The Wheel of Fortune.It's taken me a long time to come back to psephite - mainly because I didn't know how to respond to the Australian and US election results.
When I think about politics I often think in terms of cycle - like the medieval wheel of fortune where you inexorably experience ups and downs. I think this way partly because of the way politics is described - by 'terms' and the electoral 'cycle', which convey a sense of finite time and a bias towards change, and the two party / adversarial system, which suggests that power will swing. I also think it's because my lifetime has been split between Liberal and Labor Governments at the Federal level in Australia - one of my first political memories is Bob Hawke coming to power in 1983. I grew up in the Hawke / Keating years, and it was only when I was Uni 'becoming a grown-up' that the Liberal Government was elected under Howard. Because I've lived unde both reigns for about the same amount of time, it makes me feel like Government is a pendulum - it swings back and forth, from left to right, from Labor to Liberal, at regular intervals over time.
I found the 2004 election result confronting because it didn't conform to my idea of an electoral pattern, or the wheel of fortune. Because after 8 years in power, in which most time appeared to be spent teetering on the brink of electoral defeat, the Howard Government is simply getting stronger. And this made me realise that politics in my lifetime in Australia has been abnormal. It's not usual for incumbency to be spread between two parties. Politics isn't neat or fair. Statistically, it's more likely that the Liberal party will be in power than Labor. Maybe the political Wheel of Fortune is weighted in the conservatives favour, and it is that much harder for the Labor party to gain enough momentum to end up on top.
On the other hand, I don't want to fall victim to a 'it has to be that way' mentality. I don't want to explain away defeat by saying that the electorate is inherently conservative. That the Liberals are the natural party of Government. I kind of feel like that's a Tory ruse.
So I guess what I take from this election is that political power is not a given. It won't inevitably shift, or correct itself. There is no promise that people will simply become tired of the Governing party and switch allegiances. All you can do is keep working to get enough shoulders behind the democratic wheel.