Strategic Voting? It’s a Losing Strategy. But Here’s How We Can Win

By Jay Menard

This ABH political mentality has allowed the ugly head of strategic voting to rear its ugly head again. But, to me, strategic voting is merely playing someone else’s game for a prize that’s far too valuable to roll the dice on – the future of our country.

For the uninitiated, ABH refers to “Anyone But Harper.” And I will happily admit that I have never voted Conservative/Reform/PC in the past and will not be doing so on Monday. I’ve also noticed that, for the most part, the biggest advocates of strategic voting tend to be affiliated with party who would most benefit in their riding from the practice.

Not that I’m suggesting any malfeasance here. No, in this election of unparalleled hyperpartisanship, selective indignation, and rampant confirmation bias, I wouldn’t dare suggest that anyone would be advocating a practice that would get their preferred candidate (or, perish the thought, the candidate for whom they have an active working and/or volunteer relationship with) into power.

But if you insist on strategic voting, here’s my guide to doing it right.

Vote ‘strategically’ – vote for the candidate that best represents your need and your riding at the federal level. That is strategic.

Abdicating that process means that you are choosing to vote for something less than an ideal candidate. And politics, despite what many will try to convince you, is not about choosing the lesser of two evils. It’s about standing up and saying, “I entrust you with my voice in the House of Commons. Use it wisely and stand behind what I believe, as represented by my vote supporting your cause.”

This is important because of the next point.

Vote ‘strategically’ – vote for your beliefs so that they are represented at the national level.

Abdicating that process means that you’re actively choosing to mute your own voice. You will be throwing your support behind a candidate to win.

In the short term.

In the long term, you – and Canada as a whole – loses. I have voted Green a couple of times in the past (I won’t this time because I’m absolutely disgusted by the behaviour and negative campaigning of our local candidates. To wit, I know how evil you think everyone else is. I have no idea what you’re going to do. Solid campaign, folks) not because I thought they had a chance to win, but because I felt it necessary to say, “This is what I believe in.”

Even if your candidate has no hope of getting in, how are we going to change the political spectrum in the future? If there’s no representation of differing ideas and parties are rewarded for the status quo, how can we have real change? Not the cheap hashtagged slogan version, but actual political change.

If 10 per cent of Canadians voted for a so-called fringe party, those ideals could not be ignored totally. To appeal to those ‘fringe’ votes, the major parties would have to conscript some of them into their future platforms.

That is progress. That is real change.

Voting ‘strategically’ is about a marathon – Real change – again, not the empty hashtagged version that’s being so cavalierly tossed around – is a slow process. Sure, your chosen candidate or party may not win this round.  But, in the long term, the ideals to which you hold true will permeate the collective consciousness.

Look municipally — there are those who have already sworn off our new council for not being ‘progressive’ enough. But that’s an immature, self-centered view of the efforts they have taken. Real change isn’t done with a magic wand. It’s done with effort, time, and perseverance. It’s done by building trust, cross-demographic buy-in, and consensus. It’s not about ramming through policies, but rather helping people understand why this is better for us all.

Our political spectrum is already too polarized. What has traditionally made Canada great is that we work together – left, right, and centrist – to find an ideal that benefits most of us and mitigates the risks for the minority.

Voting’s not a game. It’s not a clever hashtag. It’s not a self-congratulatory selfie from outside a polling booth. It’s a long, involved process that is about so much more than the here-and-now. It’s about standing up for your beliefs, choosing what’s best in the long run – not what someone else has told you is better for now.

I don’t believe in strategic voting. I don’t blame those who do, but for me all voting is strategic. But I prefer my politics to be forward thinking, long-serving, and less polarized than the me-now mentality that’s infiltrated politics to date.

So I wish you a happy voting day. If you’re confident that you’ve taken the time to make an educated vote, then I look forward to seeing you at the polling stations. And if you haven’t but are considering voting because of a name, a colour, or a hashtag, then kindly stay home.

The future of our country – both in the near and distant future — is too important for so-called strategic voting.

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