Tuesday, 23 November 2010

single issue / protest voting: don't do it

There's a line in the talk I gave at the Animal Activists Forum. It was a last minute addition to my talk, but I included it in my edits for the Scavenger because I think it's really important and I feel very strongly about it.

This Saturday is the Victorian state election, and the Coalition Against Duck Shooting is spearheading a voting tactic to 'vote Greens first and Labor last,' based on Labor's policies (or lack thereof) regarding animals. I heard Laurie Levy speak on this at the Animal Activists Forum, and he said that this tactic was based on the success of the Shooter's Party (or something, I can't remember the name) campaigning and voting as a bloc to get things done. He said that this was specifically a campaign targeting the four seats that could potentially fall to the Greens: Northcote, Brunswick, Melbourne and Richmond. And the idea is literally to put the Greens first, and put Labor last. And that's it. That's the strategy.

Protest voting on a single issue is dangerous. It is too simplistic, and too short term. And one that is so targeted as this - it's targeted at these four electorates, as 'vulnerable' electorates, but there's no way to prevent a message like this from spilling over boundaries. And it assumes that - well, specifically, it assumes that the Coalition's promises on animal stuff can be trusted (it can't - look at their history, even just recent history), and it ignores the impact that the Coalition's environmental policies have on habitats, and it ignores all the other issues. It's single issue! If you put the Greens first and the ALP last because of the ALP's failure to act on animal rights issues, you're ignoring every other issue and every other impact.

Vote with your ideology. Vote for someone because you think they might be able to speak for you. Vote for someone because you want them to speak for you, or because the things they say resonate with you. Maybe not all of the things, but most of the things. Don't just do it for one of the things. And your second preference is often just as important as your first, so think about that, too. It's not just a throwaway number in a box. If you want to put the Greens first, do it. And if there's someone else you want to put after them, because they speak to what you believe in, then absolutely do it. This isn't about me making fun of your political party. You vote for who you need to. But don't protest vote. It's dangerous, and it doesn't work. Tactical voting can easily backfire.

Think about your vote, don't just protest it.


Sarah said...

What a wonderful post. I completely agree. This is such a huge issue here and in many places, especially in America where something like being pro-choice in a pro-life society can be the single issue that leads to a politicians demise. I think this is the inherent problem with values voting...if we vote only on our 'most important' values, then we miss the big picture. Refugees is a big one here...I can't believe how many people seemed to vote for Libs in the national election because they thought they could 'stop the boats". Disgusting. And even though animal issues are ones I obviously support, that doesn't mean making them the sole basis for my vote is a good idea. Again, great post.

steph said...

Thanks Sarah! It's such a big deal, people really do think that 'most important values' is the way to vote and that it works. And it often gets played upon, too - media pandering, and so on. It's kind of gross.

Miss T said...

Thanks Steph, and I really agree with Sarah's point that the focus on the single issue can be detrimental to supporting dissent. I do not wish for animal welfare/rights to become too single issue - I want it to be something that *everyone* considers important, and of course we run the risks of being seen as otherwise-politically uninformed, or even more marginalised and mocked than we are now. On occasion I have threatened to vote on one issue - mostly when I've been in the grip of deep emotion about something. Rationally, it's not helpful.

Neil said...

I completely agree - nobody should vote like that... BUT the fact is they do. If by campaigning like this, the Greens get a few people to put them first rather than putting one of the other parties first because they've offered free underpants (or something equally unimportant), then I don't mind. You know what I mean?