Friday, July 22, 2016
My friend Matthew Franck has a depressingly timely piece over at Public Discourse, in which he maps out his thinking regarding the question "what to do with my vote in November, given the two awful major-party candidates?" (As I've said here at MOJ before, both candidates are awful -- for various and varying reasons -- and one of many reasons each is awful is that each has the effect of inducing members of the opponent's political party to rationalize or normalize or minimize their own candidate's awfulness.)
I agree with much of what Matt writes. I'm not sure about this, though:
[M]y conscience is more important to me than the outcome of this presidential election. I cannot in good conscience vote for either Clinton or Trump. What matters for me is that I cannot bring myself to intend, to will the victory of either of these ludicrously unacceptable presidential candidates. And that is what a vote for one of them would be—an act of willing that Clinton or Trump be president, carry out her or his stated policy aims, and bring his or her fundamentally bad character to the highest office in the land.
My hesitation is prompted, specifically, by the suggestion that voting for candidate X is "an act of willing that [candidate X] . . . carry out her or his stated policy aims[.]" This seems wrong . . . or at least not necessarily true. One could reasonably think (and, to be clear, I'm not saying that this is what I think) something like this: "Look, candidate X has said all kinds of stupid and offensive things and also proposed stupid, dangerous, and immoral policies. But, it is not the case that, if candidate X were elected, those policies would become operative because Congress, the courts, the press, the bureaucrats, candidate X's laziness and ignorance, etc., would prevent or obstruct them, or at least most of them. Candidate Y, on the other hand, is smart and ideologically motivated, and would enjoy the support of the press and other opinion makers, and so would very likely be able to make operative a number of candidate Y's stupid, dangerous, and immoral policies. So, I prefer candidate X, not because I intend that candidate X 'carry out his or her stated policy aims' but because I intend to do what I can to prevent candidate Y from carrying out his or her policy aims."
This is different, I think, from the usual "lesser of two evils" argument, because it is focusing more on the "state of affairs that is likely to come to pass as a result of the election of candidate X or Y" than on the merits of X and Y's character or proposals.