Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why vote?

A federal election is under way in Canada, and as usual my main priority is to prevent the Conservatives from winning.  While I prefer the NDP if given a free choice, I am confident that the Liberals would be much better than the Conservatives.  I have been thinking about a proposition that the devil might make to me:  Would you take the Liberals winning the election for sure, or would you prefer a 50/50 chance of Conservative or NDP rule?  I would take the Liberals, though I would hold my nose while doing so.  The Conservatives are so bad that the Liberals who are led by a person who is only there because of nepotism and which clearly has no principles aside from "get elected in any way you can" are my choice.

That doesn't say much for politics in Canada.

In my Facebook feed I am regularly seeing people outraged at this state of affairs, bitter that they have no one they truly want to support.  I get that.  It is frustrating, especially when you realize that in fact 1/3 of the country really does support that party that you hate so much.  Even worse, many of those supporters aren't just bamboozled but really do believe in all those awful policies you hate.  Often this understandable frustration convinces people that the thing to do is to simply opt out of the voting process entirely and focus on the big revolution that will tear down society and start everything fresh and new and perfect.

Which is utterly delusional.

Could a giant revolution that overthrows our monetary system, government system, legal system, and culture happen?  Maybe, I guess, but not without immense suffering.  Keep in mind that marginalized people tend to be the ones the government is propping up in most cases and the period of instability while things collapse is going to be worse for them than anyone else.  Also don't forget that when people are worried about putting food on their table and keeping themselves alive the environment or any other sort of long term planning is a distant thing that warrants little or no consideration.

Even if a total revolution avoided carnage in the streets it is going to inflict terrible damage and hardship on everyone, mostly concentrated on those who already are struggling... and I wouldn't bet on avoiding carnage in the streets, if history is any indicator.

After this grand revolution, we are generally assured, everything will be peaceful and perfect and we will throw off authoritarian rule and all of the new ways of living will be ideal for human flourishing and environmental improvement.  Except this requires a pacifist hippy environmentalist to manage to be the most powerful and ruthless leader in a time of upheaval and danger, which seems a far fetched proposition at best.  Look at history and you will see that when a revolution happens it is full of all kinds of disgruntled people and when the dust settles you don't end up with a hippy pacifist at the helm - rather it is usually a ruthless general.  Even when you vote afterwards you often end up with a theocratic dictator in charge and things get even worse than they were before.

I know voting feels like two steps forward, one step back.  That is because that is exactly what it is.  But all the people wistfully talking about strapping on a jetpack and zooming straight to nirvana instead of walking there just end up crashing and burning, leaving themselves further from their goal and much the worse for wear.

"Let's find a compromise that leaves nearly everyone upset!" isn't much of a rallying cry.  But it is how things get better.

So get involved and try to make things better.  Vote, volunteer for your favourite party, donate money, or just yell on the internet about the things that you care about that politicians might try to change.  Whatever it is you do, don't fool yourself into thinking that sitting around hoping for a miraculous revolution will do anyone any damn good.

Also seriously don't vote for the Conservatives this time around.  Harper has done some incredibly bad stuff, and even if you buy into conservative principles you know that a party in power as long as the Conservatives have been gets seriously complacent and corrupt and they need to be rotated out, no matter which side of the political spectrum they are on.


  1. Great post! I've donated money and volunteered for my local NDP candidate Andrew Foulds. I like a lot of the Liberal platform but cannot abide the vote for Bill C-51 (also known as the "Better to be Scared than Rational" bill).

  2. I refuse to vote Liberal because of their stance on C-51. I actually don't think they'd be much better than Harper at all, and I am convinced their goal in this election is to make sure the NDP lose even if it means Harper wins. The Liberals are terrified to have a viable NDP as an option and they're happy to throw away rights I believe in to make sure it happens.

  3. Are you sure the Liberals are even the strategic option this time around? Last election had the NDP utterly dominate the Liberals; at that point, voting Liberal was a wasted vote in most places. NDP were strategic. Now it's more even, but in many ridings the NDP are polling higher than the Liberals, so the traditional wisdom still doesn't automatically hold!

  4. @Eric

    If you are speaking to me, then no, I am not sure of that at all. I think the Liberals and NDP are roughly neck and neck. I was proposing the thought experiment because I wanted to compare my feelings about the parties and the Liberals are in the middle. I am going to vote NDP and I encourage others to do the same... not as a protest vote, but because they can definitely win and they are the best party this time around.


    I agree to an extent. I won't vote Liberal this time, but they are planning on repealing a bunch of C-51, so they aren't exactly all gung ho about it. I think Trudeau just supported it to avoid looking 'weak on terrorism' as a political move, not because it is actually something the Liberals generally support. That is still an awful reason to vote for a thing and makes me really bitter at him, but it is a complicated affair.

  5. They're probably going to amend it, sure. But fundamentally they want something like it to exist, and I really don't. Maybe it was just a miscalculated political move, but talk is cheap.

    I also happen to think looking weak on terrorism is a good thing. Terrorism is simply not a thing we have any reason to worry about in this country.

  6. Agreed, Terrorism is the least of our worries.

  7. But what if *you* were the new dictator? Then everything would be utopia, right?

    Or me. I'm pretty sure I could bring about utopia.

    Luckily, we're both getting lots of practice at being ruthless generals via boardgames. Vive la Revolution!