Some things are dichotomies…
September 24, 2008 § 15 Comments
…and some aren’t.
I think people tend to approach the effect that voting has on the voter himself as a false dichotomy. The notion seems to be that either voting has no effect whatsoever on the voter, or that voting for a candidate means that the voter is endorsing everything the candidate ever says and does or even will say or do. I don’t think either of those views is tenable. As is often the case, some things are dichotomies, and this isn’t one. Voting has a small but non-negligible effect on every voter, in my view. For some voters the ‘loyalty effect’ will be large; for others it will be small. For those who also campaign and argue for their candidate, it will generally be larger. For those who quietly do their thing in the voting booth and pray for the best, it will generally be smaller. It is neither as large as swearing undying fealty to everything a candidate stands for, nor is it entirely without any impact whatsoever on the person who votes.
In its most common formulation, the criticism seems to be that once we accept that voting affects the voter himself we have to embrace whole hog the notion that it represents an embrace of everything about a candidate and his policies. Supposedly this represents a reductio. But clearly that is a straw man: the world of possibilities is not limited to the all-or-nothingism presumed by the criticism.
Also and separately, when I argue that the effect of voting on the outcome of a national election is negligible next to the effect on the voter himself, folks tend to lop off the “negligible to the outcome” component and argue against it as a stand alone proposition. But doing that doesn’t confront my argument; it ignores my argument.