A friend offered up, on Facebook, an eloquent defense of his early, by-mail vote for Trump. He expressed how he had “no choice” but to place his vote for the Republican candidate. And then, he — a Christian, last I heard — defended his vote for a man whose vulgarity and sinfulness are widely known. Why? On the grounds that Hillary is worse.
Now, she may in fact (or according to decent values) be worse. In one or two dimensions, at least. And she may even likely do more damage than would Donald Trump. But, as eloquent as my friend was, I was unmoved by his reasoning.
I was going to comment on his Facebook post, at first. I wrote it up, and placed my finger over the “Post” link. But I thought better of it. I’m already a gadfly to my whole community and a troublesome spirit to my friends and family on Facebook; I’m sure, by now, I annoy more than I edify. Why push it?
So I did not respond on his page. But I obviously am under the impression my words matter. So . . . I publish my response here:
Chuck, nifty apologia, but . . . of course you had other choices! There were
- other candidates on your ballot;
- you could skip the presidential ticket; or
- not vote at all.
And since your vote will not decide the election, you are under no desperate pragmatism to veto your values. And yet you chose to give it (and signal us as so doing) to a man who is the very form of crass cupidity and concupiscence covering a substance of ignorance and inanity.
Hey, it’s your vote. I’m not aghast or appalled or offended. And I certainly understand wanting to stand against the Witch Queen of Sinister. But it just seems strange to me that any rational citizen would play along to a rigged and farcical game on the terms set by statists only to signal his virtue by fecklessly pitching for vice.
I am serious about the value of one’s vote. There are only a few uses of a vote. From my perspective, my vote can find use in only a few categories:
- AS INSTRUMENTAL IN CHOOSING
- AS SIGNAL OF MY PREFERENCES
- AS SIGNAL OF MY ALLEGIANCES
Since I’m familiar enough with economics and probability, I know that my vote cannot gain value by the use it plays in the first category. When I vote, my vote does not decide anything. So, despite what value a candidate or some political tribe may put on it, its marginal utility in terms of choice effectiveness is ZERO.
But it can serve to signal my preferences (if I tell somebody) or, more broadly, my allegiances (once again, if I tell somebody), and, merely by being counted and thus noticed, it tallies up in some candidate’s or cause’s column. (And thus in some way is of practical value to him or her or them, etc.) So, the mere existence of my vote in some cause or other, counted as a cardinal number, can be the first use for my vote. And thereby gains its value, its marginal utility.
Though this does not exhaust the theory of voting, it is enough to discredit the idea that one “wastes one’s vote” when one votes for a losing candidate. If you think your vote only gains value because it has a drop-in-the-bucket value to a winning candidate and his or her team, you have very strange values indeed. They are not about policy or philosophy or integrity or even tribe. Those values (in voting, mind you), are, if you fear “wasting it,” based entirely on the pathetic desire to appear “not a loser” by being tallied in the winners’ column.*
No individualist would be such a group cultist.
And there remains no desperate pragmatism to constrain your vote in any way.
* That OTHER____ use to which my vote may be put includes a few subtle points that I hope to deal with before the fateful day in November in which we expend much time and energy voting and counting votes. And talking about the results. And even a few other subjects.