Who (not) to vote for

Who (not) to vote for

Last night I went to a political debate about health. Compared to other debates I've been to on tertiary policy and public transport there seemed to be some more interest in this issue; at least in expectation: it was held in the new auditorium in the business school. I think about the same number of people crammed themselves into a much smaller space for the public transport one; a fitting symbol of the unrequited demand for better public transport. The tertiary policy debate only attracted your usual straggle of hairy students; the stance of the New Zealand First representative was "is there even a debate on tertiary policy?"

The people that this debate attracted were naturally for patient choice, equality, transparency, &c., leading two of the speakers to pose criticisms of the audience. The first was Sir Rodger Douglas for ACT, who said that there were a lot of people in the room, every speaker before him, and a lot of people in general who care, but that caring makes no difference unless you also cure. His solution was to open up choice by giving the money back to the people. I thought that this was a fair criticism: people will clap when they hear what they think they want; he was encouraging them to ground their pipe-dreams a little, and I think we got his point.

The other criticism made me retch. The spokesman for National suggested in his closing remark that there was a lot of Green Party support in the room; this was acknowledged by some noise. He then proposed that if a Green supporter voted Green a Labour government would be more likely, a government which would be in favour of the Therapeutic Goods Administration which Greens and others in the room were against (Labour were conspicuously absent, along with NZ First, United Future). He said that to ensure the TGA would not come in people ought to vote not for Green but for National.

This is a seriously bad sentiment. Basically he's saying there are two parties who don't want the TGA, Our Party and Third Party, but only Our Party has the chance to become government, so vote for us. What he was asking people to vote on was not the issue but on the likelihood of their party becoming government. It's supposed to be the other way around: people should be able to vote in accord with their convictions with impunity, not be forced to vote "strategically" for a party they don't agree with.

It made me think of the refusal of Helen Clark and John Key to take part in TV3's all party debate. It made me think of the US election, the ultimate farce which our system here in New Zealand will escalate into if we allow major parties to monopolize the debate. There Ralph Nader is bluntly _not allowed_ to debate with Obama and McCain. And so if you say you're voting Nader you'll get a scale of responses from ignorant to informed: "Huh?! Who's Nader?", "But he won't win! shouldn't you vote for the lesser of two evils?", or "Right on, brother!". It's this "vote for the lesser of two evils" argument which makes me sick; and it's sad to see people buy it. If year after year you vote for the lesser of two evils: a) you only ever get an evil, and b) the two evils become more and more similar.

I'd argue that both of these are happening to some extent here; it has certainly already happened elsewhere. The feeling seems to be that the closer the race between the two major parties the less we should consider voting for a third party. It should be the other way around: a closer race oughta get more people voting for more extreme parties; otherwise the whole political arena descends into monotony and status quo as National tries to cater to the centre-left and Labour to the centre-right, trying to get an edge one over the other.

National has announced that they won't go back on the several Labour initiatives which they opposed but which went through (Working for Families, interest-free student loans, &c.); are they just some retarding force which only grudgingly admits progress? or are they too afraid to set themselves apart, since that would lose votes? And this isn't just an attack against National. The fact that National wants me to vote for them out of some desire to keep Labour out is insulting; as much I am insulted by Labour's "it's about trust" theme: they want me to vote for them to keep National out because National have been demonstrated to be "untrustworthy", but for all I know Labour could just be better than National at not getting caught. It's not about trust, it's about transparency. I shouldn't be being asked to vote on some vague faith that the government is doing it right, but on clear principles which are being openly and consistently acted upon.

Duverger's Law: in a first-past-the-post voting system a two-party race results; something which MMP aims to eliminate. I would go further and suggest some kind of electoral reform: if I liked Green and National policy then I could approve them both, or rank them in the order of my preference. This would eliminate the kind of negative campaigning which leads to major parties stealing the votes of third-party supporters. I've talked about the Greens, but this goes for any third party. Nobody should be able to tell you that an honest vote will be worse for you than a vote for them. And do you think National is in favor of electoral reform? perhaps; but only to eliminate MMP. I heard last weekend someone say, "I wish we could go back to voting for people. I think Helen's had her time; I like John Key." I kicked myself for not speaking up. We still do vote for people! What a shame John Key isn't running in your electorate; for that matter, neither is Helen Clark.

I'm not telling you not to vote for National, I'm not telling you not to vote for Labour; unlike electioneering politicians the only people or parties I'd advise not to vote for are those whom you disagree with.



I think it's a bit ironic that Roger Douglas was saying "people will clap when they hear what they think they want". Isn't that about the only reason that a _lot_ of people vote for ACT? Don't they hear that their taxes will be dropped, marijuana will be legalised and the government won't tell them how to discipline their kids.
I'm not telling you not to vote for National, I'm not telling you not to vote for Labour; unlike electioneering politicians the only people or parties I'd advise not to vote for are those whom you disagree with.

