A reader has written to urge me to make a case for tactical voting for ADPD at the next general election. It’s an argument that’s been made by others and is worth listening to. Still, I remain sceptical. Even if it were workable, it would ask the impossible of ADPD.
The argument for an ADPD vote — by people who usually wouldn’t consider it — rests on two pillars. First, it assumes — correctly, I think — that there’s a significant segment of voters seriously considering abstaining at the next general election because they’re alienated from both Parties of government.
Second, it’s assumed that many of these alienated votes could be picked up by ADPD if it campaigned on two big promises: to support any Party that binds itself to be accountable, meritocratic and transparent; to withdraw support the moment those values are compromised.
In effect, that rules out any partnership with Labour, assuming we can suspend our disbelief that it would ever need ADPD’s support. Such support wouldn’t survive the first week of a Labour government that, in its present sclerosis, is trapped in its own corruption, unable to clean up its act without collapsing.
You will sometimes find a third assumption added: that the country’s current political duopoly needs to be broken. It’s not a necessary assumption in 2022. The country’s duopoly already is broken.
For the foreseeable future, we have a Labour monopoly. At this juncture, to obsess with an inexistent duopoly will risk seeing the current monopoly become permanent.
What about the straight argument for a tactical vote? Why the scepticism? Essentially, the argument demands too much either of voters or of ADPD activists and candidates.
It asks too much of voters if they’re expected to ignore ADPD’s political programme, which is well to the left of both Labour and PN.
If you’re a leftwing Labour voter who’s disenchanted with the corruption and rightwing policies of your Party’s leaders, maybe you can live with ADPD’s programme. If you’re a PN voter, however, then it’s likely that you are disenchanted with the personalities in your favoured Party but not, fundamentally, with its programme. On the contrary, you’re alienated by many of ADPD’s signature policies.
If you’re not going to vote PN because you’re alienated from its personalities or are unsure about their convictions, why vote for a Party that patently doesn’t stand for many things you’d like?
The appeal to how coalition governments work elsewhere is irrelevant. Coalition governments are made up of Parties that campaigned on a distinctive programme and attracted votes for that very programme. What’s being asked for in this case, however — remember, it’s a stratagem for voters who ordinarily wouldn’t consider voting ADPD — is a vote for a programme you don’t want.
What if ADPD commits to having a minimal political programme, other than to act as a watchdog, promising to pull out of supporting a PN government the moment it makes a suspect compromise on good governance? That is essentially to ask ADPD activists to work for a political programme that they don’t believe in. It’s unreasonable.
Only someone who doesn’t really share ADPD’s commitments and priorities would think it’s a small sacrifice to make. A PN government, fulfilling PN promises, while respecting good governance, would still be unacceptable to a committed Green, who’d think the PN promises on the environment, for example, are too little, too late. If you’re a Green, your idea of an unacceptable compromise and accountability is going to be based on criteria that just aren’t the same as those of a centrist Party like the PN.
Centrists are more prone to see compromises as virtuous; radicals are more prone to see them as rotten collusion. It’s not that one group has a conscience and the other doesn’t. They simply read the future differently and that affects how they judge the present. A Green politician elected on centrist votes could easily find herself denouncing actions her electors don’t have a fundamental problem with. Such an arrangement is unworkable. It puts honest people in a false position.
It’s one thing to vote for a third Party or independent candidate out of conviction. That’s democracy in action.
The idea of a tactical vote, however, is based on someone suspending their basic convictions and better judgement. Either you need to suspend your scepticism about ADPD’s policies or else you expect its politicians to freeze their commitments to do your bidding. It’s a recipe for disappointment. People enter politics to get things done, not to act as monitors.
If you think that, given the perilous state of the country, then significant compromises are necessary, perhaps you should consider making those compromises yourself. Swallow hard and take a second look at politicians who, while flawed and not compelling, have every incentive to uncover and fix the major corrupt arrangements that threaten to take the country down.