Why I cast a ballot but not a vote

Across social media platforms friends and acquaintances are urging one another to get out and exercise their democratic right to vote. Those who don’t vote, so the popular wisdom goes, have neither the right to complain nor the right to express a political opinion. What’s more, they cheapen the sacrifices of many women and men who have died in defense of our nation.

I see their point, and respect their opinion. However, this year I chose to do something I have never done in a presidential election since voting in my first one back in 1996. I chose to cast a ballot, but not a vote. In other words, I chose to not make a choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (or a non-major candidate).


Some of you may find this a curious choice. I wrote earlier about why I was considering not voting in the election this year. Read “The Obama Conundrum”).

I am not a political realist. I don’t care much for making a choice between candidates simply because there are only two feasible options. I don’t feel the need violate some of my deepest religious convictions.

I stand by what I wrote earlier.

If I vote for Barack Obama I am casting a ballot for one of the most pro-choice presidents. [Note: My theological belief that all humanity is created in the image of God leads me to value life. For this reason I am deeply skeptical of capital punishment, to the point of thinking there ought to be a moratorium on it. I am also deeply skeptical of war and have a hard time understanding the almost frivolous attitude of some politicians toward it.] A good society is not one that kills its unborn children. And while it may be good to help those in need, it’s also true that the government brings with it a profound ability to dehumanize those it seeks to help, simply by the scale of its operation. The government is also unable to make moral distinctions based on anything other than utilitarian concerns.

On the other hand, neither is a good society one that abandons those most vulnerable to ‘fate.’ The Republican party has become the party of economic liberalism. Taking their cue from Adam Smith’s philosophical reflections (which are predicated on a sub-Christian understanding of morals, by the way) the Republican party has come to espouse the individual as the supreme economic actor. There is no authority (or at least few) that may interfere with the economic actions of the individual. All that is require is mutual consent (analogous to cultural liberalism’s ethics above). A fair wage is what a person may command in the current market; a fair price is what the product will command. There is no moral calculus beyond this, and any effort to introduce one distorts the sovereign market.

That’s why I cast a ballot, but not a vote for the office of President of the United States.