Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Control of Elections

“IF any man ventures to run independently of the two political caucuses, the difficulties in the way of his success are enormous. Generally he is severely hampered for want of money, while his official opponents have not only an inexhaustible fund to draw upon, but a fund whose sole purpose is the financing not the winning of elections. Also, though a majority of voters may actually prefer him to any other candidate, they are often afraid to vote for him, lest by so doing they should “waste” their votes: for under an absurd and dishonest arrangement, which the machine carefully preserves, no second ballot is allowed. An impartial observer may be pardoned for thinking that, even under this system, a man could hardly waste his vote more thoroughly than by giving it to the nominee of the political bosses, who, when he is once elected, must regard himself as the servant not of his constituents, but of the caucus. But British electors are not always impartial observers, and there is no doubt that the hypnotic effect of continual assurances that an independent candidate “cannot win” operates powerfully against him. Votes promised some days before the poll are in such cases continually revoked at the last moment under the influence of this “fear of wasting a vote.”

“Thus it will be seen that only three types of men find it normally possible to get into Parliament. First, local rich men who can dominate the local political organisation. Secondly, rich men from the outside who have suborned the central political organisation. Thirdly, comparatively poor men who are willing, in consideration of a seat in Parliament and the chances of material gains which it offers, to become the obedient and submissive servants of the caucus.”

~Hilaire Belloc & Cecil Chesterton: The Party System, Chap. V. (1911)

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