It’s Time Again For The Ethics Alarms Mailbag! The Question: Wait, What? Your Vote In 2016 Was A Write In?

Here I was, all set to write a substantial post  updating the newly launched Coronavirus Ethics Train  Wreck, and I encountered this question in the comments to today’s Warm-up, in reaction to my reply to another commenter:

“Wait…at the time you were lecturing all the commentariat about how it was unethical to “throw away your vote” by not voting for one of the two major political party candidates? When did you change your mind on that a do a write-in?”

The questioner was Tim Levier, one of five active Ethics Alarms regular commenters who date back to the old, still off-line (but coming back!) Ethics Scoreboard, so attention had to be paid. If he could have missed my late campaign reversal of the position he described–I would describe my stated logic a bit differently, as “the lesser of two evils is still the lesser of two evils—then that critical moment could have been missed by anyone, or even everyone.

Thus I went back into the October and November 2016 archives, which was fascinating.:

  • As always when I do this, I start wondering what became of some previously active commenters. Whither THE Bill? Where have you gone, wyogranny, T Bird, carcarwhite, joed68?

I know I take this too personally, but it still bothers me.

  • You know, this is damn good blog: thorough, extensive, unpredictable, well-written, diverse, funny, educational. I like it! The only one that comes close to being as interesting without descending into periodic eccentric weirdness or ideological rigidity was the old Popehat, and that’s gone now.  I worked hard on it that year, and have ever since. It should have a lot more traffic and influence than it does, but that’s a reflection on the inadequacies and bad taste of those who don’t come here. I’m proud of the product.

There. I said it.

  • The first time I expressed doubt in my position that I would have to hold back my gorge, defy my principles, and vote for Hillary Clinton was earlier than I thought. It was here, on September 25, 2016. The subject of the post was Clinton’s campaign manager, Robbie Mook, saying that  debate moderators should run interference for her and intervene to contradict and rebut Trump’s assertions, “unlike every other Presidential debate and every legitimate and fair debate of any kind, where that responsibility rests with the debaters.”

I responded to his  Unethical Quote Of The Month by writing, in part,

Well, that’s almost it for me. I am officially a hair’s breadth from deciding that as repulsive as the thought of Donald Trump achieving the Presidency is, the prospect of the United States abandoning democracy, process and fair elections to defeat him is infinitely more repulsive. What Mook is proposing is no less than the rigging of the election process, with one candidate given “special” privileges, while another is subjected to “special” handicaps and the “special” opposition of the news media. I had previously resolved, and on Ethics Alarms so stated, that in a binary choice between the most unqualified, unstable, vile, ignorant and boorish candidate ever nominated by a major party to be President and the corrupt, inept and dishonest Hillary Clinton, responsible Americans are duty-bound to cross their fingers, hold their noses, toss a horseshoe over their shoulders and vote for the certifiably awful Mrs. Clinton, in her own right the most corrupt and untrustworthy figure ever to come this close to the Presidency. (We can debate about Aaron Burr some other time.)

I no longer can say with certainty that I believe that now.

The Presidency is important, but our democracy and the sacred principles that underlie it are more important still.

…[T]he majority of the journalistic establishment is now playing Democratic party organ to ensure his election. That is unconscionable and a threat to the integrity of the election. Now, emboldened by what they see as a willingness by the press to betray its duty to facilitate a free and informed electorate to elect the leader it chooses and not the leader the news media has decided they have to choose, Hillary’s minions, with her approval and direction, are demanding that the debates be tilted by partisan moderators, because “Donald Trump’s special,” meaning that Hillary Clinton is “special.” She shouldn’t have to win the election on merit and by a fair competition, just like she made sure that the nomination process that made her the candidate was manipulated at every turn by a Democratic National Committee that had long before decided in a metaphorical smoke-filled room that she would be the party’s nominee….

I am an ethicist. I will not support or enable that false, corrosive and unethical position.

No, the ends (electing Hillary) do not justify the means of rigging the election process… 

No, the American public do not have  it coming, and no, the election is about us, not Donald Trump…

Let me be as clear as I possibly can. I care deeply about the office of the Presidency and understand better than most the damage that a leader of bad character can and will inflict on the culture and the nation. I detest and revile Donald Trump, his methods, his character,and the base instincts he appeals to in his supporters.  Yet as much as I care about not ending up living out my remaining years in a nation of assholes, and all that will mean to the U.S. and the world, I care about the integrity of the democratic process and the fairness of elections more.

