Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Chloe’s ‘Hope And Change’ Campaign: The choice between profile and protest.

In America this week we witnessed an astonishing US presidential debate between a politically experienced, policy rich, legacy candidate and one who is the antithesis of that.

The later part of the Auckland mayoral race has seen the same thing.

Millions of American’s are protesting what is wrong with their government by supporting Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again”. They did the same in 2008 when they supported Obama’s “hope and change” approach.

In Auckland now, some are registering a similar protest over local government by supporting Chloe as the ‘hope and change’ candidate for 2016.

Obama disappointed and Trump certainly would, but how would a Mayor Chloe fare?

Is she a credible candidate for mayor? Or is she just the Generation Z protest candidate – replacing the baby bomber Penny Bright-style protest many have tired of.

What does credible even mean?

Like Phil (and Vic and almost everyone else), she has no knowledge of local government. But given most people aren’t very interested in it, that seems to be no big deal.

She has never run a large public (or private sector) business – but neither had Len Brown.

She has no experience in local politics, but we have had Mayors elected in Auckland before without this.

She is 22. Should that matter? A 21 year old kiwi now appears to be worth $73m and Mark Zuckerberg was 20 when he founded Facebook.

It is very unusual for someone of this age to take a significant political role. We’ve had councillors of this age or younger (Paula Gillon was 18 when elected to the North Shore City Council), but even Norm Kirk was 30 when he became Mayor – and that was of Kaiapoi.

But none of these usual factors matter in a contest which has been reduced for many to a choice between a profile or protest candidates.

Goff of course is Clinton, the elder but still sprightly, lifelong creature of politics whose many political twists and turns provide both a comfort to supporters and a curse to his opponents.

There are other candidates on the platform, as there were earlier in America, but they are candidates in a different contest. We occupy the roles of the experienced Ohio Governor John Kasich, the commercial Carly Fiorina or the alternative Ben Carson.

But that’s a contest happening only for some of the politically engaged. Everybody else is either deeply disaffected by local body politics, disinterested in it or both.

Chloe presents an engaging alternative. She pitches heavily on the problem (which almost everyone agrees with and likes hearing about). She has some popular ideas and is articulate. But could she actually be Mayor of a $42 billion enterprise?

That’s probably not the test her supporters are measuring her by.

In a contest where a Clinton-type candidate’s victory seems inevitable, a vote for a positive, intelligent ‘anti-candidate’ will be a more appealing choice for some.

But if Chloe and Penny and the other protest candidates efforts receive the ten, twenty or fourty thousand votes, what’s achieved?

Will likely Mayor “Clinton” Goff heed the call for change?

Chloe of course may end up with a job with the new Mayor (and the new Mayor will certainly see Penny Bright again). But rather than changing the system, this is more likely to change Chloe.

The 2016 mayoral race hasn’t ended up being a contest of the ideas and capabilities needed to fix Auckland Council. It’s been about profile and protest.

These are legitimate democratic choices, but they are unlikely to deliver the hope and change many want.  Because they seldom do.

Red Peak peaked and then faded away.

Deliverance will only come once the people get inspired by, and connect with, a candidate who can actually deliver it.

But people have to want the change enough, and the candidate has to be the change enough want.


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