Every election cycle, the right-wing rehashes a new version of a very old debate: should we keep voting Republican or consciously abstain from voting altogether?
In the wake of the 2020 election, with Trump apparently losing through what seems to be obvious ballot fraud, and with the feckless Republicans unwilling to help him challenge the results—even as they demand support for their own Senate candidates in Georgia—the debate has returned with even greater force. During the most recent “Stop the Steal” march in DC against election rigging, Nick Fuentes led a crowd of Zoomers in chants to “destroy the GOP” and booed Georgia Senate candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Likewise on the dissident right, Z-Man did an entire podcast encouraging his listeners to stop voting. But with the fraud so obvious and the Republican so cowardly, the idea of withdrawing support from the Republican Party has even taken over the normie right. You see the same sentiment from Fuentes and Z-Man echoed in Breitbart commenters, Rush Limbaugh callers, and “MAGA Moms”-type Facebook groups.
While it is nice to see people fed up with the truly useless GOP, a so-called “principled refusal to vote” is just another dead end. While its proponents often claim it is some radical break with the failures of the past, it has more in common with the old cuckservative ethos of preemptive surrender than they would like to admit. It is just another example of the right’s never-ending ability to shoot itself in the foot, and to rationalize a decision to stay on the sidelines as some kind of moral victory. In decisions like these, the tendency to overthink things is fatal. It would be better to act like your dumb Boomer uncle, and just vote straight GOP reflexively.
No one likes to have to make these arguments among the kinds of circles that read the American Sun. It makes you seem like a shill, trying to convince the radicals to shut up and make peace with the system. On the other hand, the Catechism of the Catholic Church holds that each person’s duties of “submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to . . . exercise the right to vote” (section 2240, emphasis added), so I’m in good company aside from just the attendees at CPAC. Similarly, Noam Chomsky took a lot of heat from the radical left when, earlier this year, he told the Bernie Bros to vote for Biden. But if you believe in Chomsky’s ideology, then the recommendation to Biden was entirely sensible. In every situation we find ourselves, we should choose the option that makes us marginally better off in comparison with every other one. All of the arguments against voting are really just efforts to ignore this simple and fundamental truth.
For instance, we are told that voting is a waste of time. But I’ve voted in several presidential elections now and longest it ever took me was about one hour (and in the age of early and absentee COVID voting, it takes significantly less time than that). Can you really not spare a single hour of your day?
Well, in response, we are told that even if voting is quick, it is a waste of time because it won’t change anything. But since the Georgia runoff elections were announced, our enemies have been working every day to make sure their side wins, racking up record amounts of donations for a candidate who said that “America needs to repent for its worship of whiteness.” Even if you don’t think elections matter, it should certainly give you pause that the likes of Stacey Abrams do, and that they are working overtime to win a battle on behalf of these kinds of candidates, while you think it is revolutionary to sit the battle out entirely.
Next, we are told that if we keep voting Republican we will only encourage the Republican candidates to keep doing the same bad things they have been doing in the past. But by the same token, if we abstain from voting and let the Democrats win, then we will only encourage them to keep doing the same bad things they have been doing—which are of course much worse.
Supposedly if the Republicans lose, we are told that they will see the error of their ways and start running better candidates that are more congenial to us. I certainly hope that happens, and wish everyone all the best in making it so, but it is far from a guarantee. After the disaster of the Bush years, we still got McCain and Romney candidacies. Even Donald Trump’s election didn’t lead to a big increase in down-ballot Trumpist candidates. Kelly Loeffler, after all, beat Doug Collins the Trump loyalist to become the Republican candidate in Georgia, while the mainstream Tommy Tuberville, despite outwardly praising Trump, beat out the genuinely populist Jeff Sessions in the Alabama Senate primary earlier this year. There is no reason to believe that letting flesh-and-blood Republicans lose now will lead to hypothetically better ones in the future—it may just convince the party to start listening to the Lincoln Project instead.
Finally, nearing the end of the argument, the vote-abstainer will usually scoff and say something sarcastic like, “What are you going to do? Keep voting harder? You really think voting will solve our problems?” and then laugh in disgust.
This is really the most important reaction because it shows that the vote-abstainer, much more than the voter, is the one who over-emphasizes the importance of voting. At this time no one on the so-called dissident right would doubt that our multiculturalist post-America is too fractured and our problems are too deep for any Republican candidate to be able to fix. But voting Republican doesn’t actively harm us, requires very little effort, and, in the end, may make the gathering darkness darken a little slower than it otherwise would. Surely that counts for something.
Imagine you graduated college a few years ago and began a career as a chef. You could have chosen any career, but you decided on this one. You moved away from your family and lost touch with your friends to work at a restaurant in New York City. Now, of course, all the restaurants are closed due to COVID and you lost your job. You are stuck in a city you no longer want to live in, with student loans and no support network, and your only options now are to apply for welfare benefits or start driving for Uber.
It would be callous and non-responsive to advise such a person by saying, “you wouldn’t be in this situation if you became a lawyer.” The past is irrevocable and constrains our opportunities in the present. We can only choose between the options available to us now. And while the aspiring chef’s remaining options aren’t good, they still present real choices, and some will be better than others. The voter choosing between Kelly Loeffler and the black supremacist pastor–or between David Perdue and the woke corporate bugman–is faced with the same type of choice. Certainly the Republican Party should be better, we should have better options, and people should be working to make our politics better for the future. But to say “all these choices are terrible so I abstain” adds nothing but pointing out how bad the situation is and so forsakes the ability to find a way to make it better.
Voting should only be part of the background of a well-ordered life. It isn’t an opportunity to save the country; it is just a thin straw you might grasp every couple years to make your life marginally better and prevent your enemies from making it worse. To not vote is to leave weapons on the table–weak weapons though they may be–that your enemies have no scruples about using against you. Conceptualized like that, it always makes sense to vote for the lesser of two evils.