I am not offering advice (directly) on who to vote for, or whether to vote. Rather, I am offering comments on various bad ideas to avoid in formulating your choice of whether to vote and who to vote for. As a public service, I offer these critiques of stupid, false, or pernicious errors about voting. The first is stupid, others may be merely wrong, YMMV. This list is not exhaustive – there can be others that should be mentioned. So mention them, OK?
1. A vote for X (insert one of: Castle, Johnson, Mickey Mouse, other) is a vote for Hillary.
No. Direct proof: A vote for Castle is a vote for Castle. Castle is not Hillary. So a vote for Castle is not a vote for Hillary. End of story. The logic really is as simple as it looks. It’s the silly-clevers who want to distort it.
Reductio Proof: Assume the logic of the premise “a vote for X is a vote for Y” is valid.
Person A thinks that Castle is the best candidate, while his friend B thinks Trump is. Person B points out to A “a vote for Castle is a vote for Hillary.”
Person A thinks that Castle is the best candidate, while his friend C thinks Hillary is. Person C points out to A “a vote for Castle is a vote for Trump.”
Consequently, if A votes for Castle it is both a vote for Trump and a vote for Hillary. Which is absurd. Therefore, the premise is invalid. QED
Bonus Corollary: In an election where there are more than 3 candidates, X, Y, and Z1...Zn, the premise “A vote for X is a vote for Z1 AND a vote for Z2 AND a vote for Z3, AND a vote for … Zn” is just as invalid a premise. And, vice versa, the premise “A vote for X is a vote for Z1 AND a vote for Z2 AND a vote for Z3, AND …for Zn” is just as wrong as the premise “a vote for X is a vote for Hillary”, because they are wrong on the same principles.
Additional Argument: There are, in addition to the primary effect of a vote, many secondary and tertiary effects. A vote for X cannot have all the same secondary and tertiary effects as a vote for Hillary. Hence a vote for X is not a vote for Hillary. (More on this later.)
Sub-Mistake 1a: Not voting for Party R candidate is “taking a vote away” from R. This is a lie. My vote is MINE until I bestow it (if at all). No party, group, or candidate has a prior claim on it. They can’t have a claim on it and have it remain a FREE election. My voting for someone other than R is not taking it away from R because they never had it to begin with.
Sub-Mistake 1b: A presumption that my vote goes to Party R. This is a lie. There is no valid presumption about my vote until I cast it. Party R and their candidate don’t get to presume on my vote. If they can’t field a candidate I feel I can vote for, then they don’t get my vote, and they never had a right to presume on my vote other than by putting up a candidate I want to vote for. So my voting for somebody outside of R isn’t “violating” some script that they had a right to presume upon.
Sub-Mistake 1c: Rhetorical tactic “If all (insert one: conservatives, Republicans, right-thinking people, non-liberals) were to act that way, that would undermine Trump’s chances, and that’s wrong.” No: Trump being a problem candidate who cannot command the preference of voters is what would undermine Trump’s chances. In fact, if all conservatives and all Republicans and all non-liberals were to vote for Castle, then Castle would win and that would be a very good thing indeed, comparatively speaking. You can’t use “if everyone did it” cafeteria fashion, i.e. picking just enough out of everyone such that these voting for Castle and not Trump means that no non-Hillary candidate got a majority and “causes Hillary to win”; but then not have the REST of everyone voting Castle so that Castle would actually win. “Everyone” is everyone.
Also, the concept “if everyone were to do it” and its parallel “everyone does it” are notoriously unsound as standard bearers in some cases – e.g. they cannot _justify_ an intrinsically wrong kind of act - also the concept cannot be used in isolation for an act that is neutral in itself. For an act that is morally neutral considered on its own (i.e. its object is neither inherently good nor inherently evil), considerations of “if everyone were to do it” cannot render the act morally good nor morally bad without reflecting on other facets of the act, such as the intentions and the circumstances. But if the parties in the conversation disagree on the totality of pertinent circumstances under consideration, claiming just one circumstance to “decide” the issue is mistaken qua argument, and the tactic logically fails. Ok, “Trump will lose…and maybe that leads to good things down the road…” is a sufficient rejoinder to the circumstance “Trump will lose” to defeat the tactic.
2. One person’s vote doesn’t affect the outcome of a national election.
Mistake. The truth is that every vote affects the outcome. You have to look at “affects” and “outcome” in the proper sense(s).
(Ignoring electoral college for the moment:) If X gets 100 million votes, and Y gets 90 million, X wins. If you were one of the 100M voting for X, your act has a participatory share in achieving a win for X. Your vote affects the outcome. The “last 10M - 1 votes” would only NOT have a participatory share if we “counted” the votes in a determinate order (say, according to time cast), and you cast your vote after all 90M votes for Y were cast and counted and after the 90,000,001th vote for X was cast and counted. I.E. after X had already won. Since that’s not how votes are counted, it’s not how their effect takes place. In reality, no person’s vote for X harbors any more or less weight than every other person’s vote for X, so if X won, every single one of them for X are votes that gave X the win. So every one of them has a participatory share in the win. Each one causes the win (in part).
(Side note 1: Large numbers are irrelevant to this truth. If 5 boys are shoveling a long driveway, all 5 participate in the achievement of a shoveled driveway. If 50 men are involved in a particular assembly line when a particular car is started and they see it all the way through, all 50 have a participatory share in “making” the car, even if one person’s share is smaller than another’s. If 50,000 men work on the transcontinental railroad over 5 years, then all 50,000 have a participatory share in the achievement. If 5,000,000 American men serve in the army overseas in WWII, all 5,000,000 have a participatory share in fighting and winning the war, and all 5M of them are entitled to the title of “veteran of foreign wars”. Each man who fights is morally responsible for his act to choose to cooperate with his country’s call to arms (some few didn’t), and that moral act of cooperation just is the base of his being a participant – and therefore a participatory winner – of the war. Large numbers don’t change the fundamental nature of his moral responsibility as “participant”. A Gestapo officer who ordered the murder of just ONE Nazi prisoner was a participant in bringing about the regime’s mass murder, and holds moral responsibility as a participant, even if he did nothing overt to cooperate with the other 11+ million murders. Large numbers may dilute his “share” in the totality of the mass murders outcome, they do not eradicate the causal – and moral – responsibility as a willing participant in a regime of murder.)
(Side note 2: throwing the Electoral College permutation into the consideration doesn’t change the principle, but it does potentially change the share: Effectively, the “first effect” of participating in a successful vote for X is now at the state level instead of the national level, meaning your vote for X “counts” at the stage of 3M for X versus 2.7M for Y. But it still has a participatory share in causing X’s win, which is the same underlying truth.)
In addition, if “one person’s vote does not affect the outcome of the election”, then X’s win has no cause that accounts for it. For you are not allowed to use any person’s vote to account for it. Hence in considering every one of the 100M votes cast for X, you would be forced to say “this one does not affect” and therefore is not a cause, and you would have no cause to point to which “does affect” the outcome. X’s win would be without a cause. Which is absurd.
If you are one of the voters for Y who loses, your vote still has an “affect” on the outcome. Part of the outcome is that “Y lost”, but another part is that “Y lost by 90M to 100M.” That’s a _different_result_ than if you hadn’t voted for Y. Similarly to the vote for X above, your vote makes you morally a participant of Y’s 90M total, and ALL of what that means. “The outcome” includes first-order results, and also second order, third order, etc. If, for example, Y getting 90M and not some lesser total may lead some other candidate Z to think “gee, I would have been able to get all of Y’s 90M plus more”, then your vote has an indirect causal share in encouraging Z to consider running next time. “The outcome” of the vote is not solely the sheer fact of “whether X or Y wins. “ That’s only part of “the outcome”. When you take note of the whole outcome, your vote is part of the 90M for Y, and that means it is part of the cause of all the events that flow from Y getting 90M votes.
That’s even aside from the consideration that when you vote for Y, you don’t know that Y will lose.
Sub-Mistake 2a: “There is no difference between Y getting 90M votes and Y getting 89,999,999 votes, so your vote does not affect any of the events that flow from Y getting 90M votes.”
Obviously, there is a difference of 1. “There is no difference” is mathematically erroneous. Let us admit, though, that the argument means something like “there is no _practical_ difference” between 89,999,999 and 90M. But the claim still fails. It is wrong in the order of voting causality, because it would imply that for EACH of the people who vote for Y, their vote for Y is the numerically irrelevant difference between 90M and 89,999,999, and (which follows logically from this) that for ALL of the people who vote for Y, their vote is a numerically insignificant difference. Which leads to the absurd result that ALL votes for the losing candidate “do not affect the outcome” (the winner would still be the winner even if his opponent got NO votes), and are pointless acts. You should never vote a vote for the person who might be the losing candidate!!! Which is absurd.
Or, to put it another way, because votes are not cast or counted with temporal significance, there is no picking out one of them as having a different character than any of the others, and since there is manifestly a significant difference in outcomes (beyond “Y loses”) that flow from “Y got 90M” votes versus “Y got 10 votes” or “Y got 10M” votes, each vote for Y bears an _equal_share_ in all of the significance of Y getting a very large number of votes even though a losing number.
Secondly, when you cast your vote, you did not intend to cast the vote that changes the vote from a losing 89,999,999 to a losing 90M, you cast a vote intending to help Y win, a vote whose inherent nature, was capable of helping Y win. The form and nature of the act of so voting is determined not by the after-the-fact (first order) outcome, which is unknown and which is indeterminate before the event is over (no concrete human act has an “indeterminate” nature), but by what is present to the act as you do it. Further, If Y was the only really good candidate and X was a really bad one, your vote for Y is a morally different event than your not voting for Y, in a morally significant sense TO YOU.
Also, the argument fails by ignoring sorites truths. A heap is not “made” by any one member of the heap, but it is not entirely the heap that it is if it doesn’t have its pieces. The fact that you cannot determine a specific number of elements or pieces or members that make the heap have its effects K1, K2, K3, etc, means that you must assign all such effects to ALL of its members, not just to some subset of them. The effects come from each of the members in a small but participatorily significant way, just as the gravity exerted by the Earth on an object at the surface comes from each cubic foot of dirt in the Earth in a small but participatorily significant way, visible as a gravitational force of 32 ft/sec/sec. Each addition to the gravity from each cubic foot of dirt is small, but is REAL for all that.
3. An efficacious vote against Hillary (one that would effectively prevent her presidency) is one that goes toward her opposition that has the best chance of electing him. This is the only moral alternative.
Reason 1: We are humans, not God. We are not required to make our acts efficacious, we have not the omnipotence implied in that. We can act with an intention, but whether the intention is brought to fulfillment is up to God. Morality is not determined by the efficaciousness of our acts. You cannot determine whether an act is moral or not on the basis of whether it is efficacious in bringing about a good intended.
Reason 2: That’s not how voting works: A vote outcomes includes many results, not just who wins or loses. Voting for X may not bring about X winning (or Y losing) as you would like but may bring other effects that are intended and good. If “efficacious in causing a good result” were the sole deciding criterion, one good result would justify the vote.
Reason 3: That’s not how voting works (version 2). The nature of a vote is not determined solely and strictly by the need to defeat one specifically worst candidate, which is what the thesis implies. Sometimes there is no “worst” candidate, and even if there were, sometimes there is no likely way to defeat her, so SUCCESS in defeating her cannot be the determining factor. And even if there is a possible way to defeat her, there is no moral mandate to use only that approach, because defeating her specifically is not the defining purpose of the vote.
Reason 4. This is not how morals work. Even the narrow, strict, old-fashioned Catholic Church doesn’t subscribe to a totalizing view of concrete acts, i.e. a view that either an act is the morally best possible act you could do in the circumstance or it is a sin. That’s a false concept. Even if you have rightly sorted out options that are evil in themselves and discarded them, and then sorted out options that imply bad intentions or bad circumstances, and discarded them, you may be left with SEVERAL options. If you have more than one option left, and you cannot judge between them as A being better than B, or B being better than A, you are morally free to choose either. Further, even if you decide that B slightly edges out A in good, choosing A may be merely a lack of perfection rather than an actual sin. In choosing what to sacrifice for Lent, a Christian can choose N, or choose N+M, and either one is good though one may imply a higher perfection than the other, NEITHER implying sin. There is something puritanical about the view that every act that fails to be perfect in every respect is a sin.
Reason 5. This is not how prudence works. Assuming, for the sake of the argument, that we are speaking of candidates whose person or policies do NOT make voting for them tantamount to formal cooperation with what is intrinsically evil: A winning vote has many, many proximate, intermediate, and long-range effects, and a losing vote also has many, many effects. The future is CONTINGENT rather than necessary or certain. Of the many results to reflect upon, the probability of each of them is not always mathematically determinable; for many, they are at best only determinable in generic “more” or “less” styles, and sometimes not even that, clearly. The estimation of likelihood involves, for each person, factors highly dependent on their own experiences and their own education, and so each person’s understanding of the likelihood of various results is individually colored – without offence to a pure conscience. Similarly, each person’s understanding of the relative merits and demerits of each possible result – including the proximate and intermediate as well as long term - is also subject to individual coloring: there is no applicable definitive standard that all must apply in good conscience. For example, A might be a much better candidate, and B might be a much more likely candidate, and there is no conclusively definitive framework in which to assign the one criterion more weight than the other: it’s a judgment call, about which reasonable people can disagree without offence to good conscience. Judge Learned Hand said “Life is made up of a series of judgments on insufficient data…” Since the estimation of the expectation of good or ill that may follow from an act includes a weighted relative evaluation of the long range goods or ills and their respective probability, each person will come to a distinct conclusion as to the relative value of each voting option – without offence to pure conscience. If there is more than one poor candidate available for a vote, the judgment as to which complete set of possible outcomes in voting for this or that one is “worst” is not determinate in a manner that binds all good consciences, (which is unlike the way that the conscience is bound to avoid intrinsically evil acts known so under the natural light of reason). And, likewise if there is more than one fair candidate available.
