|NDP Candidates at the Quebec debate|
Regardless of your political views and loyalties, I implore you to register and vote. You can join here and see options for how to vote here.
One of the great things about being somewhere on the political left in Canada is that we get the choice of three different parties to vote from. Personally, I have voted Liberal, NDP, and Green in different elections for various reasons. I don't see myself as partisan, and I don't believe one has to be an NDP loyalist to vote in these elections. I intend to participate in the 2013 Liberal leadership elections next year as well.
To new and long term supporters of the NDP, take this opportunity to play an active opposed to passive role in building the party and setting the agenda of issues and values that it represents. To voters who lean more in the Liberal or Green camps, note that politics is not done in a vacuum and having an NDP candidate that most represents your own views works in concert with other parties doing likewise, not in conflict with them. Multi-partisan support for issues is always the best way forward and a healthy debate of the best candidates from all parties is the optimal outcome. To those who may feel politically apathetic or unrepresented, this is an opportunity to input your voice and your perspectives into the political conversation in way that has a much higher influence per vote than the general election.
We have seen in Canada how a good leader like Jack Layton can provide a tremendous boost to a party and how a poor one, like Stéphane Dion, can significantly hamper a party. More than just choosing a leader, it is about choosing the values and issues that we most care about. It is about influencing the balance of priorities of issues, about setting the agenda and the framing. Even if our preferred candidate does not win, by showing support for the issues they represent, it buoys the prevalence of those issues in the future by the party which sees the appeal those issues presented. There remains considerable value in voting for third party candidates.
The importance of nomination contests:
In many ways, the choices we make in nomination contests like this one are more important than those we make in a general election. For many of us who, frankly, would not consider the Conservatives to be a viable option in almost any circumstance, our choice of the relevant non-Conservative option in our riding is more of a ratification of that candidate than it is a chance to shape and mold the party and the country.
All of the hard work in democracy comes long before the general election campaigns. It is about setting the political agenda, framing the issues, and choosing candidates who represent our beliefs and values. We can, and should, be engaged in this process at every step along the way. Coming in at the last moment to vote - particularly for the lesser of two evils, as so many do - is an almost empty decision that deprives us of the chance for a larger influence in our democracy.
In a top down system, we choose between the choices provided to us by others; all too often these choices are unsatisfactory and leave us feeling disgusted and apathetic about politics. We have it relatively good in Canada, in many countries the choices presented to ratify are nothing but the pawns of a corrupt and authoritarian establishment. In a genuine bottom up democratic system, it is the people who decide the issues and the people who present their candidate when that candidate has proven their worth at fighting for the values and issues of the people.
The Tea Party model:
The tremendous electoral success of the Tea Party in the United States should provide motivation, even if we recoil at some of their politics. They managed, in the 2010 midterm elections, to get numerous of their candidates elected in nomination contests unseating establishment Republicans. The Tea Party was a success not because its members ratified whoever was the GOP candidates, but because they organized and set the agenda and got their own candidates elected in district after district who where then ratified by the rest of the Republicans to give them their electoral successes. We can do the same with progressive candidates, on both sides of the border.
Part of the inhibitions some might feel to becoming an NDP member and voting in this election is that they don't know very much about the candidates. To make the best choice possible, we have a civic duty not just to register and vote, but to make an informed choice that rests on our own values and chooses a candidate who best represents them. It does not take very long to get a cursory understanding of the candidates and how they differ. This blog has covered the Ottawa debate, the Toronto debate, and the Halifax debate, which should give a rough overview. In the next month, check back for more coverage of the policies and politics of this election and, hopefully, a comprehensive endorsement of one of the candidates.
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