When it comes to voting, policies matter more than personalities. We are not voting for outstanding moral person of the year. We are voting for the person whose political ideas/policies will result in the most good. When forced to choose between candidates of poor personal characters, we cast our vote for the person who has the best policies, given our options.
Some people look at the deficiencies in character or policy or both, however, and conclude that they cannot cast their vote for any candidate in good conscience, or that they must vote for a third party candidate who has better policies than the major party candidates. I think both responses are a mistake. If our goal in voting is to make a moral difference in the world rather than just a moral statement, then we shouldn’t stay home or vote for an unelectable third-party candidate. Let me explain.
Regarding third-party candidates, I will be the first to say that I think our political system would be better if we had more than just two powerful political parties. Competition is good. But if a third-party had any chance of winning a presidential election, they would need to demonstrate that in the primaries. That’s not the case this election, nor in most past elections. So when you vote for a third-party candidate in a presidential election that demonstrated he does not have a chance of winning during the primaries, you are surely not going to make any moral difference with your vote since you cast it for someone who is demonstrably unelectable. Your vote would be better spent if it was cast for the better of the two major party candidates. Casting it to a third-party means one less vote for the better-of-the-two-major-party candidates, and this increases the likeliness that the worst-of-the-two-major-party candidates will win the election, and thus increases the likeliness that the most evil possible will be realized. I guess it could be said that casting your vote for a third-party could make a moral difference: a bad moral difference.
What about staying home? This is not a good decision for the same reason. Every person of conscience who stays home means one less vote for the better-of-the-two-major-party candidates, increasing the likeliness that the worst-of-the-two-major-party candidates will win the election, and thus increases the likeliness that the most evil possible will be realized.
When faced with the choice of worse and “worser,” choosing the worse is better.