Prissy Purist!
You *have* to vote for the less of two evils!
You are secretly supporting the Other Guy!
It’s simple math! If you don’t vote for him, you vote for his opponent when you vote for a Third Party!
You are throwing away your vote for the sake of moral posturing!

That’s what they are telling Conor Friedersdorf because he’s refusing to cast a vote for Obama.

Friedersdorf appears to have fallen into the revolutionary delusion that American citizens don’t work for candidates but that candidates are applying for a job from us. If that meme spreads, it could lead to people ceasing to be slaves to the party and even the State!

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  • When I see this election, more and more all I can think of is the poster from “Predator vs Alien” What a meme that would make! “Predator vs Alien” “The 2012 Election”

  • John

    I just read Zippy’s post, and combox posts, and I don’t agree. He says that more than 90% will do whatever they are told to do. It’s just factually wrong. Take Perot in ’92. He pulled in close to 19% of the vote. People will look for alternatives. Say what you will about Perot, but he helped frame the debate in this country for the remainder of the ’90s.

    I’ve said previously here, that the flood doesn’t start without the first drop. If you have something to say, say it. But, don’t be passive aggressive, not vote, and complain about our “liberal democracy”. It’s defeatist, and unproductive.

    A competent, likeable third party candidate can make hay in this country. We just haven’t had one in the past 20 years. There are two other choices on the ballot for President – Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. The argument that this is all about Obama/Romney is fallacious. Unfortunately, the way campaign financing works in this country and the arrangement of allowing people to participate in the debates prohibits them from getting the attention. Whether or not they are “viable” candidates is irrelevant. If all I did was to jump on the bandwagon of the latest winning team, I’d be a Yankees fan, and that is something I find unacceptable.

    My vote, or your vote, on it’s own means very little. It’s about motivating folks to make a vote from their conscience. First drop.

    • He says that more than 90% will do whatever they are told to do.

      Not “whatever they are told to do”. I said in a different comment thread on this blog (not on my own) that 90% of people will not do as I do and think as I think. I was making a comment about personal influence over aggregate social behaviour, not aggregate social behaviour. In order to object to my contention you would have to counter than I have the ability to get tens of millions of people to think how I think and do as I do. Are you seriously making that contention?

      If you are going to characterize what I say you really ought to quote me and link to the quote. In order to correctly characterize what I said you have to understand it, and thus far I have seen no evidence whatsoever that you have understood it.

      • John

        Zippy, I’ve read your piece several times and I am still not sure what point you are trying to make. Liberal Democracy bad? Voting a waste of time? Not voting a waste of time? There is nothing to prove your opinion, besides additional links on other sites to your opinion. How about a fact or two? What’s you point?

        “In order to object to my contention you would have to counter than I have the ability to get tens of millions of people to think how I think and do as I do. Are you seriously making that contention?” Yes. I’m dead serious. Ideas and change begins somewhere. Jesus was an agent of change. He started with an idea of love and hope that spread. He didn’t go into the Roman Coliseum to speak to tens of thousands of people, he went out to towns and villages, greeting people one at a time, or in small groups, and it grew from there. THAT is still possible in this country, and it happens everyday.

        Allow me to put it into corporate context…Apple. Apple started in a garage. An idea that they could do personal computing better. It started with “true believers” who loved the product (idea) and spread the word, building demand. Did it work? You tell me.

        There are uncountable stories like this throughout history. Tell me, honestly, Zippy that it is not possible to get to 10,000,000 people with an idea. Look what happened during the Arab Spring. That was a lot of folks. I didn’t say it is easy. But, it is quite possible. Everything starts with an idea and words. People either get on board, or they don’t.

        • Yes, sometimes people do end up influencing millions. That won’t be you and your vote in this election, but it does happen.

          If you are seriously going to influence ten million people yourself as an individual, such that that many people will now think and act the way you think and act, are you really going to waste that influence on “vote for Bob, he’s slightly less evil than the other guy”?

        • Zippy, I’ve read your piece several times and I am still not sure what point you are trying to make.

          I say it right in the post. Contrary to what most people think, the primary function of democratic elections is to build social consensus around secular liberal governance.

          Now either I’m right about that or I’m not. Supposing that I am right, I haven’t made any specific recommendation about what course of action you should take. That’s up to you. But it would be foolish to act without first understanding the factual situation.

          Finally, I didn’t just link to my own stuff – though again, even if I did then what of it? Either I’m right about the social function of democratic elections or I’m not right. If I’m right then people ought to be able to test it against reality: that’s part of why I linked to Jim Kalb’s book, because it gives an eye opening explanation of our political reality.

          Apologies for the multiple posts. Circumstances required my other replies to be quick, and I probably should have just waited.

    • Furthermore, the sort of people who say “vote for Bob, he’s slightly less evil than the other guy” aren’t the kind of people who influence millions.

  • John

    One other thought…if nothing else, a third party candidate keeps the R’s/D’s in line. They are quite aware of them, and work to keep the process as difficult as possible for an independent candidate. If nothing else, everyone should be out voting because there are hundreds of local elections that your vote DOES MATTER. I was recently involved in one, and know for a fact that EVERY vote mattered.

  • Michael F.


    Here’s a hypothetical scenario. Please tell me who you would vote for, based on the strict principles you’ve articulated. That will help me to follow what you’re saying more concretely. Thanks.

    Viable candidate #1 (with 49% support in the polls the day before the election) supports gay marriage, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, unfettered abortion on demand for any reason and at any time, even refusing to protect babies who are born alive after a botched abortion. Viable candidate #2 (with 49% support in polls the day before the election), supports legal abortion in cases of rape and incest. But he’s against all the other things mentioned above. Candidate #3 doesn’t support any of these barely registers on the polls.

    Who would you vote for in that case?

    And then, could you please point me which presidential candidates over the last 20 years have been morally right on all of the following grave issues? Which have officially and publicly stated the following:

    1) I support making it illegal to get divorced and remarried, unless one’s marriage was invalid in the first place.
    2) I support making all contraception illegal.
    3) I support making homosexual acts illegal.
    4) I support making fornication and living together illegal.
    5) I support making all abortion illegal.
    6) I support making all pornography illegal.

    • The premise of your question begs the question: it assumes that by voting in that election I could alter the outcome. It assumes that the function of democratic elections is to provide me a means to steer the polity, rather than a means for the polity to present me with a very narrow range of liberal choices and get me to pledge personal allegiance to that narrow range.

      • Michael F.

        No, Zippy. The premise of my first question was to determine who your voting philosophy would lead you to vote for in a specific, plausible hypothetical scenario. So why not just tell us who you would vote for in that scenario?

        The second question is also very simple and reasonable. Again, I want to see what candidates over the past 20 years would pass muster with your philosophy, in practice. Which candidates would you have actually voted for? I brought to light some other grave moral evils that have been forgotten today, but that were once illegal. So again, which candidates over the past 20 years pass muster with your voting philosophy?

        If you can’t even answer that, then what good is your voting philosophy in practice?