Things I Hate About Elections
It’s election time again, which means we’ve got to put up with the whole song and dance that political theatre presents. I’ve seen many of these popularity contests and they are very lame and getting lamer with each cycle. The clichés and customs of this process have become so antiquated and low-end that one questions why we carry on with the charade.
Here are five things about elections that are ridiculous.
Every political advisor will tell you to “get out there and knock on as many doors as you can!”. At a glance, it makes sense. You’re getting out there and making face-to-face contact with voters. This gives them a chance to make a quick first impression and if you meet them and your competitors don’t, then presumably that voter will think to themselves, “This candidate made the effort to meet me and the others didn’t, so I’ll vote for the effort-making candidate.”
It’s reasonable to draw this conclusion, but seriously… that’s a pretty low-end means of assessing a potential candidate. What can you really learn about someone in a 30 second doorstep pitch? Enough to make a general impression and listen to their priorities, but so what? Why are we doing politics the same way that cheesy salesmen try to sell you sprinkler systems or vacuum cleaners? Going door to door is what kids do to raise money for their hockey teams. Jehovah Witnesses proselytize by going door-to-door and I have never heard of anyone converting to their religion this way.
It’s also a poor reflection on citizens that their vote can be swayed with a superficial face-to-face interaction on their doorstep. That’s all it takes? That’s the extent of your vetting process? That’s the extent of your demands for having representation that reflects your values and interests? Some guy shows up with a flyer and that’s enough to convince you? Sadly, it is perhaps enough for many…that’s why it’s still done. As someone who has door-knocked for candidates, I can safely say that most voters are ill-informed and disengaged and some combination of both… so, a thirty second contact is often all it takes to sway a vote. If they make it out to the polling station on election day is another issue.
Anyone can walk around for hours handing out their fliers door-to-door, but it doesn’t prove anything. It certainly doesn’t prove that the candidate would make a good MLA and, yet, frantic neighbourhood door-knocking during a campaign seems not only to be an aspect of electioneering, but the entire point.
Door-knocking is intrusive, low-end and lame.
Everyone seems to hate those corrugated plastic lawn signs. They are cheap and tacky and there are so many around during election time that it collectively looks like landscape garbage.
The idea with the signs is that name recognition plays a huge role in people’s decisions when voting. If you expose someone to the name JOE SMITH with a hundred signs, then they will be more likely to vote JOE SMITH then they will for HENRY BROWN if Henry Brown only has fifty lawn signs. The fact this is even a thing is a testament to how extremely low-end democracy truly is.
The other notion with lawn signs is that if your neighbour puts up a lawn sign saying JOE SMITH, then you’ll think to yourself, “Hey, I know and respect my neighbour and he seems to be supporting Joe Smith. I guess I will too!”
This was more of a truism back in the days when people respected their neighbours. Today, many people don’t even know their neighbours and if they do, they wish they didn’t. Social engagement and community involvement are in collapse, so the old “lawn signs matter more on private property” thing has given way to, “As many signs flashing JOE SMITH into the visual cortex of retarded voters as possible!”.
The result is reams of temporary signs blowing around everywhere for 30 days. It looks like trash and they should be banned.
Every provincial election has a televised debate. This is supposed to give viewers the chance to compare candidates and see how they hold up under pressure and conduct themselves under scrutiny.
One question is… why? Why does the leader of a government need to be a tv debater? What does that have to do with his or her ability to govern properly? TV debates are just phony beauty contests that are designed to mislead.
The classic example of this is the 1960 debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. People watching the debate on television thought JFK won, but people listening to the debate on the radio thought Nixon won. Why? Because Nixon thought it was unmanly to wear tv makeup and when he saw JFK getting makeup, he panicked and got unprofessional, non-television-lights-friendly, make-up done on short notice. Consequently, he looked sweaty and shitty on tv and JFK looked cool and collected.
It’s frivolous aesthetics. Televised debates serve no purpose in assessing the qualities, values and abilities of true leaders. Great leaders throughout history would’ve been destroyed by television. Other truly terrible leaders have exploited television for their benefit. Why do we keep doing it?
Another problem with the televised debates is that a single out-of-context quip or zinger can then be amplified by the media and weaponized against a candidate. When Jim Prentice said, “Math is hard” to Rachel Notley, the media turned it into a big #metoo-type of thing. Then when the rubes who might only catch the two-minute story about the debate on the news see that clip played, they are conditioned to believe that the entirety of the debate was essentially that moment.
Formalized debates aren’t used for anything important in society and they shouldn’t be used when deciding who we’re going to select to rule over us. Televised debates are artificial, misleading and useless.
A big part of making an informed decision for voters is checking out the platform of the party that they are considering voting for. Of course, hardly anybody does this when making their decision. I’m inclined to blame the laziness of the average voter, but there’s another element at play and it’s this…
You never know if any of the campaign promises will be kept anyway…so why bother voting?
Remember when Jean Chretien was going to eliminate the GST? Remember when Stephen Harper was going to not destroy income trusts? Remember when Justin Trudeau was going to implement electoral reform?
You can vote for these guys based on their promises during a campaign, but who knows what you’re really going to end up with?
Rachel Notley didn’t tell anyone she was going to implement a carbon tax during her campaign, but she could hardly wait to do it once she attained power. Jim Prentice was revising his campaign platform in real-time based on public approval! The whole notion that you’re voting for someone offering something and then expecting them to follow through with what you thought you were voting for is a dubious prospect once you’ve witnessed a few elections. You never know what kind of job someone is going to do until they start doing it, and you can’t be sure what sort of policies they’ll implement until they start implementing them.
This makes voting far less important than we wish it were. This being the case, is it worth putting up with polling stations in order to cast an unaccountable vote?
Ever voted in an Alberta election before? It’s usually really, really bad. The polls are understaffed, and the line-ups are anti-democratically long. Little old ladies in recreation centres painstakingly flipping though endless sheets of paper is usually how it goes. Only those that have an hour or two to waste can vote. As a result, turnout is always terrible, and the outcome is reflected disproportionately in favour of seniors and unemployed folks who have nothing but free time to kill.
Oh, but we’re all supposed to cherish the idea that people died for our right to vote so standing in line for too long is excusable.
Firstly, who died for our right to vote? What war was fought with the intention of taking away Canadians voting rights? Did Kaiser Wilhelm the second invade France because his long game was to reduce Canada’s voting process somehow? It’s silly rhetoric.
Secondly, if we’re going to have elections they should be run decently and not shoddily as they currently are. Waiting for an hour to vote is a barrier to democracy. Leftists whine about not having to show ID. Why don’t they whine about the insane inefficiency of getting to the ballot box even if you have ID? When your vote is statistically worthless, it makes investing a great deal of time standing in line far less attractive in the first place. No wonder voter participation is so brutal.
But that’s enough griping. I dislike door-knocking, lawn signs, televised debates, campaign promises and polling stations. I basically dislike the whole thing.
I think I’ve spent enough time participating in the democratic charade as a voter, a volunteer, a party member and a candidate. This will be the first of many elections in which I join the ever-growing disengaged masses and skip the vote altogether. I’ve come to learn that it’s not just any one political party or politician that’s the problem…it’s the entire system. Democracy ultimately leads to socialism… it’s just a matter of time. The UCP may offer a temporary stomp on the brakes, but we're going to need something far more muscular in the future.
Good luck Alberta… you’re going to need it.