Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who I’m Not Voting For

I’m trying to work out who I should vote for in this infernal presidential race.  Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

I’m striving not to be the petulant 24-year-old self-righteous know-it-all.  I know there is no such thing as a perfect candidate, and I accept the logic of voting for the lesser of two evils.  If one of the major party candidates was likely to move the United States significantly closer to peace and justice, I would swallow my moral objections and vote for that person.
However, I also feel that that logic only works up to a point.  I believe it is possible for a candidate (or the forces/system he represents) to be so evil, so corrupt, that there are no circumstances under which it is ethical to vote for him.  At some point, we have to make a stand on principle.
To use a very, very extreme example: if the Nazis were running against the KKK, it would not be right to say, “Well, the KKK is the lesser evil, so I’m going to be mature and vote for them.” The only moral choice would be to abstain or to vote third party.
Let’s start with our current president.
A list of things I disagree with him on would stretch forever (and not be particularly interesting.) Here are the things that, I think, put him beyond the pale – that make it actually unethical for me, as a Christian, to vote for him.
  • He tried to use raw executive power to force religious institutions to financially support activities they saw as immoral.
  • He has done nothing to reduce the abortion rate.
  • He has done nothing to address America’s looming debt crisis (which, I think, will be a fatal crisis), other than endlessly imply that it could be solved if we just taxed millionaires “a little more.”
  • He has killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia with drone strikes, while opting to count all military-age males who die in such strikes as “militants” – a policy that General Ratko Mladic is currently on trial for in The Hague.
  • Rather than pushing for peace in Syria, he has placed the United States firmly on one side in Syria’s ethno-religious civil war, supporting a bloc of armed Sunni Islamists in their bid to overthrow the Syrian government and, in all likelihood, cleanse the country of non-Sunni communities.
  • His administration has continued America’s post-World War II habit of lavishing billions of dollars in cash and weapons on governments that engage in horrendous, systematic human rights abuses, laying the groundwork for generations of war, oppression and ethnic cleansing, all for the sake of the U.S.’s momentary geopolitical advantage. (Here I’m thinking of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, and – sad to say – Israel and South Sudan.)
  • He collaborated with Saudi Arabia to put down a popular uprising in Bahrain against Bahrain’s sectarian dictatorship.
  • Rather than either withdrawing from Afghanistan immediately or fighting through to a semi-successful conclusion, he opted to send tens of thousands of additional American troops into Afghanistan, and then quietly withdraw them without any improvements on the ground.  The only motive I can discern here is political expediency.  Nearly 1,500 Americans and only the Good Lord knows how many Afghans were killed as a result.
Rhetorically, Mitt Romney differs from Obama only on the first three points. In actual practice, I think he would differ only on the birth control mandate.
Why are these two men, who are both – why sugarcoat it? – complicit in mass murder, the only two options?
BECAUSE WE HAVE MADE IT SO.  Because we have given these two parties our votes time and time again.  The only way to make it not-so is to withhold our vote from them – or at least give it to a third party, so we don’t show up in the statistics as lazy bums who don’t care about democracy.
Right now, I’m thinking Green Party.  But I’m open to recommendations.
Besides, if we’re being all practical and stuff, I live in the District of Columbia – not exactly a swing state.
Besides, Obama’s gonna win anyway.

UPDATE: The great Adam M. writes in to say, "In reference to your latest blog post, go to, take their imperfect but helpful quiz, and then tell me if, like me, it leads you to research and consider voting for the Justice Party."

I took the quiz, and it told me to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party. However, the Justice Party has an intriguing name...more investigation is required.


  1. Oh Man Joel! There are so many times I wish you were around to talk politics with.

    I've been looking at Jill Stein's website... some things are interesting but way too many of them scare the shit out of me. Whoa.

    I'm a big fan of Gary Johnson, from what I've seen so far. But I plan on spending more time to learn about where he stands on things. Go Libertarian!

    Anyway, we'll just have to talk about all these things December, though it'll be after the election. And alas, Barack will most likely still be our president... unless he somehow messes something up bigtime between now and then.

  2. Oh, and by the way, I did vote libertarian all the way in the most recent election!

  3. Neal! Thanks for commenting. I wish I had you around too.

    I'm not sure I can side with the Libertarians on the safety net issues. Which parts of Jill Stein's platform scared you? (Also: Watch your language, family man! :)) I haven't researched her all that much yet. More study is required...

    But maybe the moral implications of a protest vote are less dire? Is it OK to vote for someone I don't actually want to be president, just to express my dissatisfaction?

