I’m a Bernie supporter, I’ve always been blatantly obvious about that on my show, my tweets, my blogs, my Facebook posts. I am however transitioning over to the Jill Stein camp as Bernie’s official run for the Democratic nomination seems to be winding down and Stein remains the best options for me and other progressives. However as the two major parties present their nominees, the battle for votes is heating up. The lines are drawn more narrow, the arguments are pitched higher, and the anger is even more palpable. And with it some dangerous arguments are being made.
An article circulating on Facebook and other interwebs by Olivia Goodwill is about the ethics of voting. In a nutshell, ethics professors point to the utilitarian purpose of voting–voting to produce a particular outcome–over the deontological approach to voting–voting your values and worldview as reflected in a particular candidate–as the way to approach the 2016 US election. The idea is that to vote with your heart and conscience without considering the downside of that outcome is immoral. While I do agree with some of the article in principle, how people are using this article is immoral.
Numerous Clinton supporters are using this article as well as the Dan Savage rant against third-party candidates (Specifically Jill Stein) as arguments against voting for anyone other than Hillary. It’s basically another way to break up those that want to write in Bernie Sanders or vote Jill Stein in November. It’s the same “a vote for anyone other than Hillary is a vote for Trump” argument while using these articles as a bludgeon. In other words, you’ve heard of “slut-shaming” and “fat-shaming’; welcome to vote-shaming. That you should be ashamed to vote for anyone other than Clinton or any third-party candidate. Like slut and fat shaming, I reject that notion wholeheartedly.
Firstly, the assumption becomes that people are “blindly” following Bernie Sanders. While I admit there are more than a few Berners that scare me more than a little, the majority of Bernie supporters I know are lifelong Democrats or progressives that are staunch believers in his message and his policy ideas, They are people of courage and integrity that have come to their conclusions through thought and experience. Many of them are switching to Jill Stein because she is the next best option where Bernie leaves off–also come to through thought and research. They also are voting a political outcome, but it is a different outcome from that of Hillary supporters.
This leads to the second point: while many Bernie supporters won’t back Clinton, they are trying to elect more progressives to office. This election gives them the best chance to take back both houses of Congress. Berners are trying to keep track of those running on a progressive platform (especially those endorsed by Bernie or who endorsed him during the primaries) and contribute to them and vote for them. Getting a firm Democratic hold in Congress can keep a majority of Trump’s platform down if he wins (it’s STILL a constitutional democracy we live in with all the checks and balances in place) and push for more progressive concessions if Clinton wins (she doesn’t want to go more left than she has in the primaries and has said as much). Sanders supporters have been helpful for down ticket ballots where Clinton seems to falter, and they have registered all the new Democratic voters thus far in the primary season (which the DNC didn’t do because new voters broke 2 to 1 towards Bernie). The outcome here would be to push the political spectrum back to the left from how Bill Clinton moved the parties more to the right. So the Bernie supporters voting against the interests of others or without an eye towards outcomes is wrong.
Lastly, however genteel the language, reasoned the argument, or good the intent, trying to shame people into voting for your candidate is in itself immoral. Voting is almost our only way to have a voice in how our country is run. Ultimately how you vote is a matter of conscience and personal political beliefs, and no one has the right to tell you how to think or believe. Anyone who has to have people shame others into voting for them isn’t worth your vote, even if they say it’s supposed to be for the greater good. It’s the same as bullying, using different forms of emotional manipulation and that is as reprehensible as it is immoral.
I may be passionate in my beliefs, but if my persuasion doesn’t work, I can’t force you to you change your mind. You have as much right to your own beliefs and votes as do I, but we haven’t gotten to the point of respecting this anymore. IF people need to change your mind in order to justify their own voice, their point of view has to be highly suspect. If people need to be shamed into voting for a candidate, that candidate is not worth voting for.