Conor Friedersdorf: Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama

I don’t spend too much time trying to persuade my readers not to do something they will never do.  However, if you are that rare bird, the Shea reader who seriously is considering voting for Obama, consider the undeniable fact that you are insane and should vote for somebody else and never, under any circumstance, as you value your soul, support this man.  If you can’t vote for Romney in good conscience then you are in good company: neither can I.  But there are candidates out there who are not advocating grave and intrinsic evil.  Why throw your vote away on a man you will only feel regret and shame for supporting?

Funniest part: Friedersdorf is told *exactly* the same thing by Obama partisans that I am: he’s *really* voting for Romney if he doesn’t vote Obama; he’s a “purist” because he won’t support cold-blooded murder of innocents; he must, in short, sacrifice his conscience for the sake of the Party.  I don’t agree with his choice of Johnson, but I find it hilarious that both parties use the same fear-mongering rhetoric to keep us in line and afraid of the Bogey man.

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  • Mark, you wrote: “But there are candidates out there who are not advocating grave and intrinsic evil.” Who are these candidates? Is there a website that summarizes their beliefs and promises?
    Thanks –

    • ivan_the_mad

      A good place to begin is to look up your state’s ballot for the coming election. The slate of third-party and independent candidates can vary quite a bit between districts and states. Nearly all of them will have a website with their platform, from which you can deduce whether or not they support things that are grave and intrinsic evils.

  • Teri

    I think it’s like looking for Utopia. No such person/party on the face of this earth.
    Sts Adam and Eve, pray for us.

    • wineinthewater

      It’s not a matter of asking for perfection. It’s a matter of asking for a candidate who may embrace bad ideas, may take bad policy positions, may not be entirely friendly to your values, but who doesn’t embrace ideas, policies and values that are intrinsically evil. It’s not that they take a different prudential position, it’s that their position is evil regardless of conditions.

      To say that asking for this in a candidate is like saying it’s asking for perfection if a woman refuses to marry any man who hits women and cheats. She would still consider a man who’s a slob, who’s a bit lazy, who’s forgetful, who has a temper, who’s ugly, who’s not too bright, but he just can’t hit women or cheat. That’s not perfection, it’s a basic minimum of suitability.

      That’s what we’re asking for in a candidate, one who doesn’t hit women or cheat, and we don’t even have that in this election.

  • Blog Goliard

    Sometimes, refusing to vote for either major-party candidate is a recognition that both are so gravely–even outrageously–deficient that one cannot in good conscience support either one.

    (I am not sold on this first principle applying in the present election, because while I’m far from a fan of Mitt Romney, I do not see how he’s significantly worse overall than any other man who’s been nominated for President by a major party in my lifetime. And I’m suspicious of any argument, the logical consequences of which would require me to go decades, if not my whole life, without ever casting any non-protest vote for President.)

    Sometimes, it’s instead an unrealistic, unworldly, and self-righteous exercise, a choice to sit on the sidelines rather than be sullied by choosing between 80% Evil Candidate #1 and 40% Evil Candidate #2.

    (I am critical of this position, not because I expect anyone to suddenly become convinced of the merits of Romney, but because I don’t see any other candidate on my ballot who doesn’t support at least as much intrinsic evil as Romney…and I honestly don’t see how writing in Virgil Goode would be any less self-indulgent than writing in my own name.)

    And sometimes, it’s a decision to just shrug and let evil prevail, rather than stand in the way of it.

    (If the people claiming that Obama is basically equivalent to Hitler were both serious and sane, this last would be the applicable instance today…and I believe it’s fair enough to acknowledge that, given their premise, it would indeed be our positive moral duty to do everything we could to help the one viable not-Obama candidate prevail in November. The problem is not with their logic or their conclusions; the problem is with their premise.)

    Anyhow, in sum: Voting third-party or abstaining is neither always wrong nor always right–any more than voting Republican or Democrat is always wrong or always right. Wisdom lies in realizing that sometimes it is the right thing to do, sometimes not…and recognizing the difference in the real world.

    • Zac

      It’s strange that refusing to vote is often characterised as self-righteous. Can’t it be just as self-righteous to pick the ‘lesser of two evils’? I’m not having a go at you, but it makes me want to find a nice philosophical definition of self-righteousness, so we don’t end up using it as a way of attacking people who seem to advocate a higher moral standard.

