The Voice Referendum Was About Identity Politics, and My Trip to the Polling Booth Demonstrated It Once Again

17 October 2023

3.8 MINS

On Voice referendum day a confrontation between an older white Yes campaigner and an Aboriginal No voter turned ugly.

Many Australians balked at the suggestion that the Voice debate was about identity politics or cultural Marxism.

But the way the debate played out demonstrated that these ideologies indeed played a major role.

Identity Politics and the Voice Debate

Identity politics, an expression of cultural Marxism, segregates people into ‘oppressed’ and ‘oppressor’ categories. In the context of the Voice referendum, this narrative locates people of European descent in the oppressor category, and those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent in the ‘oppressed’ one.

For non-Indigenous Australians, moral authority can be regained by identifying with the Yes camp as a way of revolting against British colonisation. Likewise, according to this narrative, those in the No camp merely maintain and reaffirm their status as oppressors.

This is why Noel Pearson, in his Press Club address, asked multicultural communities who had recently migrated to Australia,

“Where do you fit into Australia? It’s a bit unclear. Are you with the mob from the UK? Are you kind of honorary settlers? Because some of you are the wrong colour. Or you don’t come from northern Europe…

“I say to them, where do you fit into Australia?”

Pearson is thinking in terms of identity politics and wanting to place people into categories. By his logic, the amount of melanin in the skin of recent migrants places them in the ‘oppressed’ category. But if they vote no, they are siding “with the mob from UK” and become ‘oppressors’.

The exact same sentiment is behind Marcia Langton’s hope to destroy the fabric of the Constitution, which she views as a product of British rule, and therefore an inherently oppressive document. If justice is to be enacted, the fabric of the Constitution must be destroyed, according to her reasoning.

Identity Politics at the Polling Booth

A trip to my local polling booth on referendum day highlighted to me, once again, that identity politics is incredibly toxic.

Right before I entered the building to vote, a Yes campaigner asked whether I wanted his leaflet. Despite the fact everyone should have decided on their vote at least three meters before walking through the doorway, I declined before saying I was voting no.

The Yes campaigner, an older white male, seemed friendly enough. So, when he asked why, I gave one quick response that I didn’t want to embed the idea in the Constitution that Indigenous people were going to be permanently disadvantaged and therefore require a permanent Voice.

The discussion went back and forth a little before the man became exasperated. It was rudely made very clear that I was too stupid — and that I simply believed lies.

The Yes campaigner then asked what I was personally doing to address Aboriginal disadvantage, with the clear implication I was endorsing ongoing racism and colonialism. I may as well be voting to inflict violence on Aboriginal people all over again.

The question asking me to disclose my personal ‘righteousness’ in addressing Aboriginal disadvantage is rather revealing.

The Yes campaigner was clearly caught up in identity politics/cultural Marxism, which is all about righting the wrongs of “oppressive” past European generations. Consequently, people are lumped into two categories depending on how they vote. Group guilt or innocence is then applied to the two categories.

In reality, nothing would have been good enough for this Yes campaigner. I was already guilty, and the question was designed to shame me more, not give me a way of absolution.

If that was at all in doubt, the Yes campaigner finished with, “You’re the exact person I don’t like”.

An AEC staff member later mentioned that Yes campaigner had a confrontation with multiple other people, including an Aboriginal man who was voting no.

Incensed by this affront to his version of reality, an argument quickly erupted. The Yes campaigner would not accept the Aboriginal man’s reasons for voting no. “You’ve been brainwashed” was his clear message.

The Aboriginal man – infuriated that he wasn’t allowed to have his own opinion – offered to finish the argument outside the premises. It was an offer eagerly taken up by the Yes campaigner. Other people had to step in to ensure that clenched fists weren’t thrown, and thankfully, no violence ensued.

Later on, I had a good laugh about the situation. Here was a white man, supposedly advocating for a “voice for the voiceless” but wanting to silence an Aboriginal man’s voice – and willing to punch down on him for voicing it.

I could hardly believe the irony and sheer stupidity of the Yes campaigner claiming the Voice could rectify past violence and injustice against Aboriginal people whilst himself needing to be prevented from inflicting violence on an Aboriginal man. Do you laugh or do you cry? I think you do both.

Toxic Identity Politics

How could the older white man justify a fistfight with an Aboriginal man? Because he was in the ‘righteous Yes’ category – the category siding with the oppressed. In his view, the Aboriginal no voter – who was putting himself in the category of the oppressor – deserved to be opposed, using violence if necessary. This was the case even though the No voter was “the wrong colour”, to quote Noel Pearson.

Here is Marxism playing itself out with frightening exactness in modern Australia.

Identity politics is outright toxic. It blinds people from seeing that what it claims to be against, it aggressively promotes. As the man at my polling booth revealed, those who adopt this toxic ideology cannot see the irony and sheer stupidity of their own position.

Identity politics had built a fortress in that Yes campaigner’s mind, making him incapable of seeing the obvious from his self-built prison.

It is another sober reminder that those things we are blind to are those that most bind us.


Image by Engin Akyurt.

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  1. Jim Twelves 17 October 2023 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Sam, magnificent! Thank you for telling us your story, it is classic! My own polling booth story was much quieter than yours! The Yes campaigner offer me his flyer, I politely declined, and that was that. The No campaigner offered me his and I quietly declined (not wanting him to waste his paper on me) but I ‘smiled’! I also smiled at him on the way out. I think the smile has it! He knew, and I knew he knew, that I voted No.

