Onward Christian Voter

October 18, 2008 § 74 Comments

Suppose there is a war involving millions of soldiers fighting on two sides. Both sides are fighting unjustly and deliberately murdering the innocent, although it is clear that one side (the Donkeys) is substantially worse than the other (the Elephants).

You have the opportunity to transport one clip of sidearm ammunition to the front lines, and give it to the leader of whichever side you choose. You may also choose to abstain from the conflict. Remember that both sides have deliberate policies of murdering the innocent, though the Donkeys are murdering a broader category of innocents than the Elephants.

Now, clearly if you could make the Elephants win by fiat there might be a double-effect justification for doing so. But you do not have the power to do that. You just have one clip of ammunition, which you can give to either side or to neither side.

So the question on the table is not whether it would be a better outcome for the Elephants to win than for the Donkeys to win. In our scenario we take it as a given that it would be better, all other things equal (ahem). Rather, the question on the table is, is there a proportionate reason to give your one clip of ammunition to the Elephants?

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§ 74 Responses to Onward Christian Voter

  • Zippy,You seem to be leaving out the fact that there many millions of persons who have to make this decision, and who when acting together can make a difference in the overall outcome. By leaving out that fact, you’ve artificially abstracted the scenario so as to make the individual’s action basically meaningless.Remember the scene in “Finding Nemo” when Nemo tells all the other fish trapped in the net to swim down? Your post is the equivalent of one of the fish responding to Nemo by saying to each of the other fish, “Your individual effort to swim down won’t make a significant difference. Therefore, you don’t have a proportionate reason to do so.” Any clear-thinking fish would give him a smack and say, “Shut up, and start swimming down.”We wouldn’t even be having this discussion if we didn’t live, move and have our being in individualism.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    Bryan:Thanks for the comment.Swimming downward doesn’t have a harmful effect on the individual fish or the school of fish. What does donating ammunition to those who use it to murder the innocent do to <>you<>?Still, I do agree that it is not a perfect analogy to voting. Mostly I am just trying to get people to think about the nature of an act of voting. The ‘nothing buttery’ applied to the act of voting is I think destroying our ability to talk about it reasonably. Giving a clip of ammunition to one side is harder to reduce to “nothing but” an expression of a preference with respect to an outcome; the purpose of the analogy is to resist that reductionism.

  • Zippy,<>What does donating ammunition to those who use it to murder the innocent do to you?<>That’s a straw man, because you’ve, abstracted away the relevant circumstances. The act is not “helping x”; it is “helping x defeat y”. So, what does helping x defeat y, (when y is much worse than x), do to you? And why is what it does to you worse than what sitting on your hands and thus allowing the other side to win and kill an < HREF="http://www.americanpapist.com/2008/09/thefreedom-of-choice-act-wolf-waiting.html" REL="nofollow">additional 125,000<> innocent persons per year, and many more for many years [given Supreme Court justice replacements] do to you?It seems to me that you are not merely “trying to get people to think about the nature of an act of voting”, but trying to argue that we shouldn’t vote for McCain.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    <>The act is not “helping x”; it is “helping x defeat y”.<>Right. More accurately that is not the act but the intention of the act, as the post hopefully makes clear.<>It seems to me that you are not merely “trying to get people to think about the nature of an act of voting”, but trying to argue that we shouldn’t vote for McCain.<>It is certainly true that I am arguing that nobody should vote for McCain, because I think that in fact nobody should vote for McCain. But the purpose of <>the analogy<>, as I said, is to get people to think of the vote as what it truly is: a concrete embodied human act with many effects and implications, not merely a disembodied rarified intention with respect to a possible outcome.

  • Zippy,Do you have your argument [that we should not vote for McCain] laid out somewhere in syllogistic fashion?I haven’t seen it, but maybe I missed it. If your argument depends on what voting does to the soul of the voter, and if you haven’t shown that “helping x defeat y” [where y is more evil than x] does anything harmful to the soul of the voter, then your argument isn’t a good argument. If, on the other hand, your argument depends on the ineffectiveness of a single vote considered individually, then again your argument isn’t a good argument, for the reason I gave in my first comment above.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    I’m sure I haven’t laid out my arguments in a way that will please everyone, but simply < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/search?q=vote" REL="nofollow">searching my blog for “vote”<> produces quite a bit of material, some of which directly addresses your objections.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Bryan, my own arguments against voting for McCain are slightly different from Zippy’s, though they have some overlap. They are indicated by two posts I have put up at What’s Wrong with the World. If you go to my author name and search “What is a Vote” and “Corruption and the Cost of Compromise” you will find them. My own position is that a vote is irreducibly a symbolic act of standing with the candidate–under his banner, one might say. This means that, while one need not agree with all of a candidate’s positions, one cannot reduce the act of voting for him to an entirely non-symbolic, practical move whose only importance lies in its possible or actual consequences. Therefore, there should be lines drawn as to candidates that are “too bad to vote for,” because one should not be willing to stand under the banner of someone that bad, even if his opponent is worse. (No matter how bad someone is, one can always imagine an opponent worse.) Actually, the “What is a vote” post had specific reference to voting for Obama, but the analysis of what a vote is applies, I believe, to any vote. At that point it’s a matter of deciding where one’s line should be drawn. I also give in the cost of compromise a concrete case of how, I believe, supporting George W. Bush in 2000 and following resulted in a muting of National Right to Life’s witness on a particular pro-life issue. Ironically, their reason for dropping that issue was their fear of embryonic stem-cell research, which John McCain (whom they are now enthusiastically endorsing) supports.

  • Scott W. says:

    Here is the link for < HREF="http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/05/what_is_a_vote.html" REL="nofollow">“What is a Vote?”<> for easy finding. I usually follow WWWtW pretty well, but somehow I missed it. Too bad (but better late than never), because this part brings much into focus for me:<>Some people think that the secrecy of the ballot means that you can vote for a moral monster and that you don’t have to worry about how you would explain this to an innocent child or what it would look like if you advertised your action. After all, they say, that’s the whole point of our having a secret ballot. But I say that that is not the point of the secret ballot. The secret ballot is supposed to protect people from threats, coercion, and even from psychological pressure from those who might not have the same moral insights as the individual voter. The secret ballot is important and in my opinion certainly should not be undermined, but it is not supposed to protect the voter from the voice of conscience that he might hear by thinking of how ashamed he would be if people knew he had voted for a person he knows to be bad.Consider, too, the continuity of various means of support for a candidate. Voting is one way of trying to get the person elected. Presumably that’s why you vote for him. But so are yard signs. I can perhaps imagine circumstances in which one wouldn’t have a yard sign for someone one would vote for, but there had better not be a big gap there. That is, the candidate had better not be someone so bad that you would be horrified if there were a yard sign in your yard for him. The point here is that putting up a yard sign, like voting, is a way of supporting a candidate, of standing with him and using your efforts to help him get elected. You should not do that if you would be ashamed to have anyone know that you had done so. So if you would be rightly horrified to find a “Vote for Hitler” yard sign in your front yard, you may not vote for Hitler.<>

  • Zippy,I looked through many of your ‘vote’ posts, and your argument looks to me to be some combination of precisely those two factors I mentioned in my previous comment. Here’s what I’m looking for from you (and I’m open-minded, even if it doesn’t seem that way). I want to see your argument in syllogistic form, the conclusion of which is “We should not vote for McCain”. You’d do your position well by putting your argument into a clean, tight syllogistic form. (I’m not talking about using any logical symbols, just plain old English propositions.) (I don’t think you would want me to try to do it for you, because I’m sure I would straw man it.)Hello Lydia,Thanks for your comment. I read both your articles. I see the story in the “Corruption” article, but it is a story, not an argument. We cooperated, the party slid another notch down, therefore [now] we shouldn’t cooperate. That’s not a good argument, because it doesn’t consider what would have happened if we hadn’t cooperated. Regarding the “What is a vote” article, you seem to be defining a vote for candidate C as an act of endorsing candidate C. Well, that just rules out (not by argument but by mere stipulation) the possibility that an act of voting for candidate C can be an act of voting against candidate D. Of course voting for candidate could be an act of endorsing candidate C, but why should we accept the claim that voting for candidate C is necessarily an endorsement of candidate C, and not in some cases something else (i.e. a vote against candidate D)? What I’m saying in my comments above (to Zippy) is that an act of voting can be complex, i.e. “helping x defeat y”, which does not necessarily reduce to “I endorse x, <>simpliciter<>“.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    I’ve given my arguments many times, and answered countless objections to them, including the objection you raise in your first comment to this post. In fact the objection in your first comment to this post is answered by the “all other things equal” post I link to in the main post.

