The Civic Negligence of Third-Party Voting

Note: the following article is partially adapted from a piece I wrote in 2016 about the last presidential election, and is meant as a companion to my case for reelecting Donald Trump; please read that as well for my complete argument on how to view the 2020 presidential election.

What’s a voter to do when both major-party candidates for president are unappealing? For a vocal minority, the answer is to either vote for a third-party candidate or write in a name. Such choices are usually accompanied by platitudes about “sending a message” or casting a vote that “reflects my values.”

In the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, the third-party candidate will not become president, and in the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, the third-party voter knows it. He generally justifies his conscious decision to cast a vote that will not affect the outcome1—to forego the opportunity to help bring about a more positive outcome or prevent a more negative one—as a symbolic gesture, or a personal statement.

I submit that, in the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, this is grievously irresponsible for one simple reason: your vote affects other people. The ballot box isn’t a personal survey; elections have direct short- and long-term consequences for the freedom, safety, health, and prosperity of more than 330 million Americans other than yourself.

How you vote isn’t about you, your reputation, or your self-image. It’s not about symbolism, messaging, how any of the candidates make you feel, or even what any of the candidates “deserve.” It’s about what happens to millions of your countrymen—whether their personal freedoms expand or contract. How many innocent children they have to let be legally killed before birth. How much money is taken out of their paychecks. Whether job opportunities are allowed to grow or are suppressed. What kind of schools they can send their children to. How safe their communities are. What the government does with their money. How many dangers of the world spill over into their country. And even whether they’ll retain any means of reversing their government’s direction in the following elections.

To whatever extent voters should weigh notions of a candidate’s “fitness,” character, style, or temperament, morally they must give greater weight to the real-world consequences that candidate would have for the well-being of the American people. Further, voters cannot weigh those consequences in a vacuum, but in comparison to the consequences of the alternative winning instead.

Simply put: every American has a clear, overriding moral obligation to choose the viable candidate whose election would spare his or her countrymen the greatest amount of net harm.

But what if both candidates would be equally harmful? First, that might be theoretically possible, but if a third-party/write-in voter genuinely believes it, then he would have to justify his decision by making a case to that effect, and leave the my-vote-is-all-about-me platitudes behind.2

Second, moving from theory to reality, it’s plainly false that both choices before us in this election—Donald Trump and Joe Biden—would be equally harmful. Readers can click here to read my full case for that contention; here I’ll simply note that there are vast, clear policy differences between a mismanaged center-right executive branch and a unified hard-left one…among them the fact that (for reasons explained in the piece linked above) a Biden victory carries the very real danger of the nation our children inherit being transformed into one of single-party rule, one in which our constitutional order has been gutted beyond repair.

It is not hyperbole to say that the modern Democrat Party is opposed to every major principle of the American Founding. A Democrat takeover of the executive branch poses a clear, potentially existential (in the sense of permanently losing the freedoms and safeguards that make America America) threat to the country. Voting for Jo Jorgensen (the kind of person who supports the legal power to have one’s child executed in the womb, by the way) won’t do a thing to prevent that, or to advance any of the non-evil causes she and her fans claim to value. Nor will writing in a name in protest. Only by voting for Trump—distasteful though he is—do we stand even a chance of preventing it. (For those understandably unenthused about the incumbent, think of a Trump vote as a vote to keep the seat reserved for four years so a constitutional saboteur can’t occupy it, buying us time to hopefully work on finding someone better for 2024.)3

Of course, many reject the premise that their vote holds that much influence. While technically true in the sense that national elections never literally come down to a single vote, it’s also painfully obtuse—votes add up, particularly in light of the Electoral College, under which a few thousand votes in a few states can make the difference for the whole country.

The only circumstance in which it would be at least defensible to vote for a third-party presidential candidate would be if a voter of one party lives in a state absolutely dominated by the other, like Republicans living in California. It’s safe to say Biden will take the Golden State no matter how they vote.

Even so, while at least such voters won’t harm the electoral outcome, there’s still another consideration to keep in mind. Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 in electoral votes, but lost the popular vote (thanks mostly to, again, California), which gave the Left a useful propaganda point they’ve relentlessly deployed ever since. Even if you don’t care about how that affects Trump or the GOP politically, you should certainly care about how it’s used to undermine the Electoral College, one of the pillars of our system of government.4

Large swaths of our culture have been conditioned to internalize a conception of voting that, at its core, is narcissistic. But the truth is that voting is a service, and a hugely consequential one at that (which is why the Founders believed in placing conditions on who could exercise it). As such, those who chose to participate are assuming an awesome responsibility. Ultimately, the only truly moral way to exercise that responsibility is to vote as if your vote will be the one to tip the balance between the top two competitors, whoever they may be.


