Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tom Walkom Is A Worried Man

He thinks this electoral reform thingee might just catch on. That's why he is wagging his finger at "the left" and suggesting all kinds of nightmare scenarios for them, should the referendum pass. Walkom tries to pull off an interesting trick. First, he suggests that electoral reform will destroy the NDP (while leaving the Liberals and Conservatives completely intact) and then suggests that nothing much will change, so why bother? Walkom even uses New Zealand as an example of how electoral reform is bad for the left (conveniently playing down the fact that Labour has run New Zealand for the whole of this century).

Walkom never does bother to defend the status quo (which is the only other choice on offer), because he knows how weak that case is. It is pretty hard to defend a system that gives absolute power to minority parties (which through the vagaries of FPTP, are "magically transformed" into fake "majorities"). It is nigh on impossible to defend a system that is, at its heart, an undemocratic anachronism from the 19th century. No, it's best just to throw a scare into the "left" so they will stop all this fussing and bow down at the alter of inertia. Yup, Liberal headquarters is worried. And it should be. Change is coming.

Update: The more I think about Walkom's piece, the more insulted I get. Does he think "the left" is naive enough to think that democracy will always break its way and it will retain power forever? Electoral reform has nothing whatever to do with "the left" maintaining power (especially if you are like me and don't consider Liberals to be of "the left"). Electoral reform is about bringing fairness to a system that is now structurally unfair. The fortunes of this or that party is completely irrelevant. What advocates for electoral reform want is democracy. We are willing to accept the verdict of the electorate (or as Layton put it in another context, willing to work with the house that the people build). Liberals like Walkom are only interested maintaining power as an end in itself. And that's why the system must be changed.
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