"Then, the doctor told me that BOTH my eyes were lazy! And that's why it was the best summer ever."
-- Ralph Wiggum

Ahh… a rant-worthy topic finally surfaces

So Bush Junior is back in. Well from my (liberal minded) perspective, that pretty well sucks rotten eggs, but probably not worth actually ranting about. Way too much of that lefty-venting blowing across the border already. Don’t get me wrong, I think the man is a morally bankrupt, war-mongering, puppet for a technocratic, corporatist world-view, interested only in benefiting his “kind”, which I personally find abhorrent despite participating (at least passively; though to some extent resistively) in what I like to think of as a less-so version thereof. (Okay, mini-rant… But then, if I go down that route I’ll just be angry all day, and as there’re enough other people who are so much more talented at being angry than I am (and who don’t feel the need to get bogged-down by giving voice to their own parenthetical doubts), I’ll desist somewhat.)

So, no, I don’t think I’ll bother ranting about the American electoral system, colleges and all. Parts of it seem screwy, but I’ll leave it to others to provide their hopefully more informed take on just what’s screwy about it (screwiness is in the eye-of-the-beholder?). At least my (vague) impression (at this point) is that the system worked more or less the way it was supposed to (whether we like the way it was supposed to work and/or the results it produced or not). Yes, lots of issues around absentee ballots, voter registration and provisional ballots (and so on) but at lest there seems to be a significant improvement on the 2000 election. And check-out the voter turn out (almost 60%; highest since 1968)! At least the election results (the numbers rather than the win-lose) are more representative. Now if we could just get the side that won to pay attention to the fact that just under half of the voters wanted something else!

That said, I’ll put in my little plug for electoral reform here in Canada: The Law Commission of Canada has an electoral reform project which published it’s Final Report (“Voting Counts: Electoral Reform For Canada”) early last spring. Funny how under Canada’s current system (a “First past the post” system) a party with significantly less than half of the popular vote can win a significant majority of seats in parliament (as was the case with the last Chrétien government, and seems to me similar to the newly elected situation in the States).

Okay, so maybe it’s not so “funny”; this can be seen as a strength, with our system tending to produce majority governments with enough power to actually make things happen: historically a ‘desirable’ thing(?). Personally I value collaboration more (as distinct from compromise!), and feel this approach would be more useful in our current context of social diversity.

The report gives a good primer on various electoral systems, including their impact on the proportion of parliamentary representation to the popular vote, and recommends one system in particular (a “mixed member proportional system” for those of you who care). And yes, the obvious “drawback” is that it results in minority governments most of the time; if that were the case, then they might have to learn how to cooperate like the rest of us did by watching Sesame Street.

…I think there’s also an argument for fixed election dates lurking around in there somewhere, but I’m not sure how I feel about that yet — a gut reaction against American ways; being challenged by the fact that I haven’t even read the article that I just linked to. :(

The Law Commission’s report also deals with other important aspects of electoral reform, but since the proportionality issue is merely technical in nature (essentially about math and the systems for transferring votes into seats in parliament) it’s relatively easy to be clear about and to give clear recommendations around (though whether agreement exists about the values underlying those recommendations is a completely other issue; at least the mechanics of the systems under consideration are fairly straightforward). But then, for other issues –like how to improve women’s and aboriginal representation in parliament– the analysis isn’t as simple (not just math and vote transfer), and so the recommendations come out feeling a little weak. That said, I like the intentions behind the recommendations, and I only wish that they could be more clearly defined, implemented and generally useful.

Ahh… such is the murk of complexity.
Hop in! Wallow a bit!

p.s. On a related note, B.C. is currently in the process of changing their electoral system. (Prompted partly by the massively lop-sided victory in the last election, despite what I think was approximate popular balance?) B.C.’s work in this area (as well as that of other provinces) was part of the input into the Law Commission’s study; B.C. seems to be leading the pack in this aspect of reform here in Canada.

P.p.s. For those interested in more fuel against the US occupation of Iraq, CBC‘s Ideas program (of Monday, November 1) presented “War and Fleece“, a very interesting lecture by Naomi Kline (of No Logo fame) about the US’s on-going attempt to transform Iraq. A similar article, “Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neo-con utopia” (in text rather than audio) appears on the No Logo site.

One Response to “Ahh… a rant-worthy topic finally surfaces”

  1. Wow… That’s a lot of parentheses!! :)

    It seems that the American people want a simple president with a simple message, and don’t want to bother with complexity. Too bad the world is not a simple place.

    Disagree with the notion of fixed election dates, though. The Americans spend more than a year compaigning, I don’t want my government that wrapped up in getting re-elected!! :)

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