Posts tagged "election"

Re: Shame

(also posted at PoliticsRespun.org)

I have an old stand-by joke for partisan political events that I happen upon or at which I end up.  How can you tell an NDP event?

The cries of “Shame! Shame!”

There are a few tropes we can pile together about political rallies.  Conservative ones seem to have hired goons at the door and only admitted the evangelical supporters, forceably ejecting (sometimes by means of the RCMP) anyone who doesn’t agree.  Liberal ones have people in suits, well-dressed, career type people, out for a day of cheering for whoever will get them a job in the Natural Governing Party.  And yet the NDP is the one that sometimes feels like a ‘born-again’ church ceremony, with the mutually expected choruses of “Shame!”

(I went to the NDP’s platform launch in Toronto: Jack Layton, energetic and Lenin-Lookalike as always, even taught us to yell it en Français: “Honteuse!” Also, I suppose: “Honteux!”)

Alex has recently written about the superhero narrative in popular fiction.  In her piece, she talks about the feelings of worthlessness that this narrative can instil, at how disempowering that it can be — unless you happen to be the superhero.  She instead suggests we need a different narrative, one of collective hope, collective action… perhaps a more democratic narrative.

So why is it that the NDP sticks to this “Shame!” trope?

There’s a specific narrative at use.  The other guys did something SHAMEFUL. (“Shame! Shame! Honteux!“) And the NDP won’t be as SHAMEFUL. (“Yay!”)

It’s an oddly patriarchal narrative, and the discourse dynamics of what does on is, in my mind, nerve-grinding.  The party sets up the scenario.  The party identifies the shameful situation. The party expects the faithful to yell “Shame! Shame!” and maybe “Honteux!

It’s basically a 3 step process: 1. Shameful situation is exposed. 2. “Shame! Honteux!” 3. The NDP will do the opposite.

One, the use of the word “shame!” really strikes me as outdated. It’s not what we’d say today.  Admittedly, they can’t yell out what I’d be thinking (“That’s fucked!” maybe “C’est fucké!“), but “shame!” strikes my as what my lovely grandmother would yell at the TV.  Actually, no, she’d be slightly more forceful.  The groupthink feeling is slightly creepy – when you’re at the event, you’re expected to cheer along.

And the discourse is disempowering.  The role of the public is to chant “shame!” when the politicians present the proper incentive.  Not much else.  Actually, I think it’s similar to Alex’s superhero narrative – here, the NDP is the superhero, the evil-doing has been presented, and the NDP will be off to fix the problem!

Other rallies – by all parties – have the same problem.  A political issue is presented that must be changed.  Who’s going to change it? The party and the politicians!  I was at an NDP rally about the HST in Vancouver, and the speakers said something along the lines of “You tell us what you think needs to be done, and we’re gonna do it for you!” Of course, there was ample amounts of “Shame!” built in.  The same thing just happened at the BC NDP convention when Adrian Dix won the leadership of the BC NDP – the BC Liberals are full of “Shame!” and the NDP are not.

There isn’t much discussion of why the NDP aren’t as shameful – just that the BC Liberals/Conservatives/Evil Reptilian Kitten Eaters from Another Planet are full of shame!

But what can be done?

We need to think of a different way of organizing ourselves politically.  Parties  – and the stupid political system (FPTP) that we’re currently stuck with, because of parties – are constructs that are designed to win mass and vague support from large amounts of people.  They’re supposed to channel political action through the parties, limiting the role of people – like you and me – to simply assigning our support to the party that is the least offensive, in the hopes of avoiding the most offensive from taking total control.

We need to work on this. A better world is needed. And I don’t think simply yelling “Shame! Honteux!” at the people whom we hope won’t be as bad is the best way we can do it.  We need a more democratic narrative, where we’re not reduced to yelling “shame!” at things we don’t like but actively working towards the things that we do like.  Like Alex says, we need a political reality and discourse where “[w]e can define our own lives and tell our own stories, because we don’t need no superheros.”

Or to simply shout “Shame!”

That we must, for now, is…

…a shame.

crazy sign time / election time

the legislature -- alternatively, the house of evilTomorrow, Gordon Campbell will venture through suburban Victoria to Government House, a lovely plot of land with a garden, and will recommend to the Lieutenant-Governor that the legislative assembly be disolved and writs of election be issued for the province.

The most immediate impact to you and me? Tons and tons of signs will soon occupy every conceivable green space in your local neighbourhood, covered in bright colours, and you may well have people going door to door telling you that you should vote a certain way.  Television channels will be overrun with commercials telling you that Gordon Campbell wants to kill your grandmother, or that the NDP are so inept with finances that they couldn’t be trusted to run a popsicle stand.

