Friday, July 1, 2016

How does voting work, anyway?

I was listening to the Roundtable on WAMC this morning as I repaired a window screen, and they read out a remarkable email from a listener.

I've read and heard plenty of "I can't vote for Clinton," and from people with whom I'm more or less in agreement on many questions of policy. I don't agree with the "I can't vote for her" position, but obviously if you think her policy stances are horrid, or if you think she's a liar (presumably in ways that the average politician isn't?), then I understand reluctance or inability to pull the lever.

There's the "lesser of two evils" argument: whether you like it or not, the next president will be either Clinton or Trump, so failing to vote for one of them is in effect voting for the other. I can understand the disgust with that: if you keep accepting the lesser of two evils, you never force the Democrats to put up someone who isn't evil.

Now, I don't agree with that argument, first because I don't think Clinton is "evil," and second because Trump looks far worse to me than anything remotely credible that's been lodged against Clinton.

But there is at least a logic to refusing to choose the lesser of two evils. Not a logic I agree with, but a logic.

Then there's this morning's WAMC listener email.

He couldn't vote for Clinton for the normal reasons that some on the left say they can't vote for her.

Trump was not an option (OK, we agree there).

The Libertarian candidate was going to wipe out entitlements (I don't know if that's an overstatement, but it is at least the direction the Libertarian candidate would go, a good reason not to vote for him if you think our entitlement programs do a reasonable job).

And Jill Stein from the Green Party is great, but she has no chance.

Wait ... what?!

It seems like there are three ways to approach voting: tactically, strategically, or idealistically.

A tactical voter might say, "I hate Clinton, but it's her or Trump, and Trump is worse, so I'm voting for Clinton."

A strategic voter would take the longer view: "The Democratic party keeps offering me horrible choices, because people eventually fall in line behind the lesser of two evils. The only way to teach the party to stop doing that is to stop accepting unacceptable candidates, so I'll vote for a good third-party candidate rather than a bad Democrat, and if that means Trump wins, then that's all the clearer a lesson for the Democrats." (Again, I don't agree with this approach, but it has its logic.)

An idealist is, in effect, like a strategic voter, only without an expectation that the Democrats will learn: "I think Stein is good and Clinton is bad, so I'm voting for Stein."

But ruling out Clinton, Trump, and the Libertarian for policy issues, then ruling out Stein because she can't win?

How does this guy think voting works, anyway?

I've heard people question the intelligence of Americans who support Trump, or of Brits who voted for Brexit. But spare a little of that for this WAMC listener.

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