  • Zippy,Here’s your argument, as I understand it in the “all other things being equal” post.(1) Many people assume that voting for the lesser of two evils does not harm themselves.(2) But that assumption is false because five million people who are willing to vote for a lesser evil are worse than five million people who are not willing to vote even for a lesser evil.(3) The [external] benefit accomplished by the vote of the person voting for the lesser of two evils is negligible.Therefore,(4) The harm done to the voter by voting for the lesser of two evils outweighs the [external] benefit accomplished by the voter’s vote for the lesser of two evils.Therefore,(5) We should not vote for the lesser of two evils.Before I critique this argument, I’d like to know whether this is, in fact, your argument, because I don’t want to criticize a straw man. If it doesn’t accurately represent your argument, would you please show how and where? Thanks.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • Zippy,While I’m waiting for your reply, I’ll critique the argument in my previous comment, treating the argument as a mere hypothetical argument, not necessarily your argument.The argument fails in the second premise, that is, the one that attempts to show that voting for the lesser of two evils harms the voter. The premise claims that “five million people who are willing to vote for a lesser evil are worse than five million people who are not willing to vote even for a lesser evil”. This claim is ambiguous. Those willing to vote for a candidate whose policies would effect a lesser evil can be willing to do so <>simpliciter<>, <>or<> they can be willing to do so only in order to prevent the victory of a candidate whose policies would effect a greater evil. Five million people who are willing to vote for a candidate whose policies are the lesser evil <>simpliciter<> are, all other things being equal, worse than five million people who are not willing to vote for a candidate whose policies are evil to that degree or any greater degree. But, five million people who are willing to vote for a candidate whose policies would effect a lesser evil only in order to prevent the victory of a candidate whose policies would effect a greater evil, are not necessarily worse than five million people who are not willing to vote for a candidate whose policies would effect a lesser evil only in order to prevent the victory of a candidate whose policies would effect a greater evil. At least that has not been shown, so far as I can tell.So the argument fails to show that voting for the candidate whose policy would effect a lesser evil harms the soul of the voter. And therefore the argument is not sound.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “We cooperated, the party slid another notch down”Well, no, actually, the big storyis, “We cooperated, the party slid another notch down, we *shut up about it because we had cooperated and were afraid of a worse evil*, now the party is sliding down to the second evil that we were afraid of before. So will we shut up about that one, now, too?” In other words, the support in the first case affected _us_, the pro-life movement. It did harm to us.

  • zippy says:

    Bryan:Your paraphrase does not even accurately represent the < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2008/09/in-conclusion.html" REL="nofollow">conclusion I have argued for<>, let alone the argument itself. There are reasons why I say exactly what I say and not other things.

  • Zippy,I told you I would straw man it if you had *me* reconstruct *your* argument. Feel free to put your argument in a syllogistic form. It shouldn’t be difficult if you have, as you said, “given my arguments many times”. Thanks for the reference to the *conclusion* of your argument. The problem is that I have yet to find your *argument*.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    Bryan:A blog is an ongoing conversation with a transcript; the transcript is there for the whole world to read.Just this morning I summarized my position again on a different blog, in reply to a disputant who had in my view just attempted to minimize the gravity of McCain’s rabid ESCR support:<>(1) Callousness with respect to McCain’s brand of murdering the innocent, and (2) voting for McCain, are birds of a feather. See also Lydia McGrew’s excellent post here. It isn’t that the one is clear cause and the other is clear effect following from that cause. Democratic elections are our civic ritual: how we vote and how we think about voting and politics has a dramatic effect on us, and on the people around us (including our children), etc. It isn’t that acts of voting are meaningless in general: it is that they have a far more profound effect on us, and by extension on the little circles where we actually do have some influence, than they do on the outcomes of national elections. Voting is our expression of political will, a civic ritual which makes compromisers-with-evil out of all of us; and when those compromises involve murdering the innocent, which is so radically opposed to the common good that it directly contradicts legitimate political will (see Evangelium Vitae), it damages us as people: it damages us as people to a much greater extent than it has influence over the outcome in a national election. You don’t think it is pertinent to your writing. I think you are a good man, but your writing on this subject is a poster child for it.Lex orandi, lex credendi. I would think that Catholics would understand this in a way that the general population does not.And by the way, Evangelium Vitae makes a different argument than you do in the following sense: the encyclical argues that murdering a living child which does not even have the defense of crying out and expressing pain to his murderer is more grave than other kinds of murder. Throw in the fact that it is done for the purpose of cannibalizing their little bodies, and ESCR is more gravely evil than infanticide. In the case of infanticide, the innocents murdered have the defensive weapon of appeal to the sympathy of all of the rest of us, and even of their would-be murderers. The victims of ESCR don’t even have the sympathy of many good and orthodox Catholics, to all appearances. Why? Because facing the gravity of what it all really means would make support for McCain, knowing that you aren’t personally going to change the outcome anyway, intolerable to all but the most callous of consciences.<>Now, you seem to be under the impression that posting yet another summary as a formalism will be useful. Perhaps it will be, I suppose, since even my conclusion, let alone my argument for it, is still being misrepresented; but I’m skeptical. In my experience every time I post a summary many of the same objections I’ve already answered many times get brought up all over again, and I have to answer them all again. A syllogistic argument on this kind of subject is necessarily just a summary, a kind of road sign or poster board.Perhaps we view argument summaries differently. In my view, pretty much nothing that is worth saying about politics or morality can be expressed <>completely<>, that is, in a manner which preemptively forecloses on all questions and arguments, in syllogistic form in a necessarily brief blog post.

  • Lydia,<>the big story is, “We cooperated, the party slid another notch down, we *shut up about it because we had cooperated and were afraid of a worse evil*, now the party is sliding down to the second evil that we were afraid of before. … In other words, the support in the first case affected _us_, the pro-life movement. It did harm to us.<>You offer two reasons for the NRLC’s silence about fetal tissue research: (1) we had cooperated, and (2) we were afraid of a worse evil. But I don’t see that you have shown that what caused the NRLC’s silence was at least in part “because we cooperated” and not entirely “trying to prevent a greater evil”. And if so, then your argument seems to commit the <>post hoc<> fallacy.But even if you are right that the NRLC became worse because of cooperation, this is still anecdotal evidence. It does not show that in principle there is harm done to voters who, to mitigate against a greater evil, vote for a candidate who also supports an intrinsic evil. The moral lesson in the NRLC case could therefore be “be careful not to conform to the world” and not necessarily “we must never, in order to prevent a greater evil, vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil”. In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • Zippy,In most cases with my students, those who can’t put their argument into syllogistic form, don’t actually have an argument; what they have is mere sophistry. Maybe you actually have an argument. I don’t know. I can’t find it. But I do know that bad arguments flourish when they are not spelled out carefully, when their premises are all spread out in various places, because in that form their weaknesses remain hidden. When we lay out the argument in the form of a syllogism, then we can see it for what it is. <>Perhaps we view argument summaries differently. In my view, pretty much nothing that is worth saying about politics or morality can be expressed completely, that is, in a manner which preemptively forecloses on all questions and arguments, in syllogistic form in a necessarily brief blog post.<>Preemptively foreclosing on all questions and arguments sets the bar so high that it is no wonder you’re not keen on laying out syllogisms. But since nothing you could say would preemptively foreclose on *all* questions and arguments, therefore this high standard would preclude *all* speech, let alone formal syllogisms. But that’s obviously absurd. So there is no good reason to withhold constructing formal syllogisms simply because they do not meet that standard. Aquinas said quite a bit about morality and politics, and he did most of it in short syllogisms.Look, if your argument is sound, then I won’t vote for McCain. But if I can’t even *find* your argument, I can’t be persuaded by it. In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    <>…and not necessarily “we must never, in order to prevent a greater evil, vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil”.<>Of course, neither Lydia nor I have argued that. The reason I pointed you to my conclusion was in the hope that you might stop misstating it. Apparently my optimism was unwarranted.<>But if I can’t even *find* your argument, I can’t be persuaded by it.<>You can find it in summary form in my last comment in this very post.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Well, Bryan, I think I’d agree that it isn’t a necessary truth that one is harmed internally by voting for an evil candidate. But I think it’s overwhelmingly likely. I think my post is just one bit of empirical support. And as Zippy has mentioned on numerous blogs, there’s really empirical support all around us. Surely you’ve heard it: People trumpeting that McCain is a “pro-life candidate.” The NRLC does it, too. Y’know, I’ve got another one: In the charts they gave in their paper publication a few months ago of candidate positions, they had McCain’s support for ESCR. They put it at the bottom, but apparently felt honesty compelled its inclusion. In the paper publication I got a couple of weeks ago, there were the charts comparing candidate positions, guess what has disappeared? Got it in one. I should have saved the copies, because now I, and you, have only my memory to go on. But I noted it at the time in both cases.And I’m sure you’ve heard people downplaying the importance of the ESCR issue: “Well, okay, so he’s not _perfect_,” and so on and so forth. I’ve seen it harm people just this election cycle.I can only imagine what it would have been like if Rudy Giuliani had won the nomination. I knew good people, people who go on now about McCain’s “pro-life record” as though it makes a difference to their actions, who were pretty obviously girding their loins and preparing their clothes pins to hold their noses to vote for Giuliani less than a year ago.

