Roundup: Face it, strategic voting is a sham

With BC now in a provincial general election, the messages about “strategic voting” are again plaguing the social media channels. Brenda Fine, aka @moebius_strip, wrote a response to this constant complaints, and pointed out the huge folly in the various “strategies” being proposed, in part because they rely on dubious polling practices and because the groups organizing these “strategic voting” sites often have their own agendas (usually NDP partisans from my own observations) and will urge people to vote in ways that were wildly against the best chances for a non-Conservative (per the 2015 federal election), which in many cases was Liberal by a landslide. So yes, strategic voting is generally a foolhardy practice that has no actual basis is reality, but time after time, despite it being proven to be wrong, people continue to insist on it. Because this time, it’ll work for sure!

Part of what bugs me about the constant lamentations about strategic voting is that they are predicated on this notion that you should always be able to vote for ice cream with sprinkles in every election and get that result, even when ice cream with sprinkles is not always what’s on offer. Voting is about making a decision, and sometimes, it’s not an easy choice and voters are forced to put on their big boy/girl pants and make a tough decision given a bunch of unsavoury choices. Sure, it sucks, but it’s called being an adult in a democratic society, and you have a responsibility to make tough calls. And then, once you’ve made that tough call, you can look at what you did to contribute toward ensuring that there was a better choice on that ballot, whether it was participating in a nomination race to get better candidates’ names put forward, or joining a party to ensure that better policies were on offer coming from the grassroots membership. Of course, 98 percent of the population did nothing to ensure that there were better choices on that ballot, and then complain that they have to make an unsavoury choice. Aww, muffin. Democracy’s not a spectator sport where you get to just cast a ballot every four years if you’re not too busy. It means you actually have to participate if you want better outcomes. (And here’s a primer to show you that it’s actually not that difficult to do that and get involved).

Good reads:

  • Apparently, the government is going to “take the temperature” of the Commons before deciding on their next steps with their “modernization” push.
  • Expect more softwood lumber drama to erupt this week, while Marc Garneau is getting impatient with the constant uncertainty Trump is causing the markets.
  • Maclean’s finds no evidence that the Trump-Trudeau “women’s business council” is actually doing anything.
  • The government plans a name-blind hiring pilot project in six departments in the hopes it will help with diversity.
  • DND’s move to new headquarters is facing more delays because it’s more logistically challenging than they initially thought.
  • Here is the tale of an Iranian-Indian gay couple trapped in Turkey now that Canada has abandoned their refugee application.
  • Former Conservative staffer Justin McAuley argues that conservatives need to consider a new party if the current one betrays its own principles.
  • Trevor Tombe makes the case that now is the right time to end Supply Management while we have an opportunity to do so.
  • Colby Cosh contemplates the problems with the proposed new laws against marijuana-impaired driving.
  • Paul Wells checks in on the debate over the government’s promised Infrastructure Investment Bank.
  • Wells also reminds us to remain calm about the French election, looking to history and what is going on in that country.
  • In case you missed my column last week, it warns about giving the PBO too much power as is being demanded with the legislation giving him independence.

Odds and ends:

A transgender inmate is hoping to make history with the first transfer to a women’s institution.

One thought on “Roundup: Face it, strategic voting is a sham

  1. There seems to be an effort here to conflate the act of strategic voting itself with the activities and methodology of organizations that attempt to encourage strategic voting. They are not the same thing.

    If citizens allow themselves to be herded to the voting booth to vote solely on the basis of questionable polling results propagated by interest groups, I’m sorry about that. But I’m equally sorry if the actions of those citizens result from the misleading activities of political parties, NGOs, or astroturfing front groups. If someone votes on the basis of inaccurate information, that action is no more virtuous because the misdirection comes from political parties rather than interest groups.

    You can’t say that strategic voting is a “sham” because “it doesn’t work” any more than you can say our FPTP voting system doesn’t work because your preferred candidate doesn’t always win. Both arguments are profound misunderstandings of what’s at play.

    I’ve worked and voted many times for ‘no-hope’ candidates whose policies, principles or party I think are worthy of support. But I’ve also voted strategically against candidates whose policies, principles or party I think are unworthy or downright objectionable. To say that voters should “put on their big boy/girl pants” and vote for the choices we’ve been given is not only insulting, it’s dangerous. It’s representative of the kind of thinking that got Donald Trump elected: “You have to vote for Hillary because Trump is worse.” It turns out he was, but they didn’t.

    When it comes to the three main political parties in this country, the idea that we still live in a comfortable past in which local riding associations or EDAs can expect the grassroots to sit around kitchen tables and come up with policy which will make its way, reliably, to the party election platform is little short of delusional. The Leader and his/her entourage decide on policy and impose it on the Party. You may like it or loath it, but that’s what happens.

    Similarly, it is only with rare exceptions that the Leader and the Leader’s cadre don’t get to decide who is nominated to run for the Party. The joy of “participating in a nomination race to get better candidates’ names put forward” is one experienced by very few, often with dispiriting results.

    No, “Democracy’s not a spectator sport,” but it’s less than helpful when academics and journalists who haven’t spent decades working in the trenches of Canadian politics try to tell those of us who have that nothing is broken and all we have to do is work harder in the expectation of a different result.

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