Electoral politics is lovely.  I’m not actually going to wade, too deep, into the BC NDP/BC Liberal election fight, other than to simply state that I don’t think that re-electing Gordon Campbell and his merry band of neoliberal buccaneers would be the best thing that the electorate could do.  There are a number of reasons for this, of course.  At the same time, I don’t immediately believe that an election of the provincial incarnation of the NDP will lead immediately to sunshine, rainbows, lollipops, and unicorns.  No, it certainly won’t, but the Liberals are certainly not the best choice of a route to such promised lands anyways.

I will, of course, get to the prognostication on the rough-and-tumble of electoral politics in a few paragraphs, but there is actually something important that is being voted on — that is, the proposal to change the electoral system that we use to translate the single ‘x’ that you place on a ballot next to the name of the least offensive candidate to another system entirely.

This is important, and I hope you take the time to educate yourselves on the BC-STV proposal, and then vote in favour of it. Jasmin wrote an excellent note earlier about the BC-STV proposal, and indicated in it the philosophical problems that people who are of a more anarchic bent (myself included, perchance)  have when it comes to voting in the governmental elections (I think Subcommandante Marcos said it best when he explained that voting “simply legitimises a system premied upon exclusion”) but there are several reasons why you should actually take the time to understand what’s going on.

So let’s all learn a little bit.  Right now, we have an electoral system called ‘first past the post’ (FPTP) or ‘single member plurality.’ Currently, you mark an ‘X’ next to the name of the candidate that you’ve decided to vote for, or, in my case, find least offensive.  Then the votes are all counted and the person who receives the most votes, not necessarily a majority, wins the one and only seat up for grabs in your riding.  Theoretically, this could (and often has, in practice) mean that the person designated the ‘winner’ in your riding could actually have received less than a majority of the votes.  In cases like this, I would argue that the system has failed; the majority of people are not represented (politically) by the ‘representative’ elected.

This is why a new electoral system was discussed by a Citizen’s Assembly, and why the proposal to change voting systems to something called the British Columbia Single Transferable Vote (hence BC-STV) was proposed.  In 2005, the proposal won 58% of the vote in the province, and a majority in all but 2 of the 79 ridings, but was not implemented because a 60% threshold was imposed. (there’s a side argument here about a minority of voters ensuring that a minority of voters are actualy represented, but back to the main fare).

BC-STV is different than FPTP in that you don’t just mark a single ‘X’ next to your preferred/least odious candidate.  Instead, there’s a list of candidates, and you get to rank them, as in you write down a 1, 2, 3 next to the candidates in the order that you would prefer.  This allows you to mark a first choice, and a second choice, and so on.  Ridings are also no longer represented by a single member — they’re bigger, and have multiple members.  When the elections are run and votes are counted, there’s a bit of math involved, but your vote can be counted for the person that you voted for but also for your second choice and so on, providing a bit more ‘proportionality’ in the system.

Proportionality is important.  Given that there’s every possibility that an MLA could be elected without a majority of support in a riding, there’s every possibility that a government could be elected without a majority of support in the province, country, etc.  And it happens.  It happened to the NDP in 1996, where they won the most seats with fewer votes, and it’s happening right now federally with a Conservative government that only 36% or something of Canadians voted for. BC-STV aims to change that a bit, bringing in other parties to the legislature.  You may well see that when the referendum is passed, we could have Green Party MLAs and the like in the next round of voting. An additional benefit is that the seats are supposed to roughly correspond to the parties’ votes — ie, if Party A gets 30% of the votes in the election, they ought to get about 30% of the seats.

This has the potential of opening the system up to more parties that could be peoples’ second choices, and may allow a viable ‘alternative’ to the BC Liberals and NDP to form.  And that means that the system could change, ever so slightly, from one premised on exclusion to one that is at least less biased against inclusion.  Which is why we all should vote in favour of it.

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the results are in! / sfu senate election results

Perhaps not strangely, the main search term for people landing at my website today has been ‘sfu senate election results’.

To properly appease the masses, here they are.  A fairly small amount of students participated – 1,376.  Twice that participated in the SFSS elections.  If there’s one thing that these elections show, it’s that the elections of student representatives to university governing bodies need to be publicized more.  We had a ton of candidates this year, but turnout was relatively low.

(and yes, I won. thanks for all your support!)

Results (only elected candidates shown):

Board of Governors
Kevin Harding – 455
Arry Dhillon – 448

Senate
Ada Nadison – 590
Kevin Harding – 578
Ravi Patel – 532
Shara Lee – 506
Ali Godson – 459
Graham Hiscocks – 405
Joe Zelezny – 402
Alysia MacGrotty – 357
Fiona Li – 345
Anton Bezglasnyy – 344
Elliot Funt – 314
Cameron Noble – 266*

*Cameron Noble bumped other candidates because he is from the Faculty of the Environment, and Senate rules require one student representative from each faculty

Presidential Search Committee
Kevin Harding – 462
Ravi Patel – 425

Community Trust Community Advisory Committee
David Newman – 617

Community Trust Board of Directors
Ravi Patel – 473