Footnotes:

1. The idea that a third-party vote doesn’t affect the outcome assumes that the voter doesn’t have a consistent pattern of voting for either party. But that isn’t the case if he is a longtime voter for one of the parties. If someone normally votes Republican but chooses to make an exception for Trump, it obviously helps Biden by reducing the number of votes the Republican nominee would have otherwise gotten (and vice versa).


2. I acknowledge that third-party and write-in votes may be more defensible at the state or local levels, where there may be lower stakes and greater variation among Republicans and Democrats. That said, such decisions should still be made on the basis of the relative outcomes, not on the use of the ballot box as a vehicle for self-expression.


3. None of this is to deny the many severe defects of Trump and the Republican Party. Whether the GOP is beyond reforming is a very open question, and the desire to burn it down so something better can take its place is entirely understandable. But reforming and replacing a major political party are difficult tasks, and there is no evidence that third-party presidential voting brings us any closer to accomplishing either of them. It’s worth noting that when the GOP replaced the Whig Party in the 1850s, it was channelling powerful preexisting discontent with its predecessor, not driving that discontent. As dysfunctional as the modern GOP currently is, one need only look at Trump’s approval rating within the GOP to see that today’s inter-party discontent is still nowhere near that level. (Also, the Libertarian Party is an impotent pack of amoral fools who don’t deserve to become one of the two major parties. But that’s another conversation.)

4. For voters who are also public figures, such as political activists or commentators, there’s one more reason you should vote for the better major-party candidate even if the opposite party dominates your state: setting a good example for members of your audience who live in states where their votes still can make a difference.

We Forgot

“Never forget.” That was one of the most pervasive slogans to rise in response to the nightmare we all witnessed fifteen years ago today. It meant waking up to the evil in our world that is interested in us regardless of whether we’re interested in seeing it.

At the time, it seemed like an easy promise to make, after seeing the video of people so desperate to escape the flames that they jump out the windows of a skyscraper, knowing they were going to die as they plummeted hundreds of feet but deciding it was better than burning or suffocating to death, the people on the other side of the world cheering the hell murderers acting in their name put other human beings through.

But we did forget.

Many — and not just on “the other side,” whatever your side is — still retreat into the comforting fictions, petty priorities, and utter negligence that left us vulnerable in the first place.

The Left has not taken responsibility for how their policies gave Osama bin Laden the opportunity to strike, continually downplays the threat of a global movement that wants America dead, has so stigmatized any discussion of why they want us dead that coworkers of jihadists choose not to report warning signs for fear of being labeled “Islamophobic,” spent the first DECADE after 9/11 slandering the president who put a stop to a state sponsor of international jihad, and this year has put forward — as their choice for the next commander-in-chief of a post-9/11 America — someone whose negligence has already gotten more Americans killed. By God, we haven’t even fixed the visa overstay blind spot that let 5 of the hijackers stay in the country on 9/11.

Which is not to say that the Right is blameless. We have not offered the American people a unified, cohesive vision of how to navigate these troubled waters. When the death toll in Iraq understandably left the public war-weary, many Republicans pandered to shortsighted desire to just get out of wherever is violent rather than do the statesman’s job of rallying people to understand that our sacrifices were to prevent far larger losses of life. By and large, the GOP was not outraged enough (or outraged at all) by the preceding paragraph’s offenses to hold Democrats accountable for them. Many conservatives’ incessant need to indulge libertarianism as some legitimate heir to the Founding lends credence to the lie of isolationism. And — strikingly lackluster for the challenges of the office though our own presidential nominee is — a vocal contingent of “conservatives” has prioritized their hatred of him over all other considerations to the point that they would rather have in office the wife of the president who let the first 9/11 happen.

We forgot. When and whether we’ll start remembering is anyone’s guess.

New at Live Action: Sanders Says He’ll Use Justice Department “To Go After” State Pro-Life Laws

In a bid to counteract Hillary Clinton’s narrative that she’s the one true pro-abortion candidate, Vermont Senator and Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has offered his most aggressive promise to abortion fans yet.

On Monday, he essentially told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he would use the power of the presidency to disenfranchise pro-life voters at the state level…

[I]t is no secret that in states all over this country, in a dozen different ways, there are governors and legislatures who are trying to make it impossible for a woman to control her own body. I will use the Department of Justice to go after those states in every way that I legally can. I believe that in the United States of America women have that right to control their own body[.]

