Essays Over Voting

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I cannot in good conscience vote for either Clinton or Trump.

What matters for me is that I cannot bring myself to that Clinton or Trump be president, carry out her or his stated policy aims, and bring his or her fundamentally bad character to the highest office in the land.

I mean to make a much more informal and homely point: it is wrong to think of a vote Leading Contender B. Although, as fellow conservatives, we think very alike on nearly everything in political life, the national disaster of the choice between Trump and Clinton has produced diametrically opposed conclusions.

One close friend says that the harm Hillary Clinton would do, building on Barack Obama’s eight years, would be so incalculably awful that the risk of an inept, foolish, and thuggish Donald Trump presidency is worth taking in order to prevent Clinton’s victory.

Neither prospectively nor retrospectively, therefore, can we ever say that we alone are burdened with the whole responsibility of decision in a close election.

But the secrecy and the rough simultaneity of our ballot-casting are just what enable people to frame the question my colleague asked me.

Neither Trump nor Clinton has a single redeeming characteristic that recommends him or her to the presidency of the United States—at least none that is not decisively outweighed by some other damning characteristic.

Clinton’s much vaunted “experience” is a career record of ghastly misjudgments in foreign policy, paired with a consistently authoritarian and illiberal “progressivism” in domestic policy, seemingly intent on unraveling the social fabric that makes a decent society.

For this friend, any vote not cast for Clinton is “objectively” a vote for Trump and thus a kind of moral calamity.

(Here is a column exemplifying this friend’s view.) My fond regard for these two good and thoughtful friends, lifelong conservatives both, is not diminished by our disagreements. For my part, my conscience is more important to me than the outcome of this presidential election.


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