Mon, 23 Jan 2006

Well, it’s voting day and I still don’t know who I’m going to vote for. I’ve always been an indecisive voter – I usually find myself marking the ballot with a vague sense of guilt that I’m too ill-informed to participate in the democratic process. Often my final decision amounts to little better than a coin toss. Luckily, I have been consistently spared the responsibility of having made the wrong choice: my chosen candidate is always soundly defeated. As I’m in a fairly safe Conservative riding it appears that, whoever I choose, my candidate will be defeated again today. I take comfort in the knowledge that my decision is inconsequential.

Voting must be so much easier for people whose views pile up neatly somewhere along the left-right axis. The folks who favour gun control, distrust big business, embrace multiculturalism, and think we’re too cosy with the United States probably knew from day one where they were going to be parking their vote. Same with the get-tough-on-crime, traditional-definition-of-marriage crowd. It is my belief that this is not the way most Canadians – in fact, most humans – approach politics; talking with the average schmoe on the street you discover that support for gay marriage can coexist happily in his mind with a capital gains tax cut, that he may dislike George Bush’s foreign policy but also favour privatising the CBC, he may hate Big Oil but hate the wheat board even more.

I don’t think this is because the schmoe on the street is ignorant. It’s because he’s insulated from the tidy narratives of professional ideologues. He just doesn’t realise, or care, that the environment is a “left-wing” concern and law-and-order is a “right-wing” concern; he prefers to order his politics à la carte, while the parties are offering only Combination Meal A, B, or C. For the schmoes – I should confess that I’m a schmoe – voting is a complicated, disheartening process of prioritising one’s beliefs and settling on the least-unsuitable candidate. This is made harder by having to vote strategically in order to get the least-unsuitable party into power at the national level. It’s way too much to think about. Yet somehow our half-assed decision-making averages out and we wind up with a moderately competent, transparent government that doesn’t really please anyone but that most of us are willing to live with anyhow.

That’s why I’m not too fearful of tonight’s outcome. In 2004 Canadians repudiated the wild-and-woolly Conservatives; in response, the party hid away its more objectionable members in Stephen Harper’s backyard fallout shelter and came out with the slightly less wild-and-woolly 2006 platform. Now Stephen Harper gets to be Prime Minister for a while, provided he behaves; but if his Alberta caucus comes storming out of the wilderness and smashing all the statuary, Canadians will just kick them out again in a few years. Round and round she goes. But that doesn’t answer the question of who I should vote for today.


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