Matthew Franck—Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Radford University in Virginia, and Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute—argues that “it is wrong to think of a vote not cast for Leading Contender A as a de facto vote cast for Leading Contender B.”
For my part, my conscience is more important to me than the outcome of this presidential election. I cannot in good conscience vote for either Clinton or Trump. What matters for me is that I cannot bring myself to intend, to will the victory of either of these ludicrously unacceptable presidential candidates. And that is what a vote for one of them would be—an act of willing that Clinton or Trump be president, carry out her or his stated policy aims, and bring his or her fundamentally bad character to the highest office in the land.
. . . ”Not making the perfect the enemy of the good” is not the right adage for calculating what to do in our present predicament. Nor is “choose the lesser of two evils” the right way to think. That way of thinking really only works when at least one of the choices is in fact not really evil.
. . . . This is a nominee who, in my estimation, cannot earn my vote even as a “lesser evil” or an “at least he’s not Hillary” candidate. I waver between believing that his defeat would be the worst thing to happen to our country and believing that his victory would be.
You can read the whole thing here, which includes links to pieces that would disagree with his reasoning.
It’s not my place to tell you how to vote. But I do agree with the counsel of Ted Cruz, who told the Republican National Convention (to a chorus of boos) to “vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who[m] you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution.”
Update: Here is a thoughtful response from Rick Garnett, law professor at the University of Notre Dame. An excerpt:
One could reasonably think (and, to be clear, I’m not saying that this is what I think) something like this: ”Look, candidate X has said all kinds of stupid and offensive things and also proposed stupid, dangerous, and immoral policies. But, it is not the case that, if candidate X were elected, those policies would become operative because Congress, the courts, the press, the bureaucrats, candidate X’s laziness and ignorance, etc., would prevent or obstruct them, or at least most of them. Candidate Y, on the other hand, is smart and ideologically motivated, and would enjoy the support of the press and other opinion makers, and so would very likely be able to make operative a number of candidate Y’s stupid, dangerous, and immoral policies. So, I prefer candidate X, not because I intend that candidate X ‘carry out his or her stated policy aims’ but because I intend to do what I can to prevent candidate Y from carrying out his or her policy aims.”
This is different, I think, from the usual “lesser of two evils” argument, because it is focusing more on the “state of affairs that is likely to come to pass as a result of the election of candidate X or Y” than on the merits of X and Y’s character or proposals.