The Corner

Politics & Policy

You Shouldn’t Vote Democrat, But You Don’t Have to Vote Republican

(Larry Downing/Reuters)

After mulling it over for a bit, I feel like I should offer an addendum to my addendum to David’s essay. I agree with David that the claim that Trump skeptical Republicans must vote for Democrats who reject conservative values and principles just to send a message to Trump is not very persuasive.

But I also think that voters are free to vote — or not vote — for whatever strategic reasons they find sound. For instance, if I were voting someplace where my vote mattered, I’d be extremely inclined to vote for a Republican senator — even one I didn’t like — but I might be inclined to leave the House race blank or even write-in someone else.

That’s because, as a conservative, I want to see the Senate confirm more judges and justices. But I care far less about the House. Not much of consequence is going to become law no matter what happens tomorrow (for reasons Ramesh lays out here). Both parties are lying about the monumental policy stakes in the House election.

Meanwhile, there are good arguments from a right-of-center perspective — both pro-Trump and anti — for the GOP to lose the House.

The good argument is simple. The GOP-controlled Congress has completely abdicated vast swathes of its oversight responsibilities. Yes, Democrats would be over-zealous in their partisan desire to investigate the White House. But Republicans have been under-zealous on this front and conservatives can reach different conclusions about how to vote in response. Personally, I think a little over-zealousness from the legislative branch in this regard could be a useful corrective.

At the same time, there are lots of people in Trump World who want Trump to run against the Democratic Congress in 2020. So if you’re someone wholly invested in Trump’s personal political advantages, you could take a strategic flier and not vote Republican tomorrow.

Of course, it depends on the representative. If it was Steve King or Duncan Hunter, I’d definitely leave it blank or write-in someone else. If it was Mike Gallagher in Wisconsin or Barbara Comstock in Virginia or Mike Coffman in Colorado, I’d vote for them. But if it’s a Rep you don’t care about much one way or the other or one who only cares about screaming on cable TV, I see no serious principled argument against leaving the ballot blank or writing in someone else.

If your response to all this is “But it’s Binary Choice!!11!!!!1” — I’ve got nothing for you. I don’t think the Republicans or the Democrats own anyone’s vote. Nor do I think voting for people you think are unworthy of your vote is a requirement to send a message. All you have to do is not vote for either party.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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