  • zippy says:

    I do think that a walking saint might not be harmed <>himself<> by voting for a national candidate who supports a policy of murdering the innocent. However, there is a twofold paradox, inasmuch as a walking saint would not presume himself to be a walking saint and thus immune, and furthermore, given his knowledge of the weakness of those around him (including me), we would never in this life learn of his action.So I agree that there isn’t <>necessary<> election-outcome-independent damage done by voting for such a candidate, just as it isn’t <>necessarily<> false that the moon will spontaneously turn to green cheese tomorrow; but the point is moot in any public discussion of what we ordinary human beings ought and ought not do in circumstances anything like ours.

  • Zippy,<>You can find it in summary form in my last comment in this very post.<>That might be a summary of your position, but it is not an argument for your position, because table-pounding isn’t argumentation. You simply assert that voting for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil “damages us as people”. You write:<>and when those compromises involve murdering the innocent, which is so radically opposed to the common good that it directly contradicts legitimate political will (see Evangelium Vitae), it damages us as people<>That’s an unsupported assertion. Your interlocutor could just assert the contrary, and rightly point out that your assertion begs the question against him. So what is needed is some *argumentation* to show that helping candidate C defeat candidate D (where D’s policies will kill more innocent persons than will C’s) harms the soul of the voter.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • Lydia,I agree that something is harming citizens (in desensitizing them to the evil of the lesser evil), but I don’t think it is the act of voting per se that is doing the harming. I think it is internally aligning oneself with the [lesser evil] candidate in an uncritical manner. Obama is bad, therefore McCain is good, therefore whatever McCain supports can’t be that bad. You see this same phenomenon when you watch sports fans. Whatever their team does is good. A cheap shot, a missed call, a ball to the head, whatever, when their team does it, it is ok, but when the opposing team does the same thing, they jump up and down and scream foul. The us vs. them mentality skews our ability to evaluate our own team objectively, and disposes us to dismiss and overlook or downplay the wrongs done by our own team.That’s what happens in politics as well. It is not voting for the [lesser evil] candidate that desensitizes and harms the voter; it is embracing that candidate as one embraces a sports team, and identifies oneself with it.That’s why I think Zippy’s claims that it is voting for such a candidate that harms the voter are wrong. It is, rather, <>identifying<> with the candidate (or his party) and uncritically jumping on his bandwagon — <>that’s<> what harms the voter. But it is possible to vote for a candidate without uncritically jumping on his bandwagon, i.e. while holding one’s nose. And I have seen nothing here showing that voting for the [lesser evil] candidate with such detachment harms the voter. Therefore, it seems to me that we should be saying “if you vote for the lesser evil candidate to defeat the greater evil, be aware of the evil of the lesser evil” instead of implying that we shouldn’t vote for the lesser evil candidate even to prevent the greater evil.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    <>That’s an unsupported assertion.<>It isn’t an unsupported assertion, it is a factual claim about the nature of things for which there is ample evidence from both observation and introspection. True, human beings are capable of disagreeing with just about anything. So what?<>But it is possible to vote for a candidate without uncritically jumping on his bandwagon, i.e. while holding one’s nose.<>That is true, as I stipulated in my last comment; but most of us are not walking saints, and in addition we are all social beings who influence those around us. Furthermore, I can’t even count the number of times McCain’s ESCR support has been downplayed by people who claim to be holding their noses while supporting him. The election-outcome-independent harm done to the individual and those within his immediate sphere of influence is similar in nature to the harm done in viewing pornography. The fact that we can truthfully say that harm does not follow from viewing a pornographic picture out of absolute necessity is irrelevant pedantry.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I actually think the sports team analogy has some value, Bryan. But I’m not sure it has exactly the significance you are attributing to it. That is, I think what it shows is that in a democracy people _do_, as a matter of empirical fact, identify with their candidate in something like the same way that they identify with a sports team. In fact, it’s my opinion that one of the reasons it is so hard for Americans to refrain from voting in any election is _precisely_ because they don’t like to feel left out. I actually can feel this pull myself. It’s so boring, so depressing-feeling, so unpleasant, somehow, to have the whole country up on their feet and involved in this election and to feel like one doesn’t have a dog in the race. I even saw one blogger whom I like and respect a lot who got temporarily very excited after the Palin choice and then was let down after the McCain-Palin ads for stem cell research (which were explicitly interpreted by a McCain team member as referring, inter alia, to ESCR). He said in so many words something like, “With the Palin choice, I thought I saw a way to get back into the game.”Now, again, this isn’t a matter of logical possibility or impossibility, but it’s a matter of what human beings are like. Maybe Americans are even more like this; I don’t know. But I know it affects me. If I tell my kids I’m voting for a candidate, I feel I have to be able to defend that position, and I feel I have to be able to say _something_ positive about that candidate. He is then “our” candidate. Kids see and feel this very strongly. They ask you whom you are voting for, because they hear so much about the election, and then that person becomes the person “we” are voting for, to them. Now, I think the reason that all of this happens is because of what (as I argue in that one post) the nature of a vote is, as an ineliminably symbolic act. And what that means is that it is very hard not to minimize your candidate’s faults both in your own mind and when talking to other people.The effect is only made stronger when the other side engages in especially dirty tactics. I know I was much more for Bush than against Gore _after_ the Gore camp started trying to cheat its way in during the 2000 election.But let me put a thought experiment to you, Bryan. (I wrote this up in a comment before, but it disappeared somehow.) Suppose by some miracle McCain were to win. Now, we all know he’s been literally advertising, right in this campaign, his support for ESCR. So suppose Congress passes federal ESCR funding early on and McCain signs it. What sort of blog post would you write about that? I mean, yes, you could criticize it. You claim very strongly not to be minimizing McCain’s faults. (I’ll nearly guarantee you that there will be a lot of other people and organizations who have been calling McCain “pro-life” who _won’t_ publish articles criticizing it, though.) But what cash value will your criticism have? You can’t say, “Okay, now I won’t vote for him in 2012.” Because almost certainly you _would_ vote for him in 2012 after that. So whatever criticism you would level would have as its backdrop the definite fact that this would make no difference to your civic action, now or in the future. Doesn’t that seem at all problematic?

