According to St. John’s account of Christ’s Passion, it was expedient that one man should die for the people and that the whole nation not perish.
Whether in the Church or in society, expediency, strategy, power games in which ‘the people’ are either duped with impossible promises or blatantly used for political leverage and then discarded, point to the fact that the message is the same: ‘It is expedient’.
This, along with whatever slant or ‘spin’ is afforded by the media and powerful interest groups, seems to be the order of the day when it comes to election campaigns. It is a far cry from the freedom and democracy for which two generations fought world wars in the last century and for which many risk their freedom and their lives today.
It is also why some of us are unhappy about tactical voting. There is something ‘expedient’ about it. It somehow goes against the grain in regard to democracy itself. It also goes against the grain of the wood of the Cross. It is ‘expedient’. So how we do, or don’t, exercise our hard won political freedom is a matter of conscience. It may be expedient not to vote, but in doing so, we risk turning our back on the true meaning and purpose of an election. A tactical vote stops just short of not bothering to vote at all and not voting at all is an abrogation of our individual responsibility for what is still a free nation.
Part of the reason for our unease about tactical voting lies in the fact that this country does not yet have a truly representative electoral system. It is also, paradoxically, why some people justify the practice in the first place. Although untidy and possibly less efficient, because the government it would deliver might be more difficult to administer, proportional representation would at least make the voter feel more connected to the political process and perhaps better motivated to engage with it. But that is not the only reason why some of us draw back from strategically ‘working’ the existing system, which is what tactical voting entails.
When it comes to tactical voting, you are also working from a negative position. Tactical voting is like driving in reverse when you have missed a turning, and then finding yourself mired down off the edge of the road, unable to move in any direction. You back up to something like the worst compromise and so can end up voting for a party whose policies and values you profoundly disagree with. This leaves you feeling more disenfranchised, or unrepresented, than you would have been had you voted with your conscience in the first place.
But you tell yourself that it is expedient to vote tactically, in order to be sure you keep the party you really don’t want out of the picture. This is not to say that you are wrong to want to keep them out, but that in ‘working’ the electoral system you deprive yourself and the best political parties of a voice. Tactical voting is negative thinking and negative thinking is not about vision. If tactical voters were to vote with their conscience, the ones who have less political presence but far more wisdom, and with it far more vision, might just win a few more seats in government. The nation badly needs wisdom and vision.
This brings us back to the trial of Jesus of Nazareth, and to why I shall vote Liberal Democrat in June, even though on paper the Lib Dems may not win a seat in our constituency and UKIP could, in theory, gain a little ground, chiefly from erstwhile Tory voters. I am not voting tactically because to do so would be to vote against my political conscience.
I do not think that political conscience is shaped solely by the policies of any one party, although conscience will, if it is alive and healthy, afford a reliable guide as to the moral validity of specific party policies. Political conscience is also shaped by a desire not to betray those who in previous generations sacrificed so much for the democratic freedom we now have, even if that freedom is severely compromised by the system itself, as well as by those who ‘work’ it still further, to their own ends, once they are handed power through the ballot box.
It was ‘expedient’ that Jesus should die for the people because, in having him executed, the state and the religious authorities were able to avert a direct confrontation in which all would be losers – politically. Handing him over to the secular authorities was a tactical manoeuvre and, of course, an act of betrayal. We all participate in this act from time to time in our failure to live up to the demands of conscience, to do and say the truth and to stay focused on righteousness when it comes to the moment of testing, including the testing of our own integrity in the ballot box.