Anyone who plays chess, as I like to pretend I do, knows there comes a time when surrender is the only strategy left to you. Having matched wits with your opponent and found yours lacking, knowing defeat is inevitable you lay down your King and concede. That happens at the end of the game though, not ten weeks before you play it.
Strategic voting is nothing more than the electoral equivalent of surrender. You are giving up your vote to a campaign you don’t truly support, in hopes of blocking one you dislike even more from victory. Having decided your preferred candidate’s paths to victory have been exhausted you do the honourable thing and fall on your ballot in order to secure victory for what you perceive as the greater good. A noble act of civic sacrifice, except it shouldn’t be your first choice.
Simple as it sounds, your first choice should be voting for the candidate you want. Having heard their platform, and considered their ideas, supporting a candidate who you will be proud to say you did. A candidate who has run on ideas that excite or inspire you, who believes in our city’s potential, who have shown you a vision you want everyone else to see.
Strategic voting is the antithesis of all that, it’s not voting for a city you want to live in, it’s voting for a city you can live with.
That may sound like the wide eyed idealism, particularly from someone whose preferred candidate for Toronto’s Mayor is down in the polls, and to a certain extent it is. I believe elections are a time for idealism and to demand more from politicians than safe populist rhetoric because frankly when else would we? It concerns me so far from election day to read many people expressing support for Soknacki’s bold ideas, who are also scared to vote for him for fear of Ford. Especially when there is a next to zero chance of Ford being reelected.
His polling consistently tops out somewhere below 30%, and more importantly the demographics who support him most are also some of the least likely to vote. Younger, lower income, lower education tends to lead to lower turnout as well. Despite the strategic genius of his campaign manager, Rob Ford will lose this election. Badly. In fact, if someone was taking bets I’d lay good money on him coming in under 20% when it’s all over.
Casting your vote solely on an anti-Ford basis has another drawback. It’s the same mindset that elected him in the first place. It will lead to a better outcome this time but it is still single issue thinking in a city with many issues to contend with. For this city to succeed we must demand more from candidates than “I can beat Ford”.
There is time and place for strategic voting. If on October 27th there is any possibility of Ford being reelected I imagine a great deal of the electorate will throw support to whichever candidate is in the lead. Rightly so too, but we have ten weeks until anyone has to make that decision. Ten weeks for you to ensure that lead belongs to the candidate you actually want to win. Ten weeks for you to knock on doors, make phone calls, send emails, tweet, and pound in lawn signs to build support for your candidate. You will be working for the city you want and if you have to settle for second best in the end, you can do so knowing you tried everything else first. That’s already a win for you, and for our city.
Like elections there are countless way to win a chess match, but surrendering isn’t one of them. Your move.