why strategic voting sucks

Many people in Toronto hate Rob Ford and are horrified that he might soon be the mayor of their great city.

Many of the same people are uncomfortable with George Smitherman, who is less offensive than Ford, but politically different only by degree. There's a reason Joe Pantalone calls Smitherman "the return of Mike Harris," and why dozens of Tories line up to endorse him.

These same folks who hate Rob Ford and dislike George Smitherman tend to like Joe Pantalone. They believe he would make a good mayor. But, because they believe he has no chance of winning, they claim they must "vote strategically" for the "lesser of two evils".


Your candidate has no chance of winning? Vote for him and give him a better chance of winning.

Lesser of two evils? You are voting for evil. Why do you want to vote for evil? Why are you content to vote for evil when there is an alternative?

I'm not here to argue Ford vs Smitherman vs Pantalone. To me it is very obvious that Pantalone is the only progressive candidate, and progressive people should vote for him.

I'm here to state a very simple fact: vote for who you want. Vote for the candidate who best represents your values. If every Torontonian eligible to vote votes for the person he or she prefers for mayor, Toronto will get the mayor it wants. But if people vote for who they think is less-worse, then the best you'll get is less-worse. And less-worse is not good.

Don't be fooled by appearances and rhetoric. The mainstream Canadian media acts like Barack Obama is the polar opposite of his predecessor in the White House. But their policies are nearly identical, and in some areas, Obama is worse. George Smitherman may not be as scary as Rob Ford, but what does he stand for? What is his vision for Toronto?

And for dog's sake, don't vote for the man because he's gay. That's just stupid. Unless you're prepared to argue that all gay people think exactly alike - meaning, gay people are stereotypes and cartoons, not real people - then don't vote for someone because he's gay. Or because she's a woman. Or brown. Or white.

When you vote for a centre-right candidate to keep a right-wing candidate from getting in, you help move the centre further to the right. And every time the centre moves rightward, so does the right wing. And progressive thought becomes ever more marginalized, and more people say the progressive candidate has no chance of winning, and so they vote centre-right, and on it goes.

For a demonstration of what happens when people continually vote for the lesser of two evils with no viable alternative, look no further than our neighbours to the south. If you think you can distinguish between the Democrats and the Republicans - not on rhetoric, on action - you might want to check the voting records.

When there are only two candidates running, the "lesser of two evils" argument might make sense. I say "might," because I am personally done with voting for evil, at all, ever. But if there is an alternative, you don't have to vote for any evil. You can vote for the person you want.

So please, do that.


DavidHeap said...

"I'd rather vote for what I want and not get it, than vote for what I don't want and get it."
True when Eugene Debs said it, and still true today.

L-girl said...

Hooray for our friend EVD! Great quote.

Nitangae said...

Agreed. I suppose I could modify this to admit that, when I like two politicians more or less, I will sometimes vote for the one I like somewhat less if he/she is much more likely to get in (this was true in pretty much every election in Edmonton - I would look what the Liberal and NDP candidates had to say, then if both looked fine to me I would bicycle around to count the lawn signs)

Another good Edmonton example is the case of Edmonton's current mayor. Edmontonians were told that they had the choice between Mayor "I am a great salesman!" Smith and "former young-conservative hope" Noce. We would be wasting our vote to vote for Mandel, we were told - but Mandel go in.

In any case, Smitherman sounds really awful. I think that if I was going to vote strategically in Toronto (which would mean that I was living in Toronto once more, which would be wonderful) I would vote for Ford. Otherwise, if I was using my brain, I would vote for Pantalone. Strong support for Pantalone will help when he runs four years from now, and tells the city that the left has not completely vanished.

redsock said...

I think that if I was going to vote strategically in Toronto ... I would vote for Ford.

I think you made a typo. Ford is, quite simply, a disgusting person and an embarrassment to the human race. (shitrobfordsays)

L-girl said...

The link in the first sentence of this post, FordOnFord.ca, is worth visiting.

Woti-woti said...

How about the "None of the Above" on the ballot? I apologize, but I forget where I saw this discussion (one of the US primary races, I think), but the gist was that if "None of the Above" won the most votes, all the listed candidates would have to withdraw, not be able to run again, and the process would start over. Food for thought. Might even get people off the couch.

impudent strumpet said...

