Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sometimes, They're Just Too Stupid To Keep Their Mouths Shut

One almost has to feel sorry for Audrey of Enormous Thriving Plants. She's been having a particularly rough time of things lately. It seems that she can't open her mouth without losing an argument.

Debates with Audrey at her blog have typically followed a very predictable format: Audrey attempts to argue on the basis either of minutiae or of innuendo, cannot support her argument, and eventually attracts the aid of her loyal sidekick Sparky.

After the full extent to which Audrey and Sparky have lost any particular debate becomes clear, the two of them wait until their erstwhile opponent leaves to begin a commiseration process in which the two of them try to convince each other that they didn't lose the argument -- and, unshockingly, they often manage to succeed.

But it seems that the bitterness of defeat has begun to seep indelibly into Audrey's consciousness, as she's made a point of extending that commiseration process into her regular blogposts -- catastrophically reducing the quality of what was already one of the lowest-quality blogs on the internet in the first place.

But one way or the other, Audrey's going to have to learn what her place is in the Canadian blogosphere.

When she starts trying to re-imagine the debates she's lost as if she actually won them, something has to give.

In this particular case it's Audrey's ill-conceived and ill-fated attempt to nitpick on the topic of who, precisely, selects the Prime Minister of Canada.

Audrey insists on adopting a constitutionally minimalist argument that insists that the Governor General, and the Governor General alone, selects the Prime Minister and government.

Yet decades of constitutional convention in Canada make it clear that things are actually rather different: Canadians elect their government, even if indirectly through the process of electing MPs.

Audrey has repeatedly insisted that contemporary political science would not reflect that particular view. Unfortunately for Audrey, she evidently failed to account for the writings of Samuel Bottomley. On page 135 of Politics in North America, Bottomley writes the following:
Certainly, one can expect Audrey to attempt to argue that selection does not necessarily infer election. In order to make that argument, Audrey will willfully overlook any portion of Bottomley's words that do not fit her particular argument -- such as that Bottomley notes that Canadians select the Prime Minister and government through an election, and according to its results.

Audrey would be correct to note that the Constitution doesn't implicitly specify that whichever party wins a plurality is to be designated the governing party in the absence of a workable coalition.

If the Constitution were interpeted purely on its written form, there would actually be no Prime Minister, as the Constitution does not make any direct allusion to that particular office.

The Prime Minister, like the precepts of responsible government that Audrey rests her argument on, is actually a matter of constitutional convention:
The precedents that account for portions of Canada's informal Constitution also include that established during the King/Byng affair, which placed further constraints on the amount of discretion the Governor General may exercise when designating a government, either after an election or following the resignation of the Prime Minister.

In fact, it can easily be argued that the precedent set during the King/Byng affair is that the selection of any government of Canada, be it a majority government, minority government, or coalition government, should reflect the result of an election, and that only the Canadian people may institute a change in government -- however indirectly -- through said electoral processes.

Which brings one down to the matter of the processes themselves.

In the end, it may well be Audrey's own progressive cohorts who put the lie to Audrey's past insistence that Canadians may only vote for a Prime Minister if the office of Prime Minister appears on a ballot.

During the 2008 election, a group of Canadian voters opposed to another Conservative government organized a vote-swapping scheme over Facebook. The premise of the group was very simple: they would attempt to unseat the government of Stephen Harper by swapping votes between Liberal, Green and NDP candidates in various swing ridings.

In the end, they may have swung a few seats away from the Tories, but they failed in their goal of preventing another Harper government. But the important detail is that these individuals were voting against Stephen Harper as Prime Minister -- an argument later resurrected during the coalition crisis of late 2008-early 2009 when they claimed that 62% of Canadians had allegedly voted against Harper.

These efforts reflected an interesting character of the Canadian electoral system -- it is actually rather complex, allowing Canadian citizens to weigh numerous options with their vote, and cast it with any number of purposes in mind.

Just as Canadians can deliberate on their options and vote against a particular candidate for Prime Minister, Canadians can also weigh their options and vote in favour of a Prime Ministerial candidate. Sometimes such a decision does not necessarily entail voting for the preferred candidate's party (think of Liberal voters trying to swing seats away from the Conservatives to, perhaps, the NDP, allowing the Grits to come up the middle and form a minority government).

Canada's complex electoral system -- which, in its own way, reflects its complex constitution -- very much allows voters to make these kinds of decisions, and rationalize them in nearly any way they choose.

Individuals like Audrey lack the imagination to perceive this, and so simply insist that it cannot be the case. Whether this lacking is willful -- adopted in a moment when they think they can use the plausibile deniability of such possibilities to cheaply pursue hollow victories -- or not is a matter that will remain known to such individuals alone.

Oddly enough, this is an argument that Audrey actually lost. Yet her continual pouting over her past defeats has spurned her to keep dredging it into the present.

But individuals like Audrey share one common and serious handicap -- they are too stupid to keep their mouths shut. Perhaps Audrey believes that continually preening to her readers will somehow erase her past defeats. Unfortunately for her, one can already see that it hasn't.


  1. There is always the brand name to consider, or the strength of the local candidate. However, the thrust of this post is exactly why I always pay close attention to those polls that include a leadership index.

  2. ROFL, on new header.....priceless. Thanks.

    Poor Audrey...can't accept how our system works.

  3. I think individual candidates matter. They certainly don't seem to matter to a lot of Canadians as much as they should.

    The unfortunate issue at the heart of this is that most Canadians do vote according to party. One doesn't have to like it, but the political reality is what the reality is.


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