Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I Love the Elections...

We don't have cable now, but I'm hoping we might be able to fit it in the budget when we move up North so that I can watch Fox News during the hustle and bustle of the elections. I really love the elections. It's such a big decision being made by so many differing viewpoints. I got to meet President Bush in 2004 before the elections so I think that got me hooked.

James Dobson and a few others recently came out saying that if it ends up being between 2 pro-choice candidates, they will rally behind a 3rd independent pro-life candidate. They said they will never vote for a pro-choice candidate. Justin Taylor wrote a good blog post weighing both sides of the issue. What do you think?


Mark said...

That is a good question Stephanie, and not an easy one to answer. For a while I was firmly convinced I would never vote for Guliani. I am still 75% sure, but am thinking it through a little more. I'll be interested to hear what others say. Maybe people can give us some budget advice too:)

TW said...

I'd look to Ron Paul for that 3rd-party candidate. I think he's a surprise waiting to happen. Idealistically it'd be nice to see a 3rd party contender do well anyway. I'm not a big fan of the strict two party structure that's dominated our politics for so long.

Stephanie said...

A lot of people on Justin's blog were commenting on Ron Paul - there are some good points being made there. I'm going to have to check RP out. I really don't know much about him. I lean towards Huckabee at this point.

RobinDayle said...

Hillary all the way! It's time for a woman to take the white house!

I'm TOTALLY kidding, by the way.


Anonymous said...

I think it's a shame that most of the time Christians end up voting for the lesser of the evils.
Mom Moore

Joseph Gould said...

The reality is that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for either Hillary or Obama. In light of this, I think it is important to look big picture.

Even though Guliani doesn't line up on multiple issues with evangelicals, he is much more likely to nominate favorable Supreme Court Justices. I'm personally still hoping for Thompson, and not just because I'm from the great state of Tennessee!

At the end of the day, I hope this is a good reminder for evangelicals that we are not to place our hope in earthly government.

Mark said...

Yes, I agree that it is a shame Christians usually end up voting for lesser evils.

Joseph, I think it is important to look big picture also. I just see a different big picture. The Republican Party is the only Pro-life party in the nation. It offers the best chance to see the most innocent and helpless in our society defended. To start a third party that would ever become viable and win something is impossible. The problem is that in the big picture a vote for Guliani may be a vote for making the Republican Party not a pro-life party anymore. Guliani may or may not appoint good judges. But one thing he will do is prove that the Republican candidate for President doesn't need to be Pro-life. In the big picture, that may set us up for election after election where we have no pro-life candidate to vote for.

I am fairly sure I would not vote for Guliani. I don't think I can in good conscience vote for a man who will not seek seek to protect unborn babies.

Keith said...

I know next to nothing about politics and ethics but it seems to me that there are a few issues that are not as examined which are crucial to the issue.

You can approach the issue from two angles:
1. Pragmatic - which decision will have better results in the long run.
2. Principled - what should I do on the basis of my principles and conscience irregardless of the anticipated results.

To some degree I think the above distinction may be obvious but I think there is a further distinction. Within principled there is the question of what one takes their vote to be. What does a vote represent? Does a vote represent a preference of A over B or does a vote represent a general affirmation of who you vote for? How would one even resolve this issue? Is there some objective answer as to what a vote represents or is this a matter of how the voter views the matter? If a vote only represents a preference of A over B, then there is nothing about the matter of principle that should stop the Christian voter. If it is a subjective matter as to how the voter views their vote, then there is no grounds for saying that all Christians should abstain from voting or vote third party. Essentially, the only way that the principled position can hold their view is they have to argue that a vote is an affirmation of the candidate in general rather than merely preference and they must argue that this is objectively what a vote is apart from how individual voters view the matter. This to me seems to be the fundamental issue of the debate. If one can establish the principled point then every Christian should abstain or vote third party. If one can't establish the principled point then each Christian should go upon how they view the vote and if they view the vote as only indicating preference, then one comes down to arguments about pragmatics. If the principled point can be established then no amount of pragmatics can change what Christians should do.

Michael Baker said...

I'm with you Mark, there's no way a person who supports the murder of children will ever get my vote; no matter what. I, like Tyler, would love to see a feasible 3rd party candidate emerge as well.

Mark said...

Your point about the principled vote needs an extra element. The reality is that in most states the general election will have more than just the option of a or b. There will probably be a c, d, e, and f. These will be no-name party candidates, and one will most likely be pro-life and competent.

