Have at you!

Facebookposium: More voters? Or more sophisticated voters? (And much, much more)

[Note: The following is a summary of an impromptu Facebook symposium debating, among other things, the relative merits of mandatory voting and the need for “better citizens” in Canadian democracy. My friend and fellow UBC graduate student Edana Beauvais pulled it together on the basis of contributions from various students in the department. It’s all pretty self-explanatory, and at times quite heated! It’s also pretty long, so consider yourself warned.

The debate, I’m pleased to say, continues to percolate. For those who followed the original discussion on Facebook, I am pleased to announce that there is NEW, PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED MATERIAL in the form of closing statements from a couple of the participants near the bottom below. Other contributors have promised to contribute additional contributions in the near future; I will post them, or links to them here. I intend to weigh in with some final thoughts of my own at some point. Others who would like to contribute in whatever form are welcome to do so. Happy reading!—SP]

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Voting red lines

By now, anyone who reads any of progressive political blog out there has probably come across this argument by Conor Friedersdorf against voting for Barack Obama in November, even if you think he’s the better of the two mainstream candidates in the election.

From my perspective, the instrumental version of the argument being made here is more interesting, and has received less attention in much of the discussion (that I’ve seen) of the piece. That is, if we accept that Friedersdorf wants to change US policy in the conduct of the War on Terror (WoT) it remains an open question question whether that goal would be better served by voting for (andmore significantly, promoting) a 3rd party candidate, or by voting for Obama while arguing publicly for a serious reconsideration of the President’s poor record on human rights in the conduct of the Obama-era WoT.

Photo credit: Postbear, http://www.flickr.com/photos/postbear/

My instinct is to say the latter, given the very limited ability of political fringe parties in the US to influence political discourse in a meaningful way. Rather, in the deeply entrenched two-party system, political change (at least in recent electoral cycles) has moved from the periphery to the centre within the context of a single party. If Friedersdorf is serious about changing US policy, his best chance would seem to be to change the policy of the Democratic Party, and do everything possible to put that party in control of both the legislative and executive branches of government.

Thoughts, anyone?

— Stewart