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Some people here have stated that they do not intend to vote for a president in the coming election, because the candidates are too evil.

This brings to mind two questions:

1. At what point is a candidate so evil that you absolutely cannot vote for him?

2. And, in general, does a non-vote have any value? If so, in what context?

I haven't formulated answers to these questions. Before giving my own thoughts, I'd appreciate any comments.

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Some people here have stated that they do not intend to vote for a president in the coming election, because the candidates are too evil.

This brings to mind two questions:

1. At what point is a candidate so evil that you absolutely cannot vote for him?

2. And, in general, does a non-vote have any value? If so, in what context?

I haven't formulated answers to these questions. Before giving my own thoughts, I'd appreciate any comments.

I think the question as you posed it really cedes a lot of ground that needs to be kept or abandoned depending on what exactly you're implying. Your first question implies that a person should vote for some candidate for a given office, unless there is a compelling reason to not vote for any candidate. I don't think the existing alternatives have to be actually demonstrably evil (like Hitler or Staline were) in order for a voter to say "I cannot give my sanction to either of these people". Let's put it this way: suppose you were informed that citizens would be required to memorize the philosophy of Karl Marx, or that of Immanuel Kant. Then in what way would making a specific choice betwixt the two be of any value to you? The question really should be, at what point is a candidate so good that you can vote for him?

On the second question, there can't be any automatic easy answer. Especially in a massively sub-optimal political context like the present, what I may value isn't necessarily what you will value. That said, in the context of the current realities (in my neighborhood, and who knows about yours) non-voting has only a personal value. The existing choices I'm faced with for state rep, US rep, senator and so on are absolutely Tweedle Dum v. Tweedle Dee. It really does not make one tiny bit of difference, given the candidates, who becomes my next state rep (etc). I really envy Nevada for their choice of explicitly voting "none of the above" (if that option is still available), because that would at least have some potential impact, in terms of getting people to recognise that the mechanical act of voting is meaningless. So I personally can't force myself to vote for the smaller of two sphincters.

If there is a candidate that you can actually support and is clearly the lesser of two evils or -- horrors -- even an actually halfway good option, then I would say that that's a value -- something worth keeping or gaining. If not, what is the value of voting?

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I would only choose not to vote if either the candidates were equally evil or I could not decide which was more evil. As long as you think one is better than the other, there's no sense in not voting.

Not quite. There is a nontrivial cost to voting in terms of time spent on candidate research and the cost of actually going to the polls. The actual benefit of a single vote on the other hand, is extremely minor.

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it seems to me that the less voter turnout the more polarized our government leaders become... My opinion has always been its better to turn out and vote and spoil your ballot than to not vote at all. at least with a spoiled ballot the candidate that is voted in will know that his citizens are paying attention...

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Not quite.  There is a nontrivial cost to voting in terms of time spent on candidate research and the cost of actually going to the polls. The actual benefit of a single vote on the other hand, is extremely minor.

This is something to take into account, it is true. However, in my case, at least for the presidential race, I learn enough about the candidates without any special research; and I vote by absentee ballot.

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it seems to me that the less voter turnout the more polarized our government leaders become... My opinion has always been its better to turn out and vote and spoil your ballot than to not vote at all. at least with a spoiled ballot the candidate that is voted in will know that his citizens are paying attention...

Wouldn't it be the other way around? The more polarized the candidates, the bigger the voter turnout?

It seems to me that our current political leaders are not very polarized. They are basically altruistic welfare statists. Their differences arise from applying the same basic moral and political principles in slightly different ways. The conservatives would have you sacrifice to God, while the liberals would have you sacrifice to Society. Both, however, believe in altruism applied to politics.

Now, imagine if an altruist/socialist went up against a real egoist/capitalist, wouldn't that bring out the voters? Assuming the egoist was eloquent and charismatic and had a chance of winning, don't you think this choice would strike at the heart a little more deeply? Don't you think people would realize that the outcome of this election could make a fundamental difference in their lives?

I think such a strong and clear difference of principles would draw more people to the vote.

That said, I do like the idea of spoiling your ballot. Although, I would prefer an option for "none of the above." I think this would have some value in allowing you to clearly record your disapproval of all candidates. Beyond that, I'm not sure what value it would have.

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1. Your first question implies that a person should vote for some candidate for a given office, unless there is a compelling reason to not vote for any candidate ... The question really should be, at what point is a candidate so good that you can vote for him?

2. I really envy Nevada for their choice of explicitly voting "none of the above" (if that option is still available), because that would at least have some potential impact, in terms of getting people to recognise that the mechanical act of voting is meaningless.

1. Now that you've formulated the question differently, I think I see a problem with the entire line of thinking.

The problem is that you cannot rationally decide whether to vote for a candidate unless you compare him to the other candidates. You cannot rationally decide how good a candidate must be before you can vote for him, because to vote rationally means to actually compare candidates and decide upon one, based on their differences.

A rational vote is support for the greater good (lesser evil) between two or more candidates. You could not rationally decide to vote for somebody unless you could compare him to other candidates.

If you were to attempt to judge a candidate, apart from the others, then why would you settle for anything less than the greatest good you could think of? If asked: Is Bush good enough to vote for? I would not know how to answer, because I would rather have an Objectivist president. I would probably ask: What are my other choices?

So, I guess this means that the first question I formulated was invalid. It did not recognize the fact that essential to voting rationally is comparing two or more alternatives.

