There are a number of puzzling things to consider about our provincial election: among them was the editorial in the May 15 edition of the Nelson Star (“A riding right on cue”).
The editorial writer accused us of stubbornness. I think he means that we in Nelson-Creston are unreasonably obstinate in our persistent election of NDP members to the Legislature and Parliament. Perhaps he told us to stop before?
But his disappointment continued: Our “unwillingness to see past politics may once again cost us over the next four years.” I hear an echo of the Liberal candidate, Mr. Garbula, quoted on the front page of the same edition: “I thought the people would be more interested in themselves and the representation I could bring, rather than party politics.”
Both of these reflect a view that elections are solely about self-interest; make sure to elect a member of the winning side so you can get more, i.e. more stuff than other British Columbians.
Before we dismiss it as simple cynicism, we should look at some of the practical problems in this advice. How do you successfully pull off such a clever move? How do you know which way to jump? As it was, all of the opinion polls told us that the NDP were about to form the next government. So, perhaps we in Nelson-Creston did exactly the right thing: maybe by this calculation we deserve compliments for our realpolitik. And by this logic he should be writing excoriating editorials about our neighbours in the Okanagan who continued (stubbornly) to vote Liberal, despite all indications of an NDP government. But I think we know that this is not what he really means.
Thankfully, politics is much more than that. The perennial questions of how to allocate our resources — how much is adequate for health care, how much for seniors, for education, and how much to allocate for corporate profit — these are all moral questions, questions of fairness. Questions of how to exploit our resources or whether to even exploit them are also moral questions: some people thrive, some fail on the answers, somewhere some may live or die. Politics at its essence is our own sense of morality, each one of us, brought to the public sphere.
And therefore we have to agree to disagree: morally informed choices will differ.
I would bet that the writer would follow his own advice, but only so far. Imagine, for example, that some party with extreme views about race or religion was clearly about to win an election: I doubt that he would advise us to jump on board that bandwagon just to get more stuff for Nelson-Creston.
And even in this case he wishes that only some of us should behave with this self-interest or cynicism — the “stubborn” NDP voters. He gives Green voters advice that is a polar opposite: they should vote with their hearts. I don’t think this is a sudden outburst of idealism; it sounds too much of yet another echo of a Liberal campaign theme.
Despite the contradictions in the editorial, I think it is obvious that the writer would wish us all somehow to elect conservatives — of one stripe or other. If he would just come out and say so much, I would want to disagree with him and tell him that he is following a model of economics that has been tried before, tried too often: that it is a model that has led only to disaster — lastly in the 1930s. And I might say that he was stubborn.