Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, March 21, 2008

"I'm a fair voter"

The other day, I had a conversation that led me to go back and dig up something that Mark Greenan from Blogging for Democracy said a couple of years ago. Turns out, it's so good that I felt like pulling it out and looking at it again:

My strongest political affiliation is non-partisan--or more accurately, because it’s something that all those who want more accountable, responsive government want, multi-partisan--I’m a fair voter. By that, I mean that I could never be a member of a political party that did not endorse the principle upon which all PR systems are based--that all voters are equal and, as much as is reasonable, every vote should be reflected in the composition of the legislature.
I'm a New Democrat because it's the party with the ideas that best reflect my personal views. But by far, my strongest political conviction is that everybody deserves the chance to vote for parties and candidates that hold their views. When I watch hundreds of thousands of people across the country voting for the Greens in a federal election and not seeing their votes count, that outrages me. When I watch fiscally conservative voters in Alberta holding their noses and voting for the biggest-spending provincial government Canada has ever had, that outrages me. In the end, it doesn't matter how much these people's views differ from my own--the principle is the same. They deserve a voice. We all do.

And as with Mark, it's in that principle where my true "partisanship" lies.

18 comments:

Mushroom said...

I vote for the most prominent social democratic party that best reflect my personal views. It is my hope and intention to ensure that social democracy be achieved throughout Canada. I believe a fairer democratic system is necessary. Not just for the Greens but ideological Marxists, Trotskyists, pro-life Christian fundamentalists, and anti-immigrant nativists. Politics for me is about building coalitions. A truly great social democratic country allows these coalitions to be fostered peacefully and democratically.

This is the reason why I support the Liberal party. My ideal coalition would be between the Grits and the NDP without Jack Layton. Would love for the Conservatives to split into three factions and the Greens to become more viable. Maybe under electoral reform, the Grits will split into two camps. This would be fine too, if it bring forth policies that I will support.

I think you know now that these include the expansion of the welfare state, a surtax on higher income earners, income splitting for families, homemakers' allowance for stay at home moms, incentives for families to have more children, a pacifist foreign policy, movement towards a world government, and Quebec nationalism just to name a few.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

mushroom,

It's endlessly fascinating to me how you and I can come from such similar starting points and reach such different conclusions.

I think sometimes about what changes and realignments a hypothetical electoral reform would make to our political culture, but really that's just geekery. In any case, I'm sure some of the changes would be things that wouldn't be personally advantageous for me, but as long as they were democratic, I'd be all right with them.

For what it's worth, I'm actually glad you're a Liberal. Someone needs to be fighting for electoral reform within that party, and I'm reassured to know that you're there.

Mushroom said...

"It's endlessly fascinating to me how you and I can come from such similar starting points and reach such different conclusions."

Not really. I am East Asian, came from a left wing family from a country that was traditionally conservative. In fact, my dad was a liberation theologian Catholic and this was the faith I was baptized in. He votes Green now, having been disillusioned by the NDP.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

"Not really" what? We're not really coming from similar starting points? I'm not really endlessly fascinated? Because I assure you I am. :-)

I just meant that we hold a lot of common opinions (and so many of those opinions qualify as weird in the Canadian political scene!), and yet reach different conclusions based on them.

Deanna said...

Hear, hear!
Everyone deserves a voice. My friends deserve a Green voice. My mom deserves a Christian Heritage voice. And I deserve to not have my NDP voice marginalized with fewer seats than our vote percentage indicates.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Deanna,

And the Liberals deserve a voice in Alberta! And the Conservatives deserve a voice in Toronto!

lance said...

Echoes of the 90's. There's a mechanism in place for this; form new parties. Been there, done that.

Everyone here is familiar with the history, so I don't have to go into the PC into three thing.

Know what? It worked.

Parties fracture, they find their roots, they're discarded, they coalesce, or they grow.

You don't have the right to a vote in your houses of gov't. Your representatives have that right based on your decisions.

That isn't ever going to change until we have the technological capabilities to have national referendum on every issue.

Deal with it. Not everything you want happens.

Cheers,
lance

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

lance,

Easy for you to say, as a centrist conservative. If you were a right-winger, I doubt you'd be so complacent.