At first reading, this sentiment seems to be at odds with the criticisms you make of the party strategies. Your advice is to not vote for the parties Person X disagrees with, and you say this is different from the parties encouraging Person X to vote for themselves on the basis that they disagree with what Parties B, C and D are putting forward. The only difference I can see in your points is that the parties will openly call it what it is - strategic.

I appreciate your sentiment, Dom, but I just think it is far too idealistic. Politics is a game of strategy. It is based on polls and numbers and tactics. Whether or not you think that is a good way for a democracy to behave is irrelevant; it is the situation. To encourage voting on the way you wish the system behaved is about as sad to me as voter apathy.

People should make informed decisions about which party they want in power, and more importantly which party they don't - it is a situation of the lesser of two evils, especially in the case of MMP and people should vote accordingly.

And I will tell you to vote for National and ACT, not Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, Kiwi Party (aka Gordon Copeland) or United Future.
Well, I can't tell whether you still find fault with my argument, but after a lengthy handball session with Darryl and some neighborhood kids I might be persuaded to alter what I'd advise. One of the problems of having a party system is that there might never be a party which you can fully align yourself with, and when you then do support that party you run the danger of simply swearing allegiance to that party and its policies and of losing your capacity for individual judgement. William Godwin: "Having learned the creed of our party, we no longer have any need for those faculties which might lead us to detect its errors." And so for instance Darryl is having a hard time deciding who to vote for since he is approaching it by crossing off parties which he disagrees with; it is quite likely that by this approach he will have crossed every party off his list.

At least give me credit for posing my suggestion in the subjunctive: perhaps it was unfair of me to mark the mood with an elision, so I shall write out the words in full: if I were to suggest any person should _not_ vote for some party or person I would suggest that they not vote for a party with which they disagree, whereas the spokesperson I took offense with suggested that someone who on one point agrees with both National and the Green party should _not_ vote for the Green party because they are not a real contender for the government. Of course, if I were asked to tell people who to _positively_ vote for, which is the way I think we should approach elections, I would suggest the party with which you most often find yourself in agreement. For instance, if I were to support Green and National for both opposing the TGA thing I would have to look at their other policies. The spokesperson seemed to be saying, look, you support party A and party B on one point. Party A is likely not to be the next government, so you should vote for party B. This is a ridiculous thing to say if I agree with Party A on most of their policies, disagree with party B on most of their policies, and agree with both only on that single point. What if there were only two issues in politics, issue M and issue N: Major Party P is for M and against N, Major Party Q is against M and for N, while Minor Party R is for both M and N; If I am personally for both M and N, what right has either Major Party P or Q have to tell me not to vote for party R?

So no, I'm not saying that telling person X not to vote for those whom they disagree with is much "different from the parties encouraging Person X to vote for themselves on the basis that they disagree with what Parties B, C and D are putting forward", I'm saying that it's different to a party encouraging people to vote for themselves based on the fact that they _don't_ disagree with party B but party B bluntly doesn't stand a chance.

Back to why I used the subjunctive, why I posed my advice as the second part of a conditional; I don't think that it's more important to make more informed decisions about the party or parties they don't want in parliament. It's more important to keep the wrong people out than to get the right people in? I feel as if the burden of proof is yours on that one.

I appreciate that perhaps voting as you feel you should be able to might not be the best way to secure a system which allows you to do so with impunity; my argument was only that if you want to be able to vote honestly you should support a party which also has that goal. I mean, you're right: using the system to break the system probably won't work; perhaps I'll have to find a better way to electoral reform.

And finally, I'm afraid that as much as you'd like me to I cannot vote for National _and_ ACT; I'd sure like to be able to.
Edit my original post to read trav and not Dom - didn't look at the signature.

I agree with you that there are issues with the party system - for that specific reason; allegiance to most issues can seem like allegiance to all because there is no way to dissent. However, that is the way the system works and it is my belief that you have to work with the system if you want to achieve anything with it.

I think your point comes down to the idea that you took offense to what one spokesperson said. While I can understand that his comment comes off as perhaps arrogant and self-serving when he tells you to effectively vote on one issue, two things come into play here: 1) he is a politician - arrogant and self-serving is what they do best, and 2) he was at a forum discussing a single issue. A single issue might be what persuades an entire bloc of uncommitted voters, and if a voter wants to achieve that issue AND feel like their vote has counted, why not vote for the party that supports their view on the issue and will be able to effect other change?

Finally, you can vote for National and ACT. Vote National for your electorate MP and give ACT your party vote.

Yeah, you're right. I suppose if that single issue were your pivot on whether to vote National or Green you'd want to vote National, for the very reason you give; but how likely is it that even one of the people who clamored to his suggestion that they supported the Green party only support that party for the reason that they are against the TGA? leave alone the differing motives between the two parties' reasons for opposing the thing.

