John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, said "Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."
Tonight is a big night for Canadians, although a disturbing and alarming number of us may not think so. Tonight we are choosing between 5 major political parties (or 4, if you're the debate organizers) for the right to govern our country in this time of political, economic, social, and environmental unrest.
I wouldn't want the job.
I also don't want ANY of the party leaders to have the job. Party platforms aside, I am dismayed by the antics and mud-slinging engaged in by the party leaders. I am sick of scandal, bad hair and bad eyebrow jokes, "targeted" ads (haven't yet seen one targeted at singles), unanswered questions and unsatisfying debates.
I also don't really like the parliamentary system, if truth be told. Although it has its flaws too, I much prefer the US system where voters choose local, state, and federal representatives separately. I'd love to have the choice to vote for a Liberal MP and a Conservative Prime Minister (not that I would!).
But this is the way our country works, for better or worse.
The voter turnout in the US in 2008 was 56.8%, the highest since 1968 (when Nixon was elected). Of course 2008 was a pretty exciting election - I predict the same for 2012. In Canada in 2008 we had 58.8%, which sounds high but represents a fairly steady decline since the '80s when it was in the 75% range.
I'm really concerned that this election campaign has not inspired people to get out there and have their say. For the past few days I've been talking to just about anyone who will listen to get their views, and I am shocked by the number of well-educated, successful adults who feel that there is absolutely no point in voting because either a) it won't make a difference, b) there's no point any more, or c) they are too disgusted by the choices. One friend told me that two elections ago she voted green, the next she spoiled her vote, and this time didn't vote at all.
I asked one man what he thought would happen if all these people who think voting is a waste of time actually went out and voted. He said, "probably nothing. They would split the vote and then what's the point."
Am I too naïve? Is it really too much to think that a large group could make a difference?
I hope not. Rick Mercer, one of Canada's favourite political satirists, challenged Canadian youth to get out there and make their voices heard. You can learn more about the resulting "vote mobs" here in a blog written by a friend of mine. There are about 3 million students in this group - surely if they go out and vote it will make a difference and not just "split the vote". If this is true for the student vote, then it must also be true for the apathetic vote.
I'm not ashamed to say I voted Green tonight. One friend told me I wasted my vote. I don't think I did. I am tired of the "same old, same old" choices on election night, and I want another voice at the table. Do I want Elizabeth May? No. But right now, I want anyone who can to challenge the status quo, and I know that every vote the Green Party gets gives them $1.75 towards their future campaigns. I'm not sure how else to get the issues heard and discussed - I sure wasn't going to vote for the Marxist-Leninist candidate in my riding (!!). So for me it was (and has been for the past few federal elections) a considered choice.
I'm pretty sure I'm not going to like tonight's results, no matter what they are. But when people all over the world are literally dying for the right to live in a democratic society, I can't imagine NOT voting.
I am not sure what we can do about it. Anyone have any ideas? Maybe someone out there knows Ryan Reynolds, and can get him and a bunch of other Canadian stars (c'mon, there are some) to do a video like this:
I hope you voted.