Saturday, September 29, 2012

More On Moral Thresholds And Voting

I was thinking more about this call to not vote for someone for moral reasons. Others have disagreed with Friedersdorf for some pretty compelling reasons, in my view. But I had the thought that there surely is a threshold where we would not vote for a candidate for moral reasons. To take an extreme example, imagine a presidential candidate murdered someone on the campaign with his or her bare hands. I don't think I could vote for the murderer in this scenario. The example is extreme, but the question becomes: where do you draw the line? Friedersdorf gave some examples in this spirit, and I think they have been overlooked by his dissenters - what to say about "automatic disqualifiers"?

It occurred to me that in the murder scenario (an admittedly extreme hypothetical), I wouldn't vote for that candidate, but I'd probably want somebody else from the same party to run, and then I'd vote for that person. That's where I think I diverge from Friedersdorf - in my eyes, the candidate up for vote is a tool for the party he or she represents. The reason I vote for Obama is not because I think Obama the person is anything special, it's because he represents the party that is most likely to implement policy ideas I agree with, or at least come closest to agreeing with. Although Obama in particular has gotten a lot of hype for his personal qualities, in fact most people vote the way they do for reasons similar to mine; they are most closely aligned with one party's platform or another. It's no surprise Friedersdorf will fall back to Gary Johnson instead of some other third party candidate; he's sympathetic to libertarianism.

I feel some reluctance for voting for Obama, but I would feel reluctance for voting for Hilary Clinton or Joe Biden. But I would vote for either without much thought in comparison to the package I would get for voting for any likely GOP candidate right now. One party is fighting for universal health care - I'm going to vote for that party. One party has tried to privatize Social Security, voucherize Medicare, held unemployment insurance hostage, opposes equality for all people, and so on. I'm going to steer away from the party to the extent possible. So, I think the reason I disagree with Friedersdorf is that the personal qualities of the candidate don't matter that much to me. I'm sure others don't see things my way, but many do.

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