When acting ‘on principle’ is unprincipled behavior (Cross posted from Blogodidact)
When I hear people proudly proclaiming t
hat they are going to make a ‘principled choice’, that they are going to ‘vote my conscience’ or ‘stand my ground!’ by either not voting or voting for a 3rd party this election, I take notice.
Especially when I hear mirror images claiming the same ground, I want to get clear on what it is that we’re talking about. And not just out of curiosity or for argument’s sake but because if they are being principled or behaving conscientiously in doing what I am not doing – then what am I doing?
If I don’t agree, and have no basis but inclination for my position… then that’s some scary thin ice to be standing on. That’s disturbing. And it should be disturbing. Matters of principle and conscience should be taken seriously, and when people you respect come to opposite conclusions from yours, it’s well worth reconsidering the issues and your reasons for them. Why? Because ‘The Good Life‘ depends upon how you live your life, and if how you are living your life has little to do with being (properly) principled and conscientious… what kind of life can you be living? Isn’t that Reason enough?Are there more important issues to your life as a whole, than living it thoroughly and well?
And if on reconsidering them, you find you still disagree? A decent respect for the opinions of others requires that you declare the reasons for your disagreement.
In this case, I only wish that I could chalk up the disagreement to disagreement alone, but for all the claims being made on the basis of principle and conscience, as I’m looking at their positions – and I have listened and reexamined them – I am not seeing actual principles being upheld – I see only the appearance of them… not the substance; a preference, not a principle.
Of course I grant the grounds for personal choice and disagreement as to what is best, but these particular claims, are claimed to be being made on the basis of principle and conscience, and that exceeds the reach of personal preference, or the deference of friendship.
And for one friend (who, BTW, has donated countless hours of his own time, effort & money defending our Rights in court) who thought my rant couldn’t possibly apply to him:
“… are you suggesting that, me being a principled libertarian who has never voted for candidates based on their political party, I would not be acting on principle by continuing to vote only for those I believe to be the best candidates?”
, I’ve got to answer that if by ‘best candidate’ you mean, here and now, after the primaries, in the general election, if you are voting for who you think the best individual candidate is, who most reflects your views and convictions, as the primary purpose for giving them your vote; without regard to the purpose of the office and without regard to the dynamics of the race, without regard to the immediate and long term consequences of one the most likely winners winning, etc, then I regretfully must say – yes, then it applies to you as well, and perhaps it even applies to you most of all.
Despite what ‘common sense’ might tell you, voting for who the best individual candidate is, is not the purpose of an election. To vote for A candidate, without taking into consideration the dynamics of the race itself, the realistic chances of your ‘ best candidate’ to either win or affect the overall race, and the consequences of the election going to one or the other of the most likely winners, and what effects the likely winner might have in that office, then you have divorced your principles from the purpose they are principally supposed to serve – how the nation will be served by the person who is elected – rendering your actions, unprincipled.
First, keep in mind that Principles are an aid for thinking, not a substitute for it, and it is an ever present temptation to cast what is the more pleasing choice, for the short term, as an appealing escape from the more difficult consideration of the long term deeper and more important issues, especially when it is so easy to name such actions as ‘being Principled’. But you can’t delegate your conscience to a single issue, and while I hope all will reconsider their positions, I strongly suggest you begin by looking beyond your positions to what principles are, and what they are for.
What are you talking about?