Saturday, March 7, 2009

Voting just scratches the surface
The Ontario NDP elected a new leader today, and it's inspired me to talk about participation in the political process. Most people simply vote in general elections. At best, they've read each party's platform and voted for a party that reflects their values. But even if they've done that, just voting in general elections isn't all that satisfying over time. That's because it only scratches the surface of the political machinery.

When you vote in an election, you're voting for a party platform that's already in place. What you really need to do is join, and be active in, a political party. Membership in a party allows you to influence party policy, have a hand in choosing the leader and candidates, and essentially gives you the opportunity to participate in everything that leads up to an election. That way, on election day, hopefully you won't feel like you're forced to choose the lesser evil when you vote.

Working within a political party is also one of the most effective ways to make change happen. If you want your values reflected in a party's platform on election day, the time to start is long before an election. Even so, it's a lot easier to effect change to party policy from the inside than from the outside. Rather than lobbying, join up and work for change from within.

Even if the political party you join doesn't have much chance of winning your riding, or forming a government, your efforts still won't be wasted. Governments have a habit of taking the good ideas, policies, and initiatives of their opposition and claiming them as their own. Opposition parties also hold governments accountable, amend bills, and give different ideologies a voice.  Issues which governing parties are quite willing to ignore are often brought to light only because of opposition parties.

All told, I think you'll find that participation in any political party will be satisfying and give you a greater appreciation for our political system.