  • Lydia,<>and to feel like one doesn’t have a dog in the race.<>Well, I don’t have a dog in the race either, but there is in the race a dog that we most definitely do not want to win.<>If I tell my kids I’m voting for a candidate, I feel I have to be able to defend that position, and I feel I have to be able to say _something_ positive about that candidate. He is then “our” candidate. Kids see and feel this very strongly. They ask you whom you are voting for, because they hear so much about the election, and then that person becomes the person “we” are voting for, to them.<>I agree. That’s why my wife and I talked with our daughters at the dinner table about McCain’s support for ESCR, and why that’s evil, and why we’re still voting for him in order to help prevent Obama’s victory. We have no McCain bumper stickers on our car (or anywhere). My children aren’t McCain “fans”. They understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I don’t think this has harmed them; I think it has helped them think about evil, and what it is, and why it must be fought every legitimate way possible.<>But what cash value will your criticism have? You can’t say, “Okay, now I won’t vote for him in 2012.” Because almost certainly you _would_ vote for him in 2012 after that. So whatever criticism you would level would have as its backdrop the definite fact that this would make no difference to your civic action, now or in the future. Doesn’t that seem at all problematic?<>No. Why should it? If in 2012 it was McCain vs. Keyes, then it would make a difference. But if I say rightly that x is the best choice in situation y, then whenever the situation is y, x is the best choice. And I don’t see why that should be a problem. If the situation in 2012 is the same as it is now, then why should I act differently at that time than I do now? I now have good reason to believe McCain will (if elected) further ESCR. In 2012, I would know that he had done so, and that he would probably continue to do so. But that wouldn’t create any principled difference in whether he is the lesser evil than Obama, if in 2012 it was once again Obama vs. McCain. What I could do in, say, 2009, but not in October 2008, is try to bring it about that situation y does not arise again in 2012. In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    <>What I could do in, say, 2009, but not in October 2008, is try to bring it about that situation y does not arise again in 2012.<>The problem though is that situation z, which is situation y only worse, is brought about as a direct result of pro-lifers compromising themselves in situation y. It has been going on for decades. And even if you are right (though I’m skeptical) that you and your family are completely immune to the ill effects of supporting and voting for a presidential candidate who supports murdering the innocent, everyone else around you is definitely not. (I’d ask if you have told anyone else that you are voting for McCain, but clearly you have, at least here). Like it or not, you are contributing to the compromise which is going to make situation y become situation z. And what do you get in return? Whatever influence your vote actually has over the election outcome: which is to say, nothing.

  • Zippy,<>(I’d ask if you have told anyone else that you are voting for McCain, but clearly you have, at least here).<>When I tell people who I am voting for, I do not ever just say, “I’m voting for McCain”. I explain why I am voting for McCain, in spite of his support for ESCR, on account of Obama’s position on FOCA, BAIPA, among other things. <>Like it or not, you are contributing to the compromise which is going to make situation y become situation z.<>That’s an ad hominem. But if fallacies are fair game, then I could just say to you that by your non-vote you are contributing to the deaths of the 125,000 additional children that will be killed each year if Obama is not defeated and FOCA is passed.<>And what do you get in return? Whatever influence your vote actually has over the election outcome: which is to say, nothing.<>Swim down. Your statement is, once again, based on the fallacy of the solipsistic abstraction, as though I am the only one making this decision.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    <>That’s an ad hominem.<>No it isn’t. If I said “Bryan is a bad guy, therefore his argument is no good” that would be an ad hominem. Saying that people who vote for McCain are contributing to turning situation y into situation z is not an ad hominem. (Even if it were <>wrong<> it wouldn’t be an ad hominem).

  • Zippy,By ‘ad hominem’ I mean turning your attack to me personally, instead of keeping the focus on our positions/claims. I’m sure you know that ‘ad hominem’ has different senses. Regarding this claim: “we must never, in order to prevent a greater evil, vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil”.You wrote: “Of course, neither Lydia nor I have argued that.”So do you think that there are some cases in which, in order to prevent a greater evil, voting for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil is justified? If so, then why not in the McCain case?<>The election-outcome-independent harm done to the individual and those within his immediate sphere of influence is similar in nature to the harm done in viewing pornography. The fact that we can truthfully say that harm does not follow from viewing a pornographic picture out of absolute necessity is irrelevant pedantry.<>You’re still conflating the act of voting for McCain with the act of jumping on McCain’s bandwagon. These are two distinct acts. The latter implies the former, but the former does not imply the latter. The intrinsic harm comes from the latter act, not the former act. Viewing pornography is not like that. It is one act, it the harm directly follows from the act, if the person is so disposed (as most persons are). So that is why your pornography analogy is not a good one; it is comparing apples and oranges.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • Zippy,<>And even if you are right (though I’m skeptical) that you and your family are completely immune to the ill effects of supporting and voting for a presidential candidate who supports murdering the innocent, everyone else around you is definitely not.<>Thinking this way seems to be a result of having jumped onto the Zippy bandwagon. One no longer even sees the possibility of doing what I myself am doing. From the point of view of the Zippy bandwagon, I must be harming those around me when I tell them that I am voting for McCain. The only way to vote for McCain, from the point of view of the Zippy bandwagon, is to jump onto McCain’s bandwagon and/or communicate to others (intentionally or unintentionally) that one is jumping onto McCain’s bandwagon. The only way to communicate to others that one is voting for McCain is to tell them (or unintentionally mislead them into believing) that one is jumping onto McCain’s bandwagon. Communicating to others why we should vote for McCain necessarily entails communicating (intentionally or unintentionally) to them that they should jump on McCain’s bandwagon. Jumping onto the Zippy bandwagon apparently has the harmful effect of loss of imagination and loss of the ability to make nuanced distinctions. The world is reduced to a world of bandwagons. (Hence you shouldn’t mind having your own bandwagon analyzed.) Ironically, the Zippy bandwagon is built on the same “us vs. them” mentality we talked about above, and exemplified in President Bush’s statement, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” The us vs. them mentality is problematic when applied to Obama vs. McCain, for the reasons we discussed above — it conceptually pushes everyone onto those two bandwagons. But the us vs. them mentality is no less problematic when applied to McCain vs. pro-lifers, for those very same reasons.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • brandon field says:

    The political party membership is even worse than just sports teams; it occurred to me that the red/blue divisions in this country seems to have a bloods/crips aspect to it; if you’re wearing the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood, you’d better watch your back real good.And some people change their religious affiliations more easily than their political affiliations. Sen. Obama proved that by leaving Pastor Wright’s church earlier this year.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Bryan, I don’t understand how you think you can prevent situation y from arising in 2012 or what you can do in 2009 to prevent it. To me it seems absolutely obvious that the next Republican candidate will be at least as liberal as John McCain and probably more liberal. ESCR is now off the table as a conservative issue. By 2012 it will be considered just so 2000. This is true on other fronts, too. We’ve now had both Bush and McCain who are very much pro-amnesty. We can be pretty sure that will continue with other Republican candidates. Fiscal conservatism is dead at the federal level. I don’t bring these up to say they are anything like as important as th elife issues. Of course they aren’t. I bring them up to say that this process of the liberalizing of the Republican party goes on across the board and never turns back. If you’ve watched politics for the past twenty years, and surely you have, I don’t understand how you can deny this.Zippy’s point about your affecting other people is the great difficulty of planning to vote for someone and not being influenced thereby to minimize his bad points. By influencing other people to vote for McCain, it is therefore likely that however carefully you explain your own intention to vote for him, you are indirectly and unintentionally influencing at least some people to minimize his bad points. This seems to me very plausible.

  • zippy says:

    <>By influencing other people to vote for McCain, it is therefore likely that however carefully you explain your own intention to vote for him, you are indirectly and unintentionally influencing at least some people to minimize his bad points.<>And when we compare the strength of that influence to the influence one has over the outcome, the latter is negligible. So as we fill both ‘influence cups’ with more people deciding to vote for McCain – the cup which holds McCain bandwagon influence versus the one which holds change-the-outcome influence – the former always vastly outweighs the latter. Thus there is no proportionate reason to vote for McCain. QED.

