There's been some talk lately around the bloggy traps, from Mark at LP and others, about the regrettable nature of psephology's tendency to reduce election-time politics to horse-racing metaphors and mindsets, at the expense of more complex things.
One way of responding to this, and many bloggers (and good journalists) do it on a weekly if not daily basis, is to examine those developments and trends and trajectories in individual lives that are determined by government policy and practice: to see whether this or that person's life is better or worse than it used to be, and whether that's measured in terms of money or peace of mind or something else altogether.
After eleven years of a Howard government, business-minded Caucasian males are doing very well. Who'd have thought.
Workers, women, asylum seekers, Aboriginal children and such, however, maybe not so much. Those of us who value ideas, egalitarianism of class and gender and heterogeneity of thought and belief aren't doing all that fabulously well either, although that's more the effects of repressive tolerance; it would be stupid and wrong to deny that we have, in Australia, been fortunate enough to preserve (despite our various national failings) a kind of independence and scepticism of mind and heart, and that that has been possible partly because even our conservative governments have been relatively liberal. Not only are we are not Myanmar or North Korea or Zimbabwe, we are not even, thank God, the US.
But we've now had eleven straight years of a government that has stayed in power by shamelessly playing to our weaknesses and our worse natures: self-interest, literal-mindedness, mean-spiritedness, fear and greed. And after eleven years of fear and greed being indulged, reinforced and rewarded by policies (and their accompanying rhetoric) in, especially, economics and immigration, you have to worry about what it's done to us as a people: positive reinforcement is a powerful thing, for better or worse. We all take it for granted that it is we who create the government, but that relation is actually a complex two-way street, involving the re-calibration of personal assumptions and the re-setting of social norms.
Politics really matters, all right. And one of the things about it that matters most is what it does to you as a human being. How amazing, if for once we were to stop asking ourselves 'Am I better or worse off than I was eleven years ago?' and ask ourselves instead 'Am I a better person?'
UPDATE, 22/11: Or, to put it another way ...