the Informed

The Canadian Election: Philosophies On Voting (Or Not) In An Unethical Society

As the Canadian federal election looms, a record number of citizens are going to the polls and voicing their opinion. Many people are employing a tactic known as strategic voting (also referred to as insincere voting - which we'll get into), in an attempt to oust the much-maligned Conservative Party of Canada. 

But given the innumerable cases of unethical actions taken by government (this or any other), coupled with the corruption and inequality inherent in a capitalist system, the act of voting itself becomes a complex decision informed by one's basic ideologies and fundamental worldview, but more often than not, the act of voting defies these beliefs. How one votes becomes a reflection of how one views this mess we live in. The tangled web of political rhetoric and outright deceit make things almost impossible to make sense of, and in the end one must decide if one even believes in such a social order at all. In this article, we will take a look at so-called strategic voting, whether a person has a social duty to vote, and what is implicit in the act of voting itself in this modern world.

We live in a world dominated by long-held ideologies which are so ingrained in our culture that it has become very hard to envision any other way of doing things. This is referred to as indoctrination. But the risk associated with such long-held beliefs is that a person becomes immune to the possibility that other ways of organizing ourselves are not only possible, but necessary. And it is into this arena that we delve.

The Society In Which We Live:

With the Canadian federal election at hand, it is time yet again to take stock of our beliefs and values and decide what to do with it all, whether it be in good conscience or not. It is, by no means, a trifle that I, for one, can easily cast aside and ignore, and whether I chose to vote or not, it is not because of a lack of thoughtfulness or caring in the matter. It never has been.

If we have learned anything in our collective time here, it is that we always continue to evolve, continue to learn and grow, and adopt new ways of doing things. Things that once seemed so immutable become juvenile as we move beyond them. Change is the only constant, and it is persistent. Yet, despite the destabilization happening across society, the inequality that widens day by day, the use of political and military force to enforce corporate agendas, we continue to blindly accept that our current political system is, at a minimum, acceptable. Or we say that it's the only one we have so it will have to do for now.  But maybe rather than ask ourselves we now live in a plutocracy, with the real power in the hands of a few, rich men who hold no officewho the best leader should be, should we maybe not ask if this system is really working, or whether we even need it or need an elected leader at all? Since we have little or no influence in the day-to-day decisions made by our elected leaders, and since there is currently no legally binding obligation for our elected leaders to follow through on promises made on the campaign trail, what then are we really voting for when we cast our ballot? Is it possible that the financial and business interests of our country wield far more power than the little men and women that we elect? Is it possible that they also have an owner? Despite everything they tell us, despite all the rhetoric, we no longer live in a democracy. We now live in a plutocracy, with the real power in the hands of a few, rich men who hold no office. This is a fundamental thing to remember when you cast your vote for leader of this country.

The Duty To Vote:

Many people strongly believe that all citizens in a so-called democracy have a duty to vote, and that it is necessary in keeping a democracy alive and healthy (if that's what you would call this system). As Winston Churchill pointed out, a five-minute conversation with the average voter will make you well aware that the populous is generally out to lunch on the issues. Yet, most still believe that we have a duty to cast our ballots, to endorse the system that has treated so many so poorly.

It must be pointed out that the democratic process cannot, by its nature, transform immoral acts into moral ones. Laws written in books cannot make evil deeds just. And when a vote is cast for such a system, when one participates in an election, they are signing their name to countess misdeeds and offences. To participate makes you an accomplice, even if your intent is good.

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter - Winston Churchill

Imagine a man walking down the street with a hundred dollar bill in his pocket. A group of men approach and decide to take this man's money, but they will vote to decide what is best to do with the money once taken. The poor fellow being robbed is also allowed his vote, to be fair. Whatever the outcome, this man will still be robbed, and therefore, even if the money is used for good, a crime is being committed against a fellow human being. When you vote in a federal election, you do just this. In an organized society, there are many ways that a person can contribute, and voting is just one of them, but there is no duty to vote, although there may be a duty to contribute. I would argue that many people contribute far, far more to the greater good than casting a vote, and they have never voted in their lives. There is never a duty to participate in something immoral, and if a system that commits immoral actions insists that you endorse it through the act of voting, you have every right as a autonomous individual, indeed a duty, to say no.