The thing is, it would be fine to say, "if you don't want the TGA, vote for us; we are in the best position to keep it out." That's reasonable. The way he said it, though, was, "if you're a Green supporter you probably are against the TGA, so you should vote for us; we are in the best position to keep it out." You can see the difference.

And yeah, the whole post was about a single comment; I didn't mean to come across as disapproving of him his party or his policies; I just wanted to draw attention (and perhaps I did it a little verbosely) to the saddening way in which third parties can be robbed of their support (or the way some people think they can be) by major parties.

Yes, but suppose I have a voting preference diametrically opposed to the one you suggested above: how am I to vote for all those several parties? I'm also curious to know the strategy behind your latest proposal.
I see what the difference that you're taking issue with, and I agree that it seems presumptuous to be enforcing that view; I think if you look at the basic politics of it, though, he's arguing that a vote for Greens is a vote for Labour, but Labour probably won't be in government come January, so if you want this single issue to change, vote for us (National) because we will be. Its just slightly more aggressive politicking than perhaps we're used to seeing in an open forum in New Zealand, but its pretty standard elsewhere in liberal democracies.

If you have a voting preference diametrically opposed to Nats/ACT then you're probably in favour of Labour/Greens. The strategy works the same way - you give your electoral vote to the major and your party vote to the minor. The strategy is that the major will win the seats it needs to get a majority on electoral votes AND will already take a large percentage of the party vote. By spreading that party vote to your favoured major's closest minor ally, you ensure that that minor has the power to form a coalition and that your major isn't weakened by having to compromise with other parties to form said coalition. The obvious alliances are Nats/ACT and Labour/Greens. ACT is campaigning on a party-vote-only strategy this election; Greens seem to be running a completely independent campaign from Labour after they got so savagely burned and shut out in favour of Winston-Grey-Power-Socialism-Peters.
"the major will win the seats it needs to get a majority on electoral votes"

That's not how MMP works. If a party has more electorate seats than its party vote justifies, an overhang is declared, and the number of MPs is raised to bring things back into proportion with the party vote. So, you can't get a "majority on electoral votes" - the best you can do is dictated by your party vote alone.

Thus, you can't support the "major" party by just voting for its electoral candidate; you don't get two votes that decide the make-up of parliament, unless you're in an electorate that will beat the threshold, or one that will force an overhang.
"Vote National for your electorate MP and give ACT your party vote"

Uhh. Just a quick point: Trav's in Epsom. So, the optimum voting strategy to support National and ACT is the way round - if the National electorate MP wins Epsom, ACT (polling at about 1.5%) is out of parliament.

The people of Epsom, Wigram, and the Maori electorates are in the special position of being able to decide more than one seat in parliament, by split voting.

Actually, that means Trav, Emma, Darryl, etc. have an important, complicated decision to make. If they support their preferred electoral candidate, then whether that person wins or loses their vote will make no difference to the overall party make-up of parliament. It'll just help decide who represents their electorate.

But, if they vote strategically, either for Hide or for the person most likely to defeat Hide (regardless of how much they agree with that person), then their electorate vote decides a big, important part of the make-up of the next parliament, and (almost certainly) government.

And it's a careful tight-rope walk to decide if you're going to vote for or against ACT, provided you've decided to vote strategically. Imagine you're a left-wing Epsom voter. Then you might want to vote against ACT, reasoning like so: I don't like ACT's economic policies, nor their tendency to sell state assets, so I want to keep them out of power. Or, you might want to vote for ACT, reasoning like this: I don't like National's social policies, so I want to ensure they're forced to keep ACT happy in a coalition.

If you're a right wing voter, just reverse the issues. The only people without a dilemma are the liberal/liberals.

Interesting, huh.
Granted, yes, the situation in Epsom will be different; I didn't know what Trav etc's district was.

But it is the ACT strategy for the rest of the country; I know several candidates standing who are barely older than I am and have no real chance of winning but are campaigning to get the party vote out there.

Do you know what's going to be a little bit sad? When Darren Hughes loses his electorate. He is polling so appallingly in Otaki its ridiculous.
That would be sad. But I haven't seen any polling in that electorate yet (nor could I find any, except a poll on Nathan Guy's own facebook profile that got overrun by Hughes supporters). He's got his work cut out for him.

Personally, I want to see Twyford get in. He's somewhere in the twenties on the list, so it pretty much depends on how many people above him win their electorates (because we all know The Shore will never get him in).
Of course not. The Shore votes for Mapp.

Franks is polling well in Wellington Central, too.

Electorate to watch: Rongotai.. Chris Finlayson vs. Annette King vs. Gordon Copeland....