Under the guise of democracy, the system we’ve actually created for ourselves is not only dangerous, but broken. We clutch tiny pens in secretive booths marking an ‘X’ beside the name of someone we’ve never met. We feel energized and semi-victorious; the power is in our very hands. Votes are counted, politicians take their seats, and we meet the team we’re now stuck with until the whole thing repeats again. Nothing much changes. We shout about the incompetence of leaders and parties. We write letters, make calls, rally support, and sign petitions in hopes of inspiring actual change. The cycle plays out over and over.
But why is it so dangerous?
Well, it’s dangerous to blindly vote for an individual to be your local MP. After all, we’re not supposed to be voting for a party but rather hiring many individuals to take seats and make up an entire government. It can be difficult to see it that way when we’ve developed a sort of football mentality – their team vs my team. Instead of being able to separate these individuals from the party as a whole, we tend not to care what name is on the ballot; simply the party name underneath. We don’t ask questions about that person’s education, integrity, intelligence, biases, emotional intelligence, or even really their voting track record. We just give our vote away to the guy wearing the colour tie we like. That’s really what it tends to boil down to.
Why else would there be ‘safe seats’?! Literally a seat in which ANY person can run for a specific party and they will definitely win. It’s already known what the constituents will vote for – regardless of the individual. An axe murderer shows up in a blue tie and wins because they’re running in a Conservative part of the country. That would be messed up, right?! But it’s basically how the current voting system works. I feel like I can’t stress this enough and we can’t reread this enough.
This blind voting goes hand in hand with blind loyalty. The inability to call out mistakes a party makes or criticise their wrongdoings simply because, well, that’s your team. Your side. Your people. Your team can do no wrong and you need to blindly agree with every single decision they make and thing they say. Nope. Humans make mistakes. Just because a person is a member of the party you like, it doesn’t mean you will agree with everything they do – and that’s okay. You can change your allegiance or complain and criticise when things don’t look right. Your MP got a gift basket from an Airline in exchange for allowing an extra runway to be built? That sounds shady and it’s perfectly normal to call that out, even if it’s a guy on your own team.
And it seems incredibly difficult to vote someone out or fix things once they’re in. MPs break laws they invent and carry on with their job as if nothing happened. The tabloids call out shady dealings and yet the MPs show up to work – no reprimand or consequence. A whole group of them repeatedly disobey pandemic lockdown rules and have actual parties whilst the rest of the country suffers and what price do they pay? The most that happens is that they are asked politely to consider resigning. They decline. They continue on as normal. It’s less than ideal.
And all of this amounts to a great deal of voter apathy. People don’t want to vote because they feel like it doesn’t even matter. They live somewhere with a safe seat and so they don’t even bother to cast a vote in the other direction. They see politicians lie and bend the rules to suit their own interests, and they think – ‘what is the use in getting involved?’
Not a great system of democracy we’ve created. There are definitely ways to fix it but that’s a whole lot of rambling for another day. It would be refreshing to feel like a vote could really change things for the better – for everyone, not just the wealthy few.