The Alternative Vote Referendum and the Dilemmas of Popular Political Commentary

On Thursday, voters in the United Kingdom will be heading to the polls to cast their ballots in the so-called Alternative Vote Referendum to decide whether they will maintain their current first-past-the-post plurality voting system or whether they will implement an alternative voting method, namely, ranked choice voting, to choose their representatives for the House of Commons.  The referendum was scheduled as part of the coalition agreement between the Conservative Party and the third party Liberal Democrats following the 2010 general election.

Needless to say, since then countless articles have been published explaining the differences between the two voting systems and arguing for or against the measure.  Groups and individuals who favor ranked choice have resorted to ever more creative means to convince their fellow voters to cast their ballots in support of the reform.  A relatively new Youtube video tries to explain the difference between FPTP and AV in terms even people from the internet can understand.  It's title: "Is your cat confused about the referendum on the voting system on the 5th of May?"

Apparently, however, even this was too complicated for the astute political observers at CBS News.  Bailey Johnson's The Feed relays the video above and comments:
(CBS) - Americans are somewhat spoiled when it comes to voting. Our solid two-party system and relatively simple first-past-the-post voting style stands in contrast to other political systems. In Britain, voters are having a referendum on May 5th to decide whether to stick with their brand of first-past-the-post or an alternate voting system.

Voting. Electoral reform. Politics. It's all so confusing! Is there any way we could explain this complicated referendum with cats? Well now, we can.  Now that makes sense. Readers looking for more information on the up-coming referendum should check out The Guardian's coverage on the issue. As for us, we think we get it now. Vote Reform Cat! Or something... maybe we should watch the video again.
Is it even necessary to point out the absurd and thoughtless contradictions inherent in these few lines?   When confronted with this sort of attitude and discursive tone, popular at mind-numbing websites like Gawker and Wonkette, I am often reminded of studies which investigate the conflicts faced by American high school students.  In recent years, a number of reports have detailed the dilemmas of high-achieving African American and Latino youth.  From Mercury News in 2008:
Sandra Romero and Bibiana Vega do their best to shrug off taunts from fellow Latino classmates at Del Mar High School in San Jose.  The 17-year-old seniors are called "whitewashed." Mataditas - dorks. Cerebritas - brainiacs. They're told they're "losing their culture" - just because Sandra has a 4.0 grade-point average and Bibiana has a 3.5. The put-downs are clear: Smart is not cool. And too many Latino students are choosing cool over school.
From the Boston Globe in 2009:
There was a time in Myriam Piquant's young life when she refused to admit she was smart. So she kept quiet about her good grades to her neighborhood friends. In elementary and middle school, she didn't let on to fellow students about where she lived (Mattapan) or her cultural difference (Haitian), or her goals in life (lawyering). . . . .

Youth trend specialists say groups like the Du Bois Society are part of a rising counterculture that is aiming to break the stigma among black kids that being smart is uncool.
If only there were similar organizations dedicated to breaking the stigma, all-too-common in  mainstream media and popular political commentary, that being smart is not cool.  Fortunately, for those among them who are interested in seeking help in this regard, they might consider perusing this WikiHow article on "how to be cool and smart at the same time."  Perhaps, then, folks like the CBS News observers above might at least have the sense to follow Mark Twain's sage advice: "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."


TiradeFaction said...

Americans are spoiled (electorally)? How? I don't even get the reference there.

Seriously, I gave up on American mainstream media years ago. The fucking idiots they have there are true disgrace to this nation.

Ever check out the specialty channels on cable (or satellite)? They never play what their actually supposed to play.

Planet Green shows “What Not To Wear” and “UFO hunters”

The History channel plays, “Nazi Aliens”

The Learning Channel plays, “Midgets Who Make Cakes”

The Science Channel plays, “In search of Bigfoot”

Discovery Channel plays, “Ancient UFOS— in the bible!”

It’s no fucking wonder the USA is populated with stupid people.

d.eris said...

lol . . . indeed.

My favorite part of the CBS "analysis" was how the "solid" US party system stands "in contrast to other political systems," but then it is "contrasted" with the system in the UK, which is the same FPTP-style system!

TiradeFaction said...

Sorry about the rant there, encounters with (contemporary) American culture will do that to me!

As for the analysis of solidity, it reminds me of when US politicians decry other nations for officially restricting (in some fashion or form) the formation of opposing parties lol...

Though this does prove, even in an FPTP systems, 3rd (and fourth) parties and indies can still win, if they muster enough organization and some luck!