Friday, April 20, 2012

Strategic Voting

Strategic voting is a loaded term. It has connotations of selling out and abandoning your principles. I understand this viewpoint, but it's far too idealistic in the real world of politics with real-world consequences. In my opinion it describes citizens participating in their democracy as effectively as possible. Consider this: if even 10% of the Floridians who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 would have voted strategically instead, George Bush would not have become president. That's a real-world consequence of following your conscience instead of playing the game.

I certainly did not follow my conscience when I became a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta last year. I have never voted PC in my life, and I don't plan to start anytime soon although I do try to keep an open mind. But when the second leadership ballot looked like a close race between Gary Mar and Alison Redford, I decided it was worth it to spend five bucks and hold my nose to help choose the lesser of two evils to run our province. I'm not sure if I helped make the world a better place or not, but I don't regret doing this. I ripped up my PC membership card the next day, although I'm now on their damn mailing list forever.

Monday's provincial election is the first one in forty years that may not end up with a majority PC government. There is also a fair chance that the Wildrose party will form the government. The polls are very close right now, and there has been a lot more noise and bias than usual in the polling data so it's hard to know. In some ways I'm almost hoping for a Wildrose win just so we can officially hit rock bottom. I can only imagine the daily stream of offensive, bigoted comments that seem to be the specialty of Wildrose candidates. I doubt the Wildrose honeymoon would last very long - it would be more like waking up hung over with a naked stranger in your bed who you thought looked pretty good the night before.

So despite being Caucasian and heterosexual, I will not be voting Wildrose. Nor will I be voting PC even though the local candidate is likely to win his fifth election in a row. Which leaves me with three centre/left so-called "progressive" options: the Alberta Party, NDP and Liberal.

Unlike their national cousins, the Alberta NDP are rooted in their traditional politics and seem content to be the vocal minority. I voted NDP in the last federal election partly because I saw a new commitment to becoming a responsible, reasonable, professional party capable of governing. I don't see this in Alberta yet.

I would like to give my vote to the Alberta Party as encouragement for the future. If there is any hope of uniting the progressive side of Alberta politics, this might be the best party to make it happen. I've just been reviewing some of their platform online, and I find it a little vague in places but on the whole it represents what I believe in. I hope the AP can elect one or two MLAs next week: Sue Huff, leader Glenn Taylor and a couple of others have realistic chances.

But I will likely support my local Liberal candidate, for three reasons and despite one. The one negative is I have no confidence in Liberal leader Raj Sherman. He has one election under his belt (as a PC) and seems to be unable to articulate his party's vision. I have supported the ALP in the past mainly because of their common-sense platform under former leaders Kevin Taft and David Swann. The party is now in danger of being wiped off the map and even Sherman's own seat is not a certainty.

On the other hand, I have read through Rick Szostak's website and he strikes me as intelligent, earnest and generally a deserving candidate. Then I heard second-hand reports from last night's candidates forum that he was by far the most impressive in answering questions and addressing issues. Finally, the closest thing to a organized strategic vote, ChangeAlberta, has recommended Rick as the progressive choice in my constituency. 

Unless there are any last-minute gaffes or polling surprises, I think this is where my vote is going on Monday. It is somewhat strategic but I will still be able to sleep at night. I can only look forward to the day where my vote actually matters, instead of merely sending a message. But there are a lot of races where the Wildrose and PCs may split the conservative vote almost evenly, and here is where strategic voting might make a difference. It's worth a shot. The alternative is to split the progressive vote even more thinly, and wake up the morning after groping for the aspirin.

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