Therefore, if I vote for option b (a pro-abortion republican) then I think it may be unethical with either view of principled voting. I should not give general affirmation to a pro-abortion/pro embryonic stem cell destruction candidate. I also should not prefer candidate B over a pro-life choice E.

So it seems to me the only way you can argue for candidate B (pro-abortion) over E (pro-life) is on a pragmatic basis. And I think the best pragmatic argument for it is too unsure and shortsighted to justify making such an unprincipled vote.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree with you and Tyler that a 3rd party would be nice. I just doubt it could ever happen.

Keith said...

Good point Mark, about extra options. As I acknowledged I am rather politically illiterate.

However, I don't think it will end up with either principled view as being unethical. A general affirmation view precludes overriding pragmatic considerations in the way that a preference view does not. If your vote is a general affirmation of the person, then there is no way you could vote for a pro choice candidate. If your vote just counts for preference one could prefer one candidate over another for pragmatic reasons since nothing about the vote implies affirmation of the candidate as a whole. Now one could say that the vote a Christian will make will turn out the same but the preference view is going to require discussion of pragmatic considerations while the general affirmation view does not even have to consider pragmatic considerations.

But perhaps I am being too abstract here. Let us say that there is candidate A and B who represent the Democrats and Republicans. These two are obviously the most likely to win. Now there is a candidate C that has the exact same views as you on everything but they have no chance to win. Candidate A is the Democrat. Candidate B is the Republican who holds to a pro life view but disagrees with you on some other moral issue, which is not as major to you as the abortion issue but nonetheless you disagree on that moral issue. The general affirmation view of voting would require that you cannot vote for candidate B because you cannot affirm that secondary moral issue. You must vote for candidate C even though they have no chance of winning. Even if that secondary moral issue is much, much less signifcant you still can't vote for B on the general affirmation view.

On a preference view you could vote for B over C because you can factor in that C has no chance to win. Now you might come back with another pragmatic response as to why voting C might be better but my point is that it will be a pragmatic response.

My sense (I surely might be wrong) is that really you can't escape the feeling that a vote is in some way a general affirmation and thus cannot vote for somebody who is not pro life. I can completely understand that myself, however, my point is that I am not sure that it can be pressed further to say that all Christians should vote third party or abstain on the basis of a purely principled view unless one can objectively establish that a vote is a general affirmation. Preference already opens the door for pragmatic reasons because it denies a general affirmation.

So much for being clearer! :) I have to work on that.

Keith said...

Wow, now that I think of it there are actually probably three ways of viewing the vote.

Actually, now that I think about it I am not sure why one would have to say that a vote counts for preference even. Apart from a general affirmation view I can't see why there would be an ethical principle that says that your vote must represent who you would most like to see president out of the choices. If that was the case, then numerous people in America vote unethically every election since there are many that probably better align with a candidate that has no chance to win.

"And I think the best pragmatic argument for it is too unsure and shortsighted to justify making such an unprincipled vote."

My is that if it is not a general affirmation, then how does it violate any principles? I can't even see how one can objectively argue that the vote necessarily represents who one would most like to see as president. Plus once pragmatics are considered, are the pragmatics that strong against not abstaining or voting third party that it would then be unethical for the Christian? You say the argument is "too unsure" but it seems to me that for it to be unethical for the Christian (if pragmatics are involved), it requires them to have no case at all and for it to be so abundantly clear on pragmatic considerations.

Ah but who knows, what do I know about ethics anyways.

Mark said...

You are shifting the argument on me a little bit. At first you said voting for the candidate you prefer would go under voting by principle. Now you are saying voting is only principled if it should be based on general affirmation.

I was too strong to say it is unethical to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. But on the surface it is wrong to vote fora pro-abortion candidate. I am saying that even if there could be pragmatic ways to justify it (and I don't know for sure that there are) I don't think the case is clear enough to justify voting for someone with such a clearly immoral position.

Keith said...

Shifting the argument... sorry it is more the result of writing on the fly on a topic that I have never thought about before. Even when I wrote the first comment I did think about whether I was categorizing that right. I think I should have said there are two issues. There is the issue of principled vs. pragmatic and then there is a more fundamental issue of how one views the vote. The latter issue determines the former. I don't think there is anything of substance to my argument that has shifted, but I think I classified things wrong in saying that the second issue consists of two types of principled positions (which surely makes things very confusing).

