Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Odds and the Moral Obligation

 

Merely disagreeing with the way another person plans to vote isn’t tantamount to questioning that other person’s morality. Insisting that “It’s morally imperative to vote my way” or “Those voting differently from me are _____” where _____ is some sort of moral flaw (preening, cowardice, squeamishness, etc) isn’t just disagreeing with how others plan to vote, though.

I look at the question, “Do the odds in my state of my vote flipping the election to the victor give me a moral obligation to choose between the two leads?” as a prudential question that depends on a judgment call about those odds. Knowing the lottery-like nature of those odds, typically even in swing states, I can understand anyone answering, “No.” I can also understand those in swing states answering yes. Or anyone answering yes for himself, if entering the lottery for the victor, even with the smallest odds imaginable, is important to him. Where to set bounds like “so close to zero it may as well be” is always a judgment call in decision making, not something that can be established by mathematical proof.

Some consider being willing to bet on the long odds for their horse as part of their moral health, as part of the chutzpah, the audacity integral to leading a morally satisfying life. I don’t quarrel with that, no matter the horse chosen (whether Trump, McMullin, or another). Others, though, will view the long odds of their vote deciding the victor as too long to prioritize, and will choose to do something else. That’s not to say these others lack audacity, just that their audacity will be used for other ends.

In this recent exchange, Professor Rahe and I seemed largely in agreement,

Paul A. Rahe:

Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

Paul A. Rahe: There is great moral significance to irresponsibility, and it is irresponsible not to calculate the likely consequences.

Indeed. These numbers are somewhat outdated, so should not be taken verbatim, but they do ballpark the likely (and lottery-like) odds of a person’s vote being decisive depending on state, which should be what you want, if you’re into likely consequences.

When it comes to likely consequences, we cannot just factor in which outcome might be more desirable, but also how likely our efforts are to influence the selection of outcomes.

Indeed.

although Rahe is voting Trump and I am not. This strikes me as quite reasonable. Not only do we live in different states, with his much more in play than mine, but we may also make different judgment calls about how to treat the small odds typically involved in voting.

Many Trump supporters, if asked, will concede that voting Trump is less of a moral imperative in non-purple states. Many of those planning to vote neither Trump nor Hillary will concede that, had they lived in a purpler state, they might have chosen differently, in those circumstances feeling obligated to choose between the two leads. These mutual concessions betray much more moral agreement than any tendentious rhetoric preceding such concessions might suggest. Such concessions acknowledge not only the moral prudence of choosing the lesser of two evils, but also the moral prudence of frankly acknowledging the likelihood that our personal choice might have little to do with the outcome.

Those pressuring you to vote as if your vote were the decisive one are asking you to ignore reality – the reality of what the odds of your vote deciding the victor really are. Those who claim the low odds of their vote deciding the victor are small enough to make using their vote for other purpose the higher priority can only decide that for themselves: they cannot shame you into not betting on casting a vote for the victor.

Many of us are already decided. Some very good, thoughtful people I know are still not decided; or, if their mind is mostly made up, they still reserve the right to change their mind right up until their ballot is cast. All of us, whatever our decision, are still in this together, and we have more moral agreement on what it means to vote than we might think.

There are 33 comments.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I am in agreement with Prof. Rahe. Donald Trump would be the most repulsive slug ever to leave a trail of slime through the American political garden — if it weren’t for Hillary. He is vacuous. She is malignant.

    I don’t like this argument. I used to press pro-Trump people here to make a better one. They have failed in my estimation. I will not attempt to use it on anyone else; it’s that bad. It is all I have though.

    • #1
    • November 6, 2016, at 8:14 AM PST
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  2. The Whether Man Inactive

    I’ve said this before, but I’d love to see a breakdown of NeverTrumper vs ReluctantTrumpers by state. My (unprovable) hypothesis is that the former concentrate far more in states not in play and the latter in swing states.

    In any case, I am so over the vote shaming. Rahe’s latest was the last straw for me, and I really lost my temper. We have a duty to vote, and it ends there. Everything else is a judgment call based on how individuals weight the various elements at play, and at some point we have to respect that some of us make these judgments differently than others.

    • #2
    • November 6, 2016, at 8:25 AM PST
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  3. Basil G Inactive

    Sophistry. The voting booth doesn’t recognize morality, it ONLY recognizes a vote. Unfortunately, this is dirty work. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty – fine. Step aside and let us Mike Rowes get to work. But please don’t stand up there on the bank gloating at us down here clearing the sewage ditch, how clean you are.