It is not worth destroying democracy to defeat Trump…

You will note the theme running through that post and the voluminous commentary here since the election under the  2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck tag.

However, I did not definitively make up my mind regarding what to do about this dilemma until this post, November 6, two days before the election. What I described there as a tipping point was the revelation that

The Clinton Foundation has confirmed it accepted a $1 million gift from Qatar while Hillary Clinton was U.S. secretary of state without informing the State Department, even though she had promised to let the agency review new or significantly increased support from foreign governments.

After documenting the degree to which the news media had covered this up, and after it was revealed attempted to spin and obscure it, I concluded:

So there you have it, my friends: a story that proves Hillary Clinton lied to Congress and the Obama Administration, allowed an entity she controlled to accepted a million dollar gift to her family Foundation that would benefit members of her family and compromise the integrity of her office and her government, allowed that fact to be hidden from the public and the State Department, allowed her subordinates to lied about it and avoid transparency until the last possible moment, and had all of this facilitated by the news media….all of which indicating that this potential President does not accept the principle that leaders model law-abiding behavior for society, and must be exemplars. Instead, she and her husband, as their entire careers show, believe that they are above the law, and now have a large, complicit following that agree with them.

This is not a double standard being applied to Hillary Clinton. I’ve checked: No Secretary of State ever engaged in anything like this. The recent popular and cynical rationalization  (“All politicians lie and she’s no worse than the rest”) being used by Hillary enablers is not applicable, even it if it were not already demonstrably false. Nor can anyone claim that it is a “right wing story.” This is a corruption story, and only being reported predominantly in the conservative press because the mainstream media has betrayed its duty to democracy. Nor is it trivial.

A politician who would willfully use the position of Secretary of State to enrich her family by holding out the promise of access and favors is a danger to the nation, and that is not a partisan conclusion. Hillary Clinton has proven that she is such a politician, and that is fact.

Finally, on November 8, right after voting, I posted “The 2016 Election And Ethics Zugswang.” the first time I used that useful concept on Ethics Alarms.  I summed up my reasoning like this:

My own decision, then, came down to these factors:

1. My reverence for the office of the Presidency, the nation, and its history. I have been a student Presidents and American leadership since the fifth grade, and it is one of my four greatest passions.

2. My conviction that the United States, its society, its culture and its values require that citizens refuse to accept lowered standards and corruption among its leaders’ character and conduct.

3. My insistence that the integrity of the democratic process is essential to the survival of the nation.

4. My dedication to ethics, and my belief that society’s ethics must be protected by never accepting that the ends justify the means, and never sending the message to wrong-doers that their conduct or their values are acceptable.

The exercise I engaged in yesterday, meticulously examining all of my posts about Trump and Clinton, and distilling them into a summary that could be used by confused and conflicted voters, was for my benefit as much as that of anyone else.  I was struck by just how relentlessly dishonest and ethically corrupt Hillary Clinton has been. You would think, wouldn’t you, that having been assured that she would be the nominee for years, she could have managed to avoid scandals and controversies? She couldn’t. She proved herself greedy, careless, incompetent and arrogant.

Then, as I reviewed the Trump files, I was even more stunned at how different in kind his unethical conduct was. It was the difference between an incorrigible juvenile delinquent and a corrupt investment banker. I was also struck by how many posts I had to write defending Trump from intentional or biased exaggerations or misinterpretations of what he said or meant, because the news media was so clearly determined to defeat him.

… Obviously it would be madness to elect Trump, who is a narcissist, a misogynist, an ignoramus, and, for bluntness is sometimes necessary, an asshole, who possesses neither the experience, temperament, trustworthiness nor integrity to be given such power and influence. Then I reminded myself of how I defined this particular instance of ethics zugswang.

Trump must not win, but Clinton’s party, followers and supporters must not believe that the undemocratic, unethical, hypocritical and dishonest methods and values they have displayed are now the nation’s. By every measure, Clinton deserves to lose. By any definition of justice, the Democrats deserve to lose. They want to use their victory to corrupt the nation and democracy…

I then referenced another post I had put up that day about the revelation that Donna Brazile had helped Clinton cheat in a debate and a town hall. I had written in part,

When you vote for Hillary Clinton—and voting against Donald Trump does not change the fact that you are still voting for Clinton—do understand what this statement, in an interview yesterday on satellite radio, really means.  It means that the Democratic Party officially embraces the anti-ethical principle that the ends justifies the means. It means that the party endorses lying and cheating, which was what Brazile did, as long as the “right” people lie and cheat. It means that the Democratic Party—-not just Hillary and her staff, who we know have the core political ethics of Lenin and Goebbels, but the entire party—agrees with Brazile. Her mistake was not cheating, but failing to get away with it, by hiding her conduct insufficiently.