I find that, I must say, completely hypocritical for my Republican colleagues who tell us every day how much they hate government, how they want to get government out of our life, but they think that local state and federal government have the right to tell you and every woman in America what she can do with her body. That is hypocrisy.

The second part of that statement is a cheap attack Sanders has hurled repeatedly throughout the campaign, but while it might amuse his groupies jonesing for a quick hit of smug superiority, all it really does is display the shallowness of his arguments on the issue.

Read the rest at Live Action News.

New at Live Action: The Petty Ridiculousness of NARAL’s Spat with Pelosi

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is the second major Democrat to upset her pro-abortion constituents with unexpected comments lately. In a new interview with Roll Call, she said this (emphasis added):

I don’t believe in abortion on demand, I don’t believe in abortion on demand. I’m talking about the health of the mother and the child and this is not a decision that a politician should be making. This is about a woman’s judgment. This is about respect — respect — for women. I sometimes wonder if the Republican men who are here even know what’s going on in their own families, because the fact is that contraception and birth control is something that is used — I don’t believe that abortion is a form of birth control or contraception — and if you want to diminish the number of abortions in our country, you should love contraception, but they don’t.

This from Nancy Pelosi, who has dutifully voted for everything the abortion lobby wants, who called late-term abortion “sacred ground,” who gladly accepts awards named after the founder of the abortion-as-birth-control industry, who bitterly snaps at anyone who tries getting her to discuss the science behind what she claims not to believe in?

This isn’t the first time the former Speaker’s tried this whopper—last fall, she claimed to “abhor” abortion. However, Pelosi’s actual record being everything the abortion lobby could want didn’t stop NARAL from criticizing her remarks.

Read the rest at Live Action News.

New at Live Action: Bernie Sanders Smears Men, Belittles Women in Abortion Tweet

Bernie Sanders, the socialist Vermont senator running in the Democrat presidential primary, is a walking caricature in many ways, and recently he added abortion clichés to that reputation. On Saturday, he said:

It’s a popular slur among abortion supporters because it plays to modern radical feminism’s paranoia that misogynistic agents of the patriarchy lurk around every corner, waiting to chain America’s women to their kitchens, and because it reinforces the abortion lobby’s fantasy that abortion entails no serious moral dilemma they have to confront. But as a meaningful argument, it completely fails.

Read the rest at Live Action News.

New at Live Action: Pelosi Drafts Pope Francis to Fund Planned Parenthood

Ready for the most preposterous manifestation yet of Nancy Pelosi’s pro-abortion devout Catholic shtick? On Thursday, the House Democrat Leader invoked pro-life Pope Francis in the name of her pro-abortion agenda:

Republicans are moving forward with a GOP reconciliation package that once again lays the groundwork for another Republican government shutdown. It’s a waste of time. It will go nowhere in the Senate. It will be their 61st vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they will of course be wanting to defund Planned Parenthood, destroy the Affordable Care Act, dismantle newfound health security for millions of Americans.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead we could be working together recognizing a Republican Congress, a Democratic president, the ability for Democrats to use their leverage legislatively to have compromise for the good of the American people. That’s what Pope Francis told us to do. He said leaders should have transparency. That would be wonderful – openness, he said. He used the word openness and pragmatism, and he said we have to move forward for the good of the people. Let’s in the spirit of Francis do that.

Yes, Pelosi has devolved to arguing that the Pope wants politicians to accept a budget that gives millions of dollars to the abortion industry. Let that sink in a minute.

Read the rest at Live Action News.

New at Live Action: Elizabeth Warren lies for Planned Parenthood, and Jake Tapper Lets Her

In a media dominated by thinly veiled propagandists for Democrats and left-wing causes posing as impartial journalists, some conservatives used to say that Jake Tapper, former ABC News correspondent now with CNN, was one of the rare objective reporters not pushing an ideological agenda. If that was ever true, it sure isn’t anymore, judging by his interview this weekend with radical pro-abortion Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

He started with a respectable question about the Center for Medical Progress undercover videos into Planned Parenthood’s —“Is there nothing on the videotapes that you saw that bothers you at all?” Warren answered (if you can call it that):

Look, let’s remember what we were debating on the floor of the United States Senate, and that was defunding Planned Parenthood. 2.7 million people get their healthcare from Planned Parenthood every year. One in every 5 women in America, sometime in her life, will get her healthcare from Planned Parenthood.

False—according to Planned Parenthood’s own material, the actual statistic merely claims that one in five women has entered a Planned Parenthood.

Read the rest at Live Action News.