My young independent-minded correspondent asked me about the morality of choosing the least bad candidate as opposed to voting for a third party candidate to send a message to the major parties. My thoughts are here.
Now my answer in the earlier essay is that making a statement vote is just fine, unless you live in a state in which not voting for one or the other of the candidates with realistic chances to win will have the same effect as voting for the candidate you most dislike.
I have further thoughts on this matter of not liking the two major party candidates and voting for a third party one.
If you are voting for the third party candidate just to express your dislike of the main ones, recognizing that that candidate has no chance of winning, that seems fine to me. After all, if the candidate has no hope of winning, then matters of their character or proposals make no difference.
But if your concern is about Ends Justifies the Means voting, then shouldn’t you consider the policy proposals and the character of the candidate you vote for, and compare them to those of the candidates you are not voting for? To vote for a third party candidate without regard to their actual qualifications and proposals, just to send a message, is precisely Ends Justifies the Means voting.
Of course, each of us only gets one vote, and there are plenty of issues, thus no candidate is likely to have in mind all of the things that each of us might wish. The only way to vote for the best possible candidate for president, in my opinion, would be to write in my darling wife, Linnea, an eminently sensible and thoughtful person with a loving Christian spirit.
It is worthwhile to examine some of the policy and character issues, in so far as we can figure them out, for the candidates.
My opinion is that Donald Trump appears to suffer from narcissistic personality disorder and likely anti-social personality disorder. As I am not a professional psychiatrist I am not bound by that professions strictures against diagnosing a person I’ve never met, nor am I bound by knowing about the specifics of those diagnoses. He’s a bully and a conspiracy theorist. Listening to his speeches and to his interviews, he appears to have trouble keeping one thought in mind through an entire sentence. He appears to be ignorant of many things that any citizen should know, let alone a president. Not only that, he is unaware of his ignorance. He asserts that he has a very good brain. But, I’m afraid, that its contents are unsorted and un-evaluated. Much of what is up there is imagined or false, as the Muslims dancing on the rooftops on 9/11. Not only does he have inadequate filters for what gets into his head, he has none about what he lets out. He’s a misogynist, a racist, and a bigot. He is ill-tempered, angry, and erratic. Well, all this is just the character matters, not his policy proposals.
As far as the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, I don’t know about his character. As a civil libertarian and member of the ACLU, I have a lot of sympathy for the civil liberties aspects of libertarian thought. There are, however, a few matters of Libertarian policy that I think are dangerous or naive.
Johnson supports, and the Libertarian platform contains, a federal balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. This is a very bad idea, and virtually all professional economists say so. First of all, it is unnecessary. Since Uncle Sam issues his own currency, in which he contracts obligations and debts, he can always meet any obligation he wishes too. This is different than the situation of all other economic actors, states and local governments, businesses, and citizens. All of them have to get the money they spend somehow. All economists cringe when they hear people, even Obama has done this, say things like “Well, times are tough for the economy, and we all have to tighten our belts, even Uncle Sam.” Indeed, if Uncle Sam tightens his belt, cuts spending or raises taxes, when times are bad, he is doing what is known as pro-cyclical fiscal policy. Mainstream economists going back to Keynes in the 1930s advocate counter-cyclical fiscal policy. That is, when the private sector is cutting its demand for goods and services, for its own reasons, the government should be increasing its demand for goods and services, triggering automatic stabilizers such as unemployment insurance, and so on. A balanced budget amendment would force the government to do precisely the wrong thing. Besides, I note, those who support such an amendment can always enact balanced spending and tax plans when they are in power, as for example, during the Bush administration. What’s to stop them? If they have the votes in Congress and a friendly president, why not cut spending and raise taxes until the budget is balanced each year? If they think this is a good idea without regard to the nation’s needs and resources, they should do it. But they never do. You can find a couple of items discussing this on my blog.
Johnson supports, and the Libertarian platform calls for, the deregulation of the banking and financial industry. Not just repealing Dodd-Frank, the law enacted after the big financial meltdown of 2007 and 8, but all the rest of the financial world’s regulations. This is strange, in my opinion. Most knowledgeable economists consider the deregulation of the financial world through the 1980s and 1990s, and inattention to regulating that world in the 2000s, to be a major factor leading to the financial industry crashing itself and the world’s economy. Another oddity, is that Trump and the other Republicans accuse Hillary Clinton of being in the pockets of Wall Street, when she and the Democrats are proposing strengthening Dodd-Frank, a plan hated by Wall Street, and the Republicans and Libertarians propose repealing it, which is just what Wall Street wants.
I have also noticed that Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who believes in settled science and that we should listen to the scientists and act on their advice. I don’t know Jill Stein’s or Gary Johnson’s position about global warming, but Donald Trump thinks it’s a hoax. It appears that Mike Pence doesn’t accept the central truths of modern biology.
It appears that the Green candidate, Jill Stein, who is a physician and should know better, flirts with the anti-vaccine crowd. Trump believes that vaccines cause autism.
Johnson believes that vaccines should not be mandatory, but each parent should decide for him or herself. This, however, (in my opinion) is a misapplication of libertarian principles, which say that everyone should have maximum freedom to decide and act for themselves, so long as they aren’t bothering or harming anyone else. But not vaccinating your child, puts everyone’s children at risk, even those who have been vaccinated. I can explain this too, if you wish.
I have also read that Johnson and the Libertarians propose eliminating Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid, on the grounds that everyone should just get their own health insurance, if they want it. The government shouldn’t be telling people what to do. Indeed, they have the same opinion about Social Security.
Well, I could keep this up, but the idea is if you are considering the four candidates on offer, without regard to the likelihood one or another will win, then you’d be making a table to compare them. Then chose the one you feel is the best.
My opinion, (and I remind you that I am a scientist, so everything I say is perfectly objective, just facts ;-)) is that if you were to make such a table, it wouldn’t be hard to choose the candidate who, overall, would be the best. One blog commenter I read this morning said the choice should be as easy as choosing a cup cake or a poke in the eye with a stick.