From Pine View Farm

Venomous Virtuousness: The Weird Fallacy of Withholding One’s Vote 0

Voting is not a right. It is a duty.

Several weeks ago, I was chatting with an acquaintance about politics (imagine! me talking about politics).

He was most distressed with a local Democratic candidate for Congress over the candidate’s votes on several major issues and was planning to express his discontent by not voting in that race in November.

(Frankly, I share his distress. Indeed, I had pointed out to one of the Congressman’s staffers that “. . . not voting for the health care bill because it doesn’t save enough money is like a surgeon’s refusing to operate because he can restore only 70% of a patient’s vision, rather than all of it.” The staffer was not happy.)

As Hamlet points out, there is a rub. We agreed that a victory by the Congressman’s opponent would be far more detrimental to the public good than the Democrat’s continued incumbency. Yet, he was willing to support through inaction the opponent.

It is simply not true that all politicians are alike and that there’s no difference between the parties. Anyone who believes that has slept for the last three decades or looks to avoid responsibility for his or her inaction.

Furthermore, anyone who expects a candidate, even the best candidate, to reflect perfectly his or her own views is living in WackyWorld. (John Cole has an excellent musing on that today.)

I cannot understand how persons can consider withholding a vote from a better candidate to the implicit benefit of a lesser one to possess any legitimacy as a protest. It’s “I’ll shoot the polity in the foot so I can feel virtuous” reasoning.

In the American electoral structure, the election goes to the candidate with the majority (actually, in most jurisdictions, with the plurality) of votes. Sometimes, indeed, the choice is indeed between worse and worst. In that case, worse is still better than worst.

Someone is going to win. Not voting at all because you don’t like one amounts to voting for the other.

The only choice may be to hold your nose and vote for the better of the two, even though, in your eyes, the better may not be good enough.

Worse is still better than worst.

Voting is not a right. It is a duty.


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