In that case, I tend to agree with Daniel that the only reason to not vote is when you cannot tell the difference between the candidates.

2. I like the idea of having the option to vote "none of the above," but, now that I think about it, it may only be of value to me if I cannot distinguish which candidate is better. It would be more important to me to get the better candidate into office than to express my general dislike for the candidates. After all, saying that I don't like any of the candidates will not do much to change the culture or create better candidates for next election. Spreading the right ideas, however, will.

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it seems to me that the less voter turnout the more polarized our government leaders become...

When a lot of people do not care about the result of the election, the outcome is determined by a minority of "die hard" politically active people. This happens in school board elections and the such.

For the presidential election, I have heard two theories:

Theory 1: The staunch Republicans and Democrats will always vote for "their" candidate, so the presidential candidate should sell to the independent voter.

Theory 2: The independent voter does not turn up in suffcient numbers, but the party's "base" may stay at home too, if they feel the candidate is too centrist, and not worth the fight. So, the candidates have to focus on "turning out the base".

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1. At what point is a candidate so evil that you absolutely cannot vote for him?

Never. Saddam Hussein was evil as hell, but if I had lived in Iraq, I would certainly have voted for him in 2002.

Beats being tortured to death. ;)

2. And, in general, does a non-vote have any value? If so, in what context?

Non-things don't tend to have any value :P but staying at home and doing something valuable instead of going to the polls is a rational thing to do whenever the things you can do during the time you don't spend voting are of more value to you (in the long term) than the voting.

A non-vote can also be a good message to send your politicians: For example, in the recent EU elections, I decided not to vote because

  • The European Parliament does not have any real power; it is just kept as a fig leaf to cover up the dictatorial powers of the non-elected European Commission.
  • None of the parties is unequivocally better than the other ones.
  • Politicians see a low turnout as a "shame." Well, shame on them! ;)

The first two bullets explain why voting would not have been of any value in that particular election. The third bullet even makes it a disvalue to vote, as to vote would mean to pass up the opportunity to tell your politicians that you know that the election is only a fig leaf, and thereby put the shame on them.

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Who's this God guy?

:D

Reminds me of a colleague of mine who once told me he would start an atheist country if he could. At the border, they would have a sign saying, "God is not welcome here!" I politely remarked to him that a real atheist would not say such a thing, since you actually have to believe in God in order to make him a persona non grata !

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I politely remarked to him that a real atheist would not say such a thing, since you actually have to believe in God in order to make him a persona non grata !

Excellent reply!

I don't know much about elections in the US, but from what I've heard here, Carrey isn't in favor of war at all, and he'd actually send food supplies to your enemy, while Bush would still seek out Bin Laden, AND send food supplies to your enemy. While Bush's plan may be more expensive than Carrey's, I'd still vote for Bush because he still insists that justice be done upon the criminal(s) and I wouldn't mind paying extra for military ops.

However, the information I have may be incorrect because I really don't monitor how the campaign is going there, so sorry if I'm wrong about the candidates.

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DavidOdden: One thing to realize is that a vote is *NOT* necessarily a sanction. The context is that there are two (or maybe a small handful) of candidates on the ballot, and you can vote for one of them. A vote does not mean you agree with all of the politician's policies, or even his thinking. It means you prefer him to the other guy(s).

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DavidOdden: One thing to realize is that a vote is *NOT* necessarily a sanction.  The context is that there are two (or maybe a small handful) of candidates on the ballot, and you can vote for one of them.  A vote does not mean you agree with all of the politician's policies, or even his thinking.  It means you prefer him to the other guy(s).

what if i would rather vote for hitler (only because he is dead) than any of the candidate i see? I think a cadaver would make a wonderful president, maybe if it were still in recent condition it would still have a spine unlike all the candidates I know of. :blink:

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One thing that no one has mentioned in this thread is the fact that Ayn Rand didn't vote in the last election she was alive for (Carter-Reagen) because she considered both candidates equally evil. I'm beginning to feel that way about Kerry and Bush.

Not voting is not necessarily an immoral act.

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what if i would rather vote for hitler (only because he is dead) than any of the candidate i see? I think a cadaver would make a wonderful president, maybe if it were still in recent condition it would still have a spine unlike all the candidates I know of.  :lol:

You'd have to get around that native-born citizen restriction. Bsides, if you want to vote for a cadaver, vote for Al Gore.

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reagan i thought was a decent president. probably the best we've had this century.

I would strongly disagree. Reagan was the president who started the tradition of the Republican party eating out of the New Right's hands.

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I would strongly disagree. Reagan was the president who started the tradition of the Republican party eating out of the New Right's hands.

who is in your opinion the best president of this century? And please dont say bill clinton.

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who is in your opinion the best president of this century? And please dont say bill clinton.

Clinton? haha! No way! Off hand, if I were to say anyone during the 20th century were a good president, it would have to be one of the pre-FDR presidents. However, I can't say I've studied any of them enough to have an intelligent answer.

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There really isn't a good answer to the question, "who was a good president in the last century?". But if the restriction were lifted, I'd be all too happy to answer, "George Washington and Thomas Jefferson."

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There really isn't a good answer to the question, "who was a good president in the last century?".  But if the restriction were lifted, I'd be all too happy to answer, "George Washington and Thomas Jefferson."

i didnt say "who was a good president in the 20th century?" I asked "who was the best of the 20th century?"

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