On ‘vote shaming’

See update for September 27, 2020 at bottom of post.


The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg[1] and the hypocritical[2] Republican rush to replace her on the Supreme Court[3] has prompted a new round of “vote shaming,” in which it is alleged that a refusal to acquiesce to the political duopoly by voting for the alleged “lesser of two evils” is to support the greater of two evils, a problem I took up a while ago in a previous blog post.[4]

There is a specific and well-founded fear that reproductive rights will be further diminished, in part by overturning or further diminishing Roe v. Wade, and this is far from the only issue of concern. But the very fact that social conservatives are losing the culture wars is what motivates their support for a decidedly, by their own standards, un-Christian Donald Trump. He is, they fear, their last chance to reassert a theocracy.[5] In this, social conservatives really embrace an argument that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

“Vote shamers” effectively argue using precisely the same syllogism, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and if there is one thing we should have learned over recent decades, it is that this is simply not so.[6] Indeed, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is already tying one hand behind her back in her alleged opposition to Republican haste[7] and the neoliberal (Democratic Party) record is of embracing and extending Republican policies.[8]

Finally, such arguments neglect that the animus that propelled Trump to power was driven in significant part by economic considerations that neoliberalism has not diminished but rather exacerbated.[9] The reality is the very opposite of what “vote shamers” proclaim: It is a vote for neoliberalism, that is, a vote for Joe Biden, that is, in effect, a vote for Trump’s policies.


Update, September 27, 2020: “Vote shamers” who argue for voting for their presumed “lesser of two evils,” that is, Joe Biden, based on the opening on the Supreme Court created by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death,[10] are having their argument rendered moot as the Republicans appear able and willing to ram through Donald Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, before election day.[11]

  1. [1]Robert Barnes and Michael A. Fletcher, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice and legal pioneer for gender equality, dies at 87,” Washington Post, September 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/ruth-bader-ginsburg-dies/2020/09/18/3cedc314-fa08-11ea-a275-1a2c2d36e1f1_story.html
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Take those Amerikkkan flag pins off your lapels,” Not Housebroken, September 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/19/take-those-amerikkkan-flag-pins-off-your-lapels/
  3. [3]Clare Foran, Manu Raju, and Ted Barrett, “McConnell vows Trump’s nominee to replace Ginsburg will get Senate vote, setting up historic fight,” CNN, September 19, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/18/politics/congress-fight-rgb-seat/index.html
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Why I do not vote,” Not Housebroken, February 25, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/02/23/why-i-do-not-vote/
  5. [5]Elizabeth Bruenig, “In God’s country,” Washington Post, August 14, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/14/evangelicals-view-trump-their-protector-will-they-stand-by-him/; Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell,” New York Times, December 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/29/opinion/william-barr-trump.html; Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use,” Washington Post, December 14, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/after-trump-and-moore-some-evangelicals-are-finding-their-own-label-too-toxic-to-use/2017/12/14/b034034c-e020-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Why I do not vote,” Not Housebroken, February 25, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/02/23/why-i-do-not-vote/
  7. [7]Nicky Robertson, “Pelosi says she will not leverage government shutdown to avoid Senate vote on court seat,” CNN, September 20, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/20/politics/pelosi-government-shutdown-supreme-court-seat/index.html
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Voting for complicity,” Not Housebroken, September 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/20/voting-for-complicity/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Democrats must own Donald Trump,” Not Housebroken, November 13, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/11/13/democrats-must-own-donald-trump/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “On ‘vote shaming,’” Not Housebroken, September 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/21/on-vote-shaming/
  11. [11]Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey, “Trump announces Judge Amy Coney Barrett is his pick for the Supreme Court,” Washington Post, September 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-barrett-supreme-court/2020/09/26/4a417d60-000e-11eb-b555-4d71a9254f4b_story.html; Paul Kane and Rachael Bade, “Democrats largely powerless to stop GOP from confirming Trump’s court choice,” Washington Post, September 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-trump-court-democrats/2020/09/21/12295b82-fc1c-11ea-9ceb-061d646d9c67_story.html