Endorsed: Other Options
Now I know what you’re thinking – am I just throwing partisan red meat into this symposium by suggesting anything would be better than any of the Democratic candidates? In short, no. In fact this article isn’t for likely or certain Democratic voters at all – if you’re planning to vote for the Democratic nominee in 2020 then I have nothing in particular to say to you. Sure I like some of the candidates more than others, but I can’t vote for them anyway and there’s a limit to how far I’m willing to insert myself into a foreign election.
Instead I want to talk to conservatives for a moment, who might otherwise feel this symposium wasn’t for them. Some of you might be dedicated Trump voters, and if you are I can’t imagine what I could say that would change your mind, but a lot of the conservative and conservative-adjacent Americans on this site are not fans of Trump, and it’s you I want to talk to today.
So let’s say you’re a conservative but you hate Trump and what he has done to your party (and who can blame you?) what are you to do on Election Day 2020? I have seen comments from many of you on the other endorsement posts, concerned that if the Democrats nominate the wrong candidate you may be forded to vote for Trump. But fear not fellow Ordinarian, I am here to tell you this is not so.
Before we go any further we need to think about what a vote means. The way we are raised to think of voting is as a means of determining who our political leadership will be, but while this is true in aggregate it is not true for a particular voter. In a single-candidate election only one vote matters – the vote that separates the winner from whoever came second. If you are not this one voter, you didn’t affect the outcome of the election. A total of 138 million people voted in the 2016 US election, the human brain cannot comprehend a number as small as 1/138 million. To give you some context for your odds of changing the election result, 37,461 people died in road accidents in the US in 2016, representing a bit over 102 deaths per day. It is almost certainly the case that many more people died in road accidents going to the polls than actually affected the result. For you to believe your vote has an appreciable affect on the result of the election, you would also have to believe that you are in serious danger of death travelling to get there.
This logic is sometimes used to say that voting is irrational, but that’s not quite right, the rationality of an act depends what you hope to achieve by doing it. But there is no question that voting to change the outcome of the election is irrational. You won’t change the outcome, you can’t change the outcome. No polity bigger than a few hundred people can have both political equality (or anything close to it) and a single vote mattering, spread control of the US government over 138 million people and the power per person rounds to 0.
This, more than anything else, is why no-one should feel forced to vote for Trump. You may tell yourself that if you don’t then <terrible Democratic nominee> will win instead. But that decision is out of your hands. They won’t win because you vote for someone else, and they won’t lose because you vote for Trump, that’s just your human intuitions about large numbers lying to you.
While this may seem a little deflating, you can achieve other things with your vote. A vote is an endorsement, a way of saying “I approve of this person / party and their ethos and agenda” in a way that carries a more weight than just saying it. And I think other people see it this way too – a candidate that wins by a large margin is commonly seen as more legitimate than one who wins narrowly. So the question is, who do you want to endorse? Which candidate would you be willing to stand up and say “I think this person would make a good, or at least adequate, President”? Because if you can’t say that about Trump, you shouldn’t vote for him.
Of course, you may not feel you can say that about the Democratic nominee either and that’s fair. But, and I cannot emphasise this enough, you are under no obligation to vote for one of the main parties. The US’s political duopoly benefits from you thinking that you have to, because that way they each only have to convince you they’re less terrible than the other one. But you are allowed to have higher standards than that. If you can’t stomach the Democratic nominee, but are unwilling to tolerate Trump then look elsewhere. If Justin Amash runs then he might be a good choice for anti-Trump conservatives. There are other parties like the Libertarians to consider, if that’s to your taste. Alternatively if there is no candidate who you think you would make a good, or even an acceptable President, then vote for no one. You are under no obligation to vote and, contrary to popular opinion, not voting can show civic virtue too. After all a polity will get no better than it accepts, and if no candidate meets your standards, is that your fault or theirs? Remember that your vote is an endorsement, and endorsing a lesser evil is still endorsing evil. So I advise you to consider what you are endorsing with your vote, be that for the election itself, or the Democratic Primary.
Photo by kidTruant