This is something I wrote in reply to something written to me on the e-mail list I set up. It is largely self explanatory. I suggested to these people that they become Liberal party supporters so they could vote for Joyce Murray.

March 3, 2013

electoral alliances

I got a feeling we are about to rehash an old argument from the official FVC list. I think most of it happened before I got onto the old discussion list.

I do not think the arguments against an electoral alliance are very convincing. Although, it is a bit late to be making a counterargument; people have until midnight to sign up in order to be able to vote in the Liberal leadership, or we all turn into pumpkins.

As I said, it seems the liberals are going to let everyone vote, which really is a brilliant idea. Maybe FVC should consider the equivalent. All you have to do is sign up as a supporter and you get a ballot. It does not seem like you get charged a member fee to vote.

As for the first question; can it work? There is no reason why it could not. All over the world, political parties engage in strategic alliances for various reasons. For some reason Canadian bone heads have a lot of trouble getting this together, but there are some examples from Canada, eg the Bob Rae-David Peterson thing in the 1980s.

Oh, it is almost certain to backfire? There is nothing to lose by trying it, so even if there is only a 10% chance it succeeds, it is worth the try.

You do not want the initiative to be seen as a left wing thing? But voting reform is basically a left wing thing. The right wing keeps plurality voting in place because it slants the voting process toward them. This is because conservatives tend to vote in blocks while left and center groups tend to be split among themselves. Yet most people are to the center and left in their fundamental opinions, and conservative people are always a minority. Plurality leads to right wing governments, and proportionality tends toward center left coalitions; plurality right, proportionality left. No getting away from this. The few self identified conservatives who support PR are the "red tory" types of whom there are not many around anymore.

So Trudeau is sure to win? A party is more than its leader and its top brass. There is something of a grass roots revolt going on in the liberal party. People are annoyed with coronations, and looking for an alternative to Trudeau as he is increasingly showing himself to be really very much on the right wing of the party. The candidate who is coming up seems to be Joyce Murray, simply because she is on the left and is the big supporter of an electoral alliance. She has a pretty good chance.

Even if Trudeau does win, there is a powerful left faction in the party again, after the huge attempt to suppress it in the Chretien years. The big T could be forced to cooperate regardless of what he and his brass think.

As for why an alliance would lead to PR even if it defeats the conservatives, the simple answer is, why not? If you can hold an alliance together long enough to beat Harpo, it could be held together long enough to achieve PR. I think the key to it is each of the leftward parties getting it through their heads that they are never going to get a majority government, except maybe once in ten tries, and the only way they will ever have any power is if they cooperate. There will be some old guard deepers who are still fixated on replacing the Liberals, and some old guard Liberals who see the NDP as a temporary aberration, but they will be fewer all the time.

Unfortunately, it seems one of the big obstacles to an alliance is old guard political activists who are involved in FVC but who still think according to plurality system assumptions. There are other groups pushing for political reform who are made up of somewhat younger people who are less tied to rigid political labels, especially when attached to parties. They tend to look at what is similar about the different parties, rather than what is different, and look at how they can get what they and most other people really want.

You could almost say it would be better if these more practical people just joined leadnow and democracy alliance, and left FVC to wither away. The trouble is that groups like FVC seldom just disappear when they are no longer relevant to their original purpose. They tend to become an actual impediment to achieving it.

The recent fiasco with the AV referendum is a case in point. "The Alternative Vote is really a form of PR and FVC recommends it for local government. See, they are willing to share the same platform as me. They accept me on their board." Obnoxious as they are, somebody has to challenge these fuddle heads now in control of FVC and try to get the group back on a right path.

FVC really does need to endorse cooperation in order to stay relevant and not drag down the voting reform movement. In fact, we have to start talking about the democracy movement and not just the voting movement.