  • Lydia,<>Bryan, I don’t understand how you think you can prevent situation y from arising in 2012 or what you can do in 2009 to prevent it.<>By myself I cannot prevent it. By myself my actions are, as Zippy puts it, negligible. But, working together, networking with others, we can make a difference. We do this by teaching others how to think clearly about ESCR / abortion, and encouraging them to help others see clearly on these issues. I had a student just recently say that a fetus is just a part of a woman’s body. You would think people would know better by now, but there is still a great deal of ignorance even of the *biology*, let along the ethics. So teaching is something we can and should always do. If we are writing carefully argued and rhetorically persuasive articles showing why ESCR is wrong, we can help party officials, candidates, and voters (and even pro-lifers) come to see more clearly why this must not be done. And we can also think about forming/joining a third party if necessary, if the RP is irredeemably compromised.<> To me it seems absolutely obvious that the next Republican candidate will be at least as liberal as John McCain and probably more liberal. ESCR is now off the table as a conservative issue. By 2012 it will be considered just so 2000. This is true on other fronts, too. We’ve now had both Bush and McCain who are very much pro-amnesty. We can be pretty sure that will continue with other Republican candidates. Fiscal conservatism is dead at the federal level. I don’t bring these up to say they are anything like as important as the life issues. Of course they aren’t. I bring them up to say that this process of the liberalizing of the Republican party goes on across the board and never turns back. If you’ve watched politics for the past twenty years, and surely you have, I don’t understand how you can deny this.<>I don’t deny it. But I do fight it. If Obama wins because pro-lifers sit out, then the next Republican candidate will likely be even further left of McCain. We can either fight it within the party, or we can fight from within a third party. But we must fight it. I don’t think we can justify sitting out.<>Zippy’s point about your affecting other people is the great difficulty of planning to vote for someone and not being influenced thereby to minimize his bad points. By influencing other people to vote for McCain, it is therefore likely that however carefully you explain your own intention to vote for him, you are indirectly and unintentionally influencing at least some people to minimize his bad points. This seems to me very plausible.<>Abuse does not nullify proper use. And the same type of principle is true in this case. The fact that some people will misunderstand a speech act does not in itself nullify the propriety of that speech act. Some people apparently misunderstood Jesus in various parts of the gospels, but He still spoke. I’m quite sure that I’ve been successful, in communicating to people why I’m voting for McCain, not to mislead them into downplaying ESCR. The argument you are presenting here against voting for the lesser evil candidate (when he supports an intrinsic evil) is the impossibility of guaranteeing that in communicating to others one’s reason for voting for this candidate, one will avoid misleading someone to downplay the evil of the candidate’s position. But that’s just not a good argument, I think, because communication never comes with a guarantee. I can’t guarantee that I can teach students why removing the fetus in the case of ectopic pregnancy is justified, without misleading some students to think that abortion is permissible. But I am not thereby muted on this subject by that fact; I just have to do my best to communicate and try to head off the most likely misunderstandings.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • Zippy,<>And when we compare the strength of that influence to the influence one has over the outcome, the latter is negligible. So as we fill both ‘influence cups’ with more people deciding to vote for McCain – the cup which holds McCain bandwagon influence versus the one which holds change-the-outcome influence – the former always vastly outweighs the latter. Thus there is no proportionate reason to vote for McCain. QED.<>Notice what is left out. Go back to your first premise: “And when we compare the strength of that influence to the influence one has over the outcome, the latter is negligible.” You are only comparing two influences, but there are at least three influences; you are leaving out one influence. Whenever I talk about why I am voting for McCain, I explain why I believe ESCR is murder. So, I am also influencing people to come to believe and understand that ESCR is the murder of innocent human persons. Your argument completely leaves out that influence. And therefore your ‘QED’ is premature (once again, it is based on an abstraction that leaves out relevant information).In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • daveheitz says:

    Zippy,Would this syllogism validly match your argument?1) Voting for a candidate who supports a grave evil is remote material cooperation with that evil.2) In order for material cooperation with evil to be justified, one must have a proportionate reason, such that the act has a reasonable chance of bringing about a good effect.3) Given the fact that one has a < HREF="http://www.slate.com/id/2107240/" REL="nofollow">better chance of winning the powerball 50 times in a row than of casting a deciding vote<>, one’s vote in a national election is not nearly efficacious enough to be considered proportionate.Thus4) A vote for a national candidate who supports grave evil is unjust cooperation with evil.Also,5) McCain supports grave evilThus,6) A vote for McCain in the upcoming presidential election would be unjust cooperation with evil.– Dave

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I don’t think it’s really a matter of people’s misunderstanding you, Bryan. I think it’s a matter of what is likely to end up happening to them, in part because “My conservative Catholic teacher (friend, etc.) Bryan says it’s legitimate and even important to vote for John McCain.”

  • zippy says:

    <>You are only comparing two influences, but there are at least three influences; …<>No, I didn’t leave anything out. To the extent you can evangelize people in your sphere of influence about ESCR, you can do so independent of choosing to vote for McCain and telling them of that choice. The effects I take into consideration are effects of your act of voting, not things you are perfectly capable of doing independent of your act of voting.

  • zippy says:

    Dave:That is at least part of the argument. The usual attempted rebuttal is that while it is true that one’s effect on the outcome is highly attenuated, so is one’s cooperation with McCain’s evil policies. What that ignores though is the effects on <>us<>: that is, effects on the person who votes himself and on those over whom he actually does have some influence, independent of the election outcome.Funny Slate article. 🙂

  • Zippy,<>The effects I take into consideration are effects of your act of voting, not things you are perfectly capable of doing independent of your act of voting.<>Then you’ll need to readjust your argument, because your first premise is:<>And when we compare the strength of that influence to the influence one has over the outcome, the latter is negligible.<>What is that first influence you are talking about? The influence on others of my telling people that I’m voting for McCain. But my telling people that I’m voting for McCain is something I’m “perfectly capable of doing independent of my act of voting”, and not an “effect of [my] act of voting”.You can’t have it both ways, Zippy. Either the negative influence that concerns you is a direct effect of what I do in the voting booth, or you are including things that I’m capable of doing independent of my act of voting.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    <>But my telling people that I’m voting for McCain is something I’m “perfectly capable of doing independent of my act of voting”, and not an “effect of [my] act of voting”.<>The voting and the telling have a necessary connection, unless we are liars. And I presume we are not liars.Remember that I have stipulated the possibility that a very saintly person might in theory be capable of voting for McCain licitly, as long as he kept his mouth shut about it. On the other hand other people may see him vote, and may ask him about it, in which case he is now in a compromising position that he ought not have put himself into in the first place — all for the sake of a nonsensically small chance of affecting the outcome, which would be much better served by spending time praying for the common good before the Sacrament.

  • Lydia,<>Bryan. I think it’s a matter of what is likely to end up happening to them, in part because “My conservative Catholic teacher (friend, etc.) Bryan says it’s legitimate and even important to vote for John McCain.”<>My Rabbi says it is legitimate and even important to pay taxes to Caesar. (from yesterday’s gospel reading) Oh, (<>thinks listener<>) then I guess he condones all those things Caesar does.Now Jesus is therefore responsible for people believing that He condones Caesar’s evils.We are not necessarily responsible when people misuse or misunderstand our positions and/or misuse them. We have to speak the truth, and do what we can to avoid being misunderstood. But history is full of people misusing Jesus’s words to justify their own evil actions. That does not make Jesus responsible for what those people have done. Likewise, I’m not necessarily responsible for people misusing my position or misunderstanding my position. In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • e. says:

    Zippy said, “Remember that I have stipulated the possibility that a very saintly person might in theory be capable of voting for McCain licitly, as long as he kept his mouth shut about it.”This is absurd.In fact, it is almost self-fulfilling to where not doing the latter would essentially amount to the kind of impotency that Zippy continues to preach against the McCain vote & his contention concerning an individual vote being ineffectual.Zippy would rather have such individuals keep their silence.However, is it not interesting that votes in the aggregate for McCain would indeed come to possess such efficacy (as in swing states) and, as importantly, would very well attend to the requirements of the Principles of Double Effect.In other words, it would seem that Zippy would like to prevent the kind of influence that would, in the end, result in the aforementioned.

  • Zippy,<>The voting and the telling have a necessary connection, unless we are liars…. Remember that I have stipulated the possibility that a very saintly person might in theory be capable of voting for McCain licitly, as long as he kept his mouth shut about it.<>Well, then they <>don’t<> have a “<>necessary<>” connection. You can do one without doing the other.<>On the other hand other people may see him vote, and may ask him about it, in which case he is now in a compromising position that he ought not have put himself into in the first place<>And what is that “compromising position”? Your statement here begs the question Zippy. You haven’t yet shown that voting for the candidate whose policy is the lesser of two evils, is intrinsically evil. (If you have, please point me to where you have done so.)<> — all for the sake of a nonsensically small chance of affecting the outcome,<>The chance of affecting the outcome is almost 100%. That’s because my vote in the voting booth has almost a 100% chance of changing the overall vote tally. Voting is a communal activity, not merely an individual activity. That’s why the worth of voting cannot rightly be evaluated from the point of view of the solipsistic abstraction. Remember: “Swim down!”<> which would be much better served by spending time praying for the common good before the Sacrament.<>Somebody recently used that line on me in response to my claim that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. I agree that praying for the common good before the Blessed Sacrament is a worthwhile activity, but it does not negate our <>duty<> to serve the poor, pay our taxes, and vote for our political leaders. In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • zippy says:

    <>You can do one without doing the other.<>You can’t tell someone honestly that you are going to vote for McCain, unless you are in fact planning to vote for McCain.For a guy who claimed to be open to sound argument you seem to be pretty desperately grasping at empty rhetorical points, of the sort that it is becoming rather tiresome to answer. Obviously one can vote for McCain and say nothing about it to anyone and try very hard to act as if one had not done it, though that may be awkward if someone asks. But so what? I’ve said that that is possible, and that for a saintly person it may not even have a bad effect on him. Again, so what?<>You haven’t yet shown that voting for the candidate whose policy is the lesser of two evils, is intrinsically evil.<>I haven’t shown that because I don’t think it and don’t claim it. Good grief. Take a deep breath and address things I’ve actually said, please.<>The chance of affecting the outcome is almost 100%. That’s because my vote in the voting booth has almost a 100% chance of changing the overall vote tally.<>IOW, it has a 100% chance of adding your vote to McCain’s bandwagon tally, and a literally negligible chance of affecting the outcome.