I wish I'd started blogging about the election early on. I purposely avoided it because I don't like that the campaign is taking up the better part of the year and didn't want to encourage it. But way early on, before the G20, before the media started treating Rob Ford like a credible candidate, I was noticing that Smitherman was shifting bizarrely rightward, and I was thinking that the media wasn't paying nearly as much attention to Joe Pantalone as they should have been. I wish I had blogged it, I'm petty enough to want to get in a good "told you so!"

Just for fun, a conspiracy theory: Ford was convinced/encouraged to run by Smitherman's camp, to make him look like the reasonable alternative.

L-girl said...

@Woti, I agree that a NOTA option would be worthwhile on many ballots. In this case, though, there is someone good to vote for.

No state or municipality in the US uses that, to my knowledge. I have heard of it... but I don't know from where.

@ImpStrump, it may not be a formal conspiracy, as in collusion, but it is definitely the way the system functions. In the US, it's why people think CNN is liberal - because they compare it to Fox. Or why USians thought Bill Clinton was liberal!! (Ha ha ha.)

Kim_in_TO said...

I voted for Smitherman as MPP just because he was gay. I thought it would be wonderful to have a gay MP, a gay MPP, and a gay councillor. Boy, did I learn my lesson. Never again. (Smitherman's term as MPP earned him the nickname "Slitherman".)

There is an official method for voting "none of the above" - at least in provincial elections; not sure if it can be done in municipal elections. This comes from one of my activist friends, and I think she may actually try it on Monday. When you go into the polling station, you check in with your ID and then you tell them that you wish to refuse your vote. Your vote gets officially counted that way, which registers as a protest, which is completely different from not voting (which is not a protest!) or spoiling your ballot (which most people assume means you're an idiot who can't follow instructions). The only problem with this is that the vast majority of the people staffing the polling station have probably never encountered this before and may not know what to do.

johngoldfine said...

And for dog's sake, don't vote for the man because he's gay. That's just stupid. Unless you're prepared to argue that all gay people think exactly alike - meaning, gay people are stereotypes and cartoons, not real people - then don't vote for someone because he's gay. Or because she's a woman. Or brown. Or white.

I agree with that so much! It's primitive and tribalistic to pull the lever on any basis other than the candidate's beliefs, actions, promises, plans.

But at least here in the US of A we do seem to be hardwired to tend to want to vote for the taller, cuter, bigger-haired, more alpha candidate, the one who wears a splash of red. So, maybe primitive tribalism represents progress....

Rick Barnes said...

@Kim I had heard about Smitherman in BC, People were excited that there was a Gay MPP in Toronto and a Gay council rep.

Now I have been in Ontario 5 years, the last 2 1/2 in Toronto I an getting to know and love my new city.

I have seen how Smitherman works, have seen how they operate as a cartel. Unless you are a pretty gay boy who wants to get married, you can kiss your chances of a good hearing form his group good bye.

He is a bully in my opinion. He walked out of the gay debate after 30 minutes because he had to go get an endorsement from a Quebec MP.

Rob Ford is a jerk and you can see that, he is upfront about it. Smitherman tries to sound progressive but slides to the right as easily as Rob Ford.

I posted this article on my blog. Is Smitherman blackmailing voters?

I am voting for Joe. I really don't think it will be different if Ford or Smitherman becomes Mayor.

L-girl said...

@Kim, thank you for the NOTA info! Excellent! I doubt I would ever use it, but people should know about it.

@JohnGoldfine, there is a lot less of that in Canada than in the US. I've not seen candidates discussed in terms of firm handshakes, looks in their eye, how they dress, cute smiles, etc., as I do in the US. Parliament is chock full of very ordinary people. When we first moved here, a male MP had made very sexist remarks against another MP, and he was widely condemned - not in the sense of being forced into a phony apology, but in the sense of, don't bring that into a political debate. Allan and I were stunned - the type of comments he made were par for the course in the US.

I would just quibble with the idea that we are "hard-wired" to think in those terms. I think it's cultural, not innate.

@Rick Barnes, thanks for that insight. Here's my take on Smitherman. He wants to privatize public services. End of story.

Nitangae said...

Dear Red Sock:

No I didn't make a type-o. My opinion is the same as Rick Barnes - I wouldn't vote for either. Rather I would vote for Pantalone. But to vote for a clever thug like Smitherman to avoid a stupid thug like Ford would be really stupid (chosing King Stork over King Log), regardless of how horrible a human being Ford is (and I have read the same newspaper articles, so I don't doubt that he is a horrible human being). Smitherman worries me a lot more than Ford.