Wednesday, June 25, 2008

To Abstain Or Not To Abstain

Scott Powell considers voting neither for Obama nor McCain this November:

Like so many people, I have thought over the coming election and studied the field of candidates. As a result of my analysis of the coming vote and especially of its historical significance, I have tentatively switched to the “None of the Above” camp.

Judging from the comments to Powell's post, abstention might be a popular choice among Objectivists this year. Obama is the farthest left candidate in American history. McCain is a "national greatness" conservative who consistently sneers at the pursuit of profit and believes the state's role is to direct the people in sacrificing for something greater than themselves. Hitler and Stalin would have approved of McCain.

(John Stossel looks at McCain's latest ignorant statement:

"I believe there needs to be a thorough and complete investigation of speculators to find out whether speculation has been going on and, if so, how much it has affected the price of a barrel of oil. There's a lot of things out there that need a lot more transparency and, consequently, oversight.")

For many who have been voting for the lesser of two evils all their life, this choice is just too much evil to suffer.

The way to abstain, for those who decide that way, is to take the time to go vote, but don't vote for President. Then one's non-vote shows up in the numbers. If this caught on, it could make a powerful statement. Imagine news reports that began, "Two million voters were so dissatisfied with the candidates that they did not vote for any of them." (Well, you wouldn't read this in the New York Times because it makes the Democrat look bad.)

It's too early to decide how to vote yet. We still have the conventions and the VP picks. The campaigns don't really get serious until Labor Day.

At this point I have reservations about abstention. It reeks of agnosticism. In metaphysics the agnostics refuse to take a side on the existence of God. Despite the lack of evidence for the existence of any supernatural being, which makes the idea arbitrary, the agnostic can't make up his mind either way. Like the political moderate, the agnostic thinks the superior choice is to take no choice and look down on those who do as unenlightened fools determined by their passions. Agnosticism is fundamentally subjectivism, which makes it very modern indeed.

Beneath all the condescension and logical fallacies of the agnostic lies cowardice. The agnostic is afraid to take a stand.

If one of the candidates will be worse for America, should one not vote for the other guy, however bad he is? My thinking is that McCain will be worse because he will be more effective in power. The Republicans in Congress would go along with whatever he wants, whereas they would make Obama's life hell every step of the way, just as they did to Clinton. The Democrats in Congress would only fight McCain on foreign policy.

What if, because I wanted to feel good about myself by not stooping to vote for either candidate, McCain was elected and then he instituted a national service program in which every young person was forced to serve the state for two years of his life? How would I feel then about not soiling myself with a vote against this monstrous Republican?

By this reasoning, I should wear a gas mask and vote for... Obama.

Ugh. Have you read about this guy? He is the purest demagogue to be nominated by a major party in my lifetime. He seems to bask in the adoration of mass crowds like an American Mussolini. Watching him turns my stomach. How can I vote for someone with a radical Marxist background who at the same time seems to have no principles but like Peter Keating will say what people want to hear? The more I think about Obama, the more attractive abstention looks.

My thinking at present is full of confusion. The fact that this decision is agonizing to individualists and lovers of freedom says something about the decline of America. We're worse off than we were 20 years ago. A lot worse off.

Given my confusion, it's probably best that I have not yet made up my mind. But the time to decide will come soon enough.

UPDATE: Literatrix agrees with Scott Powell.

19 comments:

Ron K said...

I think it's also important to keep in mind that all of the electorate votes for a given state will go to whoever wins the popular election in that state. When the popular vote is close in a given state, such as Ohio, this conversation makes more sense. When it is not close in a given state, such as California (where I currently live), the argument changes in my opinion. Obama will almost certainly carry California so other considerations about who to vote for come into play.

A "strategic" attempt to change the general political environment (such as voting for a 3rd party in the hope that they will get enough votes to receive funding the following election) is one possibility (although I doubt it's effectiveness). However, the sort of abstinence you speak of, where you vote but not for president, makes more sense in that case.

