Friday, September 26, 2008

I Refuse to Vote Strategically

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, I left a bigass comment over at Excited Delirium and I'm recycling most of it here. I've been seeing a lot of interest in strategic voting. All sorts of schemes and ideas are popping up that are aimed at preventing Harper from attaining a majority. I won't be supporting any of those schemes. Here's why.

While I want to stop Harper as much as the next progressive, I think there are a couple problems with these types of tactics. The Greens and Libs are doing something like this with the so-called Red-Green deal in 2 ridings. The Liberals in May's Central Nova Riding are not moving en masse to the Greens, though. The numbers would work if every bit of the support for the parties that bowed out went to the agglomerated vote. It won't. Denied their party of choice, some voters will simply stay home. Polls include fence-sitters. Some of the weak support may go to the Cons.

With the way the NDP has been campaigning so vigorously against the Liberals, how many NDP supporters would vote Lib should their party decide to withdraw its candidate?

As a Green Party supporter and worker, I would have a hard time strategically voting Liberal. The Liberals haven't earned my vote. They've been particularly ineffective in opposition and allowed themselves to be bullied into acquiescing to every threat made by Harper. As a result, they staved off an election for a few months but managed to enter it looking like the hand-sitters and abstainers they became.

If we wanted a two-party system, we'd have one. Canadians want a choice. NDP supporters want to vote for the party that best represents their views. Ditto for the other parties' supporters. Democracy isn't about narrowing down our choices to allow us to vote for the lesser of two evils. We want to vote FOR something. These sorts of schemes require us to vote AGAINST something. I don't have any hard evidence handy, but I suspect voters are more motivated to actually get out and vote when they are doing something positive as opposed to something negative.

The system is broken. Unfortunately, of the 60% of Canadians who actually vote in federal elections, few realize how broken it is. I've been thumping the PR bible for years. I've watched as eyes glaze over when I start to explain how the FPTP system is undemocratic. People think, "one man, one vote" equals democracy. Period.

The large parties have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. They are not only the chief recipients of disproportional representation, they are also they very ones who have the legislative clout to change it. Why would they? There's no groundswell of public support for change.

There's the old saying that in a democracy, you get the government you deserve. Here in Canada in 2006, 64% voted against the Cons. Since then, the Cons have ruled us as though they had 100% support. We did not get the government we voted for. We do not deserve to be lorded over by a party with only 36% popular support. Ergo, we do not live in a democracy.

665,000 Canadians voted for the Green Party in 2006 and elected zero MPs. Those 665,000 have a better understanding of the patent unfairness of the system than the voters who elected MPs with 36% popular vote. This time, it is entirely possible that well over one million will vote Green and still not elect an MP.

Sadly, it may take a strong dose of un-democracy to convince enough Canadians that we have a broken system in need of reform. So be it. When we engage in schemes and vote trading and candidate trading and all sorts of strategies to play the game by the unfair rules, we only perpetuate acceptance.

I voted strategically once when I thought I could help stop an undesirable candidate from being elected. I felt slightly nauseous afterward and the experience still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils. I refuse to vote against the least desirable. I will continue to vote positively. I will vote for the party and candidates that best reflect my values, whether or not they stand a snowball's chance in hell in our unfair, archaic first past the post system.



Skinny Dipper said...

Based on the second choice results from EKOS, there is not a progressive voting bloc. If there were no Green party, voter would likely vote NDP, Liberal, and Conservative roughly in the ratio of 2:2:1. If there were no Liberal Party, those voters would choose the Conservatives, NDP, and Greens roughly 2:1:1. In Peter McKay and Elizabeth May's riding, twice as many exiled Liberal voters will choose the Conservatives over the Greens.

The notion of progressivism covers a broad spectrum. They include people such as red tories, blue and red liberals, blue New Democrats, die-hard socialists, feminists, eco-warriors, the Green Party, and Trotskyites. There is no way we could even agree on a common leader or cause.

After the election, I will guess that St├ęphane Dion will resign or be turfed out as Liberal leader. I will guess that the next leader will move the Liberals back to the centre of the political spectrum. The Liberals will no longer be an oversized clone of the Green Party. The next leader will probably push economics over environmentalism. It doesn't mean that the environment will be off the Liberal shelf, just subordinate to economic issues rather than the other way around.

If progressives wish to unite under the Liberal Party, they will be disappointed as that party moves in a rightward direction after the election.

northwestern_lad said...

