What is it that makes someone “worth” voting for? Or not?
My primary answer — where I place the essential boundary — comes from the formal ethics developed for the practice of medicine — another discipline that, like democratic government, is supposed to be all about improving things for people subject to its practice:
First, do no harm!
A huge number of people — essentially everyone on the left, but also all the “never Trumpers” (count me among them) and, now, many “used-to-be Trumpers” — see Trump as immutably harmful. Their common argument is, “You must vote against Trump (and against his Trump-lite Republican acolytes) because he is actively dangerous. Anything is better than that!
And, there is a lot of truth in that position — but, only a lot of truth, not complete truth. It may be conditionally true, but it is not fundamentally true. It does not represent The Truth.
For, many people — not only ‘conservatives’ but, also, those on the ‘center right’ (like me) and on much of the ‘center’ left — would say that there are plenty of Democrats who could and would, in their own fashions, also actively cause a ruinous harm if we were to hand them the reins of power.
I want a candidate to vote for that won’t actually actively harm me!
Alas, all too often, I’m merely offered a choice of which harm seems less immediate and/or less painful.
Faced with that choice, I really would rather abstain…
And, faced with that choice, I refuse to accept the notion that I have an obligation — nay, a moral duty — to affirmatively participate in my own destruction by validating one form of harm or the other with my vote. To the contrary: I stubbornly reserve the right to reject both as intolerable.
Upon reflection, I realize — in the context of the heart attack vs. cancer metaphor — that the fundamental question is this: What if treating the heart attack makes the cancer more virulent? What if the actions required to save myself from the heart attack today cause the cancer to kill me tomorrow, instead of next week or next year?
The populist Progressive left treated Biden’s victory as if it were a mandate to go for broke, in the same way that, four years earlier, the populist Fascist right treated Trump’s victory as if it were a mandate to go for broke. No doubt, they will treat another Biden victory the same way. Although the Democrats (unlike the Republicans) are, at least for now, still occasionally grounded by some members who call out desperately from the reasonable middle, both parties are, in large measure, allowing their agendas, and especially their rhetoric, to be set and controlled from the extremes.
Alas, no matter how narrow the victory nor how broad the defeat in any given election, the lesson both parties insist on learning from it is not, “We seem to be out of step with the electorate,” but rather, “The problem was we were not extreme enough!“.
It occurs to me that what I really long for in the upcoming election is a way to definitively reject Trump and Trumpism — which will, it appears in practice, mean accepting Biden/Harris — while simultaneously definitively rejecting the most extreme variants of the “progressive” (and “socialist”, democratic or otherwise) program for American transformation.