Myrhaf said...

I too live in California. It's good to remember that a vote is of marginal importance, and in the long run not as important as donating money to the Ayn Rand Institute. Only the spread of rational ideas will turn around America's decline.

madmax said...

"The Republicans in Congress would go along with whatever he wants, whereas they would make Obama's life hell every step of the way, just as they did to Clinton."

I don't know about this Myrhaf. Obama is black and already I am seeing the Left make accusations that disagreeing with him is tantamount to racism. I fear that Obama's race will make the Conservatives walk on eggshells when they criticize him. I hope I'm wrong.

Myrhaf said...

I'm sure the left will make the argument that opposing Obama is racism. By their multiculturalist premise, race is more important than any actual idea one might have. I'm hoping bitter partisan politics is the stronger force.

Ritter said...

I'm thinking of writing in John Galt.

The thought of that prompting some bureaucrat, somewhere in some plunder-funded cubicle farm to ask, "Who is John Galt?" is about all the joy I'm likely to get from this looming disaster.

Joseph Kellard said...

I'm not going to vote in this presidential election. I'm not going through the mental contortions Objectivist put themselves through every four years regarding each candidate and which one will be best at retarding our continuing march toward dictatorship.

This purpose never gets aired to the nation at large. Objectivist are too minor a group of voters to have any effective message to send to the nation--and so their votes *for* a particular candidate will only be lumped together with all the others who do vote for that candidate because they essentially support theem.

When pundits note how many people did not vote in an election, those non-voters are often chalked up as apathetic. To a lesser extent, they are said to be too disgusted with the candidates, or are generally fed up with politics in particular. That's as close as we Objectivist are coming to getting our message out to the wider nation. But we are being lumped together with the people who don't vote because, well, the candidates are not statist enough for them, or because they won't support the particular issue or two that is most important to them, which is usually some kind of "special interest" (i.e. group warfare) issue.

I don't and won't look down on Objectivist who will continue to vote. More power to you. But I just see it as ultimately counterproductive and futile to keep supporting the lesser of two evils. Either way, you keep supporting some form of evil.

I'm tired of supporting evil!

Anonymous said...

Myrhaf said:

"The way to abstain, for those who decide that way, is to take the time to go vote, but don't vote for President. Then one's non-vote shows up in the numbers. If this caught on, it could make a powerful statement."

A statement which will get minimal news attention and will have zero affect on the direction of the culture (which is what affects who runs for office under the support of the major parties, not the other way around).

If there _is_ an identifiable lesser evil, than it is better to vote for it.


Joseph Kellard said:

"I don't and won't look down on Objectivist who will continue to vote. More power to you. But I just see it as ultimately counterproductive and futile to keep supporting the lesser of two evils. Either way, you keep supporting some form of evil.

I'm tired of supporting evil!"

Voting for the lesser evil is not supporting evil.

Voting in a political system is primarily an action, not a statement. Voting is not a sanction of the candidate.

Voting is an _action_ with the intended purpose of helping to put a certain person in power, or, in our current climate, keep one or more other people _out_ of power--people who will exercise the initiation of force against you and others.

If somebody puts a gun to somebody's head and orders them to make certain statements, we disregard those statements as forced and not the expressed viewpoint of that person.

Voting is the same thing--the exercise of what limited options we have with guns to our heads. Why some Objectivists still regard votes as free statements of support or sanction, rather than actions under the point of a gun to attempt to minimize further initiation of force, is continually baffling to me.

Joseph, I agree with the first part of your post that Objectivists' votes collectively are too minimal to matter or make any identifiable statement, and also agree that for many people the time involvement in this decision cannot possibly be productive.

My advice is, if you have time, then use a small amount of it to determine which candidate, if any, is the lesser evil, vote for them (or abstain if they are equally bad), and don't worry about your vote any further. Continue living your life productively and selfishly. If that includes wanting to directly make a difference, then donate to the Ayn Rand Institute, as Myrhaf suggested. If that includes wanting to make a statement, then write a letter to the editor, or write a good persuasive article and post it online.