  4. Well, partly these:

    - she would reject any cuts to medicare and SS, which are two of the three MAJOR spending areas of our country. In order to get our finances in order, these and the military have to be on the table.
    - she seems to want to make many functions of our society public. Not bad in some cases, but sometimes we need financial incentives for creativity!
    - forgiving current student loan debt entirely. Sheesh. People need to take responsibility. College is not a right.
    - She wants to "stop denying students diplomas based on tests"... whatever that means.
    - imposing an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, which would be just absurd. Again, people need to take responsibility for their own decisions.

    But anyway, there are many things I like a lot about some of her ideas. I love aiming for a greener future. But like my libertarian side is saying right now, it's probably a bad idea to blatantly choose winners and losers. There could be real serious "side effects"..

    Anyway, just a few thoughts.

    And all this to say, some libertarian ideas scare me as well. I'll say this: we need a safety net for the most dis-enfranchised people in our society. At the same time though, religious groups need to step up.

  5. Joel,
    Being a person not well-versed in politics, nor having a mind-changing interest in becoming so, I rely on people like you to help me round out my opinions. From my limited experience of getting to know you, I trust you enough to assume you're not leading me astray with lies or exaggerations. I have had discussions on politics recently, and they've led me to say, "Anything but Obama," and you've done more to solidify that thought in my head. What I wish you would have done also, however, is provide some reasoning behind your interest in the Green party. For I have never even heard of this party, nor the Justice Party, that "Neal and Laura" mentioned in a comment. Could you perhaps provide some support for the Green party?

  6. Matt,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree, a followup post about the Green Party/Justice Party is probably in order. But right now, my thinking is that my bar for third parties should be much lower than it is for the parties in power. I don't actually think Jill Stein would be a good president; but since, no matter how I vote, she WILL NOT BE PRESIDENT, I feel free to vote for her just so I can be counted as a citizen who cares but is not willing to back either major party.

    What do you think?

  7. Are there no third-party candidates who would be a good president? That would be better, right? Because, although you know they will not be president, that's still better than voting for a third party, ONLY because you don't want to be branded as ignorant of the importance of democracy.

  8. Although not terribly involved or interested in politics myself, I enjoy reading your blog and find myself agreeing here. But is this problem (no-one to honestly vote for) a flaw of the two-party system, or just a human problem related to our sinful nature? Here in Canada, our multi-party system has proven to have other weaknesses, such as minority governments that lead to votes of non-confidence.

  9. Definitely both Andrew. I admire Canada's government, though. It's much more civil... and, well, democratic?

    Joel - word. Perhaps the same for Gary Johnson. But absolutely right! I want to participate in the democratic process of electing people, but also want to make a stand against our stupid two party system. The more of us the better.

    Do you ever feel like all of this partisanship makes you feel completely off to center field? I see good and bad with EVERY SINGLE CANDIDATE.

  10. Love the post! Practically, Gary Johnson 2012 would resolve all of your listed issues except for one - abortions. Just saying:) In my estimation, a Dr. Stein as president would make some of your listed issues rather worse (debt issues; increased executive power with regard to mandated healthcare, etc.) But you're right, its irrelevant... :)

    I enjoy reading your wise thoughts on the shortcomings of Obama's foreign policy. This said, don't you think he's been about as reasonable and nuanced as we could possibly expect a president to be in that complex arena? In general- trending toward greater humility and circumspection with regard to our involvement in the affairs of others, scaling down the wars, etc.? I find it hard to believe that Stein, Johnson, or anyone else would or could be a better foreign policy president than Obama. Looking forward to seeing Romney be completely obliterated in the foreign policy debate!

    Thanks for your thoughts, always a pleasure to read!

  11. Thanks J! I'm not a libertarian, but I will gladly call Johnson voters allies. :)

    Re Obama's foreign policy, I honestly don't see what you see. We don't have hundreds of thousands of troops occupying other countries at the moment, true, but our involvement in the affairs of others, especially in the Middle East, is still incredibly high and quite destructive. The only real difference I can discern is that Obama seems to prefer using proxies and covert warfare to exercise control, as opposed to Bush's invade-and-occupy strategy.

    If one believes that maintaining U.S. influence in the Middle East is a paramount goal, then yes, Obama has done a very good job (and yes, by all rights, he should obliterate Romney in that debate). He's brought al Qaeda to its knees, overthrown one rogue dictator and is on the verge of overthrowing another, is crippling Iran, and has preserved the U.S.'s alliance with Israel and the Arab states through the chaos of the Arab revolutions. But all that has come at a very high price in human life and freedom. I find that price morally unacceptable, and that's my biggest problem with Obama.