I should have known better than to get involved in a political discussion at the very beginning of a two-hour car trip. Nothing good has ever come from the combination of enclosed spaces and contrasting political views, has it? But I did and this is what happened (as an aside: the 'him' involved is actually an otherwise great guy but not, I hope, a reader of my blog):
Him: "Well I'm going to vote for Howard because, you have to admit, the economy's in pretty good shape."
Me: "Okay well the economy's great, but don't you care about other stuff like the environment, social justice stuff, like, say, Aboriginal health?"
Him: I don't give a shit about Aboriginal health."
Me: (30ish seconds later): "You don't.... care about Aboriginal health?"
Him: No, I mean, I do but, you know, I don't think either party is going to fix the problem.
Him: And I believe in equal rights.
Me: (temperature rising) "Equal... rights?"
Him: "Yeah like everyone should have the same rights. Aboriginal people shouldn't be given anything special that non-Aboriginal people aren't. Everyone should be equal."
Me: "I agree but equality doesn't mean everyone is treated literally the same. It's about making sure everyone has access to the same opportunities, isn't it?"
Him: "Well it's like that quote 'all animals are equal but some are more equal than others'"
Andy: (bless him, intervening before I had a heart attack at the cheek of a closet facist using George Orwell against me) "Sure - we are. We have longer life expectancy, better education and more opportunities."
Me:(weakly) "Their life expectancy is like 15-
Me: "...years less than us. That's not equality."
Him: "Well I just think it would benefit everyone if everyone was equal."
The above conversation took place today between me and a nice, educated, 30-ish guy from a pretty wealthy family. I've blogged it (at least what I could remember of it - I may have made myself sound less shrill and more erudite than the reality) not to take the piss but to say uh-oh.
The thing is when you hang out with and are friends with smart, relatively left-wing people it's easy to imagine that Rudd is going to have an absolute cake-walk come election time. You find yourself having conversations about the (many) areas in which he will hopefully become more of a leftie once he's in office, what changes we might see and how much of a landslide it will be. But there are smart, educated people out there who believe in what Howard believes in and who want to see him returned to office. These are not psychos with bad fashion sense who run fish and chip shops they are ordinary people you work with, are friends with and share long car rides with.
Andy's view is that there's no point in talking politics because nobody ever changes his or her mind but I strongly disagree because I think a lot of what we think comes from friends and family. Sure, most people have made up their minds by a certain age but, bloody hell, it's a bit defeatist to assume we're all in a holding pattern for the next half century. Plus things do change and if I have to have a dozen more incredibly painful car conversations to change one person's mind... well I guess I'll do it. Maybe.
Anyway I think my point was that it's not quite time to break out the champers and party poppers quite yet.