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

The lot of agnostics, liberals, pragmatists and moderates like me is a hard one since we always see both sides of the story. :(

I'll be voting for the lesser of two evils.

EdMcGon said...

When in doubt, vote third party. The only "small government" candidate atm is Bob Barr. At least your vote will show up in the totals, even if it is for a losing candidate. Then when McCain loses, the Republicans will be forced to look at the votes they lost to the Libertarians.

mike18xx said...

All voting does, is...


1) ...update your address in government databases (so it remembers where to send the tax forms).

2) ...register your willing participation in "our" democracy, and your willingness to abide by the outcome of the ongoing rape of your liberties.

Joseph Kellard said...

Anonymous wrote:

“Voting for the lesser evil is not supporting evil. Voting in a political system is primarily an action, not a statement. Voting is not a sanction of the candidate. Voting is an _action_ with the intended purpose of helping to put a certain person in power, or, in our current climate, keep one or more other people _out_ of power--people who will exercise the initiation of force against you and others.”

As you explain voting here, it makes me regard voting even more as *an action* *in support* of a candidate. When two or more candidates are running for the same seat, that means you have a choice, and, if you are rational, you must base your choice, in today’s largely statist political climate, on which of the two candidates is most likely to be less statist—thus, retarding our nation’s march toward dictatorship. When you decide on which is the less of two statists, and you vote for him, you are showing support for him. That is a sanction of him—perhaps not of his overall philosophy, but at least a partial sanction in the context of who he is running against.

And I don’t agree that voting in today’s climate, while largely statists, as the equivalent to a gun being held to me head. While voting is a right, I don’t have to exercise that right—I’m still free to take up other options to change our political climate, rather than continue to vote for the lesser of two evils/statists. When voting gets to the point where you are primarily voting for two politicians who are largely, dangerously, as is the case with both Obama and McCain, then I’m voting to put more guns at my head—I’m voting to put in people who, eventually, may ban voting as such. Because our politicians do not support individual rights, voting, as I see it, has truly become a democratic process: we’re putting in the guy with the bigger mob who will overrule our individual rights.

By the way, I am the one, in an earlier post on Scott Powell’s blog, who said that he is going to abstain from voting, and vote instead for the Ayn Rand Institute with my wallet.

Also, I’m not worrying about voting at all. I made up my mind long ago --particularly after I voted for Bush in the last election, after which he continually did nothing of significance in the war -- that I am not voting for these pragmatist Republicans any further, these candidates who say one thing and do the other. I knew before voting for Bush in 2004 that politicians say one thing and do the other, but, boy, did it really hit home for me with Bush.

Rather than waste my time getting myself into mental contortions trying to figure which candidate is less statist, and then going to vote for him, I’m going to live my life productively, still write articles, letters and blog posts to promote my values, as I have been doing for several years now, and hope that it will contribute to changing enough people’s—particularly Objectivist’s-- minds to stop voting for and sanctioning these terrible politicians who do much more harm to us then good, and continue to promote better ideas so that, eventually, we get marginally better candidates who support individual rights and do so particularly in action.

Until then, and it could be a very, very long time, I’m not partaking in voting anymore.

Anonymous said...

There is no agony for me relative to this election. And I could not disagree more that it is "still to early to choose". Quite the contrary: I know exactly who Messrs. Obama and McCain are or, rather, are not. I know exactly what motivates them. I know exactly what each would do as President. It is my view that others know these things as well, whether or not they choose to recognize and act upon that knowledge.

The only thing I do not know is whether the American people at large will, before November, recognize as do I the extraordinary degree of evil embodied by Mr. Obama and reject his bid for the Presidency.

Early on, I had determined that I would no longer participate in this revolting Presidential election charade because I was unwilling to tolerate the violation of my principals entailed in the distasteful consideration of even lesser evils.

