The Right governs in the US, UK, a lot of Europe and maybe soon in Ontario and Canada. All without winning an actual majority of the votes.
Barcelona is awash in yellow ribbons: worn on jackets; spray painted on bollards and signs and tied in yellow plastic around statues and lampposts. The symbols mark the exile or imprisonment of Catalonian politicians who face decades in prison for holding a referendum that was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court in Madrid.
You can trace the start of this current crisis back to the same Constitutional Court which in 2010 ruled key aspects of the 2006 Statue of Autonomy of Catalonia unconstitutional. Never mind the fact that the statute had been passed by the Catalan Parliament, the Spanish Parliament and Senate and finally ratified by the Catalan people by a majority of 74%. The Right-Wing People’s Party, the current Government of Spain, opposed it and took the case to the Constitutional Court which then made its fateful ruling and stoked the current mood for succession in Catalonia. Control of the courts in Spain is as important to Spanish democracy as control of the Supreme Court is in the United States, and the People’s Party, just like the GOP, knows how to use that power.
In keeping with the standard narrative of gathering and using power, the Right (as usual) has remained unified and, also as usual, the Left is fragmented.
What is it about Left-Wing politics that constantly allows ideological purity to trump (no pun intended) actual results? The history of the political left has been ravaged by the kind of schisms that would have made the early Christian church blush. Organizations have thrashed and shattered into pieces over ideological distinctions that make as much sense to the average person as early church arguments relating to the capacity of Pin-heads to support angels. And that’s before we even get to the subject of the wider progressive diaspora of social democrats, liberals, greens and the newer politics of the single issue or identity and intersectionality.
All told there seems to be about 50-60% of the population in most advanced countries that coalesce around broad “progressive” politics, but that vote is usually split two, three or even four ways.
Meanwhile, the 40% Neo-Conservative Right, despite their myriad inconsistencies, remains a largely coherent force. Their current status quo is to defend the right of the individual at any cost and any expense. To get Government out of the way. Cut taxes. Deregulate and end (perceived) societal permissiveness and to maintain control of the Supreme Court. In the UK and US you can add the curtailing of globalization in terms of both trade and movement of people to that frothy cornucopia. All these messages are told with language that speaks of end-times, crisis and out of touch elites (usually by very elite people indeed).
Many a progressive journalist has wrung their hands over the supposed hypocrisy of evangelicals in the United States supporting their three-time married, adulterous President, but so far Trump and his cronies have delivered, especially in the case of Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. That 40% or so approval rating he enjoys is pretty solid. If you fragment the left in crucial states, it might just be enough too. Ralph Nader and Jill Stein cost Al Gore and Hillary Clinton the Presidency, respectively. Yes, I know, they weren't the best candidates: too cautious, too political, yadda, yadda, yadda, but, really, I would defy anyone to the left of the GOP to state that either of these respected, ethical (yes, they were) and serious centrist politicians would have made worse Presidents than Bush II and Trump. Certainly the environment, a whole lot of Iraqis and maybe millions of Koreans or Iranians, not to mention Americans, would all be better off. The narrative that there was no difference between the hard-right candidate and the cautious centrist is a false one, as history shows.
We are not immune in Canada either. Somehow, despite losing both the popular vote and the majority of ridings, Doug “Mini-Me” Ford won the leadership of Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party. The problem is, given Ontario’s First Past the Post electoral system, he may just win the forthcoming Provincial election, he’s currently 47% in the polls.
A progressive vote split between Liberals, NDP and the Greens in Canada’s most populous province could have the same result as Trump’s election: the triumph of an unqualified hard-right populist demagogue. It can be stopped. I’ll offer two examples: Thornhill. This riding has a progressive majority of about 5,000, but the riding has gone Conservative for the last three Ontario elections as just enough NDP and Green votes are peeled away from the Liberals to let the Tories through. Sault Ste. Marie offers a riding where the Liberals (given their current standing) and the Greens should back the NDP if they want to stop the Conservatives winning there.
I recognize that this might not be seen as a positive vote for everyone, but, given the nature of Doug Ford and his likely cronies, it could be a positive and progressive vote for the Province of Ontario. Trump won the election by about 72,000 votes in decisive electoral college states. Those votes would have been nullified if Jill Stein voters had held their noses.
It doesn’t take the data machinations of Facebook or Cambridge Analytica to work out how to beat Doug Ford in Ontario or Trump in the US. Just be informed about your electoral riding or State and, if you are so inclined, vote for the progressive candidate most likely to win.
If you need to hold your nose, hold away.