• Member Since 14th Feb, 2012
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Chris


Author, former Royal Canterlot Library curator, and the (retired) reviewer at One Man's Pony Ramblings.

E

In the wake of the Crystal Empire’s reappearance and King Sombra’s deposement, a thousand thorny legal, cultural, and practical issues need to be addressed by the ponies of both lands. But there’s one issue that’s blindingly straightforward: the thousand-year-old Equestrian State of Conflict Empowerment Act is still technically in effect, and until it’s revoked, Equestria remains—officially—at war with the Empire.

Under the circumstances, nopony in Parliament could possibly consider voting against its revocation.

Right?

*****

A peek at the sausage-making, inspired by GaraTheAuthor’s political fiction.

Written for the Springtime Sandbox-Slash-Sandbox Switcheroo!

Now available in Spanish, courtesy of SPANIARD KIWI.

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 32 )

This is brilliant. It does a great job of explaining just how a well-meaning individual could take such a dishonorable action. I feel like I'm watching the original, British House of Cards.

I’m voting for Jeff.

Really good. More politics fics like this would be fantastic.

I feel like I have to be honest, mister whip dude was convincing by the end of it. It seemed so ridiculous it right up until it made a strange sort of sense.

“You’re going to vote neigh when Parliamentary Bill 1002AC-143 comes to the floor.”

Fixed that for ya. :trollestia:

Ah, the beauty of legislature with multiple small parties...

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I want to vote for Jeff, too...

Ugh. This was well-written, don't get me wrong, but its very existence left a bad taste in my mouth. When the system starts serving itself rather than the ones who created it, something's gone wrong.

And yes, I'm fully aware we crossed that point a long time ago.

This is a genre I adore, done with absolute perfection.

Thank you so much for this, I couldn't have asked for a better fic.

Also West Hold gives me a massive LBJ vibe.

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"A vote for Jeff is a vote for Jeff, duh!"

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Glad you enjoyed it! That's exactly the reaction I was hoping for!


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who the hell is jeff

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Well, he's supposed to be convincing; in fact, everything that he says makes perfect sense. It's just that he's, you know, laying out a perfectly sensible reason to vote for continuing to be at war with Cadence's new lands.

The most generous interpretations here is that Gypsy and Hold are working within the system as best they can. But consider that they (well, Parliament as a whole) are perfectly capable of changing the system to one that doesn't reward this kind of behavior... and they don't even pretend to try. It's easier to be the guy who does "what's best for his district," even when that means voting for something you and everyone in your district self-evidently oppose.

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As if I would ever stoop to that kind of punnery!

something something fillybuster...

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Indeed!

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It's hard to tell from that comment, but I'm going to chose to take that as a compliment. You hit the nail on the head!

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I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it! That being the nominal goal of the fic, and all :raritywink:

I won't deny West Hold's got more than a bit of LBJ in him, but not too much; I mean, if it were one-for-one, every third word he said would be unprintable in an E-rated fic!

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The most generous interpretations here is that Gypsy and Hold are working within the system as best they can. But consider that they (well, Parliament as a whole) are perfectly capable of changing the system to one that doesn't reward this kind of behavior... and they don't even pretend to try.

I'm curious; what form would this actually take?

Like, let's leave aside the fact that Equestia is ruled by a god-queen and suppose that Parliament actually has a degree of democratic legitimacy and real political power here.

Now, Parliament appears to have single-member districts that operate on a first-past-the-post system. Practically speaking, it ought to have many fewer political parties than it actually does in that case; FPTP combines with single-member massively encourages a two-party system. At most, you end up with three, and one of the three is usually, but not always, irrelevant. Canada and the UK are good examples of this... and they're both countries where you can assemble an absolute majority of seats in Parliament while pulling around a third of the total vote.

Their citizenry doesn't get more honked off about that because that 30-35% is usually still a plurality, so you have SOME claim to democratic legitimacy. There are US states where you can win 55% of the vote and still be in the minority, which is the rankest sort of bullshit. TLDR: first-past-the-post systems are HORRIBLE when it comes to democratic legitimacy and a legislature that accurately reflects the preferences of its citizens.

Anyway.

The reason why FPTP encourages two parties is because nobody wants to end up in a situation where someone who is roundly hated by like 75% of their voting constituents winds up taking office because they cobbled together a plurality. So people clump together in political coalitions, making compromises with each other en route to selecting a candidate they all agree to get behind. With multi-member districts and/or some form or proportional representation, you have a lot more viable parties, because you don't need to pre-compromise yourself in this way; you outsource the compromise to your MP.

Like... take Jeff, for example. Jeff has apparently managed to get elected without backing of a party. Good on Jeff! This is very hard!

Jeff is going to get jack shit done without joining a caucus. That caucus is going to make political demands of Jeff and he will have to decide when and how to compromise himself to meet them, because the alternative is not wielding power effectively and thus, not serving his constituents, who have outsourced the need for this compromise onto him instead of needing to do it themselves.

Put it another way; in a FPTP system, generally speaking, you form the political coalition FIRST, and then have the election against the OTHER political coalition. In a PR system, you have the election, and THEN you form your political coalition. Both cases require a coalition, because of that pesky 50%+1 requirement in order to govern, it's just the formation time differs.

