Anti-Trump AND anti-Hillary: What’s a voter to do? This seems to be an endemic quandary in the current presidential campaign. I have my own views, which I have blogged, ranted and wrote poems about. My views are considered too radical and too scary by many, and perhaps even somewhat crazy by more than a few. What might professional philosophers, trained in the rigors of logic and systematic thought, think about this palpable, contemporary quandary? One famous philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre, an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, gives his esteemed analysis in Can’t stand Hillary or Trump? Here’s what you must do, an article from Intellectual Takeout, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to feed minds, foster discussion, and inspire action:
I can’t recall an election in which the two leading candidates were more reviled in both breadth and depth. The rejoinder I keep hearing is that 2016 is the Lesser of Two Evils Election.
The data bears this out. A poll conducted in May by the Washington Post found that 57 percent of people had an unfavorable view of Donald Trump; 45 percent of those polled had a highly favorable view of him. Hillary Clinton, believe it or not, had even higher unfavorables.
Both candidates, of course, somehow were officially nominated by their respective parties last month.
Thus, many Americans find themselves in an ethical quandary. Finding both candidate X and candidate Y utterly repellent, they are left with the following choice: 1) Vote for the candidate they find less repellent. 2) Vote for neither candidate (by either not voting or voting for a third party candidate who has essentially no chance of winning).
What should one do?
Alasdair MacIntyre, an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, is on the record on what voters should do in such a situation. He is unequivocal: Voters should reject both candidates.
Here is what he wrote:
When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives.
Such a suggestion—coming from a moral philosopher no less—might seem jarring to the civic-minded citizen. MacIntyre concedes this, noting that it has been ingrained in our fiber to view not voting as irresponsible.
So how does he justify not voting in an important election? In MacIntyre’s view, voting for “the lesser of two evils” is a tacit vote for the system that put the two candidates in place, a system that “presents us only with unacceptable alternatives.” By not casting a ballot, voters are, in effect, casting a vote against the system.
“The way to vote against the system is not to vote,” he writes.
Do you find MacIntyre’s argument persuasive? Will it persuade you to not vote or vote for one of the also-rans?
I agree wholeheartedly that the logical and sensible solution is to withdraw from the boundaries of a seemingly forced false choice. This would simply be healthy boundary setting from a healthy electorate. However, positing the only other touted alternative as not voting at all seems to me like just another false choice, or, perhaps even more egregiously, a non-choice. Shame on you, terribly uncreative moral philosopher (or reporter?). There are third, and fourth, and fifth party presidential candidates running, for whom you can cast your ballot, that will profoundly more clearly register one’s rejection of the two-party duopoly and rigged choices of candidates. The amorphous category of nonvoter is especially un-instructive since longstanding low voter turnout is comprised of a large portion of apathy not well characterized as politically enlightened or active. With our purported democracy in crisis, voting may be of limited importance. Nonetheless, voting does have importance. Voting is a relatively easy, and I believe cost-effective, way to move democracy forward. However, in the end, electoral politics alone will not be enough to forge a positive political revolution. Let US reject false and rigged choices foisted upon US and vote for a candidate outside the two-party duopoly. Then, immediately — that is even before the election — join in non-electoral, movement political actions to change the larger system not worthy of our vote.