voter rage

One thing that the political class in the west has not yet figured out is that voters no longer vote for a major political party. They simply vote against whoever happens to be in power. Voters are not motivated by enthusiasm for the party they vote for but by anger (in fact rage rather than mere anger) with the party they are voting against.

This is the pattern we’ve seen in recent Australian elections. The voters have not been expressing any great love for the LNP Coalition but they have been expressing a profound disgust and hatred for the incumbent Labor governments and for the Gillard Federal Labor government.

This is also what we’ve seen in the recent local government elections in Britain. If Ed Milliband thinks the result was a ringing endorsement of New Labor he’s living in a fantasy world. The result is simply a reflection of the electorate’s intense dislike of the New Tories (who are almost indistiguishable these days from New Labor). The defeat of Ken Livingstone in London does not indicate that people love Boris Johnson. It merely shows that if you put up a sufficiently bad candidate (and it would be hard to find a worse candidate than Red Ken) you can still lose even if the nationwide trend is on your side.

Similarly if Mitt Romney wins the US election (which seems unlikely but just barely possible) it will not be a sign that Romney has captured the imagination of the electors but a sign of the extent to which Obama has angered Americans.

What Australia, Britain and the US have in common is the lack of a clear alternative to the major parties. The Liberal Democrats can clearly no longer be taken seriously in Britain and while the UKIP has improved significantly on past results it has not yet convinced most Britons that it’s a viable alternative. The strong showing by Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections and the success of the Freedom Party in the last Dutch general elections both serve to show that if a viable alternative does present itself then a significant number of voters will abandon their allegiance to the major parties. In fact a larger and larger proportion voters no longer have any true political allegiance – they simply choose the lesser of two evils.

It is clear that there is an opportunity in Britain, the US and Australia for a true conservative party should one ever arise.

2 comments on “voter rage

  1. samstarrett says:

    Part of the problem is the voting system, at least in America. Plurality voting reinforces the two-party system and makes third parties generally dead on arrival.

    Right now, conservatives in America, whether moderate or extreme, generally vote Republican, not because the Republicans necessarily match their views, but because they’re preferable to Democrats, or at least are perceived as such.

    A new party that emerged to the right of the Republican Party would probably capture some of the Republican vote. But would that result in political success for conservatism? Well, let’s look at a simplified toy example.

    Suppose the nation presently votes 60% Republican and 40% Democrat, and if approximately half of Republicans are moderate and half are extreme conservatives, and if everyone votes his conscience, and if the new Conservative Party (as we’ll call it) is extreme whereas the Republican Party is moderate

    The result, then, will be:

    40% of the vote to the Democratic Party,
    30% of the vote to the Conservative Party, and
    30% of the vote to the Republican Party.

    Now, a majority of the people would have preferred Republicans to Democrats. Nevertheless, the Democrats won. This is the well-known spoiler effect, and it scares voters of all stripes away from voting third party. This effect is self-reinforcing; every member of your party too afraid to vote third party is yet another reason not to vote third party yourself.

    I submit that plurality voting is woefully inadequate and should be replaced with another system, one that allows a ranking of all potential options in order of preference.

  2. dfordoom says:

    In Australia we have preferential voting, which can be a mixed blessing. At the moment it’s delivered power into the hands of the Greens who now effectively control the governing socialist-green coalition. The good news is that this government is on the verge of collapse and the polls indicate the socialists will be massacred at the ensuing election.

    But it does offer an equal opportunity for a true conservative party should one ever emerge.

    Frankly the only hope for the US would be the rise of a Green Party which would split the Left vote, as Ralph Nader did so successfully a few years back. Would a Green Party be crazy enough to do that? The answer, based on Australian experience, is yes. They’re crazy enough to do anything.

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