JB... "Democracy isn't about narrowing down our choices to allow us to vote for the lesser of two evils. We want to vote FOR something. These sorts of schemes require us to vote AGAINST something."

I agree with you 100% on this because at the end of the day it is the job of the party's to EARN our votes, not for them to be given over out of fear. I appreciate that you pointed out that supporters of all parties want to vote for someone who best represents their views, because I know that is why I am where I am. Democracy is all about having choices, and I think that the worst thing that could possibly ever happen to this country is to end up in a two-party system like they have in the US. A multi-party system can work here because it works in so many other places, and it's up to the voters to vote for who they want the most, whoever that might be, and not against whom they fear the most.

Greg said...

I`ve read complaints from Liberals about how Layton is "ruining" everything and is personally responsible for Harper's upcoming majority.


1. The people voting NDP know very well that they can't win in most ridings. Their message is "cater to my position if you want my vote". It's the responsibility of the Liberal party to find out what social issues make people vote NDP and then shift their own party that way.

2. The Liberals don't own the NDP voters. I'm not a piece of property that Jack Layton has stolen. I vote that way (when I vote NDP) because I think they closely match me. If it weren't them, I'd probably go Green, not Liberal.

You want my support? Earn it. I don't want a two-party system as the Americans have, where I choose the hard-right Democrat simply because the Republicans are harder right.

Jennifer Smith said...

I have been extremely uncomfortable with the idea of strategic voting in the past, particularly when politicians use the idea to scare votes into their column, or suggest that nobody should vote for third or fourth parties because they are wasting a vote.

However, some of the proposals that have been floating around lately have considerable merit, and have caused me to re-think my position for three main reasons:

1) The impetus behind this 'movement', if we can call it that, is coming from the voters and grassroots organizations, not the politicians,

2) Initiatives like Vote for Environment and the Avaaz campaign are focusing on very specific, closely contested ridings, and suggesting that people vote for whoever has the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate - whichever party they represent. Far from reducing political diversity, voting in this way would actually give the NDP at least a dozen more seats than they would potentially win if everyone voted for their first choice. And overall, representation by non-Liberal / Conservative parties would increase by 20% - including raising the likelihood of the Green Party gaining a seat or two.

And finally, 3) If Stephen Harper wins a majority, I don't think I want to live here for the next four years.

Still, if you feel that strongly that Liberal policies and values are completely at odds with your own views, then by all means, don't vote for them. Just understand that not everybody feels that way.

And anyway, Haldimand-Norfolk is solidly enough Conservative that voting strategically probably wouldn't make any difference there anyway.

Chrystal Ocean said...

JB, I was going to leave a comment here, but your message so moved me that am writing a post over at CC instead - suitably linked of course.

Ti-Guy said...

I only reject the complicated schemes for stragetic voting (ie. vote swapping) which might have unintended consequences. But a lot of Canadians have always voted strategically, in any number of ways.

People can do what they want. But if we get a Harper majority, it'll say a lot more about Canadians than it does about our political system; for one, that people think about it like it's a computer game completely disconnected from real-world evidence or experience, as in the first comment of this post.

That guy said...

I agree with this, and I'd add only one thing: based on my experience with the Harris Tories in Ontario, strategic voting doesn't work anyway. All that happens is that voters flip from the NDP to the Liberals in ridings that the Tories would never win anyway. So, no Tories are kept out of office, people's options get narrower, and everything gets tugged to the right.

Jennifer Smith said...

All that happens is that voters flip from the NDP to the Liberals in ridings that the Tories would never win anyway.

Except that's not what is being proposed by most of these initiatives. CLOSE contests, SWING ridings, BEST SHOT. Informed choices.

Jeez, I never thought I'd find myself defending strategic voting. Terrifying times we live in.

West End Bob said...

You Go, JB!

Even though I am not eligible to vote in Canadian elections yet, I have asked voters here how they can vote "strategically" by not voting for the person that best represents their views.

My conscience would not allow it when there are options available.

Great post . . . .

Anonymous said...

What's most important is that we keep talking about strategic voting, until the most partisan of the party leaders who supposedly support electoral reform, commit to proportional representation, and the effect it will have on who holds the seats in the House. We need all of the progressive party leaders to agree that by working against the Conservatives together, they can each have more control than if they bicker now for a handful of seats here and there. None of the progressive parties will get enough on their own to form a majority. They will have to work with each other anyway if there's a Harper majority or minority government! They'd better start playing nice now, or they'll just regret it a lot later.

