Gordon Campbell sees the realpolitik but also feels politicians should be able to talk about racial issues and critique the Maori Party without being accused of racism:
Goff is not politically naïve. He knows he is playing to a gallery that includes racists, and that Labour can expect to reap a political advantage from that quarter. Yet the issues he was raising in Palmerston North were also substantive, and not reducible to mere dogwhistling to rednecks. Given the nature of the deal done between National and the Maori Party in Parliament this week over the ETS, he was in something of a ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’ situation when it came to mounting an attack on it. Calling the deal ‘ shabby’ and opposing its benefits to particular Maori tribes ( and large iwi corporations) at the taxpayer’s expense is not playing the race card. It is more like truth in labeling.
My feeling is that race is an important issue, and the Maori Party should not be immune from criticism. But we have to accept that race is also a sensitive issue and that politicians like Peters and Brash have exploited it in the past. So when Goff gives a speech about race he needs to signal that they he does so in good faith, not to get a boost in the polls. Don Brash’s Orewa address is the most notorious instance of race-baiting in our recent political history, and Goff gave his speech the same title, the same themes and delivered it to the same demographic. I think it’s pretty safe to say he’s not acting in good faith, even if he does make some valid points along the way. Brash also made some arguments about self-determination and equality under the law that were totally appropriate for a right-wing politician to make, it didn’t absolve him and it doesn’t wash Goff’s hands clean either.
Matt McCarten is too jaded to be angry:
Goff’s reneging on his party’s earlier support for a repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act is totally cynical and intended to whip up Pakeha New Zealanders. It’s the space that Winston Peters used to occupy. Goff and his advisers clearly believe they can close the gap with National with this desperate and, in my opinion, covertly racist strategy. It worked a treat for Don Brash and Goff no doubt hopes it’ll work the same magic for him.
Over at RedAlert, Clare Curran and Grant Robertson shill for their leader and insist that we listen to what Goff had to say. Eddie at The Standard did listen; he pours on the contempt:
I just can’t believe that Goff and his advisers didn’t know what they were doing with this speech. And in doing so they’ve alienated much of the left and done huge damage to Labour’s relationship with Maori. To much of the rest of the electorate he just looks desperate.
It’s possible that Goff might have won over some of the iwi/kiwi racists with the speech, he might even see a poll bounce (though nothing that would compare favourably with Brash’s 17%) – but even if it works, is this any basis on which to build a sustainable progressive alternative?
Goff’s speech was stupid and wrong on so many levels. We deserve better than this.
I haven’t read any right-wing analysis of Goff: the Nats decided not to give him the dignity of a serious response, right-wing commentators have largely followed this lead. John Armstrong (as usual) regurgitates publicly what National Party strategists are saying in private:
National is not going to make Harawira’s mistake of giving Goff the attention he craves by accusing him of being a racist. John Key instead portrayed Goff’s speech as the work of a struggling politician desperately in search of a headline.
By not engaging with him, National is seeking to deprive Goff of oxygen, thereby forcing him to take even more extreme positions.
At least someone is happy: Chris Trotter is predictably rapt with Goff’s pivot and crows that the Labour Party has abandoned liberalism. Well, that depends on what happens in the polls over the next few weeks. Even if this gamble pays off the party is still broadly liberal, this is just a sign that it’s prepared to compromise those values.
Trotter sees events through the prism of his Marxist-Leninist worldview in which liberal values signify counter-revolutionary false-conciousness; he’s too stupid to understand that nobody in Labour shares his vision for New Zealand of a classless workers state ruled by a revolutionary vanguard. As far as I can tell, Labour’s only vision for New Zealand is that we should be a country governed by the Labour Party.