The Principled Vote

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Eugene Debs

From time to time, I have heard a quote attributed to Eugene Debs: “I would rather vote for what I want and not get it, than vote for what I don’t want and get it.” Now, Debs happens to be one of my favorite historical figures. I think, however, it should be pointed out here that Debs lived in a political environment very different from our own. Let me give an example of what I’m talking about.

During the 1912 presidential election, there were actually four major candidates: William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Eugene Debs. Of these four candidates, three could be considered progressive (at least in terms of economic issues): Wilson, Roosevelt, and Debs. Now, with the progressive vote split three ways, the conservative incumbent, Taft, still ended up losing the election. He came in third. America really was a different place in those days.

Now we have an election in which one of the major candidates is clearly mentally ill. I can’t be sure what Debs would do in this situation, but I think he would know better than to commit suicide.

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