Confessions of a swing voter

Sophie Benjamin writes.

This article was written in response to yesterday's article, Confessions of a Liberalette

On the way to an election night barbecue in 1996, my mother told me that I should never ask people who they voted for. 

I was eight years old and full of questions, so of course I wanted to know why. I already knew that it was rude to make fun of Pauline Hanson, because many people in our small Queensland town agreed with her beliefs. 

She explained that everyone had the right to keep their voting habits a secret. People can take politics seriously, and it's unfair to force people into disclosing their political leanings - although some people might be happy to do so.

This might’ve stemmed from her childhood growing up in one of Queensland’s loopiest electorates, where the locals have elected MPs from the ALP, past incarnations of the LNP, One Nation and even the Communist party. I suspect it has more to do with good manners. 

The 2007 election was my first as a legal adult. My boyfriend at the time played in a band with Wayne Swan’s daughter. When I told him on one of our first dates that I had no idea who Wayne Swan was, he confessed he only knew because his bandmates gave him a crash course in politics before their first rehearsal.

Soon everyone knew who Wayne Swan was. The Kevin07 frenzy was overwhelming, particularly in Brisbane. I cast a postal vote and escaped back to my parents house, where they described Kevin’s victory as a joyously historic moment (Mum) and the first step towards the ruin of this country (Dad). 

I continued to think of myself as left-wing until I volunteered at Brisbane community radio station 4ZZZ. Housed in the old Communist Party headquarters, Zed was an anti-establishment and anarchist stronghold during the Bjelke-Petersen years. Being anarchists, no-one had thought to organise crucial radio station things, like paying the electricity bill or making sure the sound desk worked. I became extremely frustrated, and it was all I could do choke down Howard-esque condemnations like “have any of you ever held gainful employment?”

I thought I was right wing until I finished my uni degree and started working as a journalist in regional Queensland. I had the privilege to observe, question and annoy politicians from all political parties across all levels of government.

I came to realise that politicians are like any other working person. Some are brilliant at their job and enjoy serving their community. Others are hanging out for a parliamentary pension, or muddling their way through their first term.

People’s political beliefs should be based on logic, but they're more likely to come from feelings.

Some people choose to vote Liberal because of how their parents first chose to vote sixty years ago.

Many of my fellow 18 year olds voted for Kevin Rudd in 2007 because he knew how to use MySpace and wasn’t John Howard. 

My grandmother thinks asylum seeker boats should be sent back to where they came from, even though she arrived in Australia as a refugee.  

My Israeli uncle and half-Israeli cousins are loving and decent human beings, but that doesn’t mean I’m a gung-ho Zionist.

Now my political beliefs fall in a dozen different spots across the political spectrum, and that's ok. They will probably change as I get older, and that's also ok. Persecuting people for their political beliefs is not ok. 

It's important to discuss politics, especially in the lead-up to the election. There's a time and a place for these discussions, and like any fraught topic, there's the risk that talking could lead to tears and/or physical violence.

You might be right in your beliefs, but constantly ranting about it will leave you with few friends.

Find more of Sophie’s musings here

Lead image via Shutterstock.

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