A big article on the Op Ed page in the Vancouver Sun Monday by the First Past The Post bloc, laying out their platform. It’s a pretty straightforward statement of their usual arguments, which gives us a chance to look at them in detail. Over the next few days, I will analyze their planks one at a time. Their main point is clearly in need of discussion.
The Great “Alt-Right” Monster
One argument that strikes a chord with FPTP believers is that if there is Proportional Representation, then the Alt Right fanatics will get more power. Their example in this case is recent German politics, where in order to form a government, Angela Merkle was forced to deal with the far-right Freedom Party, who do not sound like nice people at all.
We cannot deny that this event occurred. However, the spin the FPTP supporters put on it is open to discussion, and reveals how these people really feel about democracy.
How did Proportional Representation function in this case? I would suggest that it did its job admirably. Germany does have a problem: a large number of people with a legitimate complaint. To have democracy, those people’s needs must be heard. Having a voice in parliament is a step in the right (sorry) direction.
Okay, we don’t like what they have to say or how they say it. But that’s what democracy is all about. Everyone gets a voice. That’s EVERYONE, not just the people that believe like you and I do. So Germany has an active and vocal Alt Right group. That’s a problem. But is the solution to shut those people up and keep them out of the government process? FPTP apologists say it is.
FPTP Creates and Nurtures Fanatics
But fanatic groups thrive on suppression, exclusion, and isolation. Keeping these people smothered and entombed in their own Internet bubble guarantees that their members will never hear more reasonable arguments, and leaves them easy prey for demagogues. If their leaders were allowed to campaign in the open, their cockamamie ideas would be exposed to discussion among more reasonable people, thus limiting their appeal.
Democracy Requires Empathy; Try It.
By demonizing the Alt Right and trying to keep them from having any say in government, the supporters of FPTP are revealing their anti-democratic attitude. Here’s a little exercise for you. Look at the Sun article, and all the points the FPTP supporters make about how PR is going to help the Alt Right, and how FPTP is going to keep these horrible people out of power. Now put the name of your favourite belief in there. Let’s say you’re a Pro-Life advocate. Do you want an election process that keeps you from expressing yourself, that keeps your vote from counting?
“Under FPTP …a Pro-Life party… cannot get a toehold in parliament.”
“PR opens the door to …Pro-Life… parties to gain seats, legitimacy, and a platform to espouse their hateful views.”
“…Pro-Life parties… benefit from PR in terms of their share of seats, which is what matters, after all, for the power, legitimacy, status, and resources that flow from elected office.”
Yep, “power, legitimacy, status, and resources.” Sounds rather important to them, doesn’t it?
Whenever you hear a political party shouting about restricting any group’s influence, try this exercise in empathy. Just say to yourself, “What if they were talking about me?” Because that’s the essence of a fair democracy. You must be willing to give everyone else the same rights that you want for yourself. If you only want power, legitimacy, status, and resources for those who think like you do, then you haven’t progressed in your thinking much past the first Athenian democracy 2500 years ago: democracy for adult males who owned property. FPTP is your style.
It doesn’t matter what group you place on the dotted line: the Green Party, Mormons, free enterprisers, Pro-Choicers, anarchists, First Nations or followers of the Great Spaghetti Monster. It’s obvious that those in support of First Past the Post are concerned with “power, legitimacy, status, and resources,” and want to make sure they keep these things to themselves and don’t spread them around to anybody who doesn’t think like they do.
And that’s not democracy. It’s elitism.