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Why I might possibly vote for Trump

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I have been trying to think of something useful that might come out of the impending election debacle, and realized that it can be a useful self-education experience. So I thought I would share.

The superficial question is, of courser, who should I vote for in the presidential race? There are five actions that aren’t utterly beneath consideration: Trump, Biden, Jorgensen, not voting, and write-in (Leonard Peikoff). My specific answer is less interesting, what is more important is how I arrive at the answer. An important contextual fact is that Washington is a deep blue state and there is no question that all of the electoral votes will go to Biden (barring Democratic craziness where the Democratic electors ends up voting for Faith Spotted Eagle).

The primary choice is between voting and not voting, so I a principle that favors voting, or favors non-voting. Barring the realization of a more important principle, non-voting would win since it is a self-sacrificial act (waste of time and effort for no value: re-read the first clause of this sentence). If the only issue on the ballot were selection of a president, and if the choices are all only a hair-width separate from voting for death, then there really is no point in voting. However, voting is an all-or-nothing proposition, and it is highly unlikely that all choices on the ballot are “death A vs. death B” (there are plenty of other compelling reasons to vote for or against candidates and propositions here). The degree of self-sacrifice involved in voting for a president is thus microscopic. I need not explain the stupidity of the argument from duty to this audience. The best argument for non-voting is the “I can’t give my sanction to any of these candidates”, and this is a case where “best” doesn’t mean “good”. This is the primary competitor against the “Trump as vote against Biden” comclusion that I reach at the bottom.

In the Washington (and some other states), your vote has symbolic value, but not effective value. I know very well that if all of the voters thought that, then nobody would vote etc. even in Washington so my vote would count a lot, but I’m not talking about all or most of the voters. The vast majority of voters do not think, they emote. What then is the symbolic value of the five choices? On the one hand, a huge number of write-in votes for Peikoff could be symbolically useful under a “send a message” theory. In a very few states, such a write-in vote may be counted: in Washington, since Peikoff is not a paid, declared candidate, write-in votes for him are not tallied (this is the norm in the US). Scratch one option. Not voting for president is also not “counted”: there is no count of how many people voted but specifically did not vote for a presidential candidate. Scratch that option.

Now we have to make a choice between Biden, Trump and Jorgensen. Again, since a Washington vote is symbolic, what symbolic consequence follows from voting for one of these three candidates? I was inclined to vote for Jorgensen, since she has a philosophy and while I disagree with some of it, I agree with far more of it than I do with that of Biden or Trump. Jorgensen is the only candidate that I can say anything good about, the others fall into the “at least Y is not X”  category). I’m aware that there are declarations that libertarians are the scum of the Earth and that no true Objectivist can vote for one: that’s true of Trump and Biden as well, so the scum-of-the-earth principle would favor not voting at all.

Trump is a random loose cannon who has minimal grasp of the concept rule of law, and who is quite an uncivilized barbarian. The greatest danger that Trump poses is First Amendment-related. However, he has installed three more-reasonable SCOTUS justices and has dialed back some of the regulatory over-reach that Congress has allowed previous presidents to impose on especially on business. At first glance, Biden looks a bit more reasonable as a predictable tax-and-spend Democrat. At second and third glance, though, you must factor in the realities of Biden’s “base”. I believe that he will substantially cave in to the radical “progressive” wing of the Democratic party – as proven by his choice of running mate. Which brings us to the spectre of Biden’s future – will he survive one or two terms in office? Will he leave office in the middle of a term and leave us with a radical leftist incumbent president? In other words, Biden goes to the bottom of the list, now it’s a race between Jorgensen vs. Trump.

Remember that in Washington, the electoral votes go to Biden, so the question is, which symbolic act is of greatest value. I would be really happy if public discussions included statements like Jorgensen’s, that the government should never determine what a private business should pay employees; government should not be classifying nor prohibiting any form of currency; affirmative action programs are wrong, the government should allow workers to opt out of Social Security; the government should not regulate social media sites to prevent fake news; producers should not be required to label genetically engineered foods  – these are Jorgensen positions which are not part of the Trump platform. The problem is, the Secretary of State does count and will eventually report the total number of Jorgensen votes, and that’s as far as it will go. What matters for public discussions is what the media is willing to talk about. The media simply will not talk about irrelevant third-party positions. Some months later, Wikipedia will probably report the vote totals.

What is at stake, from the PR perspective, is a simple question: what will the media say about the elections? If (as I conclude is most likely) Biden wins, is there symbolic value to adding a popular vote to Trump’s tally? Would that symbolic value have any practical value, for example if the popular vote were close like it was in the case of Nixon-Kennedy, Trump-Clinton or Bush-Gore; or if there is a landslide like Reagan-Mondale? It is most likely that the media will declare a “mandate” for Biden’s and Harris’ agenda. The practical value of a symbolic vote for Trump is that it makes such a declaration a tiny bit less credible.