Having learned more about Mr. Obama and his creatures, however, I have since determined that he is the vilest Presidential candidate in my lifetime (surpassing even Jimmy Carter by a substantial margin!) and that the otherwise revolting Mr. McCain is, between the two of them, the considerably "lesser" evil.

To put it plainly, the only possible justification for voting at all in the upcoming Presidential election is to ensure that George Soros does not become President of the United States through his front-man, Barack Obama. The very idea of a Soros-backed Presidency should strike terror into the hearts of any true American and every effort must be made, therefore, to squash it.

If it appears that Mr. Soros has even the slimmest chance of winning the Presidency, I will vote for Mr. McCain.

Mike said...

It's easier for me. I live in Arizona. There is a One Hundred Percent chance that McCain is going to carry this state. My vote for president counts for absolutely naught. I think I'll vote for the third-partiest of the third-party candidates. If Ron Paul is somehow on the ballot, check goes the mark.

Anonymous said...

(First anonymous who posted in this thread here.)

Joseph wrote:

"When you decide on which is the less of two statists, and you vote for him, you are showing support for him. That is a sanction of him—perhaps not of his overall philosophy, but at least a partial sanction in the context of who he is running against."

It is only support in the limited context of voting in that election--but not sanction. Sanction is _moral_ support, and "partial sanction in the context of who he is running against" is a self-contradiction because a choice between the lesser of two evils (where "none of the above", although a voting option, cannot actually be the outcome of the election) is not support of the candidate's ideas. Rather, it is support of the distinguishing differences in the _actions_ that that candidate will take versus the other candidates.

In a moral evaluation of a person, one would not normally divorce actions from ideas. But in the context of voting when there are a fixed limited number of candidates, the choice of who to vote for is based on an estimate of the candidate's willingess, ability, and means to take certain actions either in support of or against individual rights. Because this context is limited, it is not a moral evaluation, and therefore, not a sanction.

"When voting gets to the point where you are primarily voting for two politicians who are largely, dangerously, as is the case with both Obama and McCain, then I’m voting to put more guns at my head"

You're going to have to tell how, in a presidential election, a lower turnout in the presidential vote leads to the office being left vacant.

"we’re putting in the guy with the bigger mob who will overrule our individual rights"

Fact: The office of president may only be held by one person simultaneously.

Thus, by voting for the lesser evil who has a realistic chance at winning, you are helping to _keep out_ the bigger mob who would have overruled our rights more than the lesser evil.

And thus, in the context of Objectivists who have full understanding of the relevant political concepts of rights and freedom, when there is a clear difference between two candidates in their magnitude of willingness, ability, and means to violate rights, and when each has a significant chance at winning the election, then to abstain from voting on the supposed basis that such a vote is a sanction of the lesser evil is to _materially support_ the increased magnitude of the initiation of force that the greater evil will impose if elected, and he who does such shares the moral responsibility accordingly.


mike18xx wrote:

"All voting does, is...

2) ...register your willing participation in "our" democracy, and your willingness to abide by the outcome of the ongoing rape of your liberties."

Please, do tell me how I can opt out of tax laws, burdensome government regulation, and violations of my liberty by not voting. Oh, that's right, I can't! Thus, I don't abide by such willingly. In fact, when possible, I vote against it!

Elliot said...

If there were an election which included a proposition to dispossess and forcibly deport (under threat of immediate execution) all Latinos, would you vote? Would you rush to the polls to quash such an abominable idea?

I'd stay home, load up my guns, and shoot anyone who laid a finger on any Latino in my neighborhood, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Participating in a vote is giving explicit permission to whichever candidates win a majority to continue to violate the rights of your neighbors. I'll have no part in that. I don't agree that the winner of the election has the moral authority to deny my neighbors their rights, so I'll never vote again.

Anonymous said...

(Same anonymous again who posted twice.)

elliot said:

"If there were an election which included a proposition to dispossess and forcibly deport (under threat of immediate execution) all Latinos, would you vote? Would you rush to the polls to quash such an abominable idea?"

