Opinion | Never Trump Republicans don’t have to vote for Biden

Welcome to the club, Mike Pence. Now that you have declared that you will not endorse Donald Trump or vote for President Biden, you have become part of my voting bloc: the “double haters.”

The label fits poorly. We have unfavorable views of both major presidential candidates, but you don’t have to hate either of them to be one of us. As a group, we do not seem to be any more hateful than the most loyal supporters of the Republican and Democratic candidates. Maybe we should be called “double realists”; but it’s best not to get too upset about the name. We double skeptics are, in general, even-keeled people.

And we will have to be this year. Even though our votes are likely to prove decisive once again, we are more often reviled than wooed. A lot of Trump supporters think Biden is destroying the country and that if we don’t stop him, we will be complicit. But they’re not haranguing us double dislikers too much these days. With Trump leading most polls, they say they don’t need us.

Biden supporters are more frantic at the moment. They’re telling us that to refrain from backing the president is to go AWOL, or worse, in the war to save democracy. Their message to conservatives who object to Trump: You might have policy disagreements with Biden, but his main opponent is unfit for the presidency.

Other double doubters can make their own judgments, but my own policy disagreements with Biden can’t be filed away so easily. He favors withholding the most basic protection of the law, that against deliberately ending a life, to unborn children: a denial of the human equality that grounds American democracy. He would break with long-standing policy to make Americans pay to abort the children of the poor. Biden’s immigration policy — he reversed successful measures to control border crossings in a fit of ideology and partisanship — has been astonishingly reckless. So, too, his record on spending. Under Biden, we are running large deficits during years of economic expansion, even as a potential debt crisis gets closer — a failing he shares with his predecessor.

Then there is the question of character. Trump’s biography is very nearly a compendium of the seven deadly sins. Biden lies so frequently, and so often pointlessly — he isn’t winning one extra vote by pretending he got arrested in South Africa resisting apartheid — as to suggest a compulsion. He has, at the very least, helped his family cash in on his career in government. He looks good only in comparison with Trump.

How to choose between them? My fellow double negatives: You don’t have to.

It is often reasonable to support flawed candidates. But if neither major candidate meets your threshold of acceptability, you are free to vote third-party, or write someone in, or skip the presidential line on your ballot.

Supporters of each of the major candidates will tell you it’s your duty to pick between them and irresponsible to decline. They would have you ignore the fact that your vote is infinitesimally likely to affect the outcome of the election — even if you are one of the minority of Americans in the seven or eight competitive states. Instead, they want you to imagine yourself in a hypothetical situation in which you are the deciding vote and yet cannot use that all-powerful vote to pick someone else. There is no moral or political obligation to play along.

My advice to Pence and other double dissenters is: Try, as best you can, not to hate either Trump or Biden. But if you don’t think either candidate deserves your vote, don’t let anyone browbeat you into giving it to one of them.

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