Saturday, May 07, 2016
The Bankruptcy of the Self-Righteous
No Evil: Photograph I made in Nikko, Japan
2016 is hardly unique. There have been potential voters who have sat out elections many times before. If the politician you admire, the one who roused your hopes, got you to vote in a primary, or spoke the truth dear to your heart and mind, does not become the nominee, why should you vote for someone else? Write in your chosen one. Stay home. Don't settle for the "lesser of two evils."
Sounds good. Only it isn't. What about Congress? Sometimes it seems as if ardent supporters of a presidential candidate have no idea how our government works. Our President can do very little without a cooperative Congress (Ask Obama). Will you sit out those elections as well? As the existentialists point out, you are condemned to be free. What that means is that you are responsible for your actions. Not voting has consequences. If you do not vote, you are responsible for the election of the person who wins. Those who voted for Ralph Nader, despite their vehement denial, must take responsibility for allowing Bush to take power, especially if they voted in Florida or New Hampshire. A non-vote for someone who really cannot win is a .5 vote for the person who does win. Claiming no part in the election is "bad faith," as the existentialists warned, a form of in-authenticity.
2016 will most likely offer us the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There are also many, many Congressional elections. It is a stark choice, one that could not be more radical. To refuse to choose between the two parties is morally bankrupt. It is the kind of passivity and indifference that allows dictators to come to power. It is immoral because it turns a blind eye to the vast destruction that could follow, to the sufferings of the poor and low-income workers, to the struggle for preserving civil rights, to the importance of a Supreme Court appointment essential for justice and election reform. If Hillary Clinton represents only a weakened version of many of the ideals of Sanders, Trump represents their reversal. Being self-righteous, being too pure and privileged to cast a vote for one or the other, or to support the Democrats in all offices, is to be a key part of the evil itself. You are free to make this evil choice; but if you are unwilling to be a complete hypocrite, reason forces you to be aware of the danger, destruction, and grief you are bringing to millions of others. It means that morally, from the standpoint of democracy, you are not a good person.