James N. Anderson has a post entitled A Non-Vote is not a Vote:
One of the reasons put forward by some conservatives for voting for the controversial Republican nominee is that not voting for him would be “a vote for Hillary”. It’s important to understand why this is a really bad argument.
I agree that it is a bad argument, and for the reason Professor Anderson gives, namely, that if the choice is between A and B, one might vote for neither. Note that Anderson doesn't name any conservative who gives the really bad argument, but if there is such a conservative, wouldn't charity require us to construe 'A non-vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary' as a loose way of saying that not to vote for Trump is to aid Hillary?
Surely the latter -- not to vote for Trump is to aid Hillary -- is true. Or if not 'surely,' then 'arguably.' I will now try to argue it out.
There are of course candidates other than Trump and Hillary, but they have no practical chance of winning. I guarantee you that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian/'Losertarian' candidate will not be the next president of the USA. So, practically speaking, it will be either Trump or Hillary. Not both and not neither. Now suppose you are a conservative who votes for neither: you refuse to vote for Hillary because she is a leftist, and you refuse to vote for Trump because he is an obnoxious vulgarian and 'no true conservative' or for some other similar reason or reasons. By not voting for Trump you aid Hillary. You are not thereby voting for her, of course, but you are aiding her because you are failing to do something that would harm her in however slight and insignificant a way.
Anderson speaks of the "neutrality of a non-vote." But are non-votes politically neutral?
Consider a simple voting situation. Socrates Jones is up for tenure. He receives five votes against and three votes for, with three abstentions. He's out like Stout. Were the non-votes -- the abstentions -- neutral? Not at all. If the three abstainers had voted for, then Jones would have been in like Flynn. So while it would be absurd to say that the abstainers voted against Jones, it remains true that their abstentions were not neutral. You could say that the abstainers were complicit in the denial of tenure to Jones. They failed to do something which is such that, if they had done it, then Jones would have received tenure.
Or consider a hiring decision, which is a better analogy. It is down to a choice between A and B. A receives five votes, B three, with three abstentions. A gets the job. Clearly, the abstentions are not neutral. If the three abstainers had voted for B, then B would have got the job.
I suppose the neutrality question is the nub of the issue.
My thesis is that IF (i) one is a conservative and wants to see the conservative agenda advanced and/or the leftist agenda impeded, AND (ii) one believes that Trump, as awful as he is, will advance the conservative agenda somewhat and/or impede the infiltration of leftist totalitarianism into every aspect of our lives and institutions, while Hillary will go full-steam ahead in implementation of the leftist agenda, THEN to abstain from the choice between Trump and Hillary is to aid the leftist agenda and to work against one's interests as a conservative, which implies that one's non-voting is NOT politically neutral.
The thesis I am opposing is the negation of the foregoing. If you deny the first conjunct of the protasis of my conditional thesis, then I show you the door, or rather, I don't let you in the door in the first place. If you accept (i) but deny (ii), then we have an entirely different discussion which I am not interested in having at the moment. The precise question in this post is not whether (i) and (ii) are both true -- I assume they are both true -- but whether, given (i) and (ii), one aids Hillary by abstaining. I say yes.
Certain conservatives want to be able rationally to resist the following sort of 'bullying' speech from someone like me:
If Hillary gets in, then we can expect all or most of the following: four more years of illegal immigration from the south; four more years of largely unvetted Muslim immigration, including Syrian refugees; four more years of erosion of First and Second Amendment rights; four years in which Hillary can make 2-5 Supreme Court appointments that will change the complexion of SCOTUS for years to come; four more years of attacks on civil society, the buffer space between the individual and the state apparatus; four more years of sanctuary cities and the flouting of the rule of law; four more years of assaults on the likes of the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who stand in the way of the pro-abortion agenda; four more years of exploding national debt; four more years of leftist infiltration of our institutions, four more years of Obama's "fundamental transformation of America," and more.
Now Trump, as awful as he is, is all we have to stop or impede all or some of the foregoing, and there is a good chance he will do some impeding while there is NO chance that Hillary will do any impeding, quite the contrary.
Therefore, if you are a conservative, then you ought to do what you can to stop Hillary; at a bare minimum you ought to vote for Trump. If you do not, you are aiding Hillary contrary to your interests as a conservative.
What is the force of the 'ought' in my conclusion? For present purposes it suffices to take it as a merely prudential ought. It would be imprudent of you, even if not immoral, to abstain given your acceptance of (i) and (ii) above.
But have I really shown that your abstention, given your acceptance of (i) and (ii) above is not politically neutral? It seems to me that I have. By depriving Trump of your vote, and persuading others to deprive him of their votes, you are lessening the number of votes he receives. How can that be politically neutral?