    The vote is either: 1. THE most corrupt, immoral candidate in American History, who now has a Phd in the levers of Government after 40 years of corrupting it, and has written policy prescriptions -on her website – that, if elected, will necessarily finish the “architecture” (their favorite word) that shifts the country irredeemably to the Left for the rest of time. Or 2. A garish and vulgar reality star / Builder, Property Developer / Pitchman, who repulsed by size and scope of Government, who has never been in Politics and who has written policy prescriptions – on his website – that will attempt to deconstruct the “architecture” built by the Obama regime (The Left); and who has a contemptuous Media and majority houses in Congress standing at the ready to rebuke or denude him should he wander down a rabbit hole. That’s all.

    • #3
    • November 6, 2016, at 8:25 AM PST
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  4. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Basil G: Step aside and let us Mike Rowes get to work

    Sure, I’ve never done a dirty job, which you can totally tell by how I cast my vote. (Forgive the sarcasm here.)

    Basil G: But please don’t stand up there on the bank gloating at us down here clearing the sewage ditch, how clean you are.

    I am not gloating about my cleanliness, or indeed anyone’s cleanliness. I acknowledge politics is a dirty game. Indeed, the closest to “gloating” I have come during this election season is a bit of humorous “boasting” about being willing to get my hands dirty with a Green Thumb.

    It’s possible you may have misinterpreted the OP. Nowhere in it do I label Trump supporters as any less moral, or those opposing Trump as any more moral, than the other side.

    • #4
    • November 6, 2016, at 8:32 AM PST
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  5. Judge Mental Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: It’s possible you may have misinterpreted the OP. Nowhere in it do I label Trump supporters as any less moral, or those opposing Trump as any more moral, than the other side.

    I could be wrong (it happens), but I didn’t take that as directed at you. More towards the room in general.

    • #5
    • November 6, 2016, at 8:35 AM PST
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  6. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: It’s possible you may have misinterpreted the OP.

    Well. If that’s the case, it would be the first time something like that’s happened in this election cycle . . .

    Nowhere in it do I label Trump supporters as any less moral, or those opposing Trump as any more moral, than the other side.

    Correct.

    • #6
    • November 6, 2016, at 8:48 AM PST
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  7. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Amen.

    • #7
    • November 6, 2016, at 9:05 AM PST
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  8. Titus Techera Contributor

    I believe the conversation ends at the statement, you’re voting for the end of the world or against it. People who believe 2016 is the end of freedom in America or the end of America or the end of constitutionalism in America declare that there is no future but theirs.

    It would seem that, if, as is likely, Mrs. Clinton wins, there will be no living with them.

    I’m not sure why people would stake that position–the end. I guess electoral hysteria really makes people say that about every four years. But this year is at least somewhat different–to look at the shockingly low opinion Americans declare to pollsters when it comes to the major party candidates. & then the angry denouncing of complicity in the end of the republic, whether by omission or by commission, do add up in time.

    What I don’t see is whether there is any common good left for Americans. Of course, I borrow from another fellow member of Ricochet when I adduce the objection: According to this alarmed view, any future liberal presidency would be the end of the republic. There is no living together for all Americans any more. If free elections produce the end of the republic; if half the electorate’s choice would be intolerable; then the consequent schism is active in the heart before it takes over the country, but it’s already at work…

    • #8
    • November 6, 2016, at 9:22 AM PST
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  9. Z in MT Member

    We NeverTrumpers don’t have a monopoly on moral preening when it come to how one should vote. Prof. Rahe won the moral preening contest quite handily in his latest you must vote Trump post.

    • #9
    • November 6, 2016, at 9:50 AM PST
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  10. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    Well written op and worth everyone’s time. Also provides a basis towards more unity later in fights where Conservatives have a chance to win.

    • #10
    • November 6, 2016, at 9:52 AM PST
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  11. Bob Thompson Member

    Titus Techera:I believe the conversation ends at the statement, you’re voting for the end of the world or against it. People who believe 2016 is the end of freedom in America or the end of America or the end of constitutionalism in America declare that there is no future but theirs.

    Wrong in the first sentence. The United States is not the world, no matter how many think so, and this political season is not the end regardless of outcome. Granted there are many who favor the end of the Republic and its merger into the greater global entity. There are multiple possible futures and Americans are not divided in half, we have a large not very interested in politics middle (we always have that). We are not binary in our thoughts and choices and have never been. I know you study history so you know we have had this type of schism in the late 18th century, in the mid 19th century and in the early 20th century, so nothing new here.

