Vote Like a Baby

For reasons I’d rather not guess, the Texas Right to Life mailed us the above advertisement.  When you flip it over, you see it’s an endorsement of Scott Turner for the TX State House.  Babies like Scott, I suppose.  Upon seeing the front, my wife asked the obvious question: what baby are we talking about?

Obviously, the imperative “vote like a baby” is supposed to mean “vote pro-life,” and yet the ad itself, which features a child closer to a year of age instead of a baby in the womb, suggests a voting ethic that takes more into consideration than just abortion.  This cheerful, flag-waving baby has more at stake than not being killed.  Perhaps the election of Scott Turner isn’t in his interest.

Our little friend betrays the ethical complexity of voting.  The ad invites us to vote according to the baby’s interests rather than our own, but what are the interests of this baby?  Does he have adequate healthcare coverage?  Are his parents gainfully employed?  Are those ill-fitting jeans indicative of clothing needs?  How a baby would vote would depend on the needs of the individual baby, and not only needs, but wants.  A skilled candidate could capture the baby vote by promising universal access to household items parents don’t want damaged or destroyed by their curious offspring.  Actually, scratched out what I said before: were we to predict baby voting patterns, we’d want to look exclusively at wants.

Ethically speaking, voting is rarely simple and straightforward.  I have to balance my civic responsibilities to the common good with my personal responsibilities for those in my care.  While I have a greater responsibility for my children than for the children of others, voting is specifically a civic act for which I am ideally supposed to think of others and not just of my family and our own circumstances and needs.  And yet…  It sounds nice to say that I should always be altruistic when voting–it sounds nice, but it isn’t true.

So, yeah, vote like a baby. Whatever that ethically means to you.

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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12 Responses

  1. Fnord says:

    If you’re not going to vote altruistically, why vote at all?

    I mean that perfectly seriously. There are personal costs associated with voting, in time taken, etc, and the effect your vote has on the election is small. If you’re voting altruistically, the small effect of your vote is balanced by the large number of people affected by the result. But not if you’re voting for your own interests; perhaps your time would be better spent advancing those interests yourself. Spend the time you would spend waiting in line, etc, with your kids.

  2. Jaybird says:

    More candy, less homework.

  3. GordonHide says:

    I think considering the huge benefits one receives as a member of society voting for the general good, (and presumably therefore the strengthening of society), is very similar to voting one’s own best interests.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      This may at times be true in the abstract, but it doesn’t necessarily work this way. The candidate who is best for the common good may not be the best (or potentially not good at all) for my own personal interests.

  4. I would interpret the ad to mean “vote in complete ignorance of how the world works,” in which case perhaps a vote for Scott Turner might make sense?

  5. Will Truman says:

    I tend towards being with Fnord on this one. By and large, I consider voting to be a symbolic gesture. And so I vote against my interests and, in an odd way, against what I would prefer see happen. I think that candidate so-and-so with that plan he has would be good for us, and a part of me hopes he wins, but I also realize that he isn’t right. (I actually once sorta worked with a candidate I voted against. The candidate was good for us, but I believed to be bad for the state as a whole.)

    On the other hand, if I don’t have a clear preference as to who is better in the overall, then I don’t have a problem voting my interest. It’s a tie-breaker.