Next time I will work all my arguments out in a few drafts and mull it over for a few days before writing. :)

"I was too strong to say it is unethical to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. But on the surface it is wrong to vote fora pro-abortion candidate."

I am not sure I understand this. If it is too strong to say that it is unethical then how is it not too strong to say that it is wrong? I am not getting the difference. Except that perhaps you meant that on the surface "it seems wrong" or prima facie.

Let me try to map this out more clearly:

1. General affirmation view of the vote
a. This can be established
b. This is only subjective
2. Preference view of the vote
3. Vote represents neither preference or general affirmation

If 1a is true then pragmatic considerations do not even matter. If 1b is true then what is right or wrong will depend on how the individual sees the vote. If 2 is true then nothing hinders one from choosing on pragmatic reasons and thus no justification for choosing pragmatic reasons is required. If 3 is true then even more so then 2 no justification is needed for choosing on a pragmatic basis.

It seems to me that you either have to argue for 1a or explain why 1b,2, or 3 has a problem choosing on the basis of pragmatic reasons? Again, I still wonder whether you can't escape the feeling yourself that there is some sense of general affirmation of the candidate. This is why I say how one views what a vote counts for is a more fundamental issue that first must be resolved before the other issues can be resolved.

At least right now I tend to think that what a vote means might be tied to voter intention. Let us imagine that a person goes to the voting booth and flips a coin to decide the vote. Is the girl then affirming in any manner the one she is voting for? It seems to me that the vote says nothing about the voter in that case. Or lets say that the Democratic candidate is bad but the Republican is far worse and so the Democrat wins by a landslide. In fact the Democrat wins by the largest margin ever. Should the commentators conclude that the Democratic candidate is the most loved candidate ever? It seems to me that the votes meaning depends on the intention of the voter. What ought to be inferred from a vote depends on the intentions of the voters and nothing more. Now there is an objective consequence to a vote that is independent of the intention of the voter but it seems to me that the meaning of the vote is tied to the voter.

I don't know. Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying...

Dad Moore said...

I believe you have limited yourself by viewing this as an either/or proposal. We either vote A or B. But what has been taken out of the argument is the system we use to pick our party nominees. At the Republican and Democratic conventions, multiple choices will be presented to the public. While it is not only possible, but probable, that the front runners in the preliminaries will be the convention choices, our influence can and should be felt at that time. Who we as Christians vote for will be noticed by those that control the parties. The chances are good that a Pro-choice candidate will be placed on the ballet, however, our votes, in sufficient numbers will tell the party that we do care who is placed before us. I truly believe that the democratic party would love to see "single issue" voters move to a third party candidate because the choices offered are unpalatable. The last time that occurred we ended up with Slick Willy Clinton. Does standing by our principles and only voting one way, allow that which is even more distasteful to thrive? We must make our views known through the process and hammer home the point that we will not back down, no matter how many times we are presented with less than desirable candidates. We let it be known that the issues we raise will not go away, they will not fade into obscurity. By consistantly promoting our issues and reminding those that get elected, both Democrat and Republican, that we will not go away, we let them know that we are not going away. I am with you Steph, I love this time of the election cycle. With politics, you just never know what is going to happen, so we as Christians must stay engaged and be vigilant. It's still in God's hands. Just my rambling thoughts.

Keith said...

Let me try another line of argument that may be clearer. Lets say that me and a bunch of friends are voting on what we shall eat. The options are corn, peas, steak, or I can abstain. Now it is just my luck that all my friends are vegetarians so steak has no shot of winning at all. Now I hate both corn and peas but corn is not as bad. If I abstain I am pretty sure that peas will win but if I vote corn then corn might just win. So I vote corn.

1. Now my friends say to me, "Since you voted corn that must mean that you love corn or like corn or like corn more than steak." However it seems to me that this is clearly an invalid inference.
2. If votes necessarily mean either preference or general affirmation then my friends' inference would have to be valid.
3. Votes don't necessarily mean either preference or general affirmation.

So lets say that it is unethical to affirm or prefer a very immoral position or one who holds such a position. However, I don't see why the vote necessarily entails what one affirms or prefers anymore than my vote above would affirm corn or say anything about my preference. My friends would be wrong to infer that I love corn or even that I like corn more than steak.

Keith said...

OK, I thought of a way that can get around my objections. One would have to argue for some principle along the following lines:

It is wrong to fail to affirm good morals or one who holds to good morals when given the opportunity in a vote unless there is overriding pragmatic reasons.

