The Vote

It’s the vote, stupid!

This paraphrase of the 1992 Clinton quote will become the classic of present-day politics. The original was invented by James Carville, a scrappy democratic strategist from Louisiana, and used to great effect in the debate against Bush forty-one.

My version also speaks to the masses. Ever since the vote became a weapon, politicians have fought over arms limitation, because the vote is potentially the most effective weapon of mass destruction.

Voting is a way for everyone to make a choice, but is often also a vehicle for protest, prejudice, or procrastination.

Because the collective vote has such far-reaching consequences on politics, politicians, business, businessmen, wars and the military, freedom, and society, it’s a weapon that begs control.

Some systems try to do this by perverting the concept of one-man-one-vote. I’m using the generic expression, but of course I mean one-person-one-vote. Nevertheless, a time-honored means of control was to prevent women from voting.

Taking a leaf from the Islamic playbook, which seems hell-bent, if you excuse the pun, on preventing women from doing things, many countries resisted giving women the vote—’liberal’ and open-minded Switzerland is the wahabi sect of this group—women were only given the vote in 1971, and in one particularly progressive jurisdiction, women were finally allowed to vote on local issues in 1991. This canton is Appenzell Innerrhoden, and I suspect it’s twinned with Riyadh.

But the main one-man-one-vote perversion, which is juiced with Anglo-Saxon perfidy, is to allow everyone to vote and then count votes differently. This is a subtle modification of the Stalin approach, which highlighted that ‘what matters is not who votes, but who counts the votes.’

Subtle because the cheating has been built into the system upfront, rather than rear-ended. You hear international observers, be it in Kenya or elsewhere, proclaiming an election was ‘free and fair’; however when it comes to US or UK polling, elections are free but the system has been front-loaded, and it is intrinsically unfair—the arguments are heated, but proportional representation it ain’t.

The results can work in various ways: in the US, Trump won despite a majority defeat, whereas in the UK, Brexit triumphed only because any referendum truly does reflect the voice of the people—those that vote, that is.

And there lies the rub.

Twenty-two countries in the world have a compulsory voting system. They include Egypt, Mexico, Australia, and Greece. After the Portuguese revolution of 1974, a number of political parties pushed for a mandatory vote. The only party that opposed it was the communist party—their cadres knew that every communist would vote.

The lack of audience participation, so to speak, has given us (chronologically) the joys of Brexit, Trump, and Catalonia. Predictably, after the catastrophe comes the whingeing. This is the societal equivalent of ‘you never miss your water till your well runs dry.’

The Washington Post heads with the slogan ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness.’ Fair enough, when it comes to communication, but the terrible truth is ‘Democracy Dies in Indifference.’

The forthcoming Catalan elections on December 21 will be an interesting example of civic duty.

Catalan autonomy since 1980. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I worked up the graph from a Spanish site which hurls a slew of data at you in the vague hope you might convert it into information. The three curves are percentages at various time points when elections were held for the autonomous government.

I shouldn’t have joined the points, but there you go—you get some idea of trends. The blue line is the one that gets airtime—results for eleven elections, of which the first ten were won by a coalition called CIU, Convergència i Unió (the Catalans have even more bizarre accents than other Mediterranean languages). The last election was won by a broader coalition, Junts pel Sí, which excludes a bunch of vowels but includes a bunch of fringe parties—twenty-three parties offer themselves to the electorate, which means Catalunya is either a vibrant democracy or a bit of a zoo, depending on your perspective.

If you look beyond the results, you see the red line, Catalan abstention. Whether it was a good day at the beach, or perhaps FC Barcelona played a big match, I don’t know—what I do know is that average abstention for the thirty-five year period is thirty-eight percent.

From the voting universe, the green line is calculated: it shows the actual proportion of the population that is represented by the government, and at no time does it reach one-third of the registered voters.

I imagine that, much like the supporters of the Portuguese communists, the Catalan independence groups are more assiduous at the ballot box—the graph is inconclusive, but certainly the 2003 and 2006 elections show a drop in the independence vote when abstention is higher.

December 21st is going to be fun. It’s day before El Gordo, the obscenely obese Spanish Christmas lottery—that lottery will make a few Spaniards very rich. The previous day’s lottery will determine whether the population of Catalunya has learned a healthy lesson in democracy.

To paraphrase Churchill, take your vote by the hand, or it will surely seize you by the throat.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.


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