Tag Archives: Strategic voting

The major flaw in the Vote Together approach – can you trust the polls?

For LeadNow, the organization behind the Vote Together initiative operating in swing ridings across the country, the decision of who to vote for is straightforward: if you want to stop Stephen Harper from being reelected, vote for the local candidate with the best chance of beating the Conservatives.

To that end, they’ve mobilized a small army of volunteers, and nearly ninety thousand people in key ridings have pledged to vote according to their recommendations on Election Day.

Now, regular readers of The Alfalfafield will know that I have my issues with “strategic” voting – its inherently centrist bias is well-known, and it’s a woefully inadequate solution to the systemic problems with our political system. But today, I’d like to put forth a purely procedural criticism of LeadNow’s effort, which is surely the most well-organized strategic voting initiative in Canada’s history.

It’s a simple question: why should we trust their recommendations?

In order to ascertain which ridings are the closest and which candidates have the greatest prospects for defeating the Conservative Party, LeadNow has commissioned a series of riding-level polls. On the basis of these polls, they’ve issued recommendations so far for sixteen key ridings, with more recommendations to come in the final week of the campaign. So, for example, in the neighbouring Vancouver Island ridings of Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, LeadNow recommends that strategic voters vote for the NDP, on the basis of local polling which shows that party’s candidates in the best position to win.

Except that there’s a small problem with LeadNow’s numbers – they aren’t accurate. Continue Reading

“Prime Minister Doug Ford.” Think about that, and tremble with despair.

The long knives are already out for Stephen Harper as he struggles to contain the rapidly metastasizing Duffy scandal and faces down an increasingly intransigent NDP lead in the polls. Although anonymous Conservative Party insiders are insisting that the Prime Minister would try to hang on as leader of a minority government and quite possibly run for reelection, there’s little doubt that Harper would be interested in once again being Leader of the Opposition in the event of a Conservative loss this fall.

And already, potential rivals for the Conservative leadership are positioning themselves for a run.

The Walrus pointed out in long form last fall what many political observers have long known to be true – Jason Kenney wants Stephen Harper’s job. For those unfamiliar with Kenney, he’s your pretty standard-issue Conservative boogeyman – a terrifyingly uncompassionate human being, uniquely ill-suited to his five-year term as Minister of Immigration:

In his five-year stint at Immigration, the longest of any minister’s in history, he managed to pull off a precarious balancing act: boosting the number of newcomers, among them thousands of cut-rate temporary foreign workers, needed to fill the yawning corporate maw, while brandishing the lexicon of a law-and-order zealot who cast asylum seekers as guilty until proven innocent. Staging showy crackdowns on alleged human smugglers, marriage fraudsters, and whole classes of refugees he branded as “bogus,” he used such inflammatory language that it has changed the terms of the national debate. “What Kenney has done is create this whole new vernacular,” says Philip Berger, co-founder of a national physicians’ campaign against Kenney’s cuts to refugee health care. “It’s creating a terrain of hostile attitudes to refugees.”

Currently the Minister of Defence, Kenney’s latest schtick is serving as a cynical cheerleader for our extremely limited war non-combat operation in Iraq and Syria. As I wrote in “The ISIS racket“:

I don’t think the political elite have much interest in actually defeating or degrading ISIS. They do, however, have an interest in looking tough – there’s an election this fall, after all! – and getting tough on terrorists never polls poorly. The fact is that this is a very complex conflict, full of regional and sectarian rivalries which confuse even people who have lived there their whole lives. If the HarperCons think a couple CF-18s and some military advisers to the Kurdish peshmerga are gonna make even a trivial difference in this conflict, they’re dumber than they look…

More likely, though, is that they’re cynically manipulating political instability in Iraq and Syria for political points at home in what’s shaping up to be a tough election. The war on ISIS is pretty much win-win – if it goes well, Harper & Co. (and especially Kenney, who’s got his eye on Harper’s job if and when Steve calls it quits) get to brag about Canada’s contributions to the glorious non-combat operation, but if ISIS takes more territory, they can hammer on the theme that now more than ever it’s important to oppose this terrorist menace. And all the while they can steadfastly ignore and evade questions about the effectiveness and realism of their chosen strategy, and bash any opposition leader who questions them as unpatriotic and soft on terrorism.

But as depressing as the notion of a Kenney-led Conservative Party may be, it pales in comparison to this: Continue Reading

Hunter S. Thompson on voting strategically

Hunter S. Thompson hated Richard Nixon.

I mean that on a personal level, and I mean it quite literally. Thompson felt a deep seething angry hatred for Dick Nixon. The depth of his loathing for the disgraced former President is evident in every sentence of his masterful obituary of the man:

Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man — evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him — except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.

If you want a deep dive into the miserable vicious struggle of national American politics at the height of the Cold War, check out that obit – Thompson summoned some of his more in-depth analysis for the occasion of the death of his long-time nemesis.

Most people know Thompson mainly as that drug-addled fiend that Johnny Depp played in a few movies, and to be sure, he was that. He was also a vile misogynist and a dangerous individual with little regard for the feelings of either friends or strangers.

He was also – and this in no way excuses his abusive and reprehensible behaviour – he was also one of the great journalists of the twentieth century.

And I say this mostly because he was among the first to whole-heartedly embrace the insight that there is no such thing as true objectivity in journalism, and that pretending to be objective is often incredibly harmful to reporting on politics, as he himself pointed out in his Nixon obituary: Continue Reading

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