Not this is different than the following principle:

It is wrong to affirm bad morals or one who holds to bad morals when voting unless there is overriding pragmatic reasons.

Lets call the first principle principle 1 and the second principle 2. There are a couple of things that should be noted about principle 1. First, principle 1 is not as intuitively obvious as principle 2 seems to be. Second, the threshold of overriding reasons would seem to be much lower for principle 1 than principle 2.

So here is the full mapping of how I see things. Essentially my main argument is that you can't answer what would be right for Christians to do unless you address the more fundamental questions of what principles are to work and what the vote represents/means.

A. Principle 1 is true
B. Principle 2 is true
1. Vote represents general
a. Objectively represents
b. Subjectively
represents this
2. Vote represents
3. Vote represents neither
general affirmation nor

If A is the route you take then it seems to me that the threshold for overriding reasons is much lower than you seem to be presupposing and one would have to defend principle 1. If B is the route you take then you need to argue for 1a. But to do so you would have to counter my arguments that what a vote means depends on voter intention. But you would not need an argument for principle 2 since I think that is rather intuitively obvious and should be granted and then you would be correct that almost no pragmatic considerations seem to be overriding. The threshold will be really high. 1b results in it being wrong to not vote third party or abstain if you view the vote as in some way a general affirmation. However, you would have no way of saying that it is wrong for every Christian irregardless of how they view the vote. If 2 is correct I am not sure how that can be combined with principle 2 for the result that it would be wrong for a Christian to not abstain or vote third party. The same goes for 3. If 2 or 3 is the case then you are going to have to come up with some principle other than principle 2 and I am not sure what that would look like.

Well that was a helpful exercise for myself. I doubt anybody will even bother to try to work through my argument, but maybe Mark will. So sorry to everyone else for the clutter in the comments.

Keith said...

Hey Mark, I just realized why I classified things the way I did in my first comment.

I meant something like this:

Your first decision is whether you accept the following principle:

It is always wrong to affirm somebody who has bad morals irregardless of pragmatic considerations.

So I was saying that one is principled if one accepts this principle as being true. But this doesn't necessarily settle the vote issue. It will depend on how one views the vote as to whether this principle applies. So to say that the vote does not count as a general affirmation while affirming the above principle is in some sense a principled view. As far as ethical principles goes one holds to a principled view but because of how one views the vote such principle does not apply to a vote because it is not a general affirmation.

Well anyways...

Mark said...

Thanks for all the input.

Your right, we need to not forget the primaries haven't even happened yet. The best thing that could happen is that the Republicans put forward a pro-life candidate. I guess I've mostly been discussing the hypothetical situation of "what if" two pro-aborition people go on the ballot. I see your point that voting for a third party would allow someone worse to thrive. I'm just afraid a vote for a pro-abortion Republican would allow the Republican party to thrive as apart from a pro-life stance. In the long run, I think this would be even worse for unborn babies than Hillary Clinton.

Keith, I'll need to read your argument closer later. But here is where I think I am at. I think there are different degrees of importance for me on moral issues. I could vote for someone as the better option who held wrong or immoral views on several issues (for instance, I could vote for a candidate that was for homosexual unions, higher taxes, etc. if he/she was strongly against abortion and the best viable alternative). But when it comes to abortion I just don't think I could bring myself to vote for someone who will not stand up and work for protection of unborn babies. Politics is all about compromise, and if the Republican party compromises on this issue, that is not a compromise I am willing accept.

Keith said...

Yes, I understand what you are saying about different moral issues being weighted differently. From your comments it sounds like you hold to principle 2 (route B) and then position 1b.

You think it is wrong to affirm bad morals or someone who holds to bad morals unless there are overriding reasons. However, in general this principle is going to require a high threshold for overriding reasons. Plus, the level of overriding reasons will vary according to what bad morals are possibly going to be affirmed. So this definitely means it would be wrong for YOU to vote for a pro choice candidate in almost any situation. However, from a 1a position you can't expand this to being wrong for all Christians irregardless of how they view what a vote subjectively means.

Basically, I can't see how you can expand your argument to say that it would be wrong for all Christians. Maybe you can but I would have to see some argumentation for it.