  • Zippy,<>You can’t tell someone honestly that you are going to vote for McCain, unless you are in fact planning to vote for McCain.<>Of course. But I can vote without telling anyone for whom I am voting.<>For a guy who claimed to be open to sound argument you seem to be pretty desperately grasping at empty rhetorical points,<>Let’s just set aside the ad hominems.I’m going to take a break from the discussion. I think you have overstated your position, and that’s why you can’t put forward a syllogism. You are right (in my opinion) to be concerned about people jumping on the McCain bandwagon in an uncritical way, and to be a cause of others doing so, intentionally or unintentionally. But that does not justify the conclusions you have drawn, that we should not vote for McCain and that only saints can do so without harming themselves and others. Those conclusions do not follow from the premises you have put forward. I’d love to see you prove me wrong with a good syllogism (of the sort somebody proposed in the comments above), but such a syllogism has yet to show up here. And without syllogisms, all we have are assertions, anecdotes and sophistry.Thanks for discussing this with me.In the peace of Christ,– Bryan

  • Anonymous says:

    Ahem.You can’t even make a syllogism without starting with assertions.Your strident “sophistry” remarks and general attitude is one of question begging. “Without a syllogism to my satisfaction, I win” is pure question begging.I don’t think you understand what ad hominem is. It seems to be a mantra of convenience of yours.

  • SteveG says:

    Bryan,Dunno if you are still reading, but I wanted to say thank you for participating in this discussion.I have been in near constant angst over this election over the past month or so and truly undecided regarding whether I could ‘hold my nose’ and vote for McCain. Thus, I’ve mostly just been reading these types of discussions in order to see if I could gain insight.I’d generally been sympathetic to Zippy and Lydia’s positions, and had come close to deciding I could not, yet something bothered my about the logic of their arguments that I could not put my finger on.I think you’ve drawn out the inadequacy of their position exceedingly well. They are both clearly vastly overstating their positions and claiming far more than their argument can support.I still am not sure I can vote for McCain, but I am no longer in doubt that the reasons Zippy and Lydia are arguing for are those which would keep me from doing so.Thanks for the added insight.

  • zippy says:

    <>I think you’ve drawn out the inadequacy of their position exceedingly well.<>What specifically do you view as inadequate?

  • SteveG says:

    1) I think your analysis of the effect of the vote on the individual voter is one-sided. You seem to leave out consideration of any possible effects other than the ‘possible’ negative effects that you’ve identified. As Bryan asked earlier, are there no possible good effects from specifically voting to limit the evil of Obama? If yes, what are they? How do the compare to the negatives? How do we balance such things?In truth, whether the effect on an individual is positive, negative, or neither, is unknowable…likely even to the individual in question. As an aside, it seems to me that you’ve been appealing to only anecdotal evidence to prove the negative effects. Anecdotal evidence isn’t worthless, but it’s also not compelling.2) I think your analysis of the worth of an individual vote on the election is too individualistic in its scope. It seems to me that voting, by definition, is only EVER meaningful in the context of its aggregate effect (at least in this particular system). Yes, if I keeled over today, my vote might not change the outcome…if 2 million ‘me’s’ in my state keeled over today, the aggregation of those individuals would have a profound impact. And what exactly is the point of noticing that? That’s how the system is designed. Vote: <>a <>collective<> expression of will as inferred from a number of votes.<>3) Lydia’s analysis (not asking you to defend this) of the slippery slope of voting for McCain (it will be even worse in 2012), and that it has been our compromises in the past that have given us a supporter of ESCR on the Republican ticket also seems incomplete. What she doesn’t consider is…a. The possibility that had we not compromised in the past by ‘holding our noses’, we might actually be far WORSE off. Had we not kept our seat at the table instead of storming out, we might have a full throated supporter of ESCR AND abortion on BOTH tickets. Had the pro-life movement not utilized the Republican party as best (and imperfectly) as it could, we might well have found ourselves in 2008 in the position of most of Europe…where abortion is barely an issue that anyone considers worth discussing.b. The possibility that by opting out now, the choices in 2012 might be far worse yet. Perhaps the Republican Party will determine that trying to ‘pander’ to the pro-life vote cost them the election and will move to the left.In all of the above, I am not actually arguing that the alternative analysis is correct. Your own, and Lydia’s arguments may in fact be correct, but what I have seen is what appears to me to be an overly simplistic analysis. And when you bring in the missing pieces, it seems obvious that the issue is VERY far from being as clear as you seem to be suggesting.

  • zippy says:

    At bottom, then, the dispute revolves around what is factually true about elections, and about both the outcome-dependent and outcome-independent effects of voting. Hopefully folks can walk away from the discussion at least understanding where the disagreement lies, and can make their own observations and introspections with that understanding in mind.

  • SteveG says:

    FWIW, I agree 100% with that last comment.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    SteveG, I think it possible that you misunderstand my point in my other posts. There are two points here, and I believe both of them, but I think one is more important, and it’s the one I’ve been trying to push. Distinguish the following:1) The Republican party has gotten so liberal, and we now in 2008 have such a liberal candidate, because conservatives keep holding their noses and voting, so the party takes us for granted.2) Conservatives are abandoning their witness on specific important issues as a result of their support for Republican candidates.Now, I think both of these are true. However, I was arguing #2 in my post at W4, and I have presented (I believe) additional evidence for it in threads here lately–for example, NRLC’s dropping the issue of ESCR from its comparison of the candidates and its hailing John McCain with the accolade “pro-life,” thus downplaying his position on ESCR.Your remarks seem to address #1 with conjectures that, for example, we’d have even worse Republican candidates now if we’d “left the table” of the Republican party. But while I think #1 is in fact true, I don’t really think #1 is the strongest argument against our supporting John McCain in this election.I want to stress, again, that Zippy’s and my arguments are slightly different. His depends crucially on the small effect your vote has on the outcome, which makes it both more sophisticated than mine and more difficult. Mine has the uncomfortable feature that I am inclined to think some candidates are so bad that it is intrinsically wrong to vote for them, which Zippy does _not_ think, and which has its drawbacks as a position.

  • SteveG says:

