The Antipodean Political Style


James K

James is a government policy analyst, and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His interests including wargaming, computer gaming (especially RPGs and strategy games), Dungeons & Dragons and scepticism. No part of any of his posts or comments should be construed as the position of any part of the New Zealand government, or indeed any agency he may be associated with.

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19 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Wow. I can think of all the reasons that it would be foolish for the US President to do such a thing, and how for the President of New Zealand not as much. But I still think this is great.

    It reminds me about the story of Nixon going out late one night and talking with the anti-war protesters at the Lincoln Memorial. I have always liked him just a little bit after hearing that story.Report

    • Avatar Matty says:

      I wish I could remembr but where but wasn’t there a story that Nixon would disguise himself and hang out in bars with the protestors?Report

  2. Avatar Alex Knapp says:

    “Can you see this happening in the US?”

    Well, no, but largely that’s because 4 U.S. Presidents have been assassinated, 2 have been shot but didn’t die, 3 had shots fired near enough to them that death was a possibility, and 2 escaped death because the shooter was close enough to kill, but the gun malfunctioned.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      It’s true that the US President has to take precautions that New Zealand’s Prime Minister does not. But I can’t see a US President joking around with people he doesn’t personally know either, except in a scripted way. I mean the US President has his own theme music and people stand when he enters the room. That’s a totally different thing to safety precautions.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        The US President is also the head of state. Prime Ministers only lead the government. I’d guess the number of circumstances the Queen can do this sort of unscripted thing are also limited. I can’t see ERII traveling around New Zealand without a substantial entourage, vetting, and advance planning similar to that of a presidential visit.Report

      • Avatar Matty says:

        I want my own theme music, maybe something with a guitar solo.Report

  3. James, I studied abroad at the University of Otago. I really miss this close-knit, communal aspect of New Zealand (maybe it was the South Island more than anything?). I’m still trying to decide whether I want to eventually settle down in Steamboat Springs or Kaikoura.Report

  4. Avatar Kimmi says:

    Yup. But in America, it would be that bloke from Italy buying babes. Nobody important goes to NZ anyway (*wink* this is a joke, please people from NZ, don’t kill me…)Report

  5. Avatar Aaron says:

    Also, one should note, I can completely see the governor of a state doing this. You can’t compare the US as a whole (300+ million people) with New Zealand (4.3 million). The state of Ohio has 11 million people in it. It’s just a totally spurious analogy.Report

  6. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I could *maybe* see a US politician doing this.

    I could *definitely* see someone in the crowd acting like an ass, filming the guy’s response, and putting it on YouTube as “POLITICAN FREAKS OUT AT INNOCENT QUESTION”Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      I’d point out that foreign politicians likely would freak out less than US politicians largely ’cause they aren’t quite as pre-programmed as modern US politicians.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Which is why we need to encourage more of this in the U.S.

        The questions about safety for a U.S. President are valid, but it’s trivially easy to screen people for security purposes and still have unscripted sessions, and not just with people who are your supporters.

        More of that would probably be good for our political culture, too. Ideologues screaming at a politician would get old pretty quickly if the pols learned not to react to it, and it could lead to more temperate conversations.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:


          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            er, was a response to “Ideologues screaming at a politician would get old pretty quickly if the pols learned not to react to it”.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            Actually, that’s part of my point. A truly good politician like Reagan or Clinton would think on his feet and say something like, “even if you don’t support this man’s sexuality, you can still support the fact he has served his country blah blah blah.”

            These days, the problem is not many politicians can get past their pre-programmed talking points and actually react.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:


              Well, I could be engaging in wishful thinking, to be sure. But rather than cop to that yet, I would say A) I think it would take some time to develop, so a particular case right now doesn’t mean much, and B) there will always be some such cases, and all I can hope for is a sharp reduction in frequency, away from being the norm toward being not unknown but relatively uncommon and unrespected.

              Or, if your point was “here’s a guy who didn’t react to it, he just let it go, and that sure as hell didn’t promote good crowd behavior,” perhaps my “learn not to react to it” wasn’t a felicitous choice of words. Perhaps, “learn to react to it as we would hope a mature and well-educated person would” would be nearer the goal.Report

  7. @Creon: When Prince William visited a few months back, there were all kinds of random visits. He had some visit at a park near a friend’s house; the friend’s three year old got to wander up and say hello.

    Folks are perhaps right to say the more relevant US comparison would be a state Governor. But I do love the small-town feel.Report

  8. Avatar Katherine says:

    Wow. I can’t see it happening in Canada, either, although that’s less a ‘security state’ issue a more a matter of our current PM being allergic to public engagement.

    More politicians should be like Mr. Key.Report