Let’s stick a fork in this straw man, shall we?

October 19, 2008 § Leave a comment

It seems to me that much of what I’m reading out there comes from a completely different perspective: that my vote for a presidential candidate signifies that I believe this candidate to be a perfect embodiment of the finest humanity has to offer as well as an individual who embodies every value which I hold dear.

I think the reality is – as usual – somewhere in between. “Voting is nothing but a strictly utilitarian tool for expressing a preference for this outcome over that” and “voting represents complete assent to everything my candidate supports” are two radical extremes, neither of which seem even close to the reality.

Elections are a substantive civic ritual. Voting is a concrete act of participation in that ritual, with many implications. I don’t know of anyone who thinks that voting for a candidate is endorsement of all of that candidate’s positions, let alone the kind of endorsement proposed in the quote. But a lot of people seem to think that voting isn’t really a concrete act of participation in a civic ritual at all, but rather is some kind of pure undistilled intention with respect to a preferred outcome. Neither position makes any sense; but far more people seem to adhere to the latter than to the former.

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