Apparently there’s an election campaign on.
By a twist of fate, the first election since I gave up on democratic politics is the first election in which I have the opportunity to influence the result – I would estimate the probability of my vote changing the result as something like 1/100,000 which is non-negligible, and orders of magnitude higher than in previous elections.
My old strategy in elections was, since the main parties are so close as to make no important difference, to attempt to influence the future positions of the parties by voting for fringe candidates.
A related idea is that of Peter Hitchens, who advocates voting against the Conservative party in an attempt to destroy it, opening the possibility of the formation of a new party to represent the conservative majority of the population.
These are both logical ideas, but they depend on the assumption that it is possible to affect the medium-to-long-term political climate by voting, and further, that it is possible to do so in a predictable way. The distinction is important; a butterfly’s wings might affect the path of a hurricane, but it’s not possible to aim a hurricane at a particular target by strategically releasing butterflies.
I do not accept the assumption. The Conservative Party does not represent the conservative tendency of the population, it is the conservative tendency of the political class. I could affect the political landscape (in a tiny but non-negligible way) by joining the political class, but not by voting. I’m not willing to join the political class, as I have better things to do with my life.
My conclusion is that I now see myself as a subject of the political class, rather than as a citizen of a democracy. That’s calming – when I thought the government was “my” government, I was infuriated by how bad it was, but as a subject, I look at the tidbits of protection and freedom that my ruler gives me, and my position isn’t so bad really, compared with that of most people who have ever lived.
And next month, as a free bonus, like a free entry in a prize draw, I get a tiny but non-negligible chance to have a small effect on the government itself. Well, why shouldn’t I take it? If I thought I was more than a subject, then the trivial choice offered to me by David Cameron would be such an insult that I would spurn it as a matter of principle. Nobody who sucks up to the environmentalist lobby and who accepts that government should control more than a third of the economy can possibly represent me. But as a free gift to a subject – well, no more attacks on Home Education, scrapping ID cards, a faint possibility of lower taxes – I guess I’ll take box “C”, since you’re offering.
I suspect that normal, sane people have always looked at elections this way – that would explain much of the mental gap between idealists such as I used to be and the rest of the population. It does make me wonder what would happen if normal people thought like we do – possibly they would demand a democracy and the whole country would go down the tubes.
That does leave me the choice of what to do about my membership of the Libertarian Party. For me, the party only ever had one useful point from the very beginning – getting Chris Mounsey on television. Now that that’s actually starting to happen, I think I should continue to give support, even if it’s not, by all accounts, going too well so far.