Electoral dysfunction and peak incontinence

October 7, 2016 § 36 Comments

A post and comment thread at One Peter Five reminded me of John Zmirak’s article comparing folks who refused to vote for Mitt Romney, including those who refused to vote at all, to onanists.

I imagine that Zmirak is not alone in his attitude.  Folks who have decided to light the pinch of incense and cheer for their favorite team in the most important sportsball contest ever  probably are very invested in the idea that everyone should do what they are doing.

It is especially odd though coming from Catholics who really ought to grasp the difference between sexual behavior – whether licit or illicit – and continence.  Continence is for everyone, including even married couples.

But ours is a society building its way toward peak incontinence, so I suppose it isn’t too surprising that our central civic liturgy encourages universal incontinence.

§ 36 Responses to Electoral dysfunction and peak incontinence

  • Aethelfrith says:

    In this election cycle, I’m hearing people–who used to speak fervently against the fallacy of not voting for the Republicrat being equivalent to casting a vote for the Democan–urging us to vote for the Republicrat because guess what? Not voting for him is equivalent to casting a vote for the Democan!

  • Mike T says:

    For me, this election comes down to the fact that Clinton is quite possibly the single most evil person to ever have a shot at the Presidency in our history. I respect those who won’t vote because they simply don’t believe in it, but there are too many whose sudden “pangs of conscience” seem to just be “Trump is mean, uncouth and not a genteel man.”

    I think most of the ostensibly conservative #NeverTrump crowd underestimates the extent to which Clinton will make Obama look like a conservative by the time she’s done, to say nothing of her willingness to enrich her family at the public’s expense or even ram through policies that she knows will cause massive unrest (or civil war like her gleeful flirtation with a federal seizure of private firearms).

  • Zippy says:

    Well, the #NeverTrump crowd is almost entirely composed of Republicans who wanted someone else to win the primary. They aren’t in the same universe as principled non-voters, and there is no reason to take them seriously.

    Though as Aethelfrith points out, quite a few previously ‘principled’ non-voters or third party voters have abandoned principle to get their tickets to the Most Important Sportsball Game Ever, so they can cheer for their favorite color shirts.

    Voting in this election has the same function it has always had: to get millions of people to go to the Sacred Polling Place and make a personal ritual act personally validating the liberalism which governs us and the narrow range of liberal choices on the ballot.

  • Mike T says:

    Though as Aethelfrith points out, quite a few previously ‘principled’ non-voters or third party voters have abandoned principle to get their tickets to the Most Important Sportsball Game Ever, so they can cheer for their favorite color shirts.

    Hillary Clinton seems to have that effect on people. You know, I consider her politics, level of corruption and the fact that she can literally force the FBI to stand down and exonerate her when she doesn’t even have formal political authority over them and my conclusion is better the devil we don’t know than this one.

    I think a lot of people are looking at her and realizing that she is a literal tyrant in the making. Completely unbound by any sense of decency and loyalty. I feel like a lot of #NeverTrump is a bunch of preening moral narcissists who are such losers that they will not distinguish the difference between the Animal House antics of Trump from the quite literally treasonous (among other things, such as her giggling about ensuring that 12 year old rape victim’s rapist went free) behavior of Clinton.

  • Zippy says:

    I was actually thinking of some people who were ‘principled’ third party voters and non voters who are now supporting Hillary.

    I get the sense that most folks tend to confine their media consumption to an echo chamber, and the candidates tend to be something like Rorshach tests.

  • Step2 says:

    Snopes is your friend MikeT. Stop peddling all of these right wing misrepresentations. While Clinton’s email setup was, as everybody who has ever commented on it has opined, extremely careless, there was no intent to reveal classified material. That has always been the legal standard, and the whole “lock her up” nonsense completely ignores the meager slap on the wrist plea deal Gen. Petraeus took after intentionally handing classified secrets over to his girlfriend.

    Completely unbound by any sense of decency and loyalty.

    Seriously? Trump’s entire empire is based upon an lifelong series of broken promises, loutish behavior, and shafting creditors, investors, and contractors. I don’t know which is more frightening, that the volatile charlatan might gain access to the nuclear codes or that the greedy cheat might have the keys to Fort Knox. Both scenarios are disasters waiting to happen.

