Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Further Thought on Strategic Voting

There was a little piece in the 'Ethics' column of the Toronto Star last weekend that really struck me. A card-carrying member of the NDP asked whether it would be 'ethical' to vote for a party they didn't favour in order to deny a majority to a party they despised. This was the answer:

Do I do the unthinkable to thwart Mr. Harper?

A: Strategic voting is a dangerous game that has a way of biting us back.

Many Liberals will attest to this: It was strategic voting at their leadership convention that got them into the St├ęphane Dion mess in the first place.

But you are asking about ethics, not political strategy – and they are rarely the same. In this election you're caught in a situation of conflicting loyalties. You feel loyal to a group of people you have supported, worked with and come to respect.

But you also want to be loyal to your country, and worry that "wasting" your vote on a candidate who can't win helps deliver the nation into the hands of someone you detest – if not personally, then certainly politically.

So the question is: Which loyalty takes precedence? And the answer is clear, to me at least: Loyalty to country trumps loyalty to party. It's a question, ultimately, of who serves whom. Political parties exist to serve Canada, not vice versa.

I will repeat that:


And yes, he also says that the ethical thing to do would be to give up the NDP membership, at least for the duration. But I think a better idea is here.

I thought of that again today when I read about the three IPCC scientists who came out with a plea today for Green supporters to vote strategically to stop Harper.

What are your loyalties?

FYI, Halton is most certainly one of those swing ridings where the Green vote could make a difference. Or the NDP. Or, well, the Saturday night crowd at The Dickens.

Vote for Garth. I'll explain why later.


  1. Nice try but the dippers aren't buying this stale fearmongering.

  2. Too bad. The NDP would stand to gain over a dozen seats more with strategic voting than they would without.

  3. NDP supporters might be a little more supportive of the plan, if there wasn't a suspicion that this is all a scam to get them to vote Liberal. After all, this is largely an initiative supported and promoted by Liberals or their sympathizers and it is always, always, always aimed at NDPers or Greens. Why is Durham more important than Edmonton Strathcona? Where are the appeals to Liberals to vote Green in Saanich Gulf Island? Why, oh why is it always Greens, Dippers, save the nation, vote Liberal?

  4. Really? Avaaz is Liberal? The IPCC is Liberal?

    If the NDP had the best shot in Halton, I would vote for Rob Wagner in a heartbeat. If the call were ONLY for ridings where the NDP or Bloc were running a close second, it would still be a brilliant idea.

    This is why Dion and Rae and the rest should NOT be pushing this, because for the vast majority of people who are supporting the idea of 'smart' strategic voting, it has nothing to do with partisanship for the Liberals or any other party.

    I'm sorry you don't believe that, but it's true.

  5. Strategic voting is becoming the hot button issue this election. Our electoral system has failed us. Our leaders have failed us. We're hacking the system with strategic voting and vote swapping, made more powerful by the social web.

    Our approach with has been to give people tools to inform their choice, to vote strategically and vote smart based on the dynamics on the ground in YOUR RIDING. It's imperfect, but it's what we got.

    We also believe that we are part of a broad multi-partisan movement that will exist after the election. Joining the AnyoneButHarper movement is about more than strategic voting - it's about coordinating the power of progressive Canadians regardless of party affiliation.

  6. really good post Jennifer. I used to be like what you describe in your leanings, but since Layton, I've seen a different NDP - more concerned about digging up and feeding the deep hatred against Liberals than in finding common ground for the betterment of Canada and Canadians.

    Makes no sense why in a riding like Tony Clement's, for example (and I don't remember who is second there, NDP or Liberal) the left still won't combine their efforts for a greater good.

    We are no longer a three party system, the political and world climate is different, so the old ways don't work, at least this time around.

    On top of that, the split could easily give Harper back the power, not because the majority want it, but because we have played into his hands and fought each other.

    All he had to do was run a very short campaign, sit back, and try to stay out of trouble, offering few statements to attack or criticize, and an empty platform late in the day.

    Yes, strategic voting would give a Liberal minority, but as you said, NDP would get more seats, as would Bloc (though they are doing fine on their own) and possibly Green. But can most non-Lib lefties honestly say there's no difference between a Lib minority - especially one under Dion (this isn't Chretien) and Harper, then they should look back over what Harper has done over the past 2 years and how often "unprecedented" came up in reference to his actions.

    The most dangerous part - but perhaps not immediate - is the steady undermining of democracy, access to information, and freedom of speech.

    Put Harper back in through our division, and living to fight another day will be harder for all of us because he is constantly finding ways to silence us. Media is more conservative, and bloggers - remember Day's plans to access telecom records? Unfettered access to our ip addresses, e-mails...many of us will be shut down, I believe, and our jobs could be threatened, depending on where we work.

    As I mentioned before, check your site meters. All those government searches aren't for content.

    This isn't a football game. Backing a losing team in football doesn't affect more than a hangover or two. Blind loyalty to colours in an election - especially this election, could have very serious, long reaching consequences in which we all lose.

    There are Liberals advocating an NDP vote in ridings where NDP numbers are higher than Libs. This isn't a Lib conspiracy, it's just that they stand to win more seats because of the base support.

    We can really do something good for the environment, for rights and freedoms, for all those things the eft shares in common.

    I don't want to watch those numbers coming in tomorrow and see another Harper government. We can't afford it, the damage will be great, and to know it will have happened due to fighting between left parties who hold similar concerns would be...heartbreaking, discouraging when considering what we value most.

  7. You know the random fearmongering isn't working when even Warren Kinsella said another minority Harper government isn't a big deal. If he so much as steps out of line in the next few years from the centre he is straddling, an election will be called again, and voters will take him to task.

    Jennifer, you really have to ask whether Stephen Harper is as big and bad a monster as the echo chamber tell you he is. I think people should vote for the candidate they believe in, not the fears of what might be. Nothing was ever accomplished by throwing away principle for desperation.

  8. Raph, it's not the 'echo chamber' telling me what Harper would do with a majority - it's his own actions since being elected with a minority.

    All the stuff he doesn't need parliamentary assent to do, he's already done or started to do: incremental deregulation and privatization, cancelling programs that help pesky people who don't vote Conservative, firing experienced bureaucrats and replacing them with incompetent yes men...

    There is no hidden agenda here. It's all out in the open. It would be easier if it was about abortion or gay marriage, but people like Harper only pay lip service to that kind of crap when they think it will buy them votes. The real goal isn't nearly as scary sounding, but it's far more dangerous.

    But hey, if you're one of those who honestly believes that there's nothing government can do that the free market can't do better... well, welcome to my nightmare.

    Here's hoping you stay healthy and employed.