Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Vote for MMP!!! The Andrew Coyne Show Continues Edition!!!

I'm very excited about the latest installment of "Vote for MMP!!!" here at LKO.

Andrew Coyne continues to do a great public service by debunking myths and setting the record straight on Ontario's Referendum.

Thank God for that man!

Today's column: MMP does not mean appointed by party hacks.

Finally, now I can stop explaining that over and over (and over) and just point to Mr. Coyne's post!

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Idealistic Pragmatist said...

He really is the most informed voice--from either side--on electoral reform in the media today.

Anonymous said...

He might be - it's hard to say. He certainly is well-informed with regards to rebuttals to certain FPTP arguments. His readers, though, are under-informed and will continue to be until he gives an equally thoughtful criticism of the proposed MMP system. I'm not saying it's not necessarily a better system, but better doesn't mean flawless and an informed decision can't be reached unless you have all that information. And what better way for the public to understand legitimate concerns with the system than to hear them from a vocal proponent.

(I also think he, like most of the pro-MMP, is focussing on the misuse of the word 'appointed' and not addressing real democratic concerns with the party lists)

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Yes, except that the misuse of the word "appointed" is HUGELY important, because it COMPLETELY misrepresents what MMP is. Too use the extreme example, to say that someone is focusing too much on the misuse of the word "appointed" and not covering other arguments as thoroughly, is almost like saying "all he's complaining about is that I called him a Nazi, and he's completely ignoring my other points". Well, duh!

Also, I think the reason he's not pulling apart MMP is because it's so clearly better than FPTP. Are there other systems that are better still? Maybe. However, I really don't understand people (and there are many) who say things like "I'm not voting for MMP because STV is better", or "I'm not voting for MMP, because even though it's better than FPTP, MMP with open lists would be better still". I mean, great, so you don't want to answer the question asked. If that's the case, why vote in the Referendum at all?

The question in the Referendum is pretty clear. Should we use A or B? Whether we might prefer C or D is irrelevent in the context of the Referendum. Do you want FPTP, or MMP? This isn't an up-or-down vote on MMP. You have two choices, MMP or FPTP. To me, that choice is blatantly obvious. And everyone who doesn't vote for MMP has to realize that they're voting FOR FPTP. If that's what you want, have at it, but I don't think that's what most people want.

If a beautiful woman offers me a choice of a handshake or a kick in the groin, I may very well prefer a hug. Or a kiss. Or hours of passionate love-making.

There's no way in Hell I'm going to vote for the kick in the groin over the handshake though.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your analogy to Nazi's is apt, because I think, for the most part, it's an honest misuse of 'appointed' (or a poorly articulated point) and not what the FPTP side is actually trying to argue when they say it. To me, it's like picking on spelling and not the idea. (though I do agree, that the use of 'appointed' in the argument is misleading to those who don't understand the system properly).

In fact, now that I re-read your Nazi analogy -- why not? Why not ignore the fact that you've been called a nazi and focus on other points? Or at least give them equal time? To focus only on being called a nazi is to set up a straw man.

With regards to your other argument about the choice being presented and how to vote:
1) I'm not saying "don't vote for MMP because it has flaws and there's a better, third option". I'm saying "know the legitimate pros and cons of BOTH sides". If you're really interested in democracy, shouldn't you be interested in making sure people have the complete package of information and are making an informed decision?

2)You ignore the fact that even though there are only two circles on the ballot, you still have a third option. If you really believe there's a better system that should be in place, you can decline your ballot (which is distinctly different from spoiling it). Declined ballots have to be counted and recorded just like any other, and send the message that you aren't satisfied with any of your options. This is true for your local candidate ballot as well. To use your analogy, it's like being offered a kick or a handshake but saying "I don't like those choices, I'm waiting for passionate love-making to be put on the table".

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Well, I realize the nazi analogy is extreme, but the point is if you don't rebut it, then all the third parties reading your opinion are just going to say "Why should I listen to anything this guy says, he's a Nazi".

