In an effort at espionage, US president Richard Nixon orchestrated the illegal break-in of the democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel on June 17, 1972. By November 7 of that year, he was re-elected with the largest ever majority. A great number of voters were untroubled by the increasingly serious accusations against him.
Evidence already existed that linked the president to the criminal activity including a $25,000 cheque of Nixon’s team being banked by one of the burglars. Many people simply didn’t believe it could happen, some couldn’t be bothered looking at the evidence or more concerning simply didn’t care.
How did Nixon handle matters? Deny, deny, attack, deny, deny. ‘I am not a crook’, he declared in November 1973, and much of his support base believed him. By August 1974 the evidence was overwhelming. Nixon resigned in infamy yet even then opinion polls showed that at least 24 percent of the population – one in four voters – stood by their man. For true believers their leaders cannot do anything bad enough to be condemned. The party they support is more important than the democracy within which it exists.
The cerebrally limp Cameron Slater is reflective of the swathes of the righteous unthinking in New Zealand. These people are belligerent to the last, writing off all allegations targeting the Key government as nonsense, with most not troubling themselves to look at any of it. Knowing because they just know. Correct because they are too dim to see alternatives. Brush aside substance with ad hominem attacks. Whatever their side does, the other side is worse.
These are the people who to the very end would have voted for Nixon.
There are others, though. Even Mathew Hooton, a man so National through-and-through that when he blushes he gets angry that his face doesn’t turn blue, has been critical of his party in the wake of allegations made in Dirty Politics. Some issues, he understands, are bigger than one election cycle, bigger than this particular and temporary manifestation of his party. Hooton remains one-eyed, but at least that eye is open.
Whatever your take on politics, whatever your take on who has made them, serious allegations have been made. By his own admission some are enough to make the prime minister resign if they are proven (not forgetting that the Justice Minister has already gone), and there is a prima facie case to more than a few of the charges. While John Key and those around him may be completely exonerated and it may be proven that none of these nefarious activities occurred, we should remain concerned that for a large percentage of the public it wouldn’t have mattered an ounce if they had.