      • Blog Goliard

        As a frequent third-party voter (my first vote for President was a write-in in 1988), these words in part come from an examination of my own conscience. I found that I was sorely tempted to view myself as smarter and more enlightened and more moral than the hoi polloi who ticked the boxes next to “D” or “R”; I saw myself as tempted towards irresponsible hand-washing of the whole thing (“if I never vote for anyone who wins, you can’t ever blame me for anything that goes wrong!”); and I too readily allowed my own fantasies of a nearly-perfect reformed order of politics and class of politicians to become the enemy of the good.

        Your mileage may very well vary; and if so, good for you.

        None of this means that I’ve resolved to suck it up and be a team player instead. Far from it. But I am now inclined–for my own soul’s sake–to stay in the mainstream and vote for plausible candidates that are actually on my ballot whenever it can be justified. To support the clearly-less-bad whenever I can identify it, rather than petulantly disavowing anyone who does not meet my high standards (which would be everyone), and taking my vote and my civic participation and going home. And, finally, trying to extend to politicians–even those I deeply dislike–the basic courtesy of crediting them with good intentions and interpreting their words and actions in a charitable fashion whenever it is at all possible to do so.

        (I find that the “pox on both their houses!” crowd tends to fail at that courtesy even more than those seized with party spirit, as they’ve not just excluded the possibility that good earnest people can be candidates for the Other Side…but that good earnest people can be on any side.)

        • Zac

          Thank you for elaborating.
          I guess it depends on the individual’s motivations. I can relate to your observation that it’s potentially elitist to wash one’s hands of it all. It’s also potentially contrarian.
          Perhaps we should return to Augustine’s ‘Love and do what thou wilt’: Whether thou vote for a major party, through love vote; whether thou abstain from voting altogether, through love abstain.

        • Ted Seeber

          I have no such courtesy to begin with. Another thing that Autism has taken from me, along with empathy and piety.

      • Blog Goliard

        Also, I would frankly find it strange if no one else is perceiving an occasional “thank God I am not like those (Re-) publicans” tone around here.

        (Please note: I’m speaking of tone and how one is thus perceived, not pretending to see into anyone’s souls.)

  • I’ve become convinced that the only way to stop crooked-business-as-usual in Washington is to get to the point where a significant chunk of voters aren’t buying into the D vs. R game any more. As long as they can continue to keep us on the hook by offering candidates that are, as Mark says, “25% less evil than the other brand!”, then we’re sunk.

    I think you’re right that Romney is no worse than other candidates we’ve had for the last 25 years or so, but I just refuse to buy into the game any more. Part of the game is to make sure the status quo never changes. Abortion is a nice polarizing issue that gets people to come out and vote, while not much ever changes.

    • B.E. Ward

      I don’t think it cleared anything up yesterday when George Schwartz, the guy who runs Ave Maria Mutual Funds, told Al Kresta “and Romney is pro-life!” and Kresta just replied “yeah”.

  • Ted Seeber

    I need the Nancy Reagan on Drugs Political Party- JUST SAY NO.

  • John

    As someone who falls into the rarest of “Shea Birds”, it is a difficult circle to square. I read that article several days ago and I completely understand those feelings, and am giving weight to a Gary Johnson vote. Too many of our civil liberties have gone out the window in the past 11 years, and I had my hopes that Obama would change that course, and not double down on these policies.

    With that said, I believe in coalitions. It is possible for the left and right to work together – especially on issues like this. True conservatives and progressive civil libertarians can support the position that the drone attacks, killing of American citizens, and war without legal declaration are not good for our country. But, it’s getting together to form that coalition, and would require putting down any false pretense of “I’m right, and you’re wrong.”

    The problem I find here throughout the comments section, and from Americans in general, is that we are so quick to demonize both sides so quickly, that we can’t form coalitions that work. At some point, someone may do that.

    My two cents. Have a great weekend.

    • Mark Shea

      I am more and more of the opinion that the rank and file of both parties, if they could get past the Noise Machines (incarnate in, but not limited to such entities as FOX and MSNBC) of their respective parties, would find an awful lot of common ground. So I’m glad to hear you say this.

      • ivan_the_mad

        They might even find that they like each other.