She, like the party she leads, is so confident that the American public, at least the voters she and the party care about, accepts these ugly and undemocratic values that she is not even pretending to regret her actions. If it helps elect Hillary Clinton, it’s fine. It it acquires power for the Democrats, it’s fine. If it deceives the public to the “right” end, it’s fine.

Thus my post-write-in vote post concluded,

That settled it. For me, the least unethical course was not to vote for either candidate. As a citizen, I cannot responsibly vote for an utterly unfit man like Donald Trump. As an ethicist and a patriot, I cannot participate in sending a message to Clinton and all those who have become corrupted under her and Barack Obama that cheating, lying, influence peddling, destroying a free and independent news media, restricting free speech and individual rights, manipulating the process and undermining democracy is now acceptable in the United States of America, because cheating and lying work.

I am confident that I came to this decision as a result of a the best ethical analysis I could muster, taking all factors, including my unique situation as an ethicist, into consideration. The decision can be legitimately criticized; of course it can. It’s unethical. That’s ethics zugswang. I take some solace and pride, however, that I have spent many, many hours over more than a year doing what I could—and admittedly, what I could wasn’t enough or very much— to avoid this point.

Damn those who put us there.

And that, Tim is how my vote came about.

Thanks for asking.

24 thoughts on “It’s Time Again For The Ethics Alarms Mailbag! The Question: Wait, What? Your Vote In 2016 Was A Write In?

      • The difference being I’m deciding whether I’ll have to vote for Trump. The last three years have revealed the Democratic Party as even worse than I feared, and their disgusting conduct since the election has revealed them as dangerous and untrustworthy, especially with the frightening complicity of the captive media.I may never vote for a Democrat again.

        • With Texas slipping purple because of the influx of refugees from failed states where socialist and progressive policies have ransacked those locales and the matriculation of youths thoroughly brainwashed in the left-wing seminaries of public education, I am at 49.999999% voting for Trump. And the way the Democrats are handling things between now and November, it’s a good bet they’ll finish the job.

    • Second. An indispensable source of common sense, great writing, humor, obscure cultural tid-bits and generally more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

  1. I voted for Hillary and then cried all the way to work.

    When I woke up the next morning and saw the election results, I cried again.

    I will not vote for a Democrat in November.

  2. I also wrote in my vote in 2016. And may do it again: the pathetic, ridiculous, IQ-80 Democrat candidates — the best they can really offer? — and the wanton self-destruction of the party, probably means a landslide for Trump, so my ‘wasted’ vote will be a statement, of sorts.

  3. Jack, you already know why my comments here are few and far between. You also know why my comments are necessarily brief. That does not mean you are not a major influence on my beliefs and opinions. I trust you and I depend on you for instruction and to make me think. I will leave this blog when I* die, not before.

  4. Hailing from The State that Mondale Won, I take the influence of my vote with less seriousness than it deserves. With respect to presidential contests, it is practically meaningless.

    I often joke that I vote Prohibition Party straight down the ticket.

    In 2016, I learned that the Prohibition Party did not make the ballot in the State that Mondale Won.

    Trump was out; Hilary was out; and, because of this blog, the Libertarian party looked embarrassing.

    I am used to my vote being meaningless. Have I mentioned that Mondale won my state? But, I walked into the voting booth in 2016, completely despondent in the knowledge that either Trump or Clinton would win. I think I voted the Marijuana Free Party, maybe it was the Free Marijuana Party . When I walked out, I felt even worse, confident that Clinton would win.

    She didn’t. Even though they kept saying she “won” the popular vote.

    That makes my vote for the Pot Party look dumb. If those idiots want to count the popular vote, my vote is not meaningless.

    But, when they bring up the “popular vote,” I point out that Trump won the States in a landslide 30-20. They don’t get it. They don’t understand federalism.

    So, I plan to vote for Trump. Because he is a Statesman? Because he is eminently qualified? Because he is Presidential?

    No. Because he never got a fair shot. And he has not been a disaster. If they want to count the popular vote, I guess I have to vote for a candidate, even if my vote does not matter.