These prudential (estimative) judgments are open to indeterminacy of one degree or another, and to that extent a reasonable person may retain significant doubt as to the better of the options available. It is a fairly commonly accepted position in ethics that where judgment of better and worse is uncertain, the conscience is not bound. It is not immoral to vote for one or the other of acceptable candidates whom you reasonably judge may be better than another even if you judge him unlikely to win. The nature of prudence permits that this can be a moral choice.
4. Democracy – rule by the many - is morally degenerate as a governmental form, and so voting at all is just supporting evil.
This argument is completely wrong. It’s premise is wrong: rule by the many is by nature one of the naturally licit forms of government. We can see as much from the testimony of St. Thomas (no democrat himself):
In like manner we must divide just governments. If the government is administered by many, it is given the name common to all forms of government, viz. polity, as for instance when a group of warriors exercise dominion over a city or province. (On Kingship)
And the Summa (Pirma Pars, Q 105):
I answer that, Two points are to be observed concerning the right ordering of rulers in a state or nation. One is that all should take some share in the government: for this form of constitution ensures peace among the people, commends itself to all, and is most enduring, as stated in Polit. ii, 6. The other point is to be observed in respect of the kinds of government, or the different ways in which the constitutions are established. For whereas these differ in kind, as the Philosopher states (Polit. iii, 5), nevertheless the first place is held by the "kingdom," where the power of government is vested in one; and "aristocracy," which signifies government by the best, where the power of government is vested in a few. Accordingly, the best form of government is in a state or kingdom, where one is given the power to preside over all; while under him are others having governing powers: and yet a government of this kind is shared by all, both because all are eligible to govern, and because the rules are chosen by all. For this is the best form of polity, being partly kingdom, since there is one at the head of all; partly aristocracy, in so far as a number of persons are set in authority; partly democracy, i.e. government by the people, in so far as the rulers can be chosen from the people, and the people have the right to choose their rulers.
Such was the form of government established by the Divine Law. For Moses and his successors governed the people in such a way that each of them was ruler over all; so that there was a kind of kingdom. Moreover, seventy-two men were chosen, who were elders in virtue: for it is written (Deuteronomy 1:15): "I took out of your tribes wise and honorable, and appointed them rulers": so that there was an element of aristocracy. But it was a democratical government in so far as the rulers were chosen from all the people; for it is written (Exodus 18:21): "Provide out of all the people wise [Vulgate: 'able'] men," etc.; and, again, in so far as they were chosen by the people; wherefore it is written (Deuteronomy 1:13): "Let me have from among you wise [Vulgate: 'able'] men," etc. Consequently it is evident that the ordering of the rulers was well provided for by the Law.
Our Founders in some measure imitated this plan in erecting a presidency, Congress with 2 houses, and voting by the people on different levels.
5. Our country is morally degenerate, so voting has become immoral.
This is nuts. If our country is morally degenerate, but is not yet to be overthrown, it is for good men to do all that they can to ameliorate the evils thereof. If the country be governed by all as through the vote, then sometimes good men can ameliorate the evil by voting well.
6. You can only morally vote for a candidate ALL of whose policies or proposed acts are in every case morally good acts.
This is erroneous. The case in voting for a person, i.e. a candidate for office, is more nuanced and less open to definitive prohibition than voting for a specific law or policy, which is much narrower. But even in the case of voting for a law which provides for an evil, there can be circumstances where voting for that law is moral: Though flawed in some ways, the 2007 “Faithful Citizenship” document by the USCCB has it right when it says:
32. Sometimes morally flawed laws already exist. In this situation, the process of framing legislation to protect life is subject to prudential judgment and “the art of the possible.” At times this process may restore justice only partially or gradually. For example, Pope John Paul II taught that when a government official who fully opposes abortion cannot succeed in completely overturning a pro-abortion law, he or she may work to improve protection for unborn human life, “limiting the harm done by such a law” and lessening its negative impact as much as possible (Evangelium Vitae, no. 73).
The justification can be located either in the principles of cooperation with evil or the principle of double effect. The work is left as an exercise for the student.
A human person is not a specific law or policy, they are much more than that. Hence, if it is possible to justify voting for a _law_ that enshrines evil because doing so is permissible cooperation with evil, so much more can voting for a bad person be (potentially) justified – in the right circumstances. Not all circumstances justify it, there are standards that lay out what is needed for the act to be moral.
There will be many cases where voting for a bad person is NOT justified. You actually have to do the work of figuring out the standards and applying them in detail - and honestly - before you can come to a morally defensible conclusion that you can vote for X candidate who is a bad person or who holds bad policies.