Saturday, August 11, 2007

Voting for myself

My son (who I made the mistake of teaching logic) argues that I should vote for Ron Paul for president. My response to him has been that I don't think Paul can win. My son responds that it shouldn't matter, and he points to the maledictions I have cast against those who engage in what I call "tactical voting"--the practice of limiting your options in an election only to those who are most electable.

I respond that, yes, I am against tactical voting, but at the same time some dark horse candidates are so dark that you can't even see them, and that I am thinking of going with Fred (Thomson, that is). Thompson may not be as conservative as Paul, but he is very conservative and very electable. My son's response is that I should vote for the person who is closest to my own views, no matter how electable he may be.

But my son, who is a philosophy major at UK and no mean debater, fails to see the logical consequence of his argument. If I am to vote for the person who most closely shares my views, no matter what his electability, then who should I vote for?


That's right. The person who shares my views most closely is myself. Now, admittedly, I am completely unelectable, but, according to my son's argument, that doesn't matter.

Therefore, I am the one I should vote for.

But this argument has a further consequence: if each person should vote for the person who most closely shares his views, then each person should vote for himself. So not only should I vote for myself, but everyone should vote for himself. Furthermore, my son should vote for himself as well. And, therefore, he should not vote for Ron Paul.

Those who live by logic must die by it.


Anonymous said...

By voting for Ron Paul you would essentially be voting for yourself. He is the best representative of individual rights that we've seen in a long time.

He's also let you decide what you'd like to do with that, oh, extra 30% of your income that you'd get to keep for your own disposal/savings instead of forcing you to fund so much insane spending out of DC.

KYJurisDoctor said...

Both of you are right. I have voted for candidates before who were NOT possibly going to win because their views matched mine CLOSEST (so your son is correct in his analysis) and I have also gone to my second choice where the candidate came NEXT closest to my views and stood a BETTER chance of taking those views into office when he/she won (so you are right).

Like most issues, someone is more right than the other, and I tip my hat to your son!

If we all voted our consciences like he suggested to you, maybe, just maybe, the "expected" losing candidate may actually win!

Josh said...

I think it is somewhat shortsighted to say, "You must vote for the person who most closely resembles your views." To some extent, we must rank candidates according to our agreements with them + their ability to get things done.

"Ability to get things done" includes ability to get elected, whether nomination or general. Someone certainly can't get tax cuts through Congress if they're never sworn in to begin with.

I think your son is also right though to an extent. There is a difference between 1) supporting a candidate that still closely resembles your views, but is more electable than the candidate who most resembles your views, and 2) supporting a candidate who disagrees with you on a fundamental issue because they are more electable. For me, #2 is why I can't support Rudy. I can't cave on the abortion issue.

solarity said...

Sorry folks, but voting for ANYONE that you know cannot win does nothing at all except eliminate oneself from the selection process. And don't get caught up in the noble concept that you are using your vote to "make a statement". Neither the media nor the electorate will care in the slightest about your "statement". Identify the potential winners, swallow your pride, and chose amongst them. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Solarity, I hate to break it to you, but even if you do vote for a candidate that is "electable" your vote does not matter. The only case where your individual vote matters would be in the case of a very (very very) small local election, and even then it's highly unlikely.

I know the political process is supposed to somehow impart us with a feeling of value, but it doesn't. In the political process you are little more than a tool for someone to obtain power and manipulate the markets. And even then you aren't a tool as an individual, but as a minute part of a very large mass of people from which -- from the perspective of the politicians -- you are entirely undifferentiated. Sorry.

And just as a methodological question, how exactly do you determine who is viable, especially at this early stage? Many candidates have been elected that were in a similar position that Ron Paul is in poll-wise. At this point in the primaries, wouldn't it be better to support the candidate who best matches your views, and then once the race is more settled discard your dignity, put your tail between your legs, and slink over to the mediocre candidate who has a better chance of winning?

solarity said...

