Is It Wrong if You DON’T Vote?

Press Start for “Is It WRONG If You Don’t Vote?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, concepts, and more. In this episode, we reflect on the question of VOTING – specifically how present-day election cycles may ask us to forgo many of our core values in order to support the lesser of two evils.

Written by: Alec Opperman
Directed by: Alec Opperman & Jacob Salamon
Narrator: Nathan Lowe
Edited by: Jacob Salamon & Ryan Hailey (http://ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Animations by: Dean Bottino
Motion Graphics by: Drew Levin
Assistant Editor: Andrew Nishimura
Produced by: Jacob Salamon

Is It Wrong if You DON’T Vote?

Our elections seem to be getting scarier and scarier, dear viewer. Democrats warn of a petty racist, ready to press the nuclear launch button with his tiny, tiny hands. Republicans warn of a corrupt tyrant, ready to take away your guns and freedom. With options as scary as these it seems that today, more and more people are ready to vote against a candidate they fear rather than for a candidate they support. But is this strategy slowly killing our democracy?

Today’s election isn’t unique, we’ve been told for years that we sometimes need to pick the “lesser of two evils” in presidential races. The candidate may not be perfect, but the opposition is going to destroy the economy, take away your freedoms and ruin your life. And to abstain from voting would be heresy, sheer lunacy.

According to consequentialist ethics, we should judge the morality of an act, like voting, not by intention, but by consequence. “You’ve probably heard this argument in another form: “A vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for the enemy.” But is there more to this dilemma then meets the eye? According to French Philosopher Jacques Ranciere, these kinds of ethical frameworks destroy politics, rather than save it. People like to argue that THE OTHER CANDIDATE IS the real-life equivalent of Lord Voldemort. We’re told their political ambitions are nothing short of pure evil…

As a result, politicians become a symbol of evil, rather than advocates for policy. But if we believe these politicians are modern-day Hitlers, there can be no end to what we’re willing to sacrifice to defeat them. No casualties are too many, no ideals too precious. What would you do to stop a candidate that is ultimate evil? Would you risk your own life? What about someone else’s?

Would you murder thousands of civilians? What about millions? Would you use 1 nuclear weapon? 10 nuclear weapons? Can there be any end to what you’d be willing to do to vanquish evil? “In international conflict, for Ranciere, this means that no amount of sacrifice, collateral damage, or “rules of war” should impede victory. If we take this view towards the election, the parallels become clear.

If the opponent is the American Adolf Hitler or Lord Voldemort, we must do EVERYTHING in our power to defeat them. In other words: Goodbye democratic deliberation, hello calculated warfare. So what if your side needs to skirt the law or employ a few dishonest tricks to win? When asked to support a candidate we don’t quite like because the other candidate represents an ultimate evil, we end up slowly chipping away at our own values. We’ll give up honesty one year, justice in another, and truth after that. After years of sacrificing our values, will there be anything left to defend?

What do you think dear viewer? Do the ends justify the means? Are the stakes just too high to sit idly by and let evil prevail? Or should we take the moral high ground and refuse to vote, even if some nasty consequences might ensue?

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