Have you noticed that you’ve been feeling a little off lately? Perhaps your pulse is more erratic than usual? Are you getting headaches more frequently and do they linger? What about the uncomfortable nausea that cascades through your body almost daily now, not to mention those unpleasant loose stools? Are your social media feeds more cringe worthy than normal, teeming with stupidity, bigotry, and angry hyperbole, leaving you to question “these are my friends?” Is the daily news causing you to pray for an ill-timed, head-on meeting with a bus or garbage truck? No, you are not dying, it’s just federal election time again, though I suppose that fact might leave you wishing for death.
And when I say federal election, I mean the one here in Canada. Despite the relentless media presence of Don Trump and the Sixteen Fifteen Fourteen Dwarfs, the federal election in the ever-more-befuddling US of A is still 14 months away. FOURTEEN! That alone is enough to induce dry-heaving. Nope, what I’m here to talk about is the Canadian Federal Election, our 42nd, for those who are counting. It, thank god, is only 4 weeks away.
I Hate Politicians
I find elections to be unpleasant things. Not because I’m anti-democracy by any means, so please, refrain from climbing that soapbox and waving your flag. I’m all for voting and majority wins (ha, as if that ever happens) and the will of the people. It’s just that, like so many human creations, the concept of democracy is grievously crippled by the custodians of democracy. And there are no institutional custodians as crippling as politicians.
I despise politics. I despise politicians. I despise everything they do and say and think. I despise the constant spin, the unyielding assault on my intelligence, the incessant confrontation, the hyperbolic nationalism, and the shameless pandering to the very worst in humans. I even despise their puppies just because of the taint innocently procured from their masters. And that’s just during regular days. Add an election to the mix and all the above is amplified like a wall of Marshall amps cranked to eleven. It degrades the democratic right of voting from a proud civic duty to a distasteful public chore much the way food poisoning ruins a good meal.
Yet, despite persistent protest by my brain, not to mention my guts, my heart compels me to continue voting which brings me to my next, more perplexing, conundrum; who do I vote for? I feel like my choices are as robust as those facing a Celiac in a bakery. This reaches far beyond my loathing of politicians, though that certainly plays a part. I truly struggle with choosing a party/candidate to vote for as none fully encapsulate my views on the major issues of the day. I’ve felt this way for many years and it grows more frustrating with each election as my ideal platform never materializes. I suppose some of you can empathize with my plight while others must feel like your party of choice is reading your mind based on the almost orgasmic support you share on Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve always considered myself a Liberal, I guess, or maybe Progressive Conservative. I say that fully cognizant of the fact that academic definitions and even public perception of those names likely do not jive with my personal interpretation of them. Unfortunately, such labels immediately stain you as either saint or sinner depending on your politics or geography. In simplest terms, I’m to the Left on social issues and to the Right on economic issues, but even that is too basic. For example, I’m conservative when it comes to finances in the sense that I feel we should pay for what we want as a society. I even think, gasp, we should pay back our collective debts. Unlike most conservatives, this means I actually support higher taxes if we are in fact adamant about having robust social programs (which I too support). On the other hand, the dogmatic and often hypocritical social values preached by much of the conservative base are appalling to me. So, you see, it can get a bit messy. I guess I’d call myself a centrist or what you might refer to as a spineless, fence-sitter unwilling to take a stand on anything. Potato: rutabaga.
I’m a Voter Without A Candidate
The reality is I’m an anomaly without a party; a voter without a candidate. I can even prove this to you. There is a wonderful tool created by Vote Compass and available through CBC that enables you to compare all major party platforms with your own positions. You answer a series of questions on all the issues currently being discussed in the election and your answers are then used to plot your overall position in relation to the parties on a handy graph that, theoretically, tells you how to vote. If there is one modern tool that has helped to improve the electoral process for the discerning but distressed voter, this is it.