    I get the sense that most folks tend to confine their media consumption to an echo chamber, and the candidates tend to be something like Rorshach tests.

    Very few liberals actually like Clinton. She was sort of the Bob Dole candidate, it was her turn. If the Republicans had nominated someone qualified and not a piggish narcissist to run against her they would likely be ahead by double digits right now.

  • Zippy says:


    Very few liberals actually like Clinton.

    Agreed. The distinguishing feature of this election is the degree to which both candidates are despised.

    This shouldn’t really surprise anyone who is reasonably capable of understanding math.

  • donnie says:

    What I struggle with when it comes to this election is that while, yes, Trump is certainly a committed liberal and, yes, he has routinely said many things that are morally abhorrent and, yes, I will not be throwing my ballot on top of his team’s litter heap – despite all of these things I still want him to win.

    There is only one party in Washington. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has realized that conservatives are the motte to the liberal bailey. Republicans and Democrats in Washington may argue, bicker, fight and put on a good show, but at the end of the day they are working together to move this country toward the same goals: open trade, open borders, federal educational standards, and endless overseas conflicts. They are both dragging us closer to the singularity.

    If anyone other than Donald Trump won the Republican primary, this election would have been a win/win for the powers that be. Clinton vs. Bush, Clinton vs. Rubio, Clinton vs. Kasich, it wouldn’t have mattered. The various constructs of the professional political class, Wall Street, DC, K-Street and the entire apparatus of the corporate media complex would get exactly what they wanted. Their pockets would be lined and their ideological ends would be accomplished.

    A Donald Trump presidency is what the professional liberals fear (and here I mean all professional liberals, to include professional right-liberals) because he stands opposed to their big ticket agenda items. He represents an existential threat to our corrupted political system.

    He does not represent an existential threat to liberalism, but he is an existential threat to the certain brand of liberalism that is currently in power and currently pulling us ever closer to the liberal singularity.

    Which is why even though I can’t stand the guy, even though his behavior and his language are abhorrent, even though I don’t see casting a ballot for him as morally justifiable…

    I still want him to win.

    And yes, I realize what that says about me.

  • Your arguments concerning the morality of voting rely on what amounts to psychoanalysis. As best I can tell, the argument depends on the assumption that a person who votes in a mass election is necessarily affirming political liberalism, even if they consciously reject it.

    The comparison to idolatry fails, because idolatry is intrinsically evil. I take it you do not assert voting to be intrinsically evil.

    And the fact that Trump is only barely outside the Overton Window doesn’t change the fact that he is outside it somewhat, and his being President will serve to undogmatize a few insane modern views (America must use military force to overthrow “tyrants”, America must accepted unlimited immigration, patriotism is evil, etc.)

  • Zippy says:

    The attempt to reduce my argument to psychology is an attempt to reduce the meaning and effects of voting as an objective action to nothing but the meaning that the acting subject subjectively assigns to his act. In reality though all human behaviors have objective meaning and external effects, and cannot be reduced to nothing but a little speech the person makes to himself about what his act means and does.

  • Zippy says:

    In other words “in the speeches he makes to himself in his inner Cartesian world, Bob strongly objects to the notion that his action affirms and supports the legitimacy of the liberalism which governs us” doesn’t undermine my arguments. It exhibits a failure to grasp them.

    What makes it similar to the idolatry case is that no matter what speeches the person makes to himself as he does it, his chosen action nevertheless has an objective character for which he is morally responsible; his denial of that objective character to himself doesn’t make it disappear.

  • I understood the evil effects you objected to as being subjective (what it does to the individual voter). If I misunderstood, then please explain.

    If the argument is that voting for any candidate is going to be material cooperation with evil, and that because of the mass nature of voting this can’t be justified, then the argument is equivocal. If the good effect is infinitesimal then so is the cooperation with evil.

  • Zippy says:


    I understood the evil effects you objected to as being subjective (what it does to the individual voter). If I misunderstood, then please explain.

    My editorial choices generally reflect an attempt to communicate to folks from a wide variety of backgrounds, mostly from within the soup of modernism, in a way that will help them grasp what I am saying. Regular readers though ought to know that I don’t reduce human action and its effects to nothing but an interior Cartesian psychological state.