I also had a couple of comments on the pragmatics of the situation. Now this is totally distinct from my other arguments. Also, I know almost nothing about politics except what I have read from a few blogs. It seems to me that in the short run it is clear that Guliani is better than Clinton. He is moderate pro choice versus a extreme pro choice. If elected he will have to keep in mind trying to keep his party happy which includes a large pro life element. He will have to do so because of working with congress and if he wants to be reelected. Clinton will have the same motivations to do just the opposite and press the pro choice agenda as far as she can besides the fact of her own more extreme views. We are much more likely to get judges that are not as bad if Guliani is elected versus Clinton and this is a very long term consideration.

Then you have the long term considerations you are talking about. I have read of several examples where a president gets elected holding an aberrant position from the party and nothing changes about what the party overall represents. So Guliani could be elected and it could end up meaning nothing for the party as a whole. Or lets say it does represent a shift, but then on the next election the democratic candidate is not nearly as bad and so then the pro lifers vote third party when the consequences won't be as bad.

What I am suggesting is that it is much harder to predict the long term consequences with accuracy. I mean sure if the long term consequences were as certain as the short term seem to be then it would be obvious what should be done. But if there are severe short term consequences that seem near certain but there are some possible long term consequences that are worse but not nearly as certain but possible to some degree out there then I am not sure that it is so clear cut as many seem to make it sound.

Mark said...

I don't think the argument can be expanded to say it is wrong for all Christians. I think this is a very difficult and ambiguous moral dilemna.

I find your latest argument regarding the pragmatics of the situation compelling. I am now once again rethinking whether or not I would vote for Guliani. It is interesting to run into an issue that I am so all over the place on. Who knows what I would do if it was Clinton or Guliani. Maybe it won't come to that.

TW said...

I think it's entirely feasible to say that voting for a pro-choice candidate is wrong for all Christians. Short term consequences and long term consequences aside, that's a big problem. Not to mention that if the country had the ability to reelect GW Bush during an unpopular war and several other blatant problems, then electing a pro-life candidate (not to say at least a president) for one party is no problem.

Mark said...

What do you mean by your reference to the election of GW Bush? I think you are saying that a pro-life candidate could definitely win in the general election. Am I right? Therefore we should push and work for the Republican party to nominate a pro-life candidate. I totally agree with that. I would never vote for Guliani or any other pro-abortion candidate in the primaries.

Where I think it becomes a little more ambiguous is at the level of the General Election. If a decent, pro-life, 3rd party candidate is polling at 4% should I vote for him over someone like Guliani, who is very bad in many ways, but at least may appoint a conservative SCOTUS Justice or two? I am not as clear on the right decision in that situation.

Keith said...

This doesn't really exactly relate to the last two comments.

I just wanted to clarify what I think is involved in pragmatics and mistakes that seem to me to be common.

You have the following factors:
1. How bad are the short term consequences?
2. How likely are these bad short term consequences or how sure of them am I?
3. How bad are the long term consequences?
4. How likely are these bad long term consequences or how sure of them am I?

What I was suggesting earlier is that often people just think in terms of 1 and 3. All they do is point out that the long term consequences will be worse without evaluating questions 2 and 4. In a pragmatic decision you have to weigh all of 1-4.

Note also that "how bad" in 1 and 3 are comparative evaluations. The "how bad" is not how bad Guliani vs. how bad getting the third party pro life candidate I want even if they have no chance to win. It is how bad Guiliani vs. how bad getting Clinton. So while there may be bad things about Guiliani (moderate pro life) we are concerned with a comparative evaluation with Clinton (extreme pro life) and so in that sense Guiliani is "better" on this issue even if still bad. We shouldn't forget that "how bad" is a comparative evaluation. Again, all this is speaking in terms of pragmatics.

Keith said...

Sorry, I made a major typo but I think context should make that obvious. Instead of "pro life" it should read "pro choice" in both places I used the term.

TW said...


I would agree with your earlier comment that the republican party could drastically change with this election (as it appears now). And yes you interpreted my Bush reference correctly...putting forth a pro-life candidate, at this stage in politics, for the republican party is very necessary I think.

Though the secret desire for me to see a more than 2 party political structure would have it so that a 3rd party becomes the option for those who want a fresh non-neocon political group with strong Christian tenets. Though I'm not willing to seek that at the cost of seeing a pro-choicer for 4 years or more.

The biggest thing I think is worth looking at coming into this election is that both parties as they are have failed their respected groups. I think more so the democrats lately...the people elected a congress to get them out of the war and they are failing continually to make any difference in that spectrum. That is to say, if I was democrat I wouldn't be happy about my choices either.

Keith said...

Hey Mark,

Here are a few blog posts on the election that I have found interesting: