Monday, August 31, 2015

A vote for X, Y *or* Z is a vote for Z? or Why Corbynistas don't care about "electibility"

It's one of the oldest cries in electoral history. Politicians will declare that a vote for one of their rivals is a vote for another. But they don't always mean it the same way.

Consider a case from fifteen years ago in the US when Al Gore and his supporters declared "A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush!" Ralph Nader responded with "A vote for Gore is a vote for Bush!" Presumably George W. Bush declared "A vote for Bush is a vote for Bush!" just in case anyone misunderelucidated.

Gore was making the classic attack on smaller parties and independents, arguing they would split the vote and let the rival in. But Nader clearly wasn't - nobody seriously believed Nader could win. Instead Nader argued that Gore was so similar to Bush that the country would get much the same, whichever one was elected. Now hindsight may suggest something differently and at the time supporters of Gore (and for that matter Bush) could doubtlessly rattle off a huge list of differences between the two candidates & their manifestos but it had no effect. Because Nader's voters either doubted the sincerity of the differences or felt that on the fundamentals both candidates were as bad as each other. A Nader vote at least allowed them to side step actually having to chose between the two and being somehow responsible.

And this isn't confined to the US. Over here in the old days the Liberal Democrats often portrayed both major parties as much the same. However at the same time at the local level the party would position itself as the only credible opposition to one of the big two in the hope of getting tactical votes from supporters of the other. Come 2015 it found this contradiction tearing its vote to shred as Labour & other left-minded voters decided that "yellow Tory" was no different from "blue Tory" and they weren't going to compromise vote for one over the other.

This is part of the reason why the Jeremy Corbyn bandwagon has proven immune to every single appeal to consider what will make the Labour Party an election winner again. The hard left of the Labour Party was never enamoured with Blair and New Labour but largely kept their heads down at the time. But looking back many despise those years and feel all they got was a conservative government in a red rosette. They don't want to make those compromises again. If the country is to have a conservative government it won't be by their votes or through their party.

This attitude exists on the right as well - there's a lot of voters who do believe the "LibLabCon" [sic] is all the same and aren't going to rush to vote one over the other and instead stick with Ukip.

What's the solution? It's old fashioned positive differentiation to show how a party is offering something different and better.

Now does the Corbynistas' attitude seem so strange?


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