Now, this Equestia seems to be in a weird situation where they do FPTP, and single-member, but also have the need to assemble a post-election governing coalition to achieve a working majority. Okay. Fair enough.

But cobbling together a working majority still requires negotiation and compromise of the sort that Gypsy Moth and West Hold are engaging in.

So that brings us back to the question of what, precisely, are the steps Parliament could take that would make this behavior on the part of West Hold and his party unrewarding?

Because I'm honestly having trouble thinking of very many. The only thing that comes to mind is "they could move to a completely publicly financed election model, thus making political actors more ideologically pure because there's less of an incentive to contort themselves towards a donor base to hold power."

But even given that... West Hold is still right. The CRL has a need to wield political power in order to implement its agenda. As a small minority party, it has a need to operate effectively in a political coalition with other parties. And that does, in fact, mean demonstrating that your support cannot be taken for granted.

There's an argument to be made that you should be more honest about this; that the CRL should give support when it feels like it and withhold it when it doesn't based on nothing more than the ideological feelings of its party leadership. There's even an argument to be made that whips and parties shouldn't exist at all and every MP should be allowed to vote either their conscience of their parochial desires 100% of the time.

This would, of course, completely neuter them as a political force, because any group of ponies willing to actually organize themselves and make internal compromises in pursuit of their own ideological goals would kick the living shit out of a group of completely politically atomized ponies who only cooperate when they can achieve complete consensus. But hey, they'd be morally pure on an individual basis, and individual moral purity matters more than anything else, right?

Part of the underlying problem in this specific scenario is that the Monarchists are actually politically idiots in this instance, and whoever is in charge of them has just done fucked up. Because this:

“The Monarchists didn’t bother consulting with anyone before introducing the bill to committee, because they knew there’d be plenty of votes to pass it.

Is political malpractice. The Monarchists cannot govern unilaterally, and require support from other parties. It therefor behooves them to actually consult those other parties. They have offended and alienated their coalition partners in exchange for... well, in exchange for jack shit, really. This is precisely the kind of feel-good, has-overwhelming-public-support bill that you use to solidify your coalition, not to fracture it. You call your other members together, say "This one is a sure winner, guys," tweak the language a little bit according to their input, and then you pass it as a unified bloc, demonstrating to your constituents and your political foes that you are united and powerful and THEY are not.

Instead the Monarchists have made their coalition look weak and fractured. That's dumb.

But circling back around, yet again... there's no systemic way to stop that from happening, I don't think. You can't systemically ensure that the guy leading the Monarchists won't do idiotic things.

I'm not trying to be an asshole here, I'm really not. But if part of the point of this story is that West Hold and Gypsy Moth are operating within a system they're not making any real effort to change, I think that there needs to be some kind of obvious way for it TO change in a way that makes this kind of behavior not be rewarded. There are some tweaks... but in any kind of democratic system political compromise is necessary to get shit done, because it turns out you can't rule as you please.

This story feels intensely real.

I don't recall there being many trees in the Crystal Empire at all. It's a desolate waste outside the influence of the Crystal Heart and inside it's a fully developed city so Moth needs to check the information he's getting from Hold

Damn, that made my head spin. In a good way, mind. ;)

"vaguely disappointed. It means,”"
"vaguely disappointed. "It means,”"?

Man, I wanted to laugh at this, but seeing how politics today is, it just made me depressed. :fluttershyouch:

I really like the story and I think you found a good topic on which writing. The way you portraited the way politicians brought many consideration on which think about.

I hope you'll write other stories regarding this kind of scenario you pictured. It really intrigues me.

Cheers

A beautiful portrayal of realpolitik.

Well, okay, not beautiful. Definitely not beautiful. But beautifully portrayed.

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your image link is broken.

... I want a continuation where it doesn't pass vote because of one vote. Because I love to see things blow up in peoples faces when they try to be too clever.

Very nicely done... and depressing. (That's a compliment to your realistic and convincing portrayal of the characters involved, actually.)

An appropriate subtitle might be: The First Tiny Step on the Road to Utter Corruption.

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Well, the short answer to all that (any block of 22 paragraphs is clearly looking for a "short answer," right?) is: who says Equestria has simple majority voting? I can definitely see ponies having a by-district IRV system like we have near where I live (for local elections, at least), and that might explain the breakdown we see.

If you want to examine how something like this could happen in a simple majority system, though, I think the most likely case is something like this: the Monarchist and Alicorn parties are actually the same party, but with maybe one major area of policy disagreement between them. Ditto the New and Neo-Republicans. Both groups strategically avoid running their candidates in the same district, splitting the map to match their one area of disagreement, with an explicit understanding that they'll caucus together afterword. Well, it could be policy, anyway--the Neo-Republicans less free-trade than the News, say--or it could be something purely cultural. Maybe the only difference between the Monarchists and the Alicorn party is that the former runs on a "Celestia's smart, so let's do what she says" platform, and the latter runs on more of a "PRAISE THE SUN" one.

