Here's a note I posted to Facebook that some babblers recommended I report here:
If you’re a Joe Pantalone supporter, you probably assume I’m a George Smitherman supporter because I have not been kind to pro-Pantalone arguments, . If you’re a Smitherman supporter, I imagine you think I’m supporting Pantalone because I keep trashing your arguments.
In fact I’ve been on the fence this whole time. And, as I’m in Rhode Island, I can’t vote anyway and so I’m staying there. But I would like to offer some food for thought. First of all, I want to emphasize that there is no such thing as “strategic voting” – all voting is strategic under the first-past-the-post system. So picking whom to vote for is about coming up with your personal strategy for making your vote count. Are you more interested in punishing your adversary or an ally who has let you down? Are you more interested in maintaining stability or precipitating crisis? These are key questions you should be asking yourself when you think about a voting strategy for next week.
So here are a bunch of things you might want to consider when crafting your voting strategy:
1. During the time I lived in Toronto, I worked on civic democracy issues and consistently opposed the concentration of power in the mayor’s office at the expense of council, moving Toronto towards an elected autocracy and away from its parliamentary democratic roots. If the strong mayor system is a voting issue for you, here are some things to consider:
a. The McGuinty government made the strong mayor system for people who agree with them; they don’t want the sweeping powers they have given the mayor’s office to fall into the hands of Ford. If he is elected, they will probably amend the City of Toronto Act to take power away from the mayor during the first major episode of crisis and gridlock he creates (probably next year’s budget).
b. The McGuinty government was intending to soup-up the powers of the mayor even more but put a bunch of those measures on hold. You can bet that during next year’s almost certain budget crisis, they will amend the City of Toronto Act and hand sweeping new dictatorial powers to Smitherman if he is elected – likely including the power to implement a budget without the needing the support of the majority of council.
c. Smitherman and Pantalone supported granting new powers to the mayor’s office; Ford opposed this.
So, if you care about the amount of power the mayor’s office and the ability of council to control the destiny of the city, don’t cast a vote for Smitherman or Pantalone. Instead consider one of the fine second-tier candidates like Rocco Achampong.
2. During the time I lived in Toronto, I used the public transit system and watched numerous plans to expand it be announced, shelved and re-announced in a different form. If public transit and bike accessibility is a voting issue for you, here are some things to consider:
a. Promising subways the city cannot afford is code for cancelling all planned transit expansion. The more unaffordable and ludicrous the subway development plan, the more we can decode it as “no transit expansion.” So, we can read Ford’s platform as opposing all transit expansion.
b. Transit City is an affordable plan but even it is at risk because the McGuinty government has announced that it won’t fund most of it and that the funding they are offering is contingent on messing with the track grade. If you want even the vestiges of Transit City to go through, you should cast a vote for it. But what does a vote for Transit City and bike lanes look like?
3. This whole “vote with your heart” thing is very romantic. I was a salesman for this slogan and slogans like it for seven years as leader of the BC Green Party and five years prior to that as head of the party’s youth wing. But I was selling snake oil. The idea that voting for a losing candidate conveys a “message,” that will move policies in the direction of your candidate’s ideals is disproven in many many cases. George W. Bush did not implement greener policies because Ralph Nader got a bunch of votes in 2000; the Democrats ran on a less Green agenda in 2004 than 2000; and furthermore, the Greens’ impressive result in 2000 did not build a floor in popular support but instead caused the party’s vote to collapse in 2004. We can see the same with the BC Greens from 2001-09.
The number of votes a losing candidate receives has no relationship to the fate of that candidate’s policies under the winner.
4. If you simply cannot vote for one of the two viable candidates because doing so makes you too ill to hang onto the pencil and vote for your school trustee and councillor, remember that all losers are equal. Because this isn’t horseshoes, Joe Pantalone’s higher poll standing doesn’t make him better than the rest of the no-hopers – so consider Rocco Achampong and others as meriting equal consideration to the third place candidate.
5. One of the most important factors in this race is honesty. Despite his inability to keep his story straight about his many gaffes and indiscretions, and his inability to explain how he is going to finance $16 billion worth of new subways, Rob Ford is fundamentally honest and transparent. We know what he wants and believes in. You can reasonably guess that whatever a middle school playground bully raised in a racist, homophobic home would do, that’s going to be Ford’s next move.
The same is not true of George Smitherman – all evidence points to Smitherman being a venal, opportunistic liar. As such, for better or worse, we can assume that the moment he achieves office he will tear up that election platform and continue his unfocused, unprincipled pursuit of fame and greatness. He’ll be like Toronto’s Charlie Crist, but out of the closet.
So while it is true that Smitherman seems just as interested as Ford in privatizing everything in sight, cutting off the city’s revenue stream and sending it back into structural deficit, busting unions, cancelling social programs, letting all the less lucky people from his clubbing days die of AIDS, stopping Transit City and a host of other idiocy, I have no faith whatsoever that he will follow through on any of this mean-spiritedness. He is simply too opportunistic and interested in cutting ribbons to be relied-upon to do the kind of demolition job Ford promises.
6. Mathematically, there are three votes you can cast in this election:
a. Ford: Put an X next to Rob Ford.
b. Smitherman: Put an X next to George Smitherman.
c. Abstain: Put an X next to anyone else or don't show up.
All abstentions will have the same mathematical effect on this race. But they may brighten someone’s day. Personally, I’d rather brighten the day of a fringe candidate who has been shut-out by the mainstream media than Pantalone. I think in terms of day-brightening and attacking media smugness, you’ll deliver a bigger bang for your buck but to think that which losing candidate you pick will have any effect beyond that is a mistake.
7. Finally, could all the polls be wrong? No. I was really hoping that when I wrote this piece, the race would have tightened and Pantalone would be in the high 20s but he has moved down not up in recent days. Sorry Joe.
Anyway, good luck on crafting your voting strategy. I'll be abstaining from the northeastern US.