Seldom Seen Slim offers:
I see you're paying attention to current affairs. Very hard on the nerves. I can't do it. I tried to watch one Rep "debate": the most vulgar public display I've ever seen. Do you remember the saying "he who slings mud loses ground"? I think the "contestants" dug themselves mineshaft-deep holes that night. Shameful. Didn't try to watch the Dems, but I can imagine. I'll ask you a question: as citizens do you think people deeply offended by the mudslinging nevertheless have a duty to attend to the political debate and eventually try to make an educated choice (even if it's another egregiously malum minus choice)? Unlike some countries which legally mandate voting (Australia), US citizens have no statutory obligation to vote, but I'll guess you don't see that as exhausting the duties of a citizen.
That is a wonderful saying, "He who slings mud loses ground." I had never heard it before. I shall remember it. A variant occurs to me, "He who digs up dirt loses ground."
An interesting logico-linguistic point that should interest Slim: Constructions of the form He who Fs Gs, while featuring what is grammatically the third-person singular masculine pronoun, are not logically pronominal at all. The use of 'he' in such constructions is quantificational. Thus "he who slings mud loses ground" is replaceable both salva veritate and salva significatione by
For any x, if x slings mud, then x loses ground.
Now on to to Slim's question:
As citizens do you think people deeply offended by the mudslinging nevertheless have a duty to attend to the political debate and eventually try to make an educated choice (even if it's another egregiously malum minus choice)?
After Trump referred to his phallus, praising its size and efficacy, I turned off the TV. So there is no duty to listen to all the mud slung from side to side. But yes, one does have a civic duty to "attend to the debate" in the sense of informing oneself of both (i) what the candidates represent and (ii) their character as individuals. Why? Well, since we have benefited from civil order, we have a moral responsibility to help maintain it and pass it on. It is a question of gratitude, a good conservative virtue.
One ought to attend to both (i) and (ii). I am puzzled but also appalled at the number of Trump supporters who are blind partisans who are either unaware of or dismissive of the man's obvious negatives. They are so enamored of his populism that they are willing to ignore the man's character as if that has no bearing on his fitness for high office.
There is a reason not to go the way of the Aussies and make voting mandatory. As it is here in the USA, roughly only half of the eligible voters actually vote. This is arguably good inasmuch as voters filter themselves. If I were a liberal, I would say that eligible voters who stay home 'disenfranchise' themselves, and often to the benefit of the rest of us. (But of course I am not a liberal and I don't misuse words like 'disenfranchise.')
What I mean is that, generally speaking, the people who can vote but do not are precisely the people one would not want voting in the first place. To vote takes time, energy, and a bit of commitment. Careless, lazy, and uninformed people are not likely to do it. And that is good. I don't want my thoughtful vote neutralized by the vote of some dolt who is merely at the polling place to avoid a fine. And if you force a man to vote, he may rebel and vote randomly or in other ways that subvert the process.
Of course, many refuse to vote out of disgust at their choices. My advice for them would be to hold their noses and vote for the least or the lesser of the evils. Politics is always about choosing the least or the lesser of evils. The very fact that we need government at all shows that we live in an imperfect world, one in which a perfect candidate is not to be found. Government itself is a necessary evil: it would be better if we didn't need it, but we do need it.
I support the right of those who think the system irremediably corrupt to protest by refusing to vote. Government is coercive by its very nature, and mandatory voting is a form of coercion that belongs in a police state rather than in a free republic.
If you think that a higher voter turnout is a good thing, that is happening anyway as divisions deepen and our politics become more polarized. The nastier our politics, the higher the turnout. And it will get nastier still. So why do we need mandatory voting?
Fact is, we are awash in unnecessary laws. We don't need more laws and more government interference in our lives. And will a mandatory voting law be enforced? How? At what expense? Isn't it perfectly obvious to everyone with commonsense that we need to move toward less government rather than more, toward more liberty rather than less? (You may infer from this that Hillary and Bernie lack common sense.)
If you think about it, 'One man, one vote' is a very dubious principle. I think about it here. Voluntary voting is one way of balancing the ill effects of 'One man, one vote.' But isn't voting a civic duty? I would say that it is. But not every duty should be legally mandated.
Seldom Seen Slim has correctly guessed my position: the duties of a citizen are not exhausted by what is legally mandated. One has a moral obligation to stay politically informed, to do one's best to form correct political opinions, and to vote.