Today is election day here in Canada. It has been a whirl-wind five weeks of planes, trains, debates, and debacles. The politicians have had their say, and today we have ours. But in the last few days of this volatile campaign, I started noticing something unsettling. Maybe you did too. As the economy became the hot-button issue and the race between the leading parties became tighter, politicians and people alike began talking about strategic voting, vote swapping, and voting against certain parties rather than for a party.
Now granted, none of these ideas is new, nor are they foreign to our political process but they do all betray an underlying assumption which is troubling. Since when is Democracy about ME winning?
More and more you see people talking (and presumably voting) as if the only reason for casting your ballot is to try and win. Vote for the winner and YOU too are a winner, vote for the loser and … It seems that people have developed the notion that a vote for the losing person or the party that doesn’t form government is a losing vote and therefore a wasted vote. What!?!
Call me naive, but I thought the whole purpose of having a democracy was so that all the views of all the people that make up a nation could be proportionally represented in the running of the country. In other words, it doesn’t matter how crazy and distasteful you find the opinion, if there are enough people who share that opinion they should have representation in government. I know that my Christian views on the sanctity of life, the protection of marriage and family, and the importance of religious freedom are not popular with many segments of our population anymore. But I also know that there are still many others in Canada who share my opinions and who should be represented in government.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said in the New Testament (Mt. 22:39). To cast my vote in the hopes of winning something is selfish and harmful to my neighbour. Why? Because not all my neighbours share my views, and it is not my job to force them to do it through legislative means. It is only through getting to know them, and talking with them about our differing views that such changes should be made. respecting them as a person, and not seeing them as an obstacle to victory or an enemy withholding it. If a nation is split on important issues, the representative government should look the same in its make-up.
If government does not reflect what the true opinions of its people are, what is it representing? If the government is formed on the basis of vote-swapping, strategic alliances, non-competition agreements, or whatever, what mandate (who’s mandate) have they been given? I can’t answer that one. I don’t think anyone can.
When everyone votes according to what they actually believe (whether its popular or not), our neighbour is served, and our government is given an honest direction in how to best represent its constituents. And when this happens everyone wins. Does this consign us to an unending cycle of minority governments, and fringe-group politics? Maybe. But other than the fact there is no clear winning party in such an arrangement, what’s the matter with that? Maybe without majority mandates we could begin to talk more, find the common ground, and work harder to represent not just party politics, but the average Canadian’s views.
Today when I cast my vote I will naively throw strategy to the wind and simply let my opinion be known. Then I will wait to see what my neighbours think. After the dust has settled we can figure out from there how best we can all work together. One thing I do know, whatever the outcome of tonight’s election, I will pray for God’s blessings on those elected (whether I voted for them or not). I will pray that they may truly represent the people people they serve, that they would protect the welfare of all Canadians, and that they would do so with wisdom, honesty and integrity. I pray you will too.