    • Samuel Hartwich 17 October 2023 at 12:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jim, and for the record there were two other campaigners, one for Yes and one for No, located some distance away. Both were extremely friendly and were talking and joking amongst themselves, exactly the way it should be. I am sure the vast, vast majority of campaigners on both sides were precisely what you experienced! And to clarify, I am not making a comment about Yes campaigners in general – not at all. This was simply to point out that identity politics did play a part in the Voice proposal.

  2. Trina Watson 17 October 2023 at 8:54 am - Reply

    I find it very sad that “the voice”, has brought division in families and the community at large. As the people of God, we must rise up in prayer and intercession to the Father for Australia, one of the Great South Lands of the Holy Spirit!

  3. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 17 October 2023 at 9:27 am - Reply

    I approached my polling booth in Tasmania with trepidation, but, no Flyers , no ” Sausage Sizzle “or arguments, people very polite, just an official who smiled at me and told me how much she liked my colourful, old jumper which I made out of scraps . Time to get rid of Aboriginal Animism ( their version of Creation , etc ) in contravention of section 116 being forced on me as a religion in place of my Christianity, ditto with the flags, “The Welcome to Country “, etc—all in contravention of the Constitution and my FREEDOM . Time to stop WOKE Marxist ideology being forced on our children and give them REAL World history , foreign languages , etc . Thank God, the Plan to subvert our nation was lost , but, the elites (with wine glasses in hand !) and the Marxist academics are already planning their next attack to subvert our Constitution by sleath !

  4. Pauline Tondl 17 October 2023 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Thank you, this is much needed clarification.
    Forewarned is forearmed. Please disseminate everywhere ! I’m doing my bit.

  5. Pauline Tondl 17 October 2023 at 10:36 am - Reply

    actually my previous comment related to the link explaining cultural Marxism. Such a need to get that clear in our understanding. It is a sensational expose by James Lindsay ! Many thanks.

  6. Warwick Marsh 17 October 2023 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Wow. Great article! This is incredibly sad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Constantine Michailidis 17 October 2023 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this interesting article and bringing up the issue identity politics, which we had hoped was dying.
    I too had arguments at the polling booth with white ‘Yes’ activists who were taking on the posture of moral activists who were defending the indigenous poor against the wicked white capitalist colonialists. They never said it, but I knew that was the ideology behind their moral superiority.
    I was surprised that more commentators were not seeing the voice referendum as another case of identity politics in our country and of neo-Marxism at work, and that people like Prof Marxia Langton are trying to destroy the fabric of our society more than trying to help the marginalised first nation peoples.
    Andrew Bolt was was person whom I heard raise the issue. Interestingly he compared the defeat of the voice and the defeat of the NZ labour party on the same day as both a statement by the people that they have had enough of race (identity) politics.

  8. Leonie Robson 17 October 2023 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    Ivan and I volunteered for the No campaign in pre polling and on the day of the referendum.
    The only problem we had were very mean spirited Yes campaign volunteers.
    Pre polling, the old white women were very aggressive and confontational, then joined by a part Aboriginal lady who handed out little fliers for the Uluru statement…she became very hostile and sarcastic when people refused them.
    The old white lady who was in our face from word for, stood with her, laughing about Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine, calling them Coconuts.
    I could have cried.
    Polling day was again a day of aggression, and indeed a neighbour and her husband walked towards us and proclaimed at the top of her voice, ‘Here’s two of the biggest racists you will ever find!’
    This woman has not spoken to me in 37 years because I refused to sign a petition to sack my children’s pre school teacher on her accusations of the teacher being drunk on duty.
    I asked her where was her proof and she railed against me, backed up by her husband in the foyer of the pre school… children present.
    The lady and man in question have been active members of the Communist Party for decades.
    After calling us racists in our own community she turned her tirade onto more No campaign supporters at the front entrance to the booth.
    She then went to the local newsagents and bought a blue sheet of cardboard, a marker pen and created a sign which she held in front of us and people entering the station….
    It stated , Kind Hearts 4 Vote Yes.
    Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    • Warwick Marsh 22 October 2023 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      Terrible what you have both gone through!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Leonie Robson 23 October 2023 at 9:45 am - Reply

        Confronting and eye opening, that’s for sure.
        Thankyou brother.

  9. Stan 18 October 2023 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Bless you Leonie

  10. Warwick Marsh 22 October 2023 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Jesus said by your fruits you shall know them. The hate and vitriol given to both indigenous and non indigenous no voters in the voice referendum has been beyond belief.

  11. Warwick Marsh 22 October 2023 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    I am meeting with indigenous leaders this afternoon to talk about the voice. Will share with everyone hopefully..

  12. Jennifer Mok 23 October 2023 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    I too volunteered for handing out the No vote cards, but at a site not too near home, because I’m not that brave. I’d fully expected to have run ins, but after having established a good relationship with a “Yes” young chap we cheerfully handed both our cards out at the same time mostly and people mostly received them in the same spirit. Obviously it wasn’t the case for everyone else and sadly not everyone appreciates the democracy we live in; that we can disagree and still respect each other. They certainly wouldn’t want to live under another regime where disagreement isn’t permitted .

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