Friday, September 12, 2008

The Machinations of Left-Wing Reactionaries

Vote-swapping scheme shows left-wing extremists running scared

All over Canada, left-wing extremists are sweating bullets at the prospect of a Conservative majority government.

In an effort to try and head this off, Hamilton, Ontario's Mat Savelli has started an "Anti-Harper Vote Swap" group on Facebook, in which people in 41 battle ground ridings are encouraged to vote strategically to prevent a Conservative victory in that riding.

"Let's pretend I'm NDP supporter in the riding of Winnipeg South. Seeing as the Tories only managed to beat the Liberals by less than 150 votes in the 2006 election, the Liberals almost surely have the best chance of winning. I post on this group's wall 'NDP in Winnipeg South looking for Liberal swap' and agree to vote Liberal in exchange for someone else (i.e. a Liberal living in rural Alberta where the Tories are a lock to win) voting NDP in another riding. The group runs on an honour system in the belief that we are all united against Harper."
In theory, this is an idea that could work. However, there are a number of issues with it.

First off, some may recall that former Canadian AutoWorkers union President Buzz Hargrove had his NDP membership revoked for encouraging Canadians to vote strategically during the 2005/06 federal election. Any NDP members participating in the "Anti-Harper vote swap" will almost certainly be imperiling their party membership.

Secondly, at a mere 1,128 members -- including, uncharacteristically, Saskboy -- it's unlikely that the vote swap will make a significant difference unless its membership grows in the coming weeks.

Most of all, however, the "Anti-Harper vote swap" seems to overlook the inherent cynicism of its own exercise. The "Anti-Harper vote swap" encourages Canadians to vote against their personal allegiances and own interests in order to block another party. In other words, the people participating in the swap aren't voting for anything. Rather, they're simply voting against the Stephen Harper Conservatives.

As a political act, this is inherently pessimistic and cynical. A large question of trust remains: who's to say that a Liberal agreeing to vote for the NDP -- essentially in Savelli's place -- won't instead just go ahead and vote Liberal?

Perhaps for NDP supporters there is very little incentive for being dishonest. But with the Liberal party very much in contention to win the election, there is absolutely no doubt that there is an incentive for Liberal party supporters to secure a vote from an NDP supporter and then renege.

The perverse brilliance of such an act is that the individual getting burned would never know the difference.

The dis- and mistrust bred so easily in the heart of an individual cynical enough to engage in such an enterprise may, in the end, turn out to be enough to sink the entire enterprise. But whether or not the "Anti-Harper vote swap" is successful or not won't be known until election day.


  1. Actually, since May has made it clear that she'd prefer to see anyone other than Harper in charge of the government, I'm actually supporting the Green Party by promoting vote swapping to keep Harper from winning more seats.

    While 1500 members may seem like a small number, they all may have some influence on their friends (assuming not all friends are also members), and it can come down to one vote making the difference (especially when a hardened voter flips).

  2. Considering the way Elizabeth May has lined up behind Stephane Dion and the Liberals, some people would say you may as well vote for them anyway.

    It's not as if they're terribly likely to ever vote against a Dion government.


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