Elections don’t exactly bring out the best in me. I wish I could say otherwise, that I could approach the whole thing from the zen perspective that tells me the time is endless and all sides are reflections of one whole, but I don’t. Instead I pick my team (always orange) and dig in. Even on the days when I manage to refrain from posting to Facebook discussions, I find myself choosing “snooze for 30 days” an awful lot right now. My intensity of feeling is too distracting otherwise and I’ve got other stuff to get done.
In Canada we have a four year election cycle at the federal and provincial levels – so in every four year period there are at least two of these elections which consume about 60 days of emotional energy. That’s 120 days of energy every four years that would be better spent somewhere else. But as bad as that is – it doesn’t come close to touching the never-ending election cycle in the United States. Election, mid-term election, Democratic and Republican nomination races (that take up to a year to complete). It’s as though they never stop campaigning down there, and I think that a lot of good people’s efforts are wasted as a result, not to mention the ever entrenched division right down the middle of the country. If you never take a break from the choosing of sides required to win an election, then you never get a chance to heal from it either.
I’ve always been a voter, ever since I first could when I was eighteen, but when I was younger I didn’t get all that wrapped up in it. I was (and am) a believer in revolution for real change, something I don’t believe electoralism can deliver in the timeframes for destruction we are facing. On the question of revolution however, I have become more confused. Not about the need for it, but about the how of it in the face of a globally distributed ruling class with access to world-destroying technology and an information wing perpetuated by the very people who are oppressed by it. When it comes to electoralism, I feel like it can’t hurt to vote, and I’d rather see the marginally better people win out while I’m at it.
But do I believe, for example, that the Greens can enact policies to halt climate change in Canada? No. Do I believe the NDP are really going to institute the kind of redistribution of wealth I think is necessary? No to that also. Even a party that wins power in Canada rarely has more than 35% of the popular vote, which means there a whole lot of people out there ready to criticize, challenge, and take down whatever you try to do. So even if, by some miracle, the Greens could get that 35% and take power, they wouldn’t have enough popular support to move much forward before they were un-elected in the next election cycle. And that’s not their fault. Humanity is messy and often confused about what is in their best interest, governance periods are short, bureaucracies are convoluted and hard to shift.
Interestingly enough, you don’t need 35% of the population to make a revolution. Historical studies have shown that in many cases, only 20% of the population (or less, this speaker suggests it’s 3.5%) has to be willing to go out on the streets for change in order to make it happen. Of course that 20% has to show up every day, for weeks, for months. And they have to unite around a few very concrete demands that they can stick to. And they need to dispense with individualism, with fringe theories, and with tangents. It may be that our current North American culture doesn’t have the homogeneity required to hold that kind of resolve together – the Occupy movement being a striking example of that, whereas what is happening in Hong Kong right now looks like paradigm-changing civil disobedience.
In any event, I find myself at a loss as to why I care so much about elections, why they create such an internal discord for me. It’s not like when my party actually gets elected they do much of what I would like. For sure, the NDP are better than the Conservatives who are horrible at governing the public sector and the public purse sure, but provincially I’ve watched them do crappy stuff in addition to the things I’ve liked. In the case of the current federal election, my team will never form power (and has never really even come close), at best hoping to be a balancer of power in a minority situation or the official opposition (once in my lifetime). But for whatever reason I do care, and I’m not very good at holding back the snark sometimes as a result. It’s a train I would like to get off in the final days of this election campaign.
To be fair (to me) – I haven’t engaged in any negative posts other than to (once) make fun of the Greens calling the NDP liars. I haven’t told anyone (or shared any memes that suggest that) their vote was splitting, negative, fear-based, or that their understanding of the facts was disappointing or wrong (all of those things have been said to me, or implied in the messages friends are sending around). I have called no candidate a liar, or suggested that they were lying. I have said good things about three of the parties that I think there are good things to say about, I have also been critical of specific aspects of party platforms that I don’t like. In short, I have tried very hard to remember that either way, come Tuesday morning we will have a new configuration of power, no matter what arguments I do or don’t have.
And still. I hate this election like all elections because no matter the outcome, we still have the system that breeds itself, can’t advance beyond its limitations, and alienates us from the real work that needs to get done. As much as I don’t want to see a bad outcome, Tuesday can’t get here fast enough for me.