Sunday, August 28, 2016

Should you vote your conscience?

Today while working, my manager and I were discussing the US presidential race and an interesting question came up. 

Should you vote for the lesser of two evils or vote your conscience?

For a lot of people this election cycle, the choice between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump is seen as a vote between the lesser of the two evils.  They see the only way to avoid certain disaster is to vote for the candidate opposite of the one who they disagree with more, even if the one they vote for is not up to their standards.  This is an easily justifiable position, since either America will be “made great again” or it will be “with her,” barring some insane and unforeseen event.  Voting for one the you dislike least could lessen the blow.

But, there is an undercurrent of voters who are considering voting for a third party candidate because they feel they must vote their conscience.  To them, voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil.  Morally, it is unjustifiable to vote for one evil, even if it is taking a vote away from a greater evil.  This is another pretty well justifiable position.  Many in this camp find both candidates to be equally undesirable or they more closely identify with candidates such as Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or Jill Stein of the Green Party.  They believe that it is more important to vote based on their principles, despite their vote being wasted.

This can be seen with the Never Trumpers and with disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters.  The question that comes out of this, which is the essence of the main question itself, is: Will voting your conscious make any difference?

What it comes down to is the split in thought where some people would rather have their vote have a say, and hopefully making the better choice, or have their conscious clean, in case things turn bad.  “I didn’t vote for him/her!”

Personally, I prefer to try and make the better choice and if things do go bad, I won’t feel guilty for not trying to do the right thing.  Because if I vote for someone who ends up being a tyrant, I can always say, “I made a mistake.  The person I voted for is not who I thought they were.  We were fooled.” 

Because, taking the route of irresponsibility, to me, is the more passive approach.  I feel it conveys a near loss of faith in the system, which, I agree, deserves very little faith in at this point.  But, it borders more on the line of nihilism which is part of the West’s problem.  It’s better to try and fail, than to not try. 

And of course there are plenty of non-nihilist conscious voters, but many of the ones I’ve encountered have that attitude.  Stubbornly standing on principle, without even looking at the reality of our current scenario, is not how you get what you want.  It’s better to take little victories that advance you towards your goals, than to sit there and refuse everything unless it’s exactly what you want.

It is a great thing to have principles and we should stand by them.  It seems like those who do are far and in between these days.  It’s also easy to see the discontent, since both of the candidates look quite principle-less.  But before one votes out of spite or in the effort to stop the other, one should reflect further on the scenario and stakes in such a race and consider whether they may actually be compromising their principles by standing by them.

Shema Humata: Tass Sheshco

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