One of the most difficult things about a lifelong interest in or passion for politics is dealing with the ever-increasing cloud of cynicism that tends to spread thicker and wider with every passing year. Stories break, politicians make announcements and the comments start flying around – most politically-minded people will pick up on the statements they agree with and roll their eyes at the ones they don’t agree with. Generally, this is pretty black and white – we all know who we voted for and are pleased when they say things we like. We know who we didn’t vote for, and know they’re not acting in our best interests, so we can write whatever they say off as hogwash, codswallop and general balderdash. So what happens when your opponent chooses to start batting for your team?
After American President Barack Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage, it was the prerogative of the media here in New Zealand to find out how John Key was going on what Obama calls “an evolution on this issue”. Congrats to AP for finding out that JK is “not opposed” to the idea of same-sex marriage; congrats to John Key for breaking his year-long silence on an issue that he skirted around at Big Gay Out last year by telling Steven Oates to wait for his book. Luckily we won’t have to queue outside the local Whitcoulls at midnight now – crisis averted!
The timing of Key’s announcement, whilst chosen for him by the AP news service, stirred up a bit of controversy and an even bigger pot of cynicism. People asked, why has John Key changed his mind from his NO vote on civil unions? What does he mean by “not opposed”? Did he want to look like Obama’s little Kiwi buddy who was now as down-with-the-kids as the hope ‘n’ change President himself? For those of us on the left, the thought of a pro-gay John Key – especially one who flip flops because Obama made a statement – left an initially foul taste in our mouths. But here we are, years into the struggle for GLBT equality for all New Zealanders – a struggle that JK himself voted to halt in its tracks – and he’s doing more than turning up to Big Gay Out and hugging Miss Ribena… he’s halfway to supporting us. Say what?
The hardest part for many of us cynical reds-under-the-beds is to admit the reality of the matter – this is what we wanted. Legislation sails through Parliament when it has bipartisan support – we don’t need to make a single placard slogan or take a single step on a hikoi to the Beehive. Like it or not, John Key is an incredibly influential man – both in his party and in the court of public opinion; what he says counts. So while it may be a hard pill to swallow, we may have to realise that all our lobbying, hard work and sweat may have worked; that we may have got into the ears of a few people across the house. We may have to admit that with John Key’s support, New Zealand may see a host of GLBT equality measures pass through the house sooner rather than later. But because cynics are hardened in their ways, we won’t be holding our breath.
Once a cynic, always a cynic.