Here, then, is my result from answering the thirty-some questions truthfully. As you can see, my self-described centrism is by and large an accurate assessment. Furthermore, and undoubtedly the seed of my frustration, none of the political parties wholly represent my positions. Like I said, I have no party. Oh sure, according to this tool the Liberal party is the one I’m closest to, but it’s hardly a strong correlation. This would be like voting for school council president because the candidate has the same name as me. It feels that superficial.
I should also say here that this Vote Compass tool is far from perfect. I found some of the questions too broad and didn’t provide me with an appropriate answer to reflect my actual view. The first example would be the question as to whether I think wealthy Canadians should pay more taxes. This is a question that gets lots of attention in the media, not to mention around the water cooler. It’s a baited question, in my opinion, because it doesn’t define what is a “wealthy Canadian”. Of course, the emotional response for most of us would be “strongly agree” because most of us don’t consider ourselves to be wealthy and most of us label anyone earning more money than us as rich. I too think wealthy Canadians should pay more, absolutely. I also think almost all Canadians should pay more but there is no such question in the Vote Compass quiz nor is there anything remotely approaching that heretical view in any party’s platform.
Another example is the question regarding access to abortion. The question is worded in a very black or white manner and again no follow up questions are presented to provide nuance to my answer. Do I support access to abortion “regardless of the reason”? Well that’s kind of blunt, isn’t it? Not a lot wiggle-room there. I’m pro-choice but am I pro-choice “regardless of the reason”? I had trouble answering this question as worded. I don’t think abortions should be allowed in order to sell embryonic cells to cosmetics manufacturers. Sure, that sounds absurd and I have no idea if such a thing even exists, but the question doesn’t provide for subtlety.
What about gender selection, which I suspect is what the question is asking without having the nerve so actually ask it. No, I don’t support that either. The question is black and white but my position is gray so I must answer either “somewhat agree” or “somewhat disagree”. This choice presents another dilemma since both answers are essentially the same but will undoubtedly skew me Left or Right in the Vote Compass graph. It’s a glass-half-full versus glass-half-empty type predicament. If I answer “somewhat agree” that’s surely a more progressive response to the unfair question and will plot me to the Left, whereas “somewhat disagree” is more conservative sounding and will plot me to the Right. The same answer giving opposing results. And while it may reflect the current platforms of the political parties it highlights, yet again, the lack of a palatable choice for my precious vote.
I’m Considering a Spoiled Ballot
So I ask you, what would you do in such a situation? This is the first election where I’m seriously considering spoiling my ballot as viable use of my vote. It’s not illegal but in federal elections spoiled ballots denoting ‘none of the above’ are not counted as a distinct category. They just get lumped in with all the accidentally screwed up votes and unmarked or damaged ballots which tends to diminish the whole point of trying to say “I want to vote but not for any of these [insert derogatory noun of choice here]. Once again, I feel lost, wishing to vote but having no one to vote for and employing the “lesser of evils” mantra that so many voters embrace is no longer agreeable to me as it does nothing to instigate change in the parties or the system.
Then again the question is kind of mute, at least for me, anyway. I have the luxury of living in an upper-middle-class Calgary suburb which means my member of parliament, a Conservative and high ranking government Minister, will easily be re-elected. The provincial NDP may have pulled a unicorn out of their Oompa Loompa orange asses in the spring but I can assure you no such shock will occur in Alberta in this election unless you consider Jason Kenny getting 60% support instead of the usual 75% to be a bombshell. I suppose there’s always the Marxist-Leninist Party candidate, which I just now learned I have in my riding. I’m sure our Vote Compass results would be polar opposites but the sheer chutzpah of running under that banner in suburban Calgary is worthy of a slow clap, if nothing else.
Maple Leaf Voting image attribution:
By en:File:Can-vote-stub.jpg: en:User:Roux Roundel_of_the_Royal_Canadian_Air_Force_(1946-1965).svg: F l a n k e r Red_Checkmark.svg: Johannes Rössel (talk) derivative work: Svgalbertian [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons