Are you thinking about not voting?

By Lon Roberts

“If you’re not planning to vote, what are you going to do instead?” asks Kendra Strauss from the SFU Labour Studies Department.

“People feel frustrated and there is the temptation not to vote,” said said. “It’s an understandable position. But the danger is that you give more power to people who do vote.” We’ve seen that happen in the U.S., the EU and even Ontario. “The result is that more power is being given to those who already have it.”

Angry and frightened voters want to recover what they’ve lost or fear losing. So they follow along with very rich politicians who lash out at those who are caught in horrible circumstances and have no power to change the system.

“We’re still living in a colonial state that continues to ignore the concerns of many groups,” Strauss added. It took some groups in society – centuries in the case of First Nations – to have the right to vote. And as difficult as life can be here, in a global economy, we cannot ignore the impact of Canada’s actions that are adding to the suffering of billions of people living in the Global South.

“The reason politicians get away with things is because the pressure dissipates after they’re elected.”

Strauss rejects the notion that people vote against their interests.

Her research has revealed that, “people have a huge investment in who they are in society and identify on social and cultural lines, such as race, class, gender, religion.”

The right wing has done a much better job than the left of understanding what is important to people’s identity, Strauss said. The rise in white nationalism has found a home in neo-liberalism, which favours privatization, austerity, deregulation, free trade and reductions in government spending. This is why working class people, whose ideology supports a so called free market, will vote in favour of the neo-liberal candidate even though they don’t benefit from it.

Even some political parties on the left have abandoned the idea of class politics to embrace free-market capitalism,” she said. They hope that a few adjustments can bring about a better world for all.

There is a fear that if other people gain, we are going to lose. “I don’t think that’s the case,” Strauss said. “Everyone gains from a more just and equitable society. But some people will lose some power and privileges. It’s always been the case… It comes down to what is most important.”

Safety tips for election engagement

  • Ask yourself what kind of city, community, and world you want for yourself and those you care about.
  • Talk to people who you respect about where they get their information from.
  • Talk about the issues with family members, friends and co-workers.
  • Step out of your comfort zone. Check different sources of information.
  • While the mainstream news media is being dramatically underfunded, it still employs some investigative journalists. And there are podcasts and online journals offering a wide range of perspectives on every issue and subject you can think of.
  • Even though election promises are broken, read the election platforms and listen to the debates. At least, we can remind elected politicians when they’ve strayed from their professed goals and beliefs.
  • Know what you want from the Canadian government in the short term and long term.
  • Find out what the candidates in your riding are saying.
  • Vote. It’s one way to express your opinion. There are others too, of course (see above).