    If the good effect is infinitesimal then so is the cooperation with evil.

    That would only be the case if a vote’s objective capacity to do good was exactly matched to its objective capacity to do evil under the particular circumstances.

    In fact, given the objective nature of voting and our present circumstances, any supposed capacity to do good by voting (by applying the voter’s power to select a particular candidate) is vastly outmatched by the objective evil it does (which does not depend on who wins or loses the election).

    A typical retort is that if this is correct then the whole thing is trivial. But if it is trivial then wasting energy talking about it and driving to the polling place and the like is literally a waste and, as such, against prudence and morally wrong.

  • Zippy says:

    IOW, in simpler terms (as always on the hunt for the particular words which work editorially for particular readers):

    If you are not voting primarily as a personal ritual act to express support for the liberal regime, it makes no sense under any reasonable objective criteria to vote at all.

    It certainly makes no sense, objectively, to vote in an attempt to influence the election outcome.

  • You still haven’t explained what the evil effect is. You are arguing that voting is wrong because of its effects, not because it’s an evil object, correct?

    And the argument regarding triviality doesn’t follow. Is it sinful to go to the movies?

  • Zippy says:

    If you’ve actually read what I’ve already written on this subject and still don’t understand, I’m at something of a loss as to what I could say to help you grasp the argument. Any number of other folks seem to have grasped it, so maybe someone else can help you with it.

    Intrinsic immorality would imply the immorality of voting even when not-voting carried dire consequences: even if you could personally save the world by casting a vote for Trump. But it doesn’t follow – from the fact that voting is not intrinsically immoral – that voting is justified in current actual circumstances.

    You seem to be suggesting that voting for (e.g.) Trump or Clinton involves no remote material cooperation with evil at all. If that isn’t your contention, then perhaps you should direct your question to yourself.

    If on the other hand your contention is that in voting you only materially cooperate with evil when your candidate wins, I’d just suggest that you have more thinking to do on the nature of voting as a concrete kind of act. I have lots of posts on that — voting as sorites contest, analogy to dollar auction, elections as civic liturgy, etc etc.

  • Zippy says:

    I suppose it could be argued that voting is intrinsically immoral – an act intrinsically contrary to the truth about the good — by citing Arrow’s Theorem and the like. Since voting is supposed to rationally aggregate democratic social preference, and Arrow proved that this is impossible in principle, voting is intrinsically immoral.

    But that would be a different argument.

    In any case though voting cannot be evaluated morally absent a concrete understanding of what voting is as an individual act and what liberal democratic elections are as the object of a voter’s participatory act qua voter.

    The idolatry/blasphemy analogy is probably closer than many people realize. Lighting a pinch of incense is not intrinsically immoral in itself; it is the further context which makes it idolatry. Voting is not intrinsically immoral in itself (perhaps); it is its circumstance as willing and voluntary participation in this particular ritual – in this particular election – which makes it immoral.

    Adding a new factual circumstance can never make an intrinsically evil act good; but it can make an otherwise morally acceptable act evil.

  • Idolatry, the worship of not-God, is an intrinsically evil object. What physical means are involved is accidental.

    I’ve read much of what you’ve wrote on voting, but apparently I haven’t grasped the argument. What, specifically, is the evil effect of voting other than whatever evils are endorsed by the candidate being voted for?

    And my contention is that voting involves remote material cooperation with evil, but that this is infinitesimal in the same proportion that that the good effects sought after are.

  • Zippy says:

    As a suggestion for further thought, consider that human behaviors have all sorts of effects and further consider the wildly improbable coincidence which must obtain for the good and evil effects of any action whatsoever to be in precisely the same proportion.

  • I did not say that they are precisely in proportion. Only that they are comparable.

  • Zippy says:

    OK, so they are not the same proportion.

    Now, does the act of voting have any outcome independent implications?

  • Only on the individual level. The outcome* is the only common implication.

    *Taking the margin of victory and the like to be part of the outcome, since these things can of course affect the course of things.

  • Zippy says:

    I disagree that how you vote only affects you. We could loosely call this the ‘right of privacy’ fallacy: the notion that you have the power to confine the implications of private acts to yourself and only yourself. (In fact if voting encourages the adoption of this fallacy that is ironically one of its ill effects).

