The morality of voting

29 10 2020

I have a hard time accepting that there is any spiritual, ethical, or moral dimension to voting in a mass democracy. To state otherwise seems to be invoking the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings and causes a hurricane on the other side of the world.

If you’re going to impute moral credit or culpability for one vote in the midst of millions, you have to be precise about it. If I vote for the “wrong” candidate and am thus worthy of Hell because of it, what degree of fault do I have for the sins of my favored candidate? How many babies did my vote in particular abort? How many migrant children did my vote in particular put in cages? How many foreign people did my vote in particular kill in unjust wars? And so on. If we are going to use moral and juridical language, if we are going to assign fault, we have to quantify it. Or if I back into someone in a parking lot, am I somehow worthy of the death penalty because the trauma of the accident subtracts so many seconds from the person’s life?

Personally, I don’t think voting has anything to do with “issues” or their morality or lack thereof. It’s about handing the blank check of assent to a particular arrangement of power, to class interests and a faceless bureaucracy that mediates between the myths of power and the reality. Qualms about “issues” or voting with one’s “tribe” are the moral currency that we deposit to give us “skin in the game”, though really we have none. “You wanted this by voting for it,” though often you voted for nothing of the sort: it was just a bait and switch, but you can’t openly admit it.

I am not saying voting is evil but rather morally neutral. Aquinas or the Manu Samhita can tell us nothing of the morality of voting or lack thereof because we live in an unprecedented situation. Each voter isn’t a little king who will be judged according to his just or unjust governance. Instead, we are more like the mark in a carnival game who thinks that his efforts will somehow determine the outcome, when nothing can be further from the truth.


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