Happy election day, fellow British Columbians! Today Canada’s left-most province heads to the polls to determine whether the Liberals or the New Democrats will spend four years being hated by half the politically-passionate population for their greed, cynicism, and incompetence. (The Greens, who have a good chance of winning seats and none of forming government, get to be hated for denying power to whichever of the big two doesn’t win. Nobody said virtue was easy.)
Unless you are unhealthily partisan and in need of a holiday, the question of which party you should support is not important since they are all terrible. I know everybody always says all parties are terrible but seriously, in British Columbia they’re all terrible. Even the ones which get nine votes are terrible. Nothing good has come out of a British Columbia election since Amor De Cosmos.
So of course, the only thing every British Columbian who thinks about politics can agree on is that you should definitely vote for one of these losers.
Some of these calls come from those political obsessives who’ve spent the past thousand years filling your Facebook with campaign advertising and is convinced that anybody who stuck it out with him this long is sure to vote the right way. “Please, friends, remember to get out and vote today, the sooner to drag our enemies into the street and beat them to death with sacks of their ill-gotten loot.” Many of these people are likable in civilian life and will spend tonight getting either very sad drunk or very happy drunk, so a generous mind will view these with the same polite indulgence you give any friend whining about work problems you have no investment in.
But a second group believes that voting is a sacred duty which must be evangelized by advertisements and Twitter posts. For the past month British Columbians have been treated, at taxpayer expense, to the handsomely-made-up face of former hockey star Trevor Linden telling people “I vote.” Good for him. Linden is currently “president, hockey operations” at the Vancouver Canucks, who just finished 29th in a 30-team league. I am disinclined to take him as a role model.
Voting is never bad. That doesn’t make it an strict obligation. If you skip jury duty or dodge your taxes, other citizens must take up the burden; not so for the non-voter. If you do not vote, you most certainly may complain. If you do not use your vote, there is no reason to think you might lose it. (Not to Godwin myself, but turnout for the November 1932 Reichstag election that led to Hitler taking power was over 80% despite the previous election having been in July.) Even an election with low turnout amounts to a poll of the 50-some percent of the population that has the most interest in the result; pollsters get reasonable accuracy with samples one one-thousandth that size. It is impossible to imagine how more uninterested people being forced to cast ballots could make anything better.
My riding is contested only by a Liberal, a New Democrat, and a Green. No hopeless minor party candidate or independent trying to get his deposit back. Even as individuals the candidates are lousy: two generic pious-left-wing-big-government professional politicians and a Toronto-educated hippie who worked at the Pembina Institute. The thought of casting a ballot for one of those causes violent shaking and intermittent but energetic vomiting of blood.
Proponents of turnout truthiness would tell me to spoil my ballot. Write “DEEZ NUTS” across the paper as a protest against the province’s filth-spewing political machines! If enough of us did it, it could theoretically make a difference, as a tolerable candidate would see the massive DEEZ NUTS turnout and say “I’m sure I could win these guys over, even though all I know is that they think the Liberals, NDP, and Greens suck and have nothing better to do on a Tuesday.”
I am not aware of a case where this has worked. In the most recent French election, a relatively-colossal 11.5% of voters either spoiled their ballot or left it blank. This has been widely noted and covered in the press. It seems that choosing between Creepy Cuck and High-Heel Hitler provoked a great deal of discontent. However, honestly, we knew that already. Many other candidates tried to break through to the French presidency, they just failed in the first round. What do those spoiled ballots prove, “we would rather have voted for the guy we voted for earlier?” Cool.
Voting “none of the above” does not automatically lead to better options; how could it even theoretically, when reactionary me and my full-Communist neighbour would both go down as “spoiled or invalid?” Several new Canadian parties have formed in my lifetime and become successes, but none rose out of spoiled-ballot indignation.
Spoiling my ballot would spend my own time, that of everybody behind me in line, and that of our kind election volunteers, to achieve nothing. The only thing preventing a spoiled ballot from being the acme of narcissism is that the vote is secret, so I’d need a ballot selfie to show what a transgressive badass I am. Pulling an Australia and compelling me to vote would make my life and the lives of other well-meaning citizens worse for no gain. Admittedly this would be so in-character for British Columbia politics I’m amazed they haven’t already done it.
As to the idea of endorsing a hateful candidate to stick it to candidates I like even less, this is such a negative approach that its toxicity hurts everything it touches. A vote should be to support some ideal, not to oppose somebody else’s out of resentment. It encourages terrible parties that can count on a large “keep the bastards out!” vote to stay terrible, which British Columbians know something about, erodes the chance for new parties to make our politics less bad, and reduces democracy to spite.
If you have a dog in this fight, or you don’t really but still have an opinion strong enough to be worth the time and trouble, vote away. However you may spare the sanctimony for us non-voters, who are not invariably lazy freeloaders on your holy labour of democracy. We may have our reasons not to endorse any part of our province’s poisonous political pu-pu platter, and “because I have something better to do” is a valid one. If our candidates are so awful that their visions are less compelling than staying at work, don’t blame the victims for it.