It’s officially courting season in politics and Australians, whether enthusiastic or reluctant, are ready to be wooed by political candidates desperate for our votes.
I’ve spent a lot of the past fortnight watching and re-watching Bridgerton, so courtship is very much on my mind, and it’s occurred to me that political campaigns could take a few notes from the Regency era when it comes to swaying the minds of the undecided.
In particular, selling the dream of our shared future could be more compelling than the usual scare tactics and mudslinging I’m expecting over the coming six weeks.
Already, this election feels doom and gloom.
I can’t tell if it’s my general sense of cynical apathy, or just fatigue after 2.5 of the worst years of global crisis in my lifetime, but I’m tired of being told all the terrible things that could happen if one party gets in, as opposed to the positive plans for Australia’s future each party supposedly has.
Like many Australians, I already have very little energy this year and I’m inclined to just vote how I always do without much discernment because I am struggling to find the motivation to properly engage with the process.
Part of that sense of lethargy is due to the expectation I have of being harassed by television and radio advertising, text messages, billboards and the like from now until the day of the election.
Also, like many Australians, I have a low level of anxiety about the election and what it might mean for the next four years, which is only intensified as the campaigning accelerates.
Regardless of your political persuasion, elections are stressful because so much of our lives are defined by the decisions made by our elected representatives. Even if you’re cynical and apathetic, it’s hard not to feel a little tense about what those decisions could be.
When you add to that the challenge of trying to decipher political messages to strip away the bias and tactics and understand what the actual proposals are from each party, and what their potential impact will be, it’s no wonder so many of us get cranky and frustrated in the lead up to the day.
Imagine if there was a better way – what if all election advertising and campaigning had to be limited to promoting the plan and vision of one’s own party, with critiquing the opposition limited to certain channels, like live debates or media interviews, where the scare tactics and dramatisation that are common in advertising can’t be used.
And what if election spending was properly capped to ensure equality across major and minor parties, and to reduce the influence of donors?
In fact, why not go further and make it even more simple for the voter to assess candidates, by only allowing parties to supply a single document to each voter household, outlining their policies and positions or track record. The documents could be vetted and fact-checked prior to distribution, and be the only source of information used to equip voters with the knowledge they need to assess their options.
Obviously they would be translated and provided in different formats to ensure accessibility, but imagine being able to meaningfully compare policies without the slogans and hype, to make an informed decision?
In Bridgerton, the eligible young ladies have an older guide through the courting season, informing them of the key points of each potential suitor, stripped down to the most important factors.
I’d like a Lady Danbury-equivalent to take me through the election, giving me sage advice on which candidates to include on my dance card, and which to politely decline, based on their policies, experience and values.
Alas, instead I’ll be sifting through news sources trying to decipher where there is fact and where there is embellishment, and hoping I can retain the energy of these early weeks by the time we reach 21 May, so I make an informed decision instead of an easy one.