Freelance journalist — and first-time voter — Alexandra Patrikios writes:
Everyone tells you your first time should be special, but for me, it was all just a bit anticlimactic. My hands didn’t tremble, my heart wasn’t a-flutter. In fact, as I impatiently tapped my personal details into the AEC search, the right to vote didn’t seem so much a ‘gift’ as a chore.
And it seems I’m not the only one. It’s been widely remarked that this election campaign has been a bona fide snoozefest. Tony’s on such a short leash he’s in danger of knotting an incidental noose, and Julia’s not faring much better.
Leaky and Rudd(erless) — little wonder the ALP is having difficulty with the boats.
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Gone is the snap, crackle, pop jousting of the former Today regulars, whose energetic early morning altercations translated their personal chemistry into endearing public profiles. To paraphrase Wayleed Aly, this election — with its empty arguments and focus-group agenda — is an unimportant, altogether loveless affair.
With their nylon roses of sound-bite policy, election 2010 is what The Bachelor is to genuine dating: a highly controlled, largely passionless foray into mutual delusion. An arranged marriage, of sorts.
Politicians know that a large proportion vote with their hearts, not their heads. So how do you know who’s The One?
When Kevin Rudd disposed of John Howard in the 2007 election, it was arguably public affection and not policy that got him over the line. As Annabel Crabb writes in The Rise of the Ruddbot, Howard’s pitch was had been founded upon a “marriage of convenience” with the Australian people; a comfortable relationship, the kind where the wife can ditch the foundation, and the husband no longer has to feign interest in her friends. Not glamourous, but honest.
Which was all well and good, until Kevin07 strutted into our sedate suburbia like a tempting Hispanic poolcleaner. We were swept up in his tech-savvy campaign strategies, his penchant for verbose essays and the occasional attempts at occa colloquialisms. He was brainy, heck, he was a nerd. But, at least for a while, he was a lovable nerd.
Yet, like a teen romance ignited by a warm summer, it was all over when winter came. And just as easily as we fell in love with him, we fell out again.
Our second marriage hasn’t been without its challenges either. Julia Gillard always enjoyed a seemingly impenetrable public profile as Rudd’s right-hand leftie, capable of deflecting criticism with her quick smile and even quicker wit. But like a long-running soapie that sustains 12 seasons purely on the ‘will they, won’t they’ sexual chemistry of its two leads, Jules’ tantalising frisson with the Australian people was hinged on the romantic possibilities, not political reality.
With the honeymoon well and truly over, it is only to be expected the practical requirements of governance have dampened the infatuation.
There remains, however, one other individual capable of arousing the same passion the PM once had with her people. Roguishly residing on the opposition backbench, Malcolm Turnbull might just be the one that got away.
That said, his usurper is not without his charms. With the energy of a Labrador and the discipline of an athlete, Tony Abbott is for many Australians — yours truly included — the parliamentary equivalent of a blind date. On paper, you think know what you’re getting. But if you actually turn up, there’s a good chance you’ll be surprised.
Politicians, with their Women’s Weekly profiles and carefully crafted backstories, invite us to become intimately acquainted. Like any relationship, it’s a cost-benefit analysis.
But judging by the disenchanted mood of the national electorate, it seems we’ve been burned one too many times before.
Little wonder my first time didn’t seem special. Little wonder the passion for my civil prerogative wasn’t there.
But that thought would have to wait — flicking up on my laptop screen was an accusatory cross stamped over my name: ‘I’m Sorry, Your Enrolment Could Not Be Confirmed.’
Curt and cold, it seemed democracy had beaten me to the punch, and dumped me.
Frantically clicking back to the mainpage, I tried all possible variations of my personal details, only to be presented on the 23 attempt with the green tick of approval.
What’s that old adage again, about absence making the heart grow fonder?