We've published far fewer election posts here than I would have expected in the giddy moments of excitement as the campaign kicked off. Some of it has admittedly been due to my heavy work schedule and even a little laziness, but the main reason is that it's just so hard to get excited. Although I do very much want to see the back of Howard, it's hard to see what practical difference it will make, come next Monday morning.
It's not that there's anything wrong with Kevin Rudd precisely. But - screaming schoolkids aside - there's nothing to get excited about either.
It was all so different three years ago. Mark Latham was different, all right. At the time I had the feeling that, come the Sunday after the Latham victory, a different Australia would form. So when that didn't happen, it was incredibly disappointing (and to more than myself, although how many would admit that now?).
This time around, there's no such hope. I had trouble articulating precisely what was wrong with Rudd, until I read this article from Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald's News Review:
"In some circles, Labor Party people and Labor fellow travellers, Rudd, if not exactly hated, is deeply distrusted. It's not just Latham who thinks Rudd will lead a conservative government even more conservative than the Howard Government. It's not just Latham who reckons this is a Seinfeld election - he always had the knack of producing the memorable and resonant phrase - an election about nothing at all.
Some of these people, most of whom believe Howard has been a mendacious and politically soul-destroying prime minister, are hoping that Peter Garrett was not joking when he told the radio shouter Steve Price that once elected, a Rudd government would change everything.
For Rudd is Australian Labor's Tony Blair without Blair's easy charisma. Like Blair, he may know Labor's history, but he is unsteeped in it and he is untouched by Labor's ethos and its union roots. He is a man of faith, a Christian, a social conservative. He accepts and embraces the inevitability of globalisation, which sections of his party believe is a plot by multinational American companies to keep the developing world poverty-stricken.
Blair was always despised by the true believers in his party. And perhaps like Blair, Rudd will never be loved by the true believers in the Australian Labor Party, by those who fervently want nothing less than the remaking of Australia when Howard is gone. Rudd will, almost inevitably, disappoint them."
For years, I've longed to see the end of the Howard government, as I felt that it would usher in a new era for Australia. This Saturday may well bring about the end of Howard, but I feel like a person who wishes for a million dollars, and receives them in compensation for the death of a loved one: "It wasn't supposed to be this way!"
Be careful what you wish for...I asked that Rudd and Gillard not f**k this up. I just didn't know they'd be so spineless and derivative in their attempts to do so. Did it have to be this way? Was this the only path Labor could have taken to get rid of Howard? Maybe the damage the Howard Government has done to Australia has been so great that the answer is yes. The remaking of Australia is just not possible. I guess we'll never know. come Saturday night, we'll know if the softly-copy approach has worked. And I'll be happy if Labor wins, I'll just turn my mind to wondering what else might have been.
EDIT: There's more on this in an interesting article today from Crikey.