Also...echoes of the 90s? The electoral reform movement didn't get moving in Canada until 2000. We're babies yet, give us time.

lance said...

There's nothing "easy" about it.

Renewal is a gut-wrenching, soul-searching, _personal_ introspection. I have experience in what the Liberals are going through and I honestly feel for them.

I'm not looking forward to the inevitable point in time when the 'brand' suddenly loses all value.

Oh yeah, I know what it means, hope it doesn't happen soon with the CPC.

The 'echoes of the 90's' part was about the electoral deficit regarding the right of centre parties.

This is also known as a split and is integral to the devolution of static parties.

I hated it. Loathed it. Despised the idea that someone who was as seemingly corrupt as Mr. Chretien was could somehow split our vote (Pc and Alliance|Reform) to make it mean nothing.

In the end it came home to roost, just not with that particular Prime Minister.

FWIW, what makes you think I'm not a 'right-winger'? Very curious. Leftdog would disagree vehemently.

Cheers,
lance

Deanna said...

And the Liberals deserve a voice in Alberta! And the Conservatives deserve a voice in Toronto!

Absolutely. Goes without saying.

I think the only political party that would not benefit from PR federally is the Bloc. Unless they decided to run outside Quebec, that is. (Which I suppose would defeat the purpose of their party.)

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

lance,

You misunderstand--I'm not talking about any political parties, or partisan renewal of any kind. If you go back through my blog, you'll find hundreds of posts that reflect the principle I'm talking about here, so it's in no way a reaction to whatever current events you've assumed it's a reaction to. I'm saying that all parties aside, what I believe in most strongly is a broad spectrum of voter choice. That was true long before I joined a Canadian political party. Before I even came to this country, in fact.

You think the merger of the PCs and the Alliance "worked" because it brought conservatives to power. I can't agree. According to my most deeply held principle, it was a dismal failure because it removed part of the Canadian political spectrum from the scene, probably permanently. It's a part of the spectrum I vehemently disagree with, but my point here is that what I care about most is a healthy democracy. Big-tent parties marginalize ideas--and worse, they marginalize voters.

As for why I don't think you're a right-winger (I probably should have said something more like "far right"), well, I think the fact that you're comfortable enough with what Harper is doing right now gives that away, if nothing else. The people I've talked to from the far right are glad the Liberals are out of power, but they're no longer happy with Harper. They've mostly become disillusioned non-partisans who are uninvolved with politics and hold their noses to vote.

Anyway, this is something we're simply never going to agree about. I'd be more likely to enthusiastically embrace corporate tax cuts or a repeal of the same-sex marriage law than I would be to compromise on this principle.

Deanna,

I agree with you about the Bloc and electoral reform. Isn't it interesting, though, in light of that, that they haven't come out against it? They've chosen instead not to comment on it at all.

lance said...

You're right, we aren't going to agree. . . .

Sorry. I thought we were talking about Canada, not Camelot.

(Which will invariably be dismissed as irrelevant because of it's rightfully sarcastic tone.)

Forgive me, but I can't help but recognize the congruities between the 90's and now and I don't mean you. I will not abuse your ideals, I will ridicule them.

Your post talked about partisanship in absolute terms. (Not your words, but your meaning) "If not PR then no membership."

_How is that not partisan?_

To me, and many on the right, the cry and call for PR is nothing less than, "We're not winning right now, so let's change the goal posts."

I don't agree for many valid reasons, not the least of which is that it's the conservative phase, but that isn't the point.

The point is that your post tried to talk about inclusion but your solution is nothing more than 30M parties.

The only way to reconcile people is to vote; the only way to funnel individual issues is through representatives; the only way to deal with issues on a national scale is through a limited House; the only way to deal with day to day stuff is via a conciliatory bloc; the only way to a conciliatory bloc is via a party _or_ a recognized alliance.

I disagree with your motives towards a PR system and I don't think that giving the fringe a voice is a solution.

