Saturday, 20 October 2012

A Bestiary of Voters – Voter 4

THE PEOPLE-CAN’T-HANDLE-PARADOXES NON-VOTER / THIRD-PARTY VOTER. “Wake up, fellow Americans. The founding fathers didn’t foresee the rise of mass membership parties. They didn’t count on the domination of elections by money and by modern media technologies. The American Constitution just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. [Or some variation thereof.] This is true, but it’s hard! It’s a big leap for most folks to believe it! How will folks ever make that leap if the person who’s telling them goes ahead and votes anyway? Me, I put a premium on the exemplary quality of my actions! People won’t believe me that the electoral system is broken, that there’s no real difference between the main candidates, if I go ahead and vote for one or the other anyway.”

Okay, so this is a little better. But I think we all have a tendency to overestimate the wider social power of the norms we apply to ourselves as individuals. If you really are placing a premium on the exemplary power of a certain principle, you ought to consider how those around you may reinterpret and adapt that principle. You ought to consider the implications of that principle moving through myriad minutely-differentiated social, cultural and institutional contexts.

That sounds a bit obscure! Maybe this is better – you ought to ask yourself, “Who, specifically, am I hoping to persuade? Who have I persuaded so far?”

And of course, you have to have interim goals. For example, in the case of a no-vote or a spoiled ballot, and urging others to follow your example, sometimes the strategy seems to be to erode the duopoly’s democratic mandate. Okay, you may admit, the ways in which elections are funded, covered in the media, and finally determined fully demonstrate that there already is no mandate – but perhaps a mass no show, if it were ever achieved, would . . . what, exactly? UPDATE: Well, this is a start I guess!

It wouldn’t stop government, that’s for tootin’. If you need an example of laughingly easeful governance without mandate, examine the UK over the past two years. The Coalition has treated government like some horrid little Oxbridge picnic-cum-swimming expedition, and democratic mandate like the swimming cozzies they forgot to pack on purpose for that extra fruity frisson. With respect to education, for instance, the British public incontrovertibly elected many more MPs promising to oppose tuition fees than promising to support them, and yet the British public now must pay tuition fees. With respect to healthcare, the Conservatives, despite not even holding a half the House of Commons, have managed to do literally the opposite of what they pledged to do during their campaign – and they haven’t even had to rely on some kind of specialist expert mandate (the medical profession has on the whole fiercely opposed the reforms), to plead changed and extenuating circumstances, or to look awkward or abashed.

I don’t mean “what exactly?” as a snarky rhetorical question; it’s a genuine plea for super-specificity. Who stops voting first? At which elections? What happens next? How do the big, well-funded parties understand what’s happening? How do they respond? Who stops voting next? Etc.!

More later!

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