until I’m sure we’re back in the status quo. But I’m hoping we won’t, because this is way more interesting (except for the whole waiting business).

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