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Appealing to the base is simply off-base

With apologies to Meghan Trainor:

It’s all about that base, ‘bout that base, no one else;

It’s all about that base, ‘bout that base, no one else.

We hear it all the time … from U.S. President Donald Trump right on down the line …  politicians focus on appealing to their base.

It’s nothing new. Stephen Harper made an art of campaigning to his conservative base, focusing, with laser-like precision, on issues that would stir up his base and on ridings where 40-42 per cent of the electorate would likely vote Conservative. Everyone else be damned.

We see it with Trump and we’ve seen it at the federal level and provincial level here in Canada as well. (When was the last time a premier came to town and addressed a truly public gathering?)

It’s one of the things that is inherently wrong with our political system (south of the border as well).

One of the problems with politicians being able to strictly focus on their base to get elected is those who are not “part of the base” are often cast to the curb. Or worse. We need to only look at the enmity going on south of the border, and which is now beginning to fester in Canada, to see how polarizing “playing to the base,” is.

There are many politicians, and political backroom hacks, on all sides of the spectrum, who spend their lives conniving ways for their candidate to get 40-42 per cent of the vote. They’re not interested in the other 60 per cent of the electorate because they don’t need them to gain power. (It’s a little different down south in a two-party system.)

It’s an argument that the ‘yes’ side in the proportional representation referendum has missed the boat on.

One of the benefits of some proportional representation systems, namely ranked balloting which is part of the proposed rural-urban split system, is that it forces candidates to try to appeal to a greater segment of the population. If all you can get is 40 per cent of voters’ first-ballots and none of their second, you won’t get elected. Candidates absolutely have to secure their base, but they also have to spend time trying to convince voters they know will mark someone else as their first choice, to consider them as their second or third choice. That is where elections will be won and lost.

The proposed mixed member proportional system, as long as it uses open lists that are voted on, also forces candidates to appeal to more than their base, somewhat. Mixed member proportional will allow voters to vote for the candidate and the party separately, which means both the party and the candidate have to try and get your vote.

Ranked balloting, however, is still the best way to force candidates to pay attention to more than just their base.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see politicians trying to appeal to more than just those who already think like them?


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