I'm resigned to the fact that the pro-smackers are probably going to win the referendum, but I'm not particularly glum about it. In a few hours, I'll guess we'll know for sure.
Some years ago, I saw a documentary about (of all things) the history of road safety. For years and years, British drivers refused to wear seatbelts, or to make their kids wear them - my car, my kids, my private business, my right to do as I choose. Change came when the government ran a campaign, showing the horrific injuries which occur to unsecured children in road accidents, and the road toll went down accordingly. Thirty or so years later, most people would agree that those parents who don't ensure their children are buckled in are being negligent. The right of a child to be safe is considered more important than the right of the parents to call the shots. These days, if you argued that parents should decide whether their kids wear seatbelts, most people would probably think you were a bit bizarre.
Smacking is going the same way. The anti-smackers may have carried the day, but the trend is against them as the incidence of smacking declines - and if anything, I think they've hastened their demise with some of the strange comments that have been made during this referendum.
Many of those who support smacking are ordinary Joes and Joannes. I know some who've gone from being mildly pro-smacking to mildly against since section 59 was repealed. But those people who are zealous enough to lead a public campaign in favour of striking children are a different story. Sheryl Savill, who began the petition which initiated the referendum, expressed irritation on Campbell Live that the law prevents smacking a child for touching the remote control. Bob McCroskie has defended a father who repeatedly pushed his seven-year-old to the ground for refusing to play rugby. They have the Christian fervour of people who believe an invisible guy in the sky has instructed them to smack kids.* And they can hold whatever views they please; but their fundamentalist Christian beliefs aren't representative of the majority.
To give credit where it's due, the pro-smackers have campaigned effectively, and with the courage of their convictions. But, in the longer term, I think those who don't share the religious beliefs of the hard-core pro-smackers will continue to move away from smacking as a form of discipline. And those who continue to advocate smacking, in the face of all the evidence that it is bad for children, will in time seem like those who oppose seatbelts: slightly bizarre.
* The Family First website argues that marriage 'elevates and protects our sexual nature'. It features a picture of two wedding rings with the caption, 'For the best sex, slip on one of these'.