I was going to respond to Alex Kane’s article on not voting, but found Barton Creeth got there first over on Slugger. I agree with every word.
Furthermore, I grow increasingly frustrated with people’s refusal to vote on a single issue, or even on a single slant on a single issue, as if that makes them (politicians) “all the same”. It doesn’t.
In fact, the vast advances we have made in Northern Ireland over the past 20 years – from a country nearly at war to a country at peace; from a country stained by conflict to a country hosting major sporting events and conferences; from a country of utter despair to a country of perfectly normal cynicism like everywhere else – came about as a result of compromise.
The failure of the Haass talks was met with indignation by some because of the parties’ failure to compromise. Here is the thing, though: the same people who condemned that failure are now themselves too often refusing to compromise!
Our electoral system is a preference system – you don’t have to agree with any given candidate absolutely (in fact you never will), you just have to rank them in preference.
Ultimately this was all summed up brilliantly by ‘Comrade Stalin‘, whose comment I recycle in its entirety because it sums it all up perfectly and I agree with every word.
It’s a very good article Barton. I agree with you and not Alex (although I respect Alex’s perspective a great deal).
I am a participationist (is that a word ? I guess it is now) who believes that abstention is never the answer and that everyone must try all possible options before abandoning the process. In the USA, you can usually write-in your preferred candidate, infinitely preferable to abstaining. Here, we have a very wide range of candidates to choose from.
The problem I think we do have here is that people have very unrealistic expectations about what politics and politicians can achieve. This leads to the belief that we have no choice in candidates here (expressed on twitter a short time ago). People also seem to expect that the politician they give their vote to has to agree with the precise combination of values and principles that they hold themselves, especially if they are voters who are not obsessed by the constitutional question. Failure to tick any one of the myriad boxes rules the candidate out of consideration.
This is, in fact, a “not an inch” mentality. Even moderate thinkers and voters who would consider themselves progressive are infused with this notion that you come up with your principles and things you want to see in government, you stick to them, and you exclude from consideration everyone who does not fit. Which pretty much means excluding everyone.
The way I think we should be looking at the vote is to say, well, I don’t completely agree with the guy, but on balance the country would be in better shape if he was in charge than the incumbents. Straight away, that gives me four candidates to vote for in the European election (Alliance, Green, NI21, Tory), and all I need to do now is sort them in order of preference. Then I can work further down the ballot paper, probably next to SDLP and SF, then the least-worst of the unionists in order.
Instead, people are like, “that guy voted to cut civil service pensions so I can’t vote for him, and there’s nobody else so I’ll abstain”, ultimately a pointless protest which will lead both to poorer government as well as no restoration of the pensions. A more serious matter, closer to home, is “I can’t vote for Alliance because of their failure on gay marriage in the assembly” – an understandable act borne from frustration, but one which ignores the fact that the party fully supports marriage equality and, if it were in power, would see it enacted – unlike the incumbent unionist parties who will benefit from abstaining “moderate” voters.
He adds that this is all neatly summed up here.