Friday, November 23, 2007

The March of Folly: Dr Clam and Democracy

I missed the 1988 US Presidential election by a few days, either by being too young or too disorganised. I forget which. So the first time I participated in the democratic process was the 1990 US mid-term elections. I voted for the Democrat on the grounds that he was the only one who had enough initiative to send election propaganda to us on the other side of the world. Also, he seemed like a good bloke.

By the time 1992 rolled around I was capable of rational thought, so I carefully weighed up all the pros and cons and determined which presidential candidate I should vote for. Then I realised that the critical factor in my decision had been whether the candidate was good for Australia. It seemed to me that voting on this basis was not really fair on my fellow Americans, and decided not to vote in American elections anymore.

In 1997 I voted for a Labor candidate. This was for the incumbent mayor of our city. The notable thing about this election was that at the time he was having a bitter argument with the local paper on the grounds that they were out to get him, but it was solely due to the local paper that I voted for him. I was temperamentally and ideologically inclined towards the ‘other side’; but whenever the paper quoted the challenger (s)he came across as a complete dill whose only coherent policies were stupid and unattractive.

In 1998 I played a minor role in the brief ascendancy of ‘One Nation’ in Queensland by exhausting my preferences (which you can do in Queensland state elections) rather than directing preferences to Peter Beattie- little dreaming he would one day become a Sennacherib-like destroyer of the weak, but disliking him already. The guy I had voted for came third, and our electorate ended up being represented by a man whose previous claim to fame was as a shopping-centre Santa Claus.

I made a bumper sticker: ‘Don’t blame me, I voted for the Easter Bunny.’

At the time, this was not technically true.

Later that year, I gave us the GST by voting for the Liberal candidate in our marginally marginal seat and for the Democrats in the Senate. ‘My’ senator was Andrew Bartlett, and I still feel a twinge of pride whenever he writes something sensible in the papers or gets drunk in Parliament.

In 2000 I didn’t vote for anyone in the US Presidential elections, but I still feel responsible because I had made up my mind in advance to see how long I could go before finding out who won. Thus the morning after, after not turning on the TV, I very carefully made it all the way from home to work on the train without once looking at anyone’s newspaper. I had been in my office for about five minutes when someone burst in to tell me that nobody had found out who won...

In 2001 I did vote for the Easter Bunny. I was cross at all the parties in the House of Representatives for voting themselves such a big pay rise for no reason, and was in an incredibly safe seat anyway. So I pencilled in The Easter Bunny and Osama bin Laden on my ballot paper and preferenced them relative to the major parties.

The silly thing I did that election was in the vote for the Senate, where my directed preferences ended up going to the Greens and electing Kerry Nettle. I have written her several letters as ‘My’ senator, but she has never acknowledged receipt of any of them, and she has always voted the exact opposite to how I asked her to.

Oh, I almost forgot the constitutional referendum. I voted informal straight down the line- keen though I was to support Aden Ridgeway’s preamble- for the same reason I stopped voting in American elections. I realised I had a visceral, un-Australian respect for the constitution which was entirely due to my American background. Because of my cultural background, I considered constitutions to be quasi-sacred documents. Writing the Queen out of the constitution would be too much like writing Britney Spears into Second Corinthians. I did not think it would be fair on my fellow Australians to cast my vote on such a basis.

In 2004 we moved to a locality with sitting Independents on the state and federal level, who I have voted for whenever possible. They answer my letters, and on at least one notable occasion our Federal member has explicitly said in Parliament he was voting the way his constituents told him to, and then voted the way I told him!

Also in 2004, after reading Dante’s De Monarchia I decided that the President of the United States was not just the representative of the American people, but was the rightful successor to the Holy Roman Emperor as holder of the temporal power in Christendom. So it was okay to vote in American presidential elections again.

I went to check out this site after reading Emma Tom’s spiel on it in El Pais de Murdoch and answered all the questions in a perfectly Clamly way.

It told me to vote for Labor. And, despite the fact that one of my top three nominated issues was ‘climate change’ and my expressed opinion thereon was ‘don’t sign anything, don’t do anything, its all bollocks’ it told me to put the Greens next. I find myself a teensy bit suspicious of its objectivity.


Dave said...

I'm not sure how far I can get behind the 'Magic 8 Ball' voting methodology, even if it is endorsed by Emma Tom.

Barely-suppressed morale outrage works better for me :)

Jenny said...

I found your post disturbing.

I usually expect to read your stuff, thinking "hmm, interesting point, well thought out, but if I agree with it theres usually a strong factor of convergent reasoning involved (ie I got there a different way).

But this time...I was surprised to see we have quite similar ideas on who to vote for/against AND for pretty much the same reason.

I'm used to feeling alone in my political leanings. Lots of greens and labor people around me.

BTW I have stated in public that I have always been suspicious of Beattie as he looks like an alien in a human suit.

Dr. Clam said...

Gosh, I'm surprised! I didn't think there was anything there that anyone would agree with. :)

So, when did you vote for the Easter Bunny?

Dr. Clam said...

I just checked our polling booth online - 8 out of 201 valid votes were cast for the Labor candidate.

Jenny said...

Fortunately I was in a different electorate to Santa Claus, so was not put in a position to vote for the easter bunny...though I can see the possibility becoming greater as I get older an more cynical and less likely to want any of the parties to get in