Dana at TGB, and Stageleft are right, partisanship is going to lead to a Harper majority, even though it's not fair. The Greens can taste seats, but they are hardly worth it if Harper is Prime Minister. It's not like we'd be able to work with him on ANYTHING very important, whereas Dion might even be open to appointing Greens to cabinet (Fortier style) if we work with him now, are punished by FPTP, and correct the elctoral system for the next election.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, thanks for your comment. What you said makes a lot of sense -- in fact the most sense of anything I've read yet. Maybe you should make it into a pithy t-shirt slogan. :-)

Anonymous said...

I have yet to see any indication that strategic voting accomplishes anything other than letting people pat themselves on the back for a job well done if their vote against a party appears to succeed.

Have you ever considered putting down the PR bible and picking up the Direct Democracy drum where your vote would actually mean something?

PR might get other parties representation in the House but it sure ain't gonna get you better representation - whoever is elected is still gonna be subject to the will of the party leader through the party whip ain't they? And that being the case who do they really represent?

There's spare DD drum sticks a plenty anywhere ya look JimBobby, why not pick one up.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Well SL, I might end up in yer camp, eventually. I was against PR before I was for it. I'm fully capable of flip-floppin' --- er, making an informed decision after careful and thorough consideration.

Right now, we're stuck in a system where party's are involved. Scrapping FPTP doiesn't eliminate the party system, I grant. Perhaps, it's incremental. A perfect democracy may be impossible. WE may wish for a perfect system but we cannot rule out imperfect improvements while we try to decide which system is best.

I figger the best system is a benevolent monarchy with me as King JimBobby. Or maybe a tiny soveriegn state with me elected President for Life. If I keep the population down to just Ma an' me, I got a 50% chance of being elected president... so long as I don't vote strategically, that is.

After we get through this whole greasy pole business of this here partisan puffin poopin', skinny dippin', dope smokin', Semite hatin', election campaign on October 14th, I'll be glad to take up the DD discussion. Until then, I gotta get out a cheer fer the Greens. I ain't painted my face yet, at least.

Despite yer disdain fer our crappy system, I know yer a big follower and a passionate politically concerned Canajun, SL. I reckon you'll be watchin' on Thursday night when the gal I adore, Earth Mother Lizzie May, gets up on her hind legs against them 4 ninnies on the TV. I reckon she's already won one thing. I see the pundidiots is expectin' the debate to be more civilized and issue-oriented and they're chalkin' up the reason to Lizzie bein' there. Sorta like us goofy teenagers would try to get all serious an' non-goofy if a gal sidled up to four boys in the schoolyard. Except with these boys, it's more like kindergarten.

Anyways, I hope you'll be sure an' tune in Thursday at 9 EST fer "Lizzie May Show" featuring Lizzie and some other guys.


JimBobby said...

D'oh! I feel so STOOPID!! I can't believe I used "party's" for a plural. Woe, f**kin' woe is me.

Anonymous said...

I expect I'll catch at least the last part of the debate JB. Thursday nights are kick boxing nights for me and the happy truth of the matter is I'd rather fight than politic :-)

I'm generally out of the dojo by 8:30 and home by 9:00 if it ain't raining, if it is raining and I gotta ride the bus instead of the bike and that eats up the better part of an hour.

Just a 'wee final thought - if FPTP is unacceptable and PR is more acceptable, but still not the real thing, wouldn't that make it simply the lesser of two evils?

And isn't backing the lesser of the evils somewhat ... well ... strategic ;-)

JimBobby said...

Them's good points an' I'll hand you round one. I ain't quite in the match yet, though. I reckon "better'n nuthin'" might be a strategic choice, like yer sayin'.

Scott in Montreal said...

Gosh, here in Quebec, strategic is the only kind of voting we know! You won't find many ridings with three-way races.

Anonymous said...

TAKE ACTION! -- Join the facebook group majoritycoalitionforcanada

I'm convinced that the only way to stop another minority Stephen Harper government is for the opposition parties to form a Coalition of the Majority after the election results are announced.

But for this to happen, the parties must send a formal letter to the Governor General stating their intention and ability to do so.

Without this letter, the Governor General cannot choose this course of action.

We must start pressuring the party leaders NOW.

Please join the facebook group majoritycoalitionforcanada

We must fight for the kind of Canada the majority of Canadians clearly want.

Stuart Hertzog