This hypothetical example embodies what I suspect to be a common fallacy from those who consider voting to be a sanction of the lesser evil, or of the entire system that initiates force.

The example proposition you state is something you would see on the ballot in a dictatorship or a country fast approaching one (much closer than the US is now). Also, in such an election in such a state, it's likely that the outcome of the election, if even determinable at all (if there were minimal fraud, which would not be the case in such a state), would be irrelevant--the ruling power would be unlikely to actually obey the outcome of the election one way or the other.

In the US, whatever violations of rights we do have, and barring perhaps isolated cases of massive fraud, the actual voting result becomes the outcome in the vast majority of cases (albeit subject to legislative or judicial action after the fact).

"Participating in a vote is giving explicit permission to whichever candidates win a majority to continue to violate the rights of your neighbors."

No, not in a comparatively free country, like the US, it isn't. The loser of an election is prevented from taking the office by force (if he attempts it by coup d'etat regardless of the loss). A candidate needs to win the election to take office. Thus, by voting against a rights-violating proposition, you are actually weilding the power of force to prevent the future potential initiation of force from happening.

Why is your example of taking to guns in the street a valid retaliatory use of force, but voting against a proposition where the result of the election is efficacious, isn't? You have failed to demonstrate.

"I don't agree that the winner of the election has the moral authority to deny my neighbors their rights, so I'll never vote again."

As voting is the final means by which political change happens (although not the original means, which is ideas), under that premise, once even the slightest bit of initiation of force has somehow become instated in a government, it could never be repealed without morally sanctioning that initiation of force. Under this premise, full rebellion and overthrow of the government is the only moral option to reverse any initiation of force once it has begun.

Elliot said...

In the US, whatever violations of rights we do have...

Let me guess, something like Social Security doesn't strike you as a violation of anyone's rights, right?

"Participating in a vote is giving explicit permission to whichever candidates win a majority to continue to violate the rights of your neighbors."

No, not in a comparatively free country, like the US, it isn't.


If you don't see the current government violating the rights of Americans now, of course you disagree with my observation of fact. But, those with government power have been violating our rights, and by winning an election, they get to keep claiming (falsely) that they have the permission of "the people" (i.e., everyone) to do exactly what they're doing.

Thus, by voting against a rights-violating proposition, you are actually weilding the power of force to prevent the future potential initiation of force from happening.

False. If I participate in such a vote, I am explicitly agreeing that if the majority of votes are for the proposition, that the government then has the moral authority to carry out such an abomination. That is ridiculous on the face of it. It is always morally wrong to toss out Latinos en masse, just as it is always morally wrong to threaten people with prison (and ultimately death) if they don't give up 15% of their productivity to a pyramid scheme "retirement" program, if they don't want any part of it. I've gotten the threating letters about self-employment taxes we "owed" (why?), and I'm here to tell you that the threat is real.

Don't you see the correlation? If not, there is no hope of having a rational discussion with you. You'll just look the other way as real people are robbed and imprisoned for not giving into the extortion.

mike18xx said...

> Please, do tell me how I can opt out of tax laws, burdensome
> government regulation, and violations of my liberty by not voting.

Simple:

1) Have no "fixed" (seizable) assets. E.g., rent and own a "beater" car (while you salt everything away).

2) Move, and change your bank accounts, every so often.

3) Never answer mail from you-know-who.

-- The dirty little secret about the IRS is that, when there a millions of sheep to fleece, they don't really have time to sheer the one's who don't willingly trot forward, bleat too loudly, and don't appear to have any wool anyway.

==//==

Regards voting, George Carlin said it best:
http://www.two--four.net/weblog.php?id=P3825

Paul said...

I think people should vote for divided gov't. Granted, that is not truly possible when the Democrats believe in socialism for secular reasons and Republicans believe in socialism for religious reasons, but the D vs. R squabbling should slow them at least a little. Obama with a democratic congress would be a disaster. Congress isn't going to change over, so vote R for president.