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1 hour ago, DavidOdden said:

In the Washington (and some other states), your vote has symbolic value, but not effective value. I know very well that if all of the voters thought that, then nobody would vote etc. even in Washington so my vote would count a lot, but I’m not talking about all or most of the voters. The vast majority of voters do not think, they emote. What then is the symbolic value of the five choices? On the one hand, a huge number of write-in votes for Peikoff could be symbolically useful under a “send a message” theory.

I'm not clear on this chain of reasoning. There's many difference senses in which "symbolic value" could be taken. But you moved very quickly from just stating the symbolic value in this paragraph to reasoning from the symbolic value in the next paragraph. And what you were reasoning to is "symbolic consequences." But I don't know what counts as a symbolic consequence since I don't know what kind of symbolic value we're supposed to be using here. You seemed to phrase it in terms of that which you most closely agree with.

So my questions are: 1. What is the symbol symbolizing? 2. Who is the symbol supposed to be represented to? 3. What practical consequences is this symbol supposed to have?

You mentioned the popular vote being close. But what consequences is that supposed to have? We don't have a popular voting system. Candidates don't campaign for the popular vote. So what if A gets the popular vote? What practical consequences follow? Do voters even know or understand what this symbolic gesture in your voting both is supposed to have, even if it symbolizes something to you personally (in terms of what you most closely agree with?) How does that connect with a message? Is the symbol-as-message transmitted even the message received? None of these things are clear.

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Rand used and referenced the symbolism of the dollar sign as a literary rather than philosophic value. In the scenarios offered in the OP, what establishes the symbolism to those looking at the election results?

Numbers that are not reported are difficult at best to reference. Of the reported numbers, only some of the non-governmental constituents are likely to take note and do anything with the results. Of the elected and bureaucratic variety, how many analyse the results in terms of support or lack there-of it represents?

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It seems that the meaning of your "symbolic" vote depends on the outcome of the election. If Biden wins and has the popular vote, your vote for Trump symbolizes a less credible mandate. But if Trump wins and has the popular vote, your vote for Trump symbolizes a more credible mandate. 

Edited by MisterSwig
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21 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

Trump, Biden, Jorgensen, not voting, and write-in (Leonard Peikoff).

If you're interested in what Peikoff thinks, here it is:

Me, I'm voting for Jorgensen, and it looks like you're pretty far along towards doing the same.  Since you're not in a swing state it ought to be an easy choice.

 

Alternately:

CTHULHU-FOR-PRESIDENT-2020-thumb.jpg

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There's many difference senses in which "symbolic value" could be taken. But you moved very quickly from just stating the symbolic value in this paragraph to reasoning from the symbolic value in the next paragraph. And what you were reasoning to is "symbolic consequences." But I don't know what counts as a symbolic consequence since I don't know what kind of symbolic value we're supposed to be using here.

 

That is the entire question. Let’s start with “effective value”, admittedly an expression I just cobbled together. The primary question is “who should be president”, and a given action can be judged as a means of bringing about that end. If I want Trump as president, there is an imaginable context where there is a causal relation between voting for Trump and Trump being (remaining) president. As I point out, that context is mythical here. In Ohio, a vote for Trump has a different relationship to “value”, namely it connects directly to the value “Trump will be president”, a directly tangible outcome (I’m skipping the part about whether that is a desirable outcome).

In the present context, the aforementioned cause-effect relation between voting and “Trump will be president” doesn’t exist, so the question is what other cause-effect relations between voting and ___ do exist? All of the possibilities represent something else, other than “X will be president”. The actions are symbols, standing in for some other end. For example, the act of not voting at all voting stands for something along the lines of a declaration that I cannot give my moral sanction to any of the candidates, and not an answer to the literal question “Who will be president?”. The act of voting for Trump in the face of a Biden victory stands indirectly for a declaration that Biden does not have a clear popular mandate.

Even in the case of voting in Ohio, where Trump seems somewhat ahead, the causal relation between an individual voting and the actual outcome is pretty tenuous, so of course you can always argue “There is no guarantee that you as an Ohio voter voting for Trump will result in a Trump victory”. True, but irrelevant: the possibility of a negative outcome (if you consider a Trump defeat to be a negative outcome) does not establish that you should not vote, or you should write in Leonard Peikoff. You should vote according to the end which you reasonably conclude could result from your vote. The end that I’m voting for, because it is the most likely to be realized, is that Biden will not be thought to have a “clear mandate”.

