Since you asked — well, you should have asked — I’m going to expand on why I vote my conscience instead of adhering to the utilitarian philosophy of my past.
First, I’ll take you back. I used to be surrounded by people voting for Christian parties, who claimed I should vote as my conscience led, for principles that matter, and for a party that upheld my beliefs. That I set my tent up with the more jaded pragmatists was — I admit — reactionary; just because those people happened to be, generally, weirdos, doesn’t invalidate their point. Of course, I don’t think I ever really plumbed the thinking that got me to “vote for those most likely to get into power and do the least evil”.
That said, I still can’t vote for an explicitly Christian of “family-oriented” party (made up of, let’s admit it, mostly Christians). These parties hold out a false promise of political salvation, that we can somehow legislate the world better. No, I can’t cast that vote: even if Christians rule the country, the country isn’t really Christian, simply nominally Christian.
That’s just me. That’s my conscience. That’s what my intellect, such as it is, dictates. It also dictates that I no longer vote pragmatically; and with the above history behind (or above) us, let me move on.
When I decide to do something that seems morally grey, I like to ask myself a set of questions. First on those list, and most relevant here, is, “What would happen if everyone acted like me in this situation?” For example, if I throw a fast food bag out the window of my car whilst driving, it’s not that big a deal. It’s just one bag. If, however, everyone did that all the time, we’d be swimming in trash.
See, if everyone votes pragmatically, the parties you define as “alternative” and “not likely to be voted in” are by definition left behind at the polls. Your position on voting creates the very conditions that you supposedly evaluated to come up with your position on voting. This is a feedback loop, and a bad one. It’s a snake eating its own tail.
I like to, instead, view my vote as one way I can speak out. To the point that if the Freedom Party or the Green Party get just one more vote in this election than last, that vote says that one more person in this election is saying that the “mainstream” parties have nothing left to offer. That one more person has decided that voting the a different version of the establishment into power yet again is less important that voting for something.
If every man and woman in the province truly considered their options, and considered that we have however many parties for a reason, election results would be much, much different. If we stood up and said, Wait, no, I am not going to be swayed by by government spending before an election, spending that amounts to cheap bribery, and I am not going to simply run with the crowd, and yes, I have beliefs, and will vote accordingly! the government would, I think, actually reflect the people.
Instead, right now, the government essentially reflects the politicians and spin-masters who happen to have their hand in the till. They package up the election, crouch it in a certain light, and manipulate it like a magician performing in a circus.
I’d rather elections not be a circuses, wouldn’t you? I mean, I know my voice is just another in a crowd of people saying things, and I’m not likely to be heard. Especially not these days in Ontario.
But hey, that’s why I vote.