>>Many candidates have been elected that were in a similar position that Ron Paul is in poll-wise.<<

I doubt that you could identify any major party candidate running for president who came from as far behind as Ron Paul is now to win the nomination. "The powers that be" have long since declared him, for whatever reason, to be unwinnable. Not saying I like that situation, but, as a realist, that's just the way it is.

Anonymous said...

And as a realist, your vote means virtually nothing. Why go vote then?

solarity said...

>>And as a realist, your vote means virtually nothing. Why go vote then<<

Because there is a difference between "virtually nothing" and "nothing".

Anonymous said...

Really? Tell me Solarity, do you think your vote will change the course of a national election? Of the Republican primary? The quite ironic thing is that Ron Paul has a far greater chance of winning the presidency than you have of changing an election by your individual vote.

solarity said...

>>Really? Tell me Solarity, do you think your vote will change the course of a national election<<

Of course not. So what? Every soldier that goes to war understands that their death is a distinct possibility and that, individually, it will have little if any impact on the ultimate outcome. Should that knowledge keep citizens from risking their lives in the military? You are simply stating the obvious - that in a nation of 300 million people, no one individual has much influence on the course of national events. Awareness of that obvious fact in no way suggests that one is excused from doing their civic duty.

Anonymous said...

In a war, one soldier can and probably most often does make a massive difference. He may save a friends life, may kill an innocent person, may provide medical assistance to an innocent person caught in the crossfire, etc. These do not necessarily have national consequences, but they do have significant consequences.

Voting, however, is different (and really this should be plainly obvious). The individual act of voting really only has significant consequences if an election is so close that one vote makes a difference. And your vote, or mine, won't make a difference on a national (or state, or probably even local) level. You are right to say that I am stating the obvious, but you have been missing it. Your premise that one should only vote for a viable candidate assumes that your individual vote will somehow be significant, otherwise one takes oneself out of the selection process.

The act of voting may, however, be meaningful, if only to oneself when one votes on the basis of principle or simply to satisfy a strong desire to vote for a candidate. It is not meaningful on a large-scale level, instead it is essentially an act performed for moral reasons. For example, I can choose to vote for Ron Paul, with the knowledge that my vote will not make or break him, because he does not support torture or unjust wars. It seems to me that if I act (even insignificantly) to support someone who does support torture, unjust wars, or reckless policies that cause a great deal of "collateral damage" I am violating my conscience by supporting (again insignificantly) someone who is clearly unethical.

solarity said...

>>For example, I can choose to vote for Ron Paul, with the knowledge that my vote will not make or break him, because he does not support torture or unjust wars>>

That's typically referred to as voting your conscience. And in the case of Ron Paul it is also called throwing your vote away in order to make yourself feel virtuous. If it makes you feel good about yourself, go for it. But at least my vote for Romney or Giuliani will factor, however modestly, into the ultimate decision. Yours will not.

PS: Unless Ron Paul is an alien entity in disguise, I am quite certain that I could pose circumstances to him in which he WOULD support torture. And, of course, the phrase "unjust war" is, by definition, a war that one does not support. After all, how could one in good conscience not supporrt a "just war"?

Anonymous said...

Your vote will "factor" into the final tally how exactly? It's not going to change anything. It's not even going to cause a percentage point to tick up or down. Your vote will not matter to any politician, anyone outside your circle of friends who you tell about it. What exactly is the percentage which a candidate is expected to receive is enough to make your vote "factor" into the final decision?

As to the unrelated points, Ron Paul wouldn't have to be an alien to oppose torture, unless John McCain and modern Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and a great deal of evangelicals are aliens. Utilitarianism (and to be more specific act utilitarianism) is really the only ethical system which can support torture. And act utilitarianism is simply bad philosophy, but it has spread like a cancer through modern political thought.

And a just war is actually very well defined, at least in the Christian tradition. Hell, you coulda just looked that one up on wikipedia. Or go nuts and check out Augustine and Aquinas.

Ray said...

Your son is correct. It is not a horse race. You don't vote for who you think can win but the candidate you like the most!