Aside from that, I'm sure our politics is close to exact. :)

Cheers,
lance

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

lance,

You clearly don't understand my motives, if you think it has diddlysquat to do with "We're not winning right now, so let's change the goal posts." People like that may well exist, but I'm not one of them. (I actually don't know any of them in the movement, either. People who are that partisan support our goals but can't stomach getting involved in the momement because they'd actually have to *gasp* talk to people who disagree with them!) I'd be in support of electoral reform if my party were in power. If my party came to power, and they suddenly lost interest in electoral reform, I'd tear up my membership card. You get the picture.

As for "Camelot," well, I have lived in a real live country where things exist like a full spectrum of voter choice and multipartisan governments, so you don't have to go quite that far away to have something that's a lot closer to my ideal. Although to be fair, even Canada is closer to my ideal on the "full spectrum of choice" front than the country I grew up in. (Which is why I left.)

lance said...

I think I do understand your motives IP. That's why I'm here, that's why you're on my sidebar.

Somebody needs to keep an eye on you, you're obviously a fifth columnist. All this PR claptrap. Oh, and I'm watching that Saskboy traitor too.

For those in doubt, the above was entirely tongue-in-cheek.

For those who hate the fact that I added the above disclaimer, welcome to liberalism.

Cheers,
lance

Anonymous said...

"If my party came to power, and they suddenly lost interest in electoral reform, I'd tear up my membership card. You get the picture."

I'll wait for that moment with bated breath. In Ontario, the political party that has done most for PR is the Liberal Party. My impression is that PR is on the NDP platform for show. The NDP has had opportunities in several provinces - and all we got were crickets.

edwin

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

edwin,

If your beef is with the party, I am in full agreement (if you look, you will find many, many instances in this blog where I have criticized the Saskatchewan and Manitoba NDPs for exactly this). If you're suggesting that my commitment to electoral reform is "for show," though, you're going to have a hard time finding the evidence to back that up.

Anonymous said...

There are lots of reasons to vote for the NDP. Unfortunately PR is not one of them.

There is certainly interest within the NDP for PR, but I don't think that the NDP takes PR seriously - and I suspect never has.

It is possible with some organizing that the NDP could be serious on PR in the future - though given it's two faced stand on the topic, it would be difficult to figure out how serious it really was.

If the NDP were to get serious on PR I might consider voting for them again - at least until PR came in. (And hence a rather good reason why the NDP is not serious on PR.)

I don't think that your commitment to PR is for show, but I think your comments re: NDP and election reform are for show.

edwin

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

edwin,

I don't think that your commitment to PR is for show, but I think your comments re: NDP and election reform are for show.

I didn't make any comments about the NDP and electoral reform in this post. The only comment about the NDP in the post is to say that "I'm a New Democrat because it's the party with the ideas that best reflect my personal views," which not only doesn't have anything to do with electoral reform, but is immediately followed by a "but." This post isn't about the NDP--it was only the commenters who brought them into the conversation at all.

But okay, if you insist, here are some of my thoughts about the NDP and electoral reform, just for shits and giggles:

The official party position is supportive of electoral reform, but there seem to be different views on it within the federal caucus. Nobody's outright against it. Some think it'd be a good idea for opportunistic reasons, some think it's actually an important issue, and some don't understand it. Layton himself does understand it, and does think it's important, but stops short of being willing to use it as a bargaining chip in cooperation with other parties. Also, despite the strong connection in the NDP between the federal and provincial parties, the federal party hasn't been willing to exert any influence on provincial NDP governments to push this issue, which annoys me no end. They're also married to an MMP model, and highly suspicious of any other forms of PR (including STV), which is also annoying to those of us who think keeping an open mind about models is paramount.

I don't think any of this suggests that the party doesn't care about it, but it does suggest that the party isn't interested in making it a top-priority issue. My best guess as to why they're not is that the strategists think the party would be tarred with the opportunist brush if they made a big deal out of it, so they're better off using their leverage to accomplish other goals, when they have it.

Electoral reformers are pleased that there's a party in parliament that has endorsed electoral reform as a part of its platform, but we don't view the NDP as our allies. We're quite aware that no party is ever going to be trustworthy in this area. That's why we think reform has to come from the grassroots, not from the top down, and specific models for reform have to come from citizens rather than from parties.