I\’m not convinced that I should vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate in this upcoming election. Douglas Adams captured this idea here nicely in Hitchhiker\’s Guide to the Galaxy:
“[Ford said] \”.. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.\” \”Odd,\” said Arthur. \”I thought you said it was a democracy.\” \”I did,\” said Ford. \”It is.\” \”So,\” said Arthur, hoping he wasn\’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, \”why don\’t the people get rid of the lizards?\” \”It honestly doesn\’t occur to them,\” said Ford. \”They\’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.\” \”You mean they actually vote for the lizards?\” \”Oh yes,\” said Ford with a shrug, \”of course.\” \”But,\” said Arthur, going in for the big one again, \”why?\” \”Because if they didn\’t vote for a lizard,\” said Ford, \”the wrong lizard might get in.”
South Park captured this idea again in 2004.
Now, like most people, I think there is a less-evil primary candidate.
But at this point, I do not intend to vote for that candidate.
Why? —Well, that\’s not too straight forward.
First, I would like to address an obvious objection.
Many people—people on either side of our increasingly growing political divide—will say, \”If you vote 3rd party or don\’t vote at all, then you\’re responsible for the more-evil candidate to gain power, and you will be just as responsible as a wrong voter for enabling the evil actions of the most-evil-candidate. Whatever the most-evil-candidate does, you will share the blame too. It is wrong not to vote for the lesser of two evils.\”
Well, I disagree.
Though, I must admit that I am disagreeing in spite of common sense. Common sense says that I have two options—pick the one that is least-evil-and-most-likely-to-win.
But the value that I see in my least-evil-and-most-likely-to-win is insufficient. Metaphorically speaking, my candidate is a lizard. Why would I vote for a lizard?
A person on either side might say to me, \”But you\’re just thinking about yourself. You need to look at the bigger picture: innocent people will suffer and our country will go to hell if the least-evil-and-most-likely-to-win candidate loses.\”
I struggled with my potential moral blame. Surely the least-evil-and-most-likely-to-win candidate will cause less suffering.
But then I realized something. I was facing a moral argument. And like most moral arguments, it is a line of reasoning that has been around for a long time. The way I see it, telling someone to vote for someone that they don\’t fully support because if they don\’t they will be morally culpable for the wrongs of the more-evil-and-most-likely-to-win candidate is a form of consequentialism.
I am not a consequentialist.
According to google/Oxford Languages (whatever that may be), consequentialism is the doctrine that the morality of an action is to be judged solely by its consequences.
A more thorough definition can be found at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy\’s entry on Consequentialism.
My argument against consequentialism is as quick as it is dirty. It is an argument from epistemology, and it goes like this:
We may know the first and perhaps second order consequences of our actions. But it is more difficult to know the third and fourth order effects, and even more difficult to know the fifth and sixth order effects. This is because every action sends out endlessly interweaving causal chains. So, we do not—we cannot—know wrong from right based on consequence alone.
Examples are many and frange from obvious to absurd: Give a hungry person bread and they may choke on it; cut somebody off in traffic, and you may prevent them from running over a pedestrian who is on his way to murder a future industrial tycoon who would bring about total environmental destruction.
This is not an argument for moral nihilism or ethical skepticism. I do think we can know right from wrong. But trying to intuit the consequences of our actions alone is not enough.
And what that means to me is that it is not morally wrong to vote for a good candidate even if he or she will lose.
But why violate common sense? Well, first off it would be nice to escape our two-party rule, and voting for independents and other parties is an attempt at going in that direction. But I have no intention of making a pragmatic argument. This is must more important than that. Listen closely:
Consider that your vote is not merely a bean in a jar that is to be weighed en mass.
Your vote is a sacred form of self expression. It is a political act. It is an exercise of power—your power.
There is something metaphysically important about your vote. Do not just give it away. It is neither a token nor commodity. It is your will and power.
But they will tell you otherwise: They will reduce your vote and power to a mere means—the end of which you will not benefit from.
Our mass failure to understand the metaphysical significance of our vote is partially why we\’re here—voting between lizards.
I warn you though—the realization of your political power is as profound as it is both infuriating and lonely.
It\’s Sunday afternoon. I could be on my Switch playing Hades or Diablo 3. Instead, I\’m here sitting at my dining room table, looking out of a raindrop-dotted window, writing. I am writing for no significant audience. A few friends gratuitously and kindly read my posts.
So why am I here?
Well, I can\’t think of anything better, so this will have to do. It orders my mind, gives me a sense of earned peace.
I\’m writing for myself.
Moreover, I am frustrated by politics. I have not found a politician that remotely represents my views. So, what else is there to do? If I merely sit around my frustration grows. I must do something. My soul must express itself, (even if it is merely an ineffectual scream into the cluttered void of the back pages of the internet).