    Lydia,FWIW, I am definitely clear on the fact that Zippy and your arguments are slightly different. I also happen to think that your position is more compelling (at least to my eyes).Zippy DOES have a position that is compelling to me, but I haven’t seen him argue it as forcefully as the negligible vote position. His more compelling argument is that the whole electoral process is a myth, or a sham, that we take part in. That it’s not to choose a leader, but to validate the ‘system.’ As I become increasingly disillusioned by the system we have, my trouble in voting is not so much voting for McCain, but voting at all, because it is a validation of something that I see as very, very broken.The only thing that keeps me engaged is the old saying (Churchill?) that ‘It’s the worst system there is, except for all the others. ‘Anyway…<>1) The Republican party has gotten so liberal, and we now in 2008 have such a liberal candidate, because conservatives keep holding their noses and voting, so the party takes us for granted.<>As I mentioned, I have a problem with this line of argumentation. Not so much because I disagree, but because it ignores the other possibility…that had we not held our noses, the candidate might be Tom Ridge, or someone even more socially liberal. I strongly suspect that outcome would have been more likely than that a sitting out the last 5 elections would have produced a more conservative candidate.Unfortunate as it is to admit, the position that you and I share (‘pure’ pro-life) is just not widespread even among ‘conservatives.’ In truth, it never has been. In the eighties it was the rape and incest exemption, now it ESCR, but the truth is that the mainstream conservative movement has never fully embraced the Catholic take here.I think it’s more realistic to recognize that if we abandoned this ship, we will cease to have any voice in this debate that is taken seriously. We may become so marginalized that we effectively disappear from the conversation. THAT is more likely to produce ever more liberal candidates.There may come a time when we have to take that step, and while I despise the fear mongering arguments (THIS IS THE MOST CRUCIAL ELECTION EVER!) I haven’t seen any argument yet that has convinced me that the alternative you and Zippy are proposing will have a positive impact in any way shape or form.<>2) Conservatives are abandoning their witness on specific important issues as a result of their support for Republican candidates.<>I think you have it backwards here. I don’t think ‘conservatives’ are abandoning their principles to support the Republicans…rather I think rather the Republican party is reflecting the views held by many who call themselves conservatives.I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that there is a battle going on for the soul of the ‘conservative’ movement that is playing itself out inside the party. On one side are the ‘principled’ conservatives who base their thinking primarily on the Christian notion of the dignity of the human person. On the other side are those who base their conservatism on what I think Mark best describes as salvation by Leviathan.Certainly, the dignity crowd has gotten the crap kicked out of them the last 8 years, but I am not yet convinced that the battle is lost and that it’s time to surrender.<>However, I was arguing #2 in my post at W4, and I have presented (I believe) additional evidence for it in threads here lately–for example, NRLC’s dropping the issue of ESCR from its comparison of the candidates and its hailing John McCain with the accolade “pro-life,” thus downplaying his position on ESCR.<>But this is also conjecture, and it’s based on anecdotal evidence. I could argue that the entire process has been beneficial to the polity because at least on our side it’s gotten us talking again about principle in a serious manner. It’s got many people (myself included) examining why we support what we do, and what it that really means to our vote, to our nation, to our selves. For every NRLC, you have a Zippy who’s rightly holding everyone’s feet to the fire. As depressing as it has been in some regards to see how far apart we are on some issues (ESCR, torture, etc), I think we’ve had more serious, meaningful discussion about a lot of these issues than we’ve had in many, many years. At least we are still talking about them on the right, and within the Republican party. On the left, the servitude to Moloch goes with nary any discussion or dissent.Yes, some conservative are abandoning their witness, but I would suggest that it’s not because of their support for the Republican candidates, but because of some defect in the principles underpinning their position. The more those fault lines are expose, the more readily we can attempt combat them.

  • zippy says:

    <>Zippy DOES have a position that is compelling to me, but I haven’t seen him argue it as forcefully as the negligible vote position. His more compelling argument is that the whole electoral process is a myth, or a sham, that we take part in. That it’s not to choose a leader, but to validate the ‘system.’<>That the election itself is primarily about choosing the kind of leader we want <>is<> a myth; a myth connected to the fact that our votes do not exert a significant influence over how we are governed, but exert a large influence over our acceptance of things done in our name. The election itself isn’t necessarily a <>sham<>, any more than a coronation pageant for the king is a <>sham<>. Under the mythology of what elections are about it is a sham, but it is the mythology itself which is a sham not the election itself. More generally, a lot of the damage which occurs to us under the rubric of voting for mass murderers has to do with reinforcing the lie of what elections are really about.

  • JACK says:

    I definitely agree with this last point of Zippy and SDG about concern over the mistaken understanding of the nature of voting has with respect to how we are actually governed. I’ve mentioned it before but it reminds me of this quote from Belloc and Chesterton:“Votes and elections and representative assemblies are not democracy; at best, they are the machinery for carrying out democracy. Democracy is government by the general will. Wherever, under whatever forms, such laws as the mass of people desire are passed, and such laws as they dislike are rejected, there is democracy. Wherever, under whatever forms, the laws passed and rejected have no relation to the desires of the mass, there is no democracy.”

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Steve, that there exists some x such that x is a person whose pro-life position has been weakened by his support for a Republican candidate is exactly the sort of thing that one can support directly by anecdotal evidence. It only takes one x to make the statement true. I do not see how it is possible to doubt that there are quite a few such x’s. At least one of them is the person, whoever he was, who changed the template for NRLC’s candidate comparison chart so that ESCR isn’t even on there anymore. Another one is very probably James Dobson, who didn’t ask Sarah Palin a single question about ESCR in the phone interview yesterday. Others are the people Zippy has mentioned and cited who use a namby-pamby phrase like “so he’s not perfect” to describe McCain, thus downplaying the importance of ESCR.

  • zippy says:

    <>Steve, that there exists some x such that x is a person whose pro-life position has been weakened by his support for a Republican candidate is exactly the sort of thing that one can support directly by anecdotal evidence.<>Yep. And whether or not the effect is <>pervasive<> over the long term is also a question of fact. That is why all the protests that my argument is question-begging are flat wrong: my argument isn’t question-begging, it is either true or false based on the factual reality of whether this does or does not happen pervasively over time.I think a lot of Catholics have gotten so used to a certain kind of abstract reasoning – largely to do with the moral theology of <>intrinsically<> immoral acts – that they have difficulty dealing with questions that have significant empirical content, such as whether a particular war was initiated justly or whether there is a proportionate reason to vote for a national candidate who supports murdering the innocent.

  • SteveG says:

    <>Steve, that there exists some x such that x is a person whose pro-life position has been weakened by his support for a Republican candidate is exactly the sort of thing that one can support directly by anecdotal evidence. It only takes one x to make the statement true. I do not see how it is possible to doubt that there are quite a few such x’s.<>I don’t doubt it. What I doubt it is the only, or even the primary dynamic involved. I think it as likely, or more, that the slide occurs because the reasons the position were claimed to be held were poorly thought out. In other words, I think it’s more likely that such a person had a flaw in the thinking that brought them to ‘seem’ to agree with our position, which allowed them to rationalize the slide.I suspect it’s the rare person who willfully says ‘I have this principle, and I am explicitly violating it in order to support this candidate.’ Rather I think a person desires to support the candidate, starts looking at how to justify it, and finds the crack that already existed in their own thinking and pries it open.The difference between that and what you are suggesting is, I think, great. You are saying it’s the support for the candidate that is the cause. I am saying it was a principle held for incomplete or poorly thought out reasoning. The person who held the principle on flawed grounds might have seemed our stalwart ally, but all the time was susceptible to such machinations. The current situation, I think, reveals rather than causes some problems that have existed unseen for a long while.That these flaws are being exposed are I think sad, but in some sense fortunate. Fortunate because it let’s us see what we are really dealing with, and what we are up against on the battlefield.<> At least one of them is the person, whoever he was, who changed the template for NRLC’s candidate comparison chart so that ESCR isn’t even on there anymore. Another one is very probably James Dobson, who didn’t ask Sarah Palin a single question about ESCR in the phone interview yesterday. Others are the people Zippy has mentioned and cited who use a namby-pamby phrase like “so he’s not perfect” to describe McCain, thus downplaying the importance of ESCR.<>This comes WAY to close to judging the intentions, not just the actions, of others for my comfort. I can say without doubt that it is a bad development that the template changed, that Dobson didn’t ask about ESCR, etc., but to suggest that we know the unknowable…the intentions which caused the outcomes…seems to me to be bordering on judging the state of the template writer’s, and Dobson’s soul.Unless I know exactly their thinking in such actions, I simply can’t use that as evidence that supporting the candidates, rather than a previously held defect in their reasoning, is the cause.In a word, I think you are assuming far too much.Now, a question…did you ever vote for a ‘pro-life’ candidate who supported abortion in the case of rape or incest? I ask sincerely because if the answer is yes, I’d have to ask why this is any different?

  • Anonymous says:

    “The person who held the principle on flawed grounds might have seemed our stalwart ally, but all the time was susceptible to such machinations.”Oh brother, this reminds me of the “born-again Christian who was never really saved” argument.geesh.

