27 February 2007

On the love of scapegoats

An email correspondent with a strong track record of thought provocation referred me to a Common Dreams piece, Pariah or Prophet? by Chris Hedges. I did read the whole piece, but my thinking returned to the final words of the first short paragraph. Speaking of Ralph Nader, they say:

... and he is almost universally reviled for throwing the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

The quotation is, at least on the Democrat side of the fence, pretty indisputably true. And the fact that it's true is a chilly comment on perceptions in what we like to call a democracy.

If our "first past the post" democracies abandoned their crude system and allowed something more sophisticated (one of the transferable vote systems, for example), voters wouldn't have to choose between the candidate they really want and fending off the one they want least. Systems which have a vested interest in maintaining two party dominance are to blame here.

Given that we have that crude blunderbuss of a system, the unfortunate fact is that we (not the candidate) have the responsibility to decide how (and for whom) to vote - not the candidate. We also have the responsibility for deciding whether we want to accept the existing mechanisms or contest them and strive for something better.

Plurality of candidates can only enrich the sclerotic and constipated systems we have; they (regardless of whether I hold them, individually, and/or their views, in admiration or disgust) are the last people to be blamed if we do not get the representation we want.

To blame a candidate is to fob ourselves off with scapegoat thinking in the face of our own collective failure to demand change.

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