Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MacIntyre on voting

I just stumbled across an exerpt from Alasdair MacIntyre's "The Only Vote Worth Casting in November" in which he discusses how to approach a situation with two "politically intolerable" candidates.

MacIntyre writes:

When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives. These are propositions which in the abstract may seem to invite easy agreement. But, when they find application to the coming presidential election, they are likely to be rejected out of hand. For it has become an ingrained piece of received wisdom that voting is one mark of a good citizen, not voting a sign of irresponsibility. But the only vote worth casting in November is a vote that no one will be able to cast, a vote against a system that presents one with a choice between Bush’s conservatism and Kerry’s liberalism, those two partners in ideological debate, both of whom need the other as a target.

We note at this point that we have already broken with both parties and both candidates. Try to promote the pro-life case that we have described within the Democratic Party and you will at best go unheard and at worst be shouted down. Try to advance the case for economic justice as we have described it within the Republican Party and you will be laughed out of court. Above all, insist, as we are doing, that these two cases are inseparable, that each requires the other as its complement, and you will be met with blank incomprehension. For the recognition of this is precluded by the ideological assumptions in terms of which the political alternatives are framed. Yet at the same time neither party is wholeheartedly committed to the cause of which it is the ostensible defender. Republicans happily endorse pro-choice candidates, when it is to their advantage to do so. Democrats draw back from the demands of economic justice with alacrity, when it is to their advantage to do so. And in both cases rhetorical exaggeration disguises what is lacking in political commitment.

In this situation a vote cast is not only a vote for a particular candidate, it is also a vote case for a system that presents us only with unacceptable alternatives. The way to vote against the system is not to vote.

I tend to agree. What do you think?


Craig Baker said...

I am in agreement as well. However I wonder if, as the Mickey for President campaign has said, if a ficticious third party candidate, such as a cartoon mouse, could get enough votes to be visible would that speak speak of the necessary change within our political system to the average American layperson person as well as the politician? Based on most of my fellow Americans that I know personally I'm inclined to think that it wouldn't. So perhaps a nonvote is the best solution as Macintyre suggests. But then does that truly speak anything? Especially when it gets mixed with the apathetic nonvote.

Anonymous said...

A very good word from MacIntyre. I believe that the greatest justice a Christian can do is either protest by not voting for candidates who we cannot compromise with, or vote for a third party to distinguish our discontentedness with the two-party politik. I think if we were to put forth a platform (like Shaine Claiborne's Jesus for President tour this past summer) that outlines the reasons of protest for not-voting or voting other, would identify the difference between the Nonresistant Nonvote and the apathetic nonvote.

Could you recommend to me some reading on Mary and her proper veneration/respect? I am considering writing a paper on the subject as it clashes with Protestantism, etc this semester.


Kyle R. Cupp said...

It's what I did, but I can understand the reasoning of those who voted for one of the two major candidates in hope of limiting the evil of the other.