We have an election in the UK next month. One of the main differences between UK and US politics is that we have three major parties rather than two. The Liberal Democrats, however, could be said to be on something of a losing streak – having not won in ninety two years.
If you’re wondering why that graph goes completely insane right around now, it’s because we just had our first ever televised debate between the party leaders, so suddenly everyone knows who they are and what they’re saying. The lack of that has been a problem for the Liberal Democrats in the past, but one of the biggest reasons they’ve struggled to win is all the not-winning they’ve done.
It confused me when, as a kid, I tried to understand how politics worked in this country, but the logic goes like this:
- I like the Liberal Democrats.
- But I really hate the Conservatives.
- Since the Liberal Democrats never get in, I should vote for Labour to ensure the Conservatives won’t.
This will either seem like a reasonable precaution to you, or it will make your fucking brain explode. For me it was the brain thing, and it still is. Where do you- I mean how do you- Why would… if… what.
There are only two coherent viewpoints on voting. Either you recognise that you are just one person, that it’s statistically almost impossible for you alone to determine the outcome of an election, and that the whole process is pointless on an individual level.
Or you do what you would wish others to do, because if everyone only thought of themselves we’d have no democracy at all. In a sense, you see yourself as everyone, and act as you would want society to act. You’re having tea with Immanuel Kant later and the two of you are going to get along famously.
In the first case, you don’t vote. In the second case, you vote for who you want to win, because that’s what you’d want others to do. And yet most people I talk to about this seem to exist in a squidgy third state between these two positions, in which voting for the party in third place is a wasted vote, but voting for your second favourite will change the outcome to your liking.
They don’t see themselves as just one person, or there’d be no point in voting. But they’re not going to act as they want everyone to, or they’d vote for the party they actually wanted. So I can only assume they think of themselves as blob of around 800,000 people: enough to push the second party into pole position, but too few to boost a twenty percenter into the lead.
I’m not saying your vote does make a difference if you vote for the Liberal Democrats. I’m saying your vote is every bit as pointless, impotent and thirty times as ridiculous if you cast it at a larger party you don’t even want to win. Even if they do – especially if they do.
I don’t care who you vote for, but I do care that your brain functions correctly when turning opinion into action. Strategic voting is for reality TV, applying it to a national election is a mental disorder.