Strategic Voting & Ethics:

While there are many people in Canada and elsewhere that want to do the right thing, there is a sense of powerlessness on a day-to-day basis for most of them. But when a federal election rears its head, many suddenly feel empowered to change things for the better. The current leader may have been supportive of environmentally irresponsible treaties, of furthering globalization, of succumbing to the will of powerful corporate lobbyist and their money, and of utilizing military assets in unjustified and immoral ways. But there is a new dawn imminent with the prospect of a new leader, and despite the record that history shows, they believe that this will be the time that our elected leader follows through. This time things will be different. Change we can believe in.

It is this drive that causes people to act against their core values through the action of strategic voting. Rather than vote based upon what they do want, they end up voting for what they don't want by casting their ballot in favour of the apparent second place candidate in hopes of toppling the incumbent bastard they loathe. This is a common feature of a first-past-the-post voting system, such as the one in place in Canada. In many cases, the second place candidate, the one that the people hope will topple the they are voting for an indistinguishable half of a rotten whole, and no change can happen in this system. It is akin to borrowing money to pay off a debtincumbent if they band together in their strategic voting, hold many of the same values and is in fact indistinguishable form the current ruler. The powers that be, the corporate plutocratic rule, love when this happens as they are sure to have their same policies in place when the new leader takes power. Anyone far enough away from the incumbent politically, anyone capable of actually making any real change, would not have a snowball's chance in hell of toppling the incumbent leader, and therefore it becomes the perception that any vote cast for them would be the same as a vote cast for the current leader. They rationalize that the only logical choice is to vote for the candidate most likely to topple the current leader given enough combined support. Even if this means voting against one's core values and beliefs. And this is never the right thing to do.

There are many problems associated with this form of insincere voting, not the least of which is that the effect often ends up being far from what was intended by the voting public. Not only is the voter voting against their beliefs, they are in fact eroding their so-called democracy slowly over time by constantly voting for the same core group that upholds the status quo. They are voting for an indistinguishable half of a rotten whole, and no change can happen in this system. It is akin to borrowing money to pay off a debt, with the hope that some good fortune will transpire. But alas, they must borrow yet again to pay the debt the next time as well. A vicious cycle indeed. That, my friends, is strategic voting.

Strategic Voting In Practice:

In the current Canadian election, there is a strong movement encouraging citizens to vote strategically in order to oust Stephen Harper, the reviled conservative leader. Yet in order to do this, they will need to band together to vote for the Liberal candidate, all but indistinguishable from the former. In terms of key issues, there is no variance between the two, especially as far a corporate interests are concerned. Harper supports the Keystone XL pipeline, so does Trudeau, the Liberal leader. Harper supports further free-trade agreements, so Trudeau supports them. Harper supports intervention in Iraq, so does Trudeau. Harper's policies widen the gap between rich and poor, so do Trudeau's. Neither party has a clear policy on tackling climate change, and neither supports a federal minimum wage. The list goes on and on and on. It is clear that they work for the same masters. They do no work for you and I, not in the least. In fact, your best interests are not even considered in their political process.

Tactical voting did not achieve the desired outcome in 2011 (Harper won anyway) and it has certainly not done the Americans any good by voting for the lesser of two evils either. Not only this, but again I have to reiterate, it requires voting against one's values. This can never be justified. How can it be considered wrong to not vote, yet it is morally acceptable to vote against one's core values in order to achieve essentially nothing? This logic is deeply flawed.

He Who Chooses Not To Vote Chooses Wisely:

If our elected leaders do not act in your best interests, and those who might act thusly have little to no chance of grasping the baton of power (and even if they did, do you think the corporate elite would suddenly bend to their will?) then maybe it becomes prudent to not endorse such a system. Maybe it is time to look beyond the pettiness of the local representatives' agendas and look to a greater goal - the goal of creating a just and fair system, where key public interests are free from corporate claws and free from profiteering. Maybe it is time to consider a system that sees all of its citizens as valuable, and treats those in need accordingly. Maybe it is time to look beyond the chains of an out-dated political system and decide to do something real, something in alignment with our values. Something that is moral and fair for all. This current political and social system is not that, and it is time for real change. There is no real promise left in this system, but there are other ways. It is time for politics to get up to speed with everything we have learned. I may choose not to vote, but I choose to do so much more.

If voting changed anything, the wouldn't let you do it. - Mark Twain

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