In the real world, what's happening is that voters hear (over and over again for Pete's sake) that MMP lets party hacks appoint MPPs to the legislature. As long as they believe that, you can tell them MMP cures cancer and they might still oppose it. Why would anyone who's been told that MMP allows hacks to appoint MPPs to Queen's Park need to hear anything else? And that's the point. You're much more willing to believe that calling list MPPs "appointed" is just a simple mistake. I think in most (not all, but most) cases it's a TACTIC. If I can convince people MMP allows party hacks to appoint people to the legislature to do their bidding, that's all I need to do. People will vote against it for that reason, and that reason alone, so my job is done. That's why we keep hearing this distortion over, and over (and over) again.

As for being fully infomred on the options, that I agree with you on.

I also don't mind people declining (or even spoiling) their ballots if they don't know which side to support. What scares me is that a lot of people who don't know how to vote will just vote for FPTP. Moreso because they don't want a legislature filled with appointed party hacks, which everyone campaigning against MMP keeps telling them they'll get!

Once I'm accused by my opponents of being a Nazi, I can argue rationally all day. If I can't convince you I'm not a Nazi first, are you going to listen to me? More importantly, should I just accept that you may think I'm a Nazi, and hope for the best?

Anonymous said...

It's true that it may be a tactic, I'll grant you that. I guess I may be giving people (or at least a certain portion of them ) too much credit, though I'm sure in some of these cases that it's an honest misuse and what they mean is that they don't like the idea of indirect election of MMPs - which is a legitimate thing to consider. So yes, if it's being used intentionally then it's a huge distinction to make and if it's an accidental misuse, then we're focussing on the wrong problem, and since there's no way to really tell if its a tactic or honest mistake it's worth making the distinction - but it's still worth addressing other concerns.

In flogging that horse, someone like me (ok, not really like me, since I understand they're not appointed, and I think I have a good grasp on how the system would work - lets say I'm in favour of electoral reform, but I'm not sure MMP is the way to go) is thinking, 'OK, so they're not appointed - that's good, but what about the fact that there's less local representation, or the fact that we'll have a bigger, more expensive government (22 more MPs means more than 22 extra payrolls), or the fact that candidates that aren't affiliated with a party are even more at a disadvantage or any of countless other concerns that I have?'

I'm glad you agree with me on wanting an informed electorate, maybe we can get AC to write his next column on the downsides of MMP then. ;)

Just in case anybody else out there is taking interest in this discussion, I just want to clarify that spoiling and declining your ballot are two different things. Spoiled ballots aren't counted in the same way and are lumped together including ballots that are placed in the ballot box unmarked, incorrectly marked, marked multiple times or that the voter can be identified by (such as if they wrote their name on it). Some people may do it for protest, others just screw it up, but they aren't included in election results. A declined ballot is a protest vote, essentially a "none of the above". These ballots are handled specially and are counted in election tallies. I agree with you that if you're not sure you shouldn't just mark FPTP as default. You shouldn't just mark MMP for that reason either. And you shouldn't feel compelled to mark either just because those are the two choices on the paper. If you really prefer a third option then declining your ballot is the 'none of the above' that you're looking for.

I think I think (meaning I'm not 100% sold on this thought) that the worst thing that could happen if you *really* want an option other than FPTP or MMP is an MMP victory - if that happens and you really like STV (for example) how long will it take for momentum to be gained for yet another electoral reform (unless MMP utterly fails)? It seems to me that the ideal result for people in that position is enough declined ballots to say "I want a change, but this isn't it". Following that would be a pro-MMP vote in the 50-60% range but not enough to make the double-super-bonus-majority required. This sends a message that change is wanted and maybe when it's revisited in a few years time (a la BC) it can be tinkered a bit more.

I'll leave the nazi stuff alone. I still disagree with the analogy, but I think we can move on.

As an aside (or maybe the rest of that was the aside??) - as much as you hate the use of 'appointed' (and as a tactic, I denounce it as well), I dislike the counter of 'democratically nominated' which, while technically correct, is misleading. "Democratically nominated by the party" would be more accurate.