Why “Lack of Imagination” is a problem

My previous blog entry discussed a problem of “lack of imagination,” specifically that many people suffer from the problem that they cannot even imagine how it is that a “thinking person” might vote for some party that they consider somehow heinous.

  •  Many acquaintances in Toronto cannot fathom how anyone would ever vote Conservative
  • The same population appears unable to grasp how anyone  would ever vote Republican, in the US
  • There are also demographics that cannot fathom what kind of person would vote for either of the Clintons, or that “dangerous I-heard-he-might-be-Muslim” Obama, or Canadian left-leaning parties such as NDP or Green.

Now, I know folks who have been strongly associated with one party or another, and I’ll give the caveat that I do not intend this to be a criticism of them.  Once you have chosen to commit to particular involvement with the “party apparatus” of one party or another, it’s actually pretty important to stay with that choice.  Someone who has committed a significant portion of their personal time (paid, or not) shouldn’t easily change their vote.

I don’t anticipate that members of the respective caucuses of the various parties can have all that useful an ability to imagine correctly about “political bubbles” that differ from the one that they live in.

However, most people aren‘t that committed to any particular party, and are subject to the vagaries of the periodic swings of population attitudes between one preference and another, and it seems to me that it’s good “economics” to be prepared to consider political positions other than some single absolutist one.

Notably, if you wouldn’t even imagine the “other party,” then neither party has much reason to listen to or care about your views, desires and needs, neither the party you vote for, nor the ones you wouldn’t consider.

  • The party you would never vote for doesn’t need to worry about your opinion, because since they can’t get your vote, there’s little point in soliciting  your opinions.
  • The party you do vote for  also does not need to worry about you very much, since, particularly if you don’t believe any alternative exists, they can’t lose your vote.

There’s a lot of room there for nobody to care about about your opinions.
I was living in Texas during the campaign that brought George W Bush into the US presidency, and could see this pretty clearly in the way TV ads differed from state to state.  The Republicans knew they had Texas wrapped up, and as a result, didn’t bother airing many political ads, as it would be unlikely to influence many votes.  The very same thing was true for the Democrats.  Neither were competing for votes in Texas.

To a goodly degree, there are some ongoing parallels in the present campaigns in both Canada and the US.

  • The “right-leaning” parties have stronger constituencies in rural areas
  • The “left wings” are stronger in large urban areas

There will doubtless be some battlegrounds where the parties “duke it out” for dominance, but to a considerable extent, the parties will ignore (for practical purposes) large portions of the nations.

I believe that this is a problem; with the fairly close splits (in both countries!), the results of both elections are likely to involve certain portions of the populations being dominant over other portions of the population.

  • If the Conservatives win, rural regions, and, to a considerable degree, the West, will control the House, and urban areas will correspondingly not be particularly well represented by new government policies.
  • If the Liberals should win, then, as the opposite hand, urban regions would be over-represented, and rural concerns under-represented.
  • In the US, a Republican presidency leaves those “more on the left” underrepresented, and a Democrat presidency does the obvious oppposite

There is an essential difference between the two countries, in that Canada is presently unlikely to see majority governments, and the resultant need for coalition prevents a “winner” from dictating quite as much over- and under-representation.  Minority rule is an interesting topic for another time!

It seems to me that voters that aren’t part of party apparatus could get a lot more value (which smells like economics, of a sort) if they did consider  “swing voting” much more seriously.  All the politicians have good reason to value your vote if they consider it to be possibly theirs.

People should ask, and perhaps tell their would-be politicians what they would expect them to do in order to gain their votes.  I’m not suggesting vote-buying; part of the political process is, legitimately, telling your would-be candidates what you wish them to do, as your representative.

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