Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stop Blaming Young People

Aaron Wherry (Macleans) notes this article which is of the ilk, as he puts it, "Why don't the kids like the politics?"

It's refreshing to see someone like Wherry alluding to the unfairness of identifying young people as politically disengaged and blaming them for the erosion of our democracy.

Not voting doesn't translate into being apolitical. Not voting doesn't mean being uninvolved in one's community or not caring deeply about the issues affecting it, or one's country, or the globe.

Young people are not alone in turning their backs on the ballot box. They've a lot of company. All parties have moved themselves into the mushy middle or right (as the 'middle' also moves right), thus leaving a whole segment of the population no longer able to identify with any of them. With our system of voting having been designed for two parties, if a voter doesn't support either the Liberals or Conservatives, he or she will never have his or her views meaningfully represented in government. Oldtimers, not just young people, understand this.

No wonder voter turnout continues to fall. No wonder polling numbers remain static. All parties are fighting over an ever-decreasing pile of votes, which results in an increasing percentage of it representing diehard party loyalists. The situation therefore becomes a matter of whether the typical Liberal or Conservative voter will vote for the other this time or next. If either chooses NDP or Green instead, they know they've no hope in hell of having their votes translate into meaningful representation. If these voters live outside Ontario or Quebec, again they can forget about meaningful representation, unless
  • they voted Lib or Con and
  • their party choice ended up forming government and
  • their MP is of that party and
  • their MP was chosen to be a well-placed member of the cabinet.
(The Bloc is a special case because of the size of population it is capable of representing.)

There's a silent, steady movement of resistance happening in Canada. It's time for others to wake up and stop the blame-game. The situation of eroding voter turnout will remain until first, the blaming and bashing of non-voters ends and second, politicians, journalists and members of the still voting population start listening to non-voters with respect and an intention to learn. Non-voters can tell them why close to half of the electorate no longer votes and what to do to turn things around. That last is key and relies on a solutions-based, NOT a problems-based approach.