Of course I spend much of my time politely pointing out to people that their view of US politics is distinctly un-American, so the fact that candidates don’t campaign for the popular vote is irrelevant to my choice of action. What matters is how the masses understand the world, because they have the power to do some truly evil things to me, and are in general quite willing to do those evil things. We are regularly inundated with pro-democracy rhetoric that decries the fundamental nature of the United States government and the US Constitution as “undemocratic”, and the majority of people only understand the popular vote. The misunderstandings of the masses regarding our form of government are a significant threat to our rights. There is an ever-increasing danger of fundamental changes in our Constitution. Already, a majority of Americans surveyed appear to support substantial modifications of the First Amendment, to force media to be “responsible” and to limit “hate speech”.

The “meaning” of my vote, i.e. my intent, is what I said, and doesn’t depend on the outcome of the vote. The effect, or consequence, does, however. I very much doubt that Trump will win, but it is possible. So I have to balance the risk of a Trump victory and the regrettable contribution to that perceived mandate, against the greater risk of a (Biden) Harris victory and the even worse reality that would follow.

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I think we can maybe clarify by distinguishing between symbolic voting and instrumental voting. Symbolic voting is voting done to represent something. Say, your "moral sanction" or "who I most closely agree with" or to express your values, personality, or identity. Instrumental voting is voting done to effect some end. Say, that Trump (or Biden) be elected, or that Trump or Biden get a "popular mandate" or that people know I'm dissatisfied or something. 

A symbolic vote can sometimes also be an instrumental vote. I think that's what you're trying to do. You're trying to vote strategically.

The problem is this:

A. You're trying to symbolically express yourself with your "moral sanction." That's how most people vote. Not with the explicit concept "moral sanction" in their vocabulary, but to identify with the team or personality or idea of their choice. They do this for various reasons, mostly irrational. I don't think this apply to you. I think you're trying to vote well. But the bottom line here is nobody cares about your moral sanction but you. And there's a lot better ways to express your moral sanction than voting. You can write an essay, give a lecture, do an interview, post on OO. All those things will have more impact in expressing your moral support.

B. Trying to effect some end. I don't know what that end is. I get that you're trying to strategically vote so that your vote does something. I think it has to do with the idea of a "popular mandate." If this is the minor premise in your argument, this is were the rubber is going to meet the pavement. But that idea is not argued for itself. If we look at that idea, I don't think there's much of a substance there. This is called the "mandate hypothesis."

Here's two arguments against it:

(1) A mandate is a kind of special sense of authority. But we don't have that in our law. The president either gets elected or not. There's no extra authority if they win the popular vote. They don't even campaign for the popular vote because we don't have a popular voting system. If we did, it might be different. Additionally, they can't do whatever they want, even if they do win. So the popular mandate doesn't exist in this sense. They don't get to do anything extra that they didn't otherwise get to do.

(2) You might say, well, winning the popular vote, or winning it by a larger margin, or losing it by a smaller margin gives authority in a different sense. It creates the image in the minds of the voters that the ideology or values of the candidate, as a movement, has a given level of legitimacy. I think there's something to this. But not much. You already said the voters are mostly irrational, emotionalists. I think they're irrational in a wider sense, too. Many of them utilize fallacious reasonings, fall prey to cognitive biases, binary thinking, engage in conspiracy theories, bigotry and tribalism. So it's not like these same people are supposed to be counted on to "get the message." In the same way as objection 1, they were mostly going to support what they already were going to support. They mostly already think the opposing side is evil and want them subjugated or dead in large part. If Trump lost by a lesser margin, they'd most likely not think anything morally good in the relevant sense. (Political science research is generally negative about the mandate hypothesis. See, for example, Dahl 1990; Noel 2010. See also Grossback, Peterson, and Stimson 2006; Grossback, Peterson, and Stimson 2007.)

Keep in mind the whole thing was predicated on whether you could adduce a good reason for voting the way you did, and whether the benefits of voting outweighed the costs to you. Maybe they still do. I think it can be perfectly rational to vote for Trump or Biden, depending on your context. I don't see voting for Jorgensen or writing in LP to be rational at all.

Edited by 2046
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7 hours ago, Ninth Doctor said:

Me, I'm voting for Jorgensen, and it looks like you're pretty far along towards doing the same.  Since you're not in a swing state it ought to be an easy choice.

I didn't raise that option because it's irrelevant in Washington. We have a non-partisan blanket primary, so ballot access is a non-issue and the 5% doesn't count. In my district, the general election is between the top two Democrats. It's mainly at the state level that there are any Republican candidates: by law, there can only be two, and it's regardless of party (except the presidential race).

Your swing-state fact and ballot access laws are different. If you (mentally) change yourself to California (analogous to Washington), would you reach a different conclusion than I did, and more important, why?