  • SteveG says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • SteveG says:

    “The person who held the principle on flawed grounds might have seemed our stalwart ally, but all the time was susceptible to such machinations.”Oh brother, this reminds me of the “born-again Christian who was never really saved” argument.Pointing out that someone may have come to a position without having reasoned through it properly* is like the born again who was never really saved argument? Really? Um..OK..if you say so.* i.e. someone intuitively pro life, but who hasn’t based the position on the sound principle of the dignity of the human person beginning at conception, and is this susceptible to creating exceptions (rape, incest, ESCR) because their position is not sufficiently moored.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Honest question, SteveG: Is it better or worse for a person who had a somewhat ill-thought-out position on life issues to get yet _more_ muddle-headed as a result of supporting a Republican candidate? Do we say, “Ah, well, that just shows that the person wasn’t really thinking clearly in the first place”? And the point is, exactly, what? That it’s not really a big deal to cause people to stumble because they weren’t terribly solidly grounded in the first place? I mean, they needed to go in the _other_ direction, right? Consider an analogy: A young person isn’t given good grounding in his Christian faith and loses it in college. One hardly says, “This wasn’t because of that atheist professor. This was because he was poorly grounded.” Obviously, it was _both_. And it was also obviously a _bad thing for him_ that he took the atheist professor and lost his faith.To answer your question, I voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and regretted it within his first 100 days. I’ve learned a thing or two since then. Hint: That’s because I wasn’t happy about voting for him in the first place and was determined that I wouldn’t go “any farther.” That determination not to be pushed farther is what has allowed me to push back. If I’d taken the position that one must always vote for the lesser evils, I wouldn’t have been keeping score on Bush during the past 8 years, and I wouldn’t even have had the data to write that post about fetal tissue research. I would also point out that, ahem, ESCR is not presently federally funded. McCain is looking to move us _farther_ in that direction. Yes, Bush held a totally unacceptable position on abortion in the case of rape and incest, and (as I’ve already said) partly for that reason I wouldn’t vote for him now if I had it to do over. But there are also failures of parallel.

  • SteveG says:

    Lydia,I think I see some flaws with what you’ve offered, but I may not be able to respond until Monday…if you are still interested.PeaceSteve

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I should add too that I didn’t mean to concede that everyone who gets harmed by voting for a candidate with bad positions _did_ have an ill-formed opinion before. When you come to describe your candidate’s positions, there’s just this incredible temptation to downplay their bad side. This is going to be true even for people who have been rock solid on a given issue before and who understand exactly why a particular thing is wrong.

  • SteveG says:

    <>I should add too that I didn’t mean to concede that everyone who gets harmed by voting for a candidate with bad positions _did_ have an ill-formed opinion before. <>Regardless, you and Zippy both seem to be saying that one is harmed by voting for the candidate. I think that some clearly are harmed by supporting such a candidate. I think where we differ is that I see it as also being clear that some are not harmed by doing such.Bottom line is that you are saying that no one should vote for such a candidate, just because some are harmed by such a vote. That seems preposterous to me.I find equally unfounded the notion that only a saint can have positive outcomes from such situations (both in the analogy and in the present voting situation). I’ll even offer you as an example that harm need not be the outcome. You voted for Bush in 2000, yet, you didn’t slide further. If you are ride about the effects being so one side to the negative, how can you account for that.The ‘slide’ you are suggesting does seem to be clear in some cases, but it is very far from inevitable.<>When you come to describe your candidate’s positions, there’s just this incredible temptation to downplay their bad side.<>That’s just it…McCain is not my candidate in any way shape or form.I didn’t support him or any of the other gaggle of torture supporters (McCain excluded on that front) the Republicans offered during the primaries. I don’t think he’s OK, or that ESCR is not such a big deal or any such nonsense.My vote, if he gets it, would be solely for the purposes of stopping a guy who is I think very dangerous. More dangerous in fact than the typical politician.*That’s why I’ve never been tempted in the least to downplay the problems with McCain in any way shape or form.<>This is going to be true even for people who have been rock solid on a given issue before and who understand exactly why a particular thing is wrong.<>No, it <>may<> be true, but it is not by necessity true, and in fact will effect some in exactly the opposite way.If that is the case, and harm is not necessary, your point two is not persuasive as to why one should not vote for McCain to prevent the evil of an Obama administration.

  • zippy says:

    <>I think where we differ is that I see it as also being clear that some are not harmed by doing such.<>Right. That is where we differ. or at least one place where we differ. I am sure a lot of people do not <>think<> they harm themselves and/or those around them by voting for a mass murderer; but nevertheless, most of the time for most people, they do.

  • SteveG says:

    <>Right. That is where we differ. or at least one place where we differ.<>I am pretty sure where the other is, but I think this is really the crucial issue.<>I am sure a lot of people do not think they harm themselves and/or those around them by voting for a mass murderer; <>but nevertheless, most of the time for most people, they do.<><>I really respect your thoughts here, and on many other topics. Further, as much as I think your objections and discussions have been a benefit to the Catholic community, and have an important role in clearing up the abstract thinking you mention above, I have to say…1) You simply have not shown this. You’ve not even come remotely close to showing this. Until you can do so, I think your argument ultimately falters.2) I would not be voting <>for<> a mass murderer. I <>may<> vote to limit a graver evil, nothing more. My vote would be for a ‘Not-Obama.’ who might actually have a chance of implementing my ‘Not-Obama’ hope while at the same time being a lesser evil.

  • zippy says:

    SteveG:Well, I think someone who votes for McCain votes for an ESCR mass murderer, no matter how the matter is rephrased to make people feel better. That is just truth in labeling. At issue is whether or not there is a proportionate reason to do it under the circumstances.Also, I think you may have different expectations for my words than I do. I don’t expect my words to compel immediate assent in every person who encounters them. Aquinas’ five proofs of the existence of God don’t compel immediate assent in everyone who encounters them: they just explain a true conclusion from true premises via sound reasoning. I just expect my words to explain what I think and why I think it.

  • SteveG says:

    <>Well, I think someone who votes for McCain votes for an ESCR mass murderer, no matter how the matter is rephrased to make people feel better. <>It doesn’t make me feel better to rephrase it. If (it still really is ‘if’ at this point, which is why I continue to discuss it) I vote for him, it will not be with any sense of satisfaction, or feeling good about it. It will be done not just holding my nose, but wearing a gas mask and trying to hold down my lunch. I assure you, I am not trying to sugar coat it for myself or anyone else; however, it’s simply untrue to claim that I would be voting for his policy on ESCR, and my description more closely describes the reality of the situation. In this particular system, I simply have no other practical way of attempting to prevent the graver evil (let’s put aside for the moment whether my actions can actually do what I intend in anything more than a negligible way, because that’s secondary to this issue). If we lived in a non two party system based on coalition building (ala Israel), I absolutely would not vote for McCain. But in this two party system, my options are limited.<>That is just truth in labeling<>No it’s not, it’s rhetorical labeling in order to try to cast a vote against another as an endorsement of ESCR. You choose to stick with it because you think it helps your argument.<>Also, I think you may have different expectations for my words than I do. I don’t expect my words to compel immediate assent in every person who encounters them.<>I don’t expect that, but I take what you are offering as an attempt to convince people not to vote for McCain. That’s the place I am approaching it from.In particular, you make a factual claim that voting for him will almost always harm the voter (unless they are a saint) as part of your argument. However, as I noted above, you simply haven’t come close to showing this to be the case. You’ve claimed it many times, and you’ve even provided what at least on the surface looks to be some examples of it, but until that factual claim is more firmly established, your argument ultimately falls short.<>Aquinas’ five proofs of the existence of God don’t compel immediate assent in everyone who encounters them: they just explain a true conclusion from true premises via sound reasoning.<>And I think your reasoning is absolutely sound. It’s the facts that you claim that seem to be wanting. In particular, the fact that harm is nearly always a necessity.

  • zippy says:

    <>…it’s simply untrue to claim that I would be voting for his policy on ESCR,…<>I didn’t claim that it is voting for ESCR; I claimed that it is voting for an ESCR mass murderer. You seem very reluctant to admit that to vote for McCain is, straightforwardly, to vote for an ESCR mass murderer. That in itself is a sign of a distortion brought about simply by considering the possibility of voting for him.<>…but I take what you are offering as an attempt to convince people not to vote for McCain.<>No, it isn’t that. I’ve said in a number of places that there is no proportionate reason to vote for McCain; people want to know why I think that; my posts explain why I think that.<>And I think your reasoning is absolutely sound. It’s the facts that you claim that seem to be wanting.<>Finishing a discussion understanding what we disagree about is not the worst outcome in the world.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Our country does so need to go with my negative vote proposal. 🙂Just think of the agreement that would break out among conservatives. We could all just go to the polls and vote against Obama, period.

  • zippy says:

    It is definitely an interesting suggestion, Lydia.

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