Then you have the CRL, which is basically an old-school populist party and, like them, is capable of getting a few seats because their support tends to be so concentrated. You have the Anti-Monarchists and the Non-Pony Party, which actually have support that compares favorably to the major parties but only get a small fraction of the candidates because, like most Green Parties, their a minority in almost every district (perhaps they get their candidates in the same way the Greens get into Scotland's Parliament), the Dissolution Party, which is basically the Texas Independence Party if it wasn't run by idiots, and Jeff. Go Jeff! He's probably actually just a Joe Lieberman type, who managed to ruffle some party faithful feathers enough to not get the nod from his party one re-election, but popular enough with the general public to survive a general as "Independent (who's still going to vote/caucus the same way as last time you elected me)."

At least, that's my shot at making sense of it. I don't think any of that needs to/should be considered "canon" to this fic; whatever makes sense to you, I encourage you to keep on believing it!

As for there being "no systemic way to stop that from happening," you're right--that is, as long as we assume that people (ponies) will always try to take advantage of each other to get what's best for them. The thing is, if (and it's the million-dollar if) the other parties were composed of friendly, reasonable folks, there's no reason West should have to try to scrape for every bit of influence. By definition, he's trying to make his caucus matter more than the others, because he's afraid that if they're taken for granted by the almost-majority that they'll matter less, but what's stopping him from going to the leaders of the Monarchist and Alicorn parties and saying "Hey, it's great that this is a bill we all agree on, I know we won't agree on everything, but I'll bet if we work together we can craft some legislation that leaves everybody a little unhappy with what their idea turned into, but a lot happier than they were with the current laws?" What's to stop all the parties from doing that?

Well, there are a lot of very good answers to that question, which I won't insult your intelligence with. But what I think makes this a rather bad-taste experience for the readers is that it's clear that West is skipping right past trying to work together, and straight to taking maximum advantage--and that he's bringing Gypsy along for the ride with him. Maybe that's the only way you can get things done in this Parliament... but it'd be nice if someone would try.

Thanks for the super-detailed comment! It was full of good bits for me to hold on to when I'm thinking about political writing in the future, and I'll try my best to put that insight to good use!

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There was another reader who also found that distracting. My reasoning came via the ol' Hasbro Map of Equestria, which looks to me like it's showing forests on two sides. But apparently one of Berrow's books says that their only export is rocs and rock-stuff; oh well :ajsleepy:

If it helps, you can imagine that Neither West nor Gypsy actually know what's up there, what with the Empire having just popped into existence a few days ago in an otherwise uninhabited part of the world. West's just saying, it seems like something worth guarding against, you know?

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Grp! Better fix those things. Thanks for the head's-up!

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"Dammit, Jeff, I thought you were gonna vote for it!?"

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And last but not least, let me say thank you to all of you! The range of reactions here is really heartening to see, and I'm glad you all enjoyed the story--for a certain value of "enjoyed," anyway :raritywink:

Love this, was grinning the whole time. Tricky (kinda, maybe) situation, but there you go... but then politics ain't beanbag, and if you're going to make a point, might as well be when it doesn't matter. Funny how it inverts the normal situation of whipping up votes against their particularities because it matters.

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If it helps, it was a damn good story. :pinkiesmile:

Nice story.

Okay, I wasn't expecting to like a pony political satire, but this amused me. Well done.

This.. this made my head hurt.
also, I'm actually probably going to cast a vote for either JEFF or the Party for the Dissolution of Equestria, because I don't care much who we stick on the fancy chair as long as I can turn my house into a fortress that would make a nuclear blast shelter blush.

I am curious how this parliament would look? I would assume the Monarchists, the Alicorns, and the Rural Laborers would be in a coalition of sort, (105+58+15=178, more than the majority of 176 needed in a 351 seat parliament) but what would the rest of parliament look like? Which party gets how many seats and the percentage of votes each party gets? I am generally interested in knowing.

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This is brilliant. It does a great job of explaining just how a well-meaning individual could take such a dishonorable action

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More politics fics like this would be fantastic.

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It seemed so ridiculous it right up until it made a strange sort of sense.

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its very existence left a bad taste in my mouth. When the system starts serving itself rather than the ones who created it, something's gone wrong.

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<Realpolitik>

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A beautiful portrayal of realpolitik.

The scary thing (to me at least) is that this is not some sort of grand cabal, secret society conspiracy machinations, but rather an emergent, unintended behaviour from politicians in the system...Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy anyone?

Conspiracy theorists are in a ways the ultimate optimists because they believe that if you just only "uncover the secret cabal" or "thwart the evil government" the world will fix itself and everything will be fine.

A simple premise, well executed, with some entertaining world-building for the bargain. It had a little too much exposition for my taste, but was still an enjoyable read over all. Have an upvote!

Cracking stuff. :twilightsmile: A nice wee slice of worldbuilding, and a good depiction of how apparent rank madness on a political stage can have a series of reasonable actions and thinking behind it.

Wow, I wanted to sock West Hold on the jaw so hard haha. What an ignoramus. This is a perfect example of the shallow machinations that predestines much of what happens in virtually any political system. I do have a little respect for Gypsy left though. Really well written overall.

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