    In any case though, once we’ve agreed that voting has both outcome dependent implications and outcome independent implications, can we agree that the magnitude of the latter vastly outweighs the magnitude of the former when weighing an individual act?

  • It’s true that private acts could effect those around us. But at best that demonstrates that illiberals who vote should be openly illiberal, so that their acquaintances wouldn’t take their voting as an endorsement of liberal democracy.

    Yes, the outcome independent effects outweigh the outcome dependent effects.

  • Zippy says:


    But at best that demonstrates that illiberals who vote should be openly illiberal, so that their acquaintances wouldn’t take their voting as an endorsement of liberal democracy.

    Is it possible, though, to be absolutely clear to everyone affected by the fact that you are voting – including for example all of the people standing in line with you, parking in the parking lot as they see you pull up to the polling place, etc – about unequivocally rejecting liberal democracy, while at the same time voting in elections like the one approaching? You seem to be assuming what is far from evident.

    If it is not possible to mitigate all of the scandal for all persons (even stipulating that you aren’t doing anything destructive to yourself, which I merely stipulate), doesn’t any unmitigated scandal in your act whatsoever – an outcome independent effect – outweigh any influence you have over the outcome?

  • Zippy says:

    Furthermore, if scandal toward others is the most potent of the actual effects of voting in mass market liberal democratic elections, outweighing all other effects, does it not immediately follow that refusing to vote is a better witness to your fellow man, that is, objectively better?

  • itascriptaest says:

    This election cycle has been so entertaining. That said I do have genuine sympathy for the conflicted and agonized person who votes more out fear of Hillary than for any other reason.

    I have significantly less admiration for the “TRUE CONS” who have now all of a sudden found their “principals.” Look at anti-Trumper Robbie George who helped organize the ridiculous Catholics for Romney group. How on earth is Mitt Romney a better candidate than Trump? Romney was even worse in most respects.

    There is also the paradox that at least for some people sitting out this election is their way of adhereing to America’s liberal founding traditions (see Glenn Beck’s rants on this subject). So in a way even sitting out the election supports liberalism.

  • donnie says:


    Curious as to whether you would ever show up to vote for a principled, orthodox Catholic running for a down-ticket race (i.e. in a race where you vote counts for much more)?

    This would, I would think, essentially eliminate the “remote material cooperation with evil” aspect of voting and leave only the scandal of validating the liberal system of governance. Nevertheless it seems good to support any political candidate who espouses Catholic values in the current culture.

  • Zippy says:

    The question is highly hypothetical, to the point of paradox. In addition to being orthodox Catholic he would also have to share enough of my understanding of politics (which doesn’t necessarily fall under the Church’s charism) and any number of other subjects pertaining to the common good. But if all of that is the case, then why the heck is he running for office in a liberal democracy? Is he running on an explicitly antiliberal antidemocratic platform? Is he just running for dog catcher?

    The system isn’t designed to permit advancement of a committed antiliberal dog catcher to higher office. It is designed such that only liberals can advance in it.

    The question comes down to something like “if someone who thinks like you do ran for office, would you vote for him?”

    But I don’t even vote, let alone run for office.

  • The effect on random strangers who don’t know you at a polling place is as trivial as the effect on the outcome.

  • Zippy says:

    Like you I have a ton of sympathy for anti-Hillary sentiment, and not even a tiny bit of sympathy for the idea that McCain and Romney were fine but Trump is awful.

  • Zippy says:

    You are overestimating your own potency in affecting the outcome.

  • On the contrary, a vote has a concrete (albeit infinitesimal) effect. I don’t believe that seeing a random stranger doing something you (the general you) already consider unobjectionable has any substantive effect on you.

  • Zippy says:

    At least you now have a better idea of where we disagree about the facts; and presumably agree that if I am right about the facts – if I am right that voting and its concomitants have negative outcome independent effects which are nontrivial compared to your de facto nonexistent influence over the outcome – the conclusion that it is objectively better not to vote follows.

  • […] a sense of depravation or craving, hunger is often aimed at disordered ends and is a prison for the incontinent. Thus we have the vice of […]

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