Choosing a candidate: an ethic of voting

How to choose a candidate for public office? Recent research suggests that only 10% of voters actually vote according to the issues. Most people like or dislike a candidate based on superficial qualities like those in a popularity contest. These include race, sex, appearance (such as make-up in the Kennedy-Nixon debate,) voice (many dislike Ted Cruz’s voice,) and other negligible qualities.

This post is for the 10% who want the issues to determine their votes. We subjectively weight the issues according to a scale reflecting what is most important for us. So candidate A may score 7 of 10 on the issues and candidate B only 5, but we may choose B because those 5 issues are more important to us than A’s 7.

But there are other considerations. One is the ability – the political skill – to get proposals enacted into law without fatal compromise. In short, competence. Another is the personal character of the candidate. This is not limited to trustworthiness to keep campaign promises. It includes the bigger issue of personal character in general. A person in public office is expected to uphold the civic and moral virtues of his constituency, to be a positive role model, have good judgement, be someone you would entrust your most vulnerable family member with, be worthy of the bully pulpit. The President represents the entire country. Naked pursuit of power for personal enrichment, ego trips, furthering a revolutionary utopia, and the like are all disqualifying, no matter the issues or competence. In this respect Hillary and the Donald are both disqualified. Trump most recently displayed his petulance with a distasteful post-convention attack on Ted Cruz, notably repeating the accusation his father was helping Lee Harvey Oswald distribute leaflets for the Communist, pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba committee in 1963. Debunking of this here and many other places. Trump claimed the photo showed Cruz Senior having breakfast with Oswald and also that Cruz never denied his father was in the photo – both false. He stated that his source, the National Enquirer, is respected and trustworthy. Trump’s ego is clearly involved in this adolescent outburst. Hillary and her useful idiots will have a field day goading Trump into similar faux pas. If Trump is willing to hurt his campaign in this unforced error, think what, surrounded by sycophants, he is capable of doing as President.

Let’s consider the lesser-of-two-evils theory of voting. With two disqualified candidates, it is difficult to discern which one represents the greater evil. In the case of Trump, the question cannot be decided in isolation; we need more information, e.g. to know the outcome of the Senate races if Trump wins. In the likely event the Senate returns with a Democrat majority, Trump’s nominations to the Supreme Court would be borked and he would be forced to compromise. Trump is not a conservative, thus we cannot expect any of his compromises to be good ones. At best he would only be able to undo Obama’s worst executive orders and some of the worst regulations. By the by, popular distaste for Mr Trump might well contribute to loss of the Senate.

Let’s say now that Trump faces a Republican Congress. Even then Mr Trump would not be able to do whatever he wants; there would be some Republican and uniform Democrat opposition to his wildest ideas. Regarding the Supreme Court, he is unpredictable and despite promises quite capable of nominating the equivalent of Harriet Miers. He would, however, be able unconstitutionally to expand the powers of the Presidency beyond even what Obama has done. This would create damage far beyond his time in office. What he would do in the face of continuous stalemate over time or how he would respond to a disastrous turn of events is very unclear. I would expect him, a temporizer, to cave to liberal opposition, but he might react with negative emotion and petulant bluster. Either way as a transconservative he poisons the Republican well.

Matthew Franck, who finds both candidates totally disqualified for the Presidency, has come to reject the lesser-of-two-evils theory, in favor of a no-evil theory. His plausible ethic of voting, a riff on Cruz’s “vote your conscience,” is summarized below:

Vote as if your ballot determines nothing whatsoever—except the shape of your own character. Vote as if the public consequences of your action weigh nothing next to the private consequences. The country will go whither it will go, when all the votes are counted. What should matter the most to you is whither you will go, on and after this November’s election day.

His entire article is here.  I am not quite there yet. I still harbor some remnant of hope that Trump will realize the enormous responsibility of the Presidency and adapt. Leopards do not lose their spots, but perhaps Trump will mature. Time is running out.    Troglo

Troglo (L. H. Kevil)

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