Elections Matter

4 May

Politics begets cynicism, especially during the campaigning season when each politician tries to outdo the other in spouting disingenuous and sometimes patently false statements. Cynicism, in turn, becomes the aegis with which we defend our apathy. It’s all the same! Why bother when nothing changes? So, are our peregrinations into indifference well-founded? I don’t think so. Things change—like they did over the past eight years under Mr. Bush, during which at least $4 trillion was added to the deficit to pay for tax cuts for the rich, and the Iraq War. If you think Bush is unique, think again. Consider the policy achievements of Kevin Rudd and Zapatero.

Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister about five months ago. His first official act on taking office was to sign the Kyoto Protocol. A few days later, Rudd de facto scrapped the Pacific Solution, the Howard era policy that sent all asylum seekers arriving by boat to remote islands for ‘assessment.’ In February, Rudd offered a short but unambiguously worded apology on behalf of the government and the Australian parliament for the shameful the treatment of the aborigines. (See also the BBC News article on Kevin Rudd’s first 100 days, and a white paper on his first 100 days (pdf).)

Zapatero’s achievements as the head of Spain may have been slower in coming than Rudd’s whirlwind pace, but they have been no less momentous. In his four years at the helm, he “legalized gay marriage, brought in fast-track divorces and laws to promote gender equality and tackle domestic violence. He also introduced an amnesty for undocumented workers.” (BBC. He has introduced “targeted measures to raise the female employment rate (which is still comparatively low in Spain)”, established the legal right to paternity leave. Under Zapatero’s capable finance minister, Pedro Solbes, Spain declared a budget surplus for the third consecutive year, topping 2 percent of gross domestic product for 2007. Policy Network