Strategic Voting

By Fenwick McKelvey

With horse race coverage of the election fixed on a dead heat between the Liberal and Conservative parties, partisan Facebook memes now try to persuade voters on the best way to cast their ballot when it seems no party will win a majority. Though not officially affiliated with political parties and therefore independent, these groups largely align with the positions of the respective party they tend to support. Liberal memes remind voters that voting Liberal is the only way to defeat Conservatives. Similarly, Conservative Facebook pages warn voters about the risk of a coalition if the Conservative’s do not win a strong mandate, whereas NDP memes call on voters to vote with their beliefs, and use the looming outcome as a reminder for electoral reform.

Strategic Voting as Key Liberal Message

Voting NDP will not defeat the conservatives according to Liberal-leaning memes. These memes mock progressive voters for being naive about their vote and out of touch with the NDP’s election prospects. Dippers are presented as ‘confused’, as seen in Figure 1 that uses an old Filthy Frank image. Instead, the meme suggests voters need to be pragmatic and vote Liberal. 

Figure 1

Another Liberal meme uses a scene from the film Thor: Ragnarök to make a rather complex call to vote Liberal strategically. Figure 2 is a known meme referring to the film’s end when Thor realizes he cannot defeat his evil sister Hela, the film’s villain. Only by bringing about ragnarök — the destruction of Thor’s home Asgard — can Hela be defeated. Here, the evil Hela is labelled as the Conservative Party. She mocks a weary Thor, labelled as the NDP. The Liberals are labelled as the all-powerful demon Sutur, bringer of ragnarök. In the film, Suter defeats Hela while destroying Asgard. The meme casts the voters’ choice in no less dire terms: they have to choose the lesser of two evils. The NDP, heroic as it may be, is less powerful than the Liberals. Only the Liberals, the meme implies, have the power to defeat the Conservative threat.

Three-panel meme with scenes from the movie "Thor: Ragnarök". On top, the logo of the Conservative Party is displayed, with text reading "You can't defeat me". The middle panel shows the NDP logo with accompanying text reading, "I know, but he can". The bottom image shows the logo of the Liberal Party with a fiery explosion in the background.
Figure 2

The meme, importantly, does not include the final shots of Asgard on fire nor comments on the film’s deeper anti-colonial messages. We have not encountered any reaction memes to date that play on these missed references.

NDP: Don’t Fall for Calls to Vote Strategically

NDP-leaning memes frame strategic voting as a trick played by Liberals on progressives. Using many popular memes, they try to remind voters that voting Liberal does not ensure a progressive government. Instead, as seen in a play on the Flex Tape meme used in Figure 3, the Liberal record is the real problem. Voting strategically is just a ‘patch’. Figure 4 makes a similar point where Lucy’s age-old trick on Charlie Brown illustrates the plight of strategic, progressive voters.

Figure 3
Figure 4

NDP memes also emphasize that the party’s values are important enough to take a risk. A play on the popular Woman Yelling at a Cat meme (Figure 5) is a good example of how NDP voters push back at Liberal calls for strategic voting.

Figure 5

Anti-coalition Conservative Memes

Conservative memes trade in the old stock worry about a coalition, much like their leader Andrew Scheer. Posts from third-party advertisers Canada Proud and Proud to be Canadian, seen in Figures 6 and 7, have circulated in anti-Trudeau groups. According to these memes, voters should be worried about a Liberal-NDP coalition, much like Scheer’s fabricated comments about tax hikes, and so Figure 4 asks voters to “play it safe” and elect conservatives. 

Figure 6
Figure 7

More organic memes from groups with supposedly user-generated content also worry that a vote for the NDP is a trojan horse for the Liberal party, as seen in Figure 8.

Figure 8

From Memes to Mobilization

As the election campaign draws to a finish, meme groups have also begun to encourage supporters to get out the vote. These memes, seen in Figures 9 and 10, illustrate how online communication is part of election day mobilization. Sharing a meme is the first step in today’s online ladder of engagement

Figure 9
Figure 10