    And, frankly, a lot of it is spite. I plan to vote for Trump just to stick it in the eye of all those obnoxious jerks who spent the last 3 years acting like assholes.

    It is practically a joke. Today, Trump said that China has gone through Hell with this virus. I am waiting to see if Snopes fact-checks that, concluding that it is a misleading statement because Hell is s metaphysical concept for which Trump can provide no evidence in support of his declaration.

    Screw them if they think they can treat someone so unfairly and think there will he no response.

    If they are behind this virus hype in any wSy, they need a clear message that a president CAN win in a faltering economy with viral threats. You can’t rig an election that way.

    And, while Biden might have gotten my vote in 2016, you can’t try throw him out there now and think I won’t see that he is likely past his prime.

    And, yes, it bears repeating, I will vote for Trump because Fuck you for being such obnoxious sanctimonious jackasses for the last 3 years.

    And, who suffers because of this? That right: the Prohibition Party.


    • I wish. She signed off in August of 2017, saying: “I’m going to take a break from commenting. I hope a permanent break. I deeply appreciate many of the commenters here. I’ve learned a lot. I have a lot to learn. I’ll be following this blog and reading everything here because it helps me clarify my thinking, but I have nothing of substance to contribute.
      Thank you to everyone.”

  5. One of the things that really bugs me about the Democrat Party is how their pettiness and venality seem to have permeated the party from top to bottom, i.e., from DC to rural Podunk County, Southland. My county has been solidly Republican since before the War of Northern Aggression, and we are frequently heralded as the most conservative, Republican county in a very conservative, Republican state. But still, we had Democrats run for and attain local office until the late 1990s. As the Democrats moved steadily left, an exodus began and has continued to the point that county Democrat party meeting could be comfortably held in a broom closet. There are currently no Democrats holding county office and there hasn’t been a serious Democrat contender for over a decade. The Republican primaries have settled all the serious contests.
    I used to have a couple of dozen Democrat friends, most of whom were what I call “legacy Democrats.” They are Democrats because granddaddy was one. We used to have lively, but civil, discussions about political issues and candidates, both in person and on social media since that phenomenon came about. As Jack and others have experienced, Trump derangement has overtaken those few remaining Democrat holdouts. One guy whom I have known since high school recently took issue with a post I wrote concerning the need for more vocational education options in high school, and he used the opportunity to blame President Trump for this deficiency. The last time I checked, the state was still responsible for K-12 education. There is no reasoning with him or any of the few remaining Democrats who are still speaking to me at all. I have no doubt they are dutifully lining up to board the Biden Bobsled, nor do I doubt they would support Hillary in the event she should arise as a candidate again. The most bothersome (and sad) thing is, I know these people, have known many of them for decades, and they have not always been like this. Trump Derangement is indeed a powerful force.
    The decline of the Democratic Party is a tragedy not only for national politics, but for state and local politics as well. I always say that I am a conservative “small r” republican, because I have issues with the party elites on the right side of the aisle as well, but I could never vote for a Democrat candidate.
    Also, Jack, I think you would enjoy -although disagree with- Dr. Brion McClanahan’s book, “Nine Presidents Who Screwed Up America.” Interesting read.

  6. You know, this is damn good blog: thorough, extensive, unpredictable, well-written, diverse, funny, educational. I like it!

    It is a damn good blog. I like it, too.

    And I remember all these posts where you reasoned your way to this conclusion. Laudable. I came to the same conclusion, albeit via a much less detailed and circuitous route. For me, I can never vote for a Democrat (at least none that have presented themselves on the national stage) anymore, their party values offend too many of my beliefs and closely-held opinions. I therefore had a choice between Trump and … the rest. I chose one of the rest, and as it turns out, I chose poorly even for a thrown-away vote. To this day, I regret that vote and my lack of care in making it.

    I learned from that. Next time, if I reach that same point, I will consider my choice much more carefully even if I know it is ultimately futile. At least I’ll feel better about myself by taking more care. So in that way at minimum, your example was an ethics lesson I appreciate.

  7. “You know, this is damn good blog: thorough, extensive, unpredictable, well-written, diverse, funny, educational. I like it!”

    I like it too!

    I’ve recently become acquainted with Samuel Johnson’s preface to his English dictionary.

    A bit of a dry and sarcastic wit, concluding his 10 year long effort, he penned his opening.

    I think you could modify it for your purposes:

    “It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward.

    Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries”

    Here you can exchange the term “writer of dictionaries” for “ethicist”.

    The full preface is here:

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