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On 10/25/2020 at 8:19 PM, DavidOdden said:

I didn't raise that option because it's irrelevant in Washington. We have a non-partisan blanket primary, so ballot access is a non-issue and the 5% doesn't count. In my district, the general election is between the top two Democrats. It's mainly at the state level that there are any Republican candidates: by law, there can only be two, and it's regardless of party (except the presidential race).

Your swing-state fact and ballot access laws are different. If you (mentally) change yourself to California (analogous to Washington), would you reach a different conclusion than I did, and more important, why?

You wrote: "your vote has symbolic value, but not effective value" and " I was inclined to vote for Jorgensen, since she has a philosophy and while I disagree with some of it, I agree with far more of it than I do with that of Biden or Trump. Jorgensen is the only candidate that I can say anything good about, the others fall into the “at least Y is not X”  category)." 

Putting two and two together I said you're "pretty far along" towards voting for her.  Consider yourself encouraged to do so.  She's sure to get far fewer votes than Gary Johnson (3.3M), leading the pundits to produce obituaries for consistent principled free market ideology etc. 

It'll still count as one more vote against Biden.  Way more so, to my way of thinking.  And you won't feel tainted by having voted for the Orange Man. 

BTW, I think he's going to win.  Trump, that is. 

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Why “feel tainted” (to quote Ninth Doctor) voting for Trump in order to defeat Biden?  Or, if you live in a blue (for sure Democrat) state, in order to make Biden’s victory as narrow as possible?

If a thug holds a gun to your head you wouldn’t feel tainted by lying, tricking, doing anything to get away.  The “system” is holding Biden to your head and the system is threatening to blow your brains out.

Whatever color your state you should feel tainted voting for Biden.

Rudy Giuliani on the Biden Crime Family
 

 

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Never forget that some among us correctly understand there is indeed a gun at their heads and it is held by Trump and the threat for them evaporates should a Biden or a Harris or a Clinton assume the Presidency. They will say many things but they are not going to tell you the above as exposure is precisely what they seek to avoid.

Edited by Jon Letendre
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It'll still count as one more vote against Biden.  Way more so, to my way of thinking.  And you won't feel tainted by having voted for the Orange Man.

I’m still looking for reasoning, not the conclusion that you prefer. I want to know why you like your conclusion and not mine. I’ve explained why voting for Jorgensen “doesn’t count” as a vote against Biden in the way that a vote for Trump does, so I’m looking for the principle that you rely on to reach your conclusion rather than mine. You suggest but don’t embrace a possible principle when you talk about feeling tainted. Now, that is just an appeal to emotion, but emotions aren’t random, so perhaps you have a principle in mind to the effect that “you should vote for the person who best matches your philosophy”. Let’s say that is what you had in mind. Then (1) why wouldn’t you vote for Peikoff (as a write-in), since surely (I’m assuming…) you agree with Peikoff more than you agree with Jorgensen. Option (2), for me at least, would be that I write myself in – I am always right. We can scratch option (2) for the time being – why don’t you write in Peikoff?

As I said, the question of interest here is not what conclusion one reaches, but how one reaches that conclusion.

 

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Biden isn’t just evil in the sense of evil politics, he is evil in the sense of corrupt as hell.  A vote for “none of the above” does not help defeat Biden.

Beside the Rudy Giuliani video at the end of my last post, see
Interview of Tom Bobulinski (Tucker Carlson Tonight, October 27th 2020)
He is a businessman, and connects Biden to PRC – 20% equity in deal (personally), brother 20%, son 20%, others the rest.  "plausable deniablilty" around 17:45, falsely blaming Russia around 22:50.
 

 

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5 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

I’m still looking for reasoning, not the conclusion that you prefer. I want to know why you like your conclusion and not mine.

 

I'm at a loss for what further reasoning might satisfy you.  As for a write-in vs. Jorgensen, if you go for a write-in your vote won't count at all.  Some poll worker might get a chuckle out of it, depending on how creative you are.  Libertarian vote counts do get reported, and you can look them up going all the way back:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_Party_(United_States)#Size_and_influence

Those numbers aren't broken out by state, so that you're in Washington is irrelevant.  If she gets 500,000 instead of 499,999, all the better.  

If you vote for Trump and he wins, you've added to his claim to a Mandate, and worse, his bragging rights, which he'll certainly exercise to the full.

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On 10/27/2020 at 8:05 PM, Dupin said:

Why “feel tainted” (to quote Ninth Doctor) voting for Trump in order to defeat Biden? 

 

On 10/24/2020 at 3:05 PM, DavidOdden said:

Trump is a random loose cannon who has minimal grasp of the concept rule of law, and who is quite an uncivilized barbarian.
 

His words, not mine.

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13 hours ago, Ninth Doctor said:

This video is a riot:

The fact that the right still has a sense of humor should tell you a lot. The left seem like a bunch of spoiled brats who couldn't tell a joke to save their lives.

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