    • #11
    • November 6, 2016, at 10:39 AM PST
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  12. HeavyWater Coolidge

    If you supported Governor Rick Perry in the 2012 Republican primaries and were reluctant to vote for Mitt Romney in the general against Obama, perhaps there was some sort of moral obligation to vote for Romney. Romney was not as conservative as Perry. But he seemed more conservative than Obama.

    It’s not clear that Trump is more conservative than Hillary Clinton. Trump supports socialized medicine, trade protectionism and a skeptical attitude towards NATO and other alliances.

    On that basis, Hillary Clinton might be the more conservative candidate. I prefer neither.

    • #12
    • November 6, 2016, at 10:45 AM PST
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  13. Titus Techera Contributor

    Bob Thompson:

    Titus Techera:I believe the conversation ends at the statement, you’re voting for the end of the world or against it. People who believe 2016 is the end of freedom in America or the end of America or the end of constitutionalism in America declare that there is no future but theirs.

    Wrong in the first sentence. The United States is not the world, no matter how many think so, and this political season is not the end regardless of outcome. Granted there are many who favor the end of the Republic and its merger into the greater global entity. There are multiple possible futures and Americans are not divided in half, we have a large not very interested in politics middle (we always have that). We are not binary in our thoughts and choices and have never been. I know you study history so you know we have had this type of schism in the late 18th century, in the mid 19th century and in the early 20th century, so nothing new here.

    Christ, man, what’s wrong! Surely, you understand that ‘it’s the end of the world’ is not meant to convey my worries about things in Ecuatorial Guinea.

    & then you’re off to the anti-globalist races.

    & then you pay no attention to what I was saying–read that again. I was answering to a guy & a specific attitude. See comment 3. Read also my very second sentence.

    I’m shaking my head…

    • #13
    • November 6, 2016, at 10:56 AM PST
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  14. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I agree with you, Midge. Isn’t it Tuesday yet?

    • #14
    • November 6, 2016, at 11:05 AM PST
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  15. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Titus Techera: What I don’t see is whether there is any common good left for Americans. Of course, I borrow from another fellow member of Ricochet when I adduce the objection: According to this alarmed view, any future liberal presidency would be the end of the republic. There is no living together for all Americans any more. If free elections produce the end of the republic; if half the electorate’s choice would be intolerable; then the consequent schism is active in the heart before it takes over the country, but it’s already at work…

    It is absurd, Titus, isn’t it,? I follow politics but I don’t eat it for breakfast or wash my laundry with it. Life mainly unfolds outside of politics, even outside of the government. I have lunch with friends; I water my plants on the lanai; I read and study. The world will not come to an end. It may be a bumpy, unpleasant ride, with lots of potholes and irritations, but we will survive.

    • #15
    • November 6, 2016, at 11:19 AM PST
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  16. Bob Thompson Member

    Titus Techera:Christ, man, what’s wrong! Surely, you understand that ‘it’s the end of the world’ is not meant to convey my worries about things in Ecuatorial Guinea.

    & then you’re off to the anti-globalist races.

    & then you pay no attention to what I was saying–read that again. I was answering to a guy & a specific attitude. See comment 3. Read also my very second sentence.

    I’m shaking my head…

    But I like comment 3.

    • #16
    • November 6, 2016, at 11:25 AM PST
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  17. rico Inactive

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: I look at the question, “Do the odds in my state of my vote flipping the election to the victor give me a moral obligation to choose between the two leads?” as a prudential question that depends on a judgment call about those odds. Knowing the lottery-like nature of those odds, typically even in swing states, I can understand anyone answering, “No.” I can also understand those in swing states answering yes.

    Sure, people answer “yes” to that question, but it is a completely irrational answer. The odds of one person’s vote having any affect on the outcome are infinitesimally small. IOW our individual votes are meaningless in that regard — in every case. Using such a rationale as a means of choosing a candidate is irrational… not that there’s anything wrong with that. We are free to choose any means we like when choosing a candidate. Most people select a person whom they would like to appoint to office if the choice were up to them. This seems to be an entirely rational basis for selecting a candidate; but it can sometimes undermine the fundamental purpose of having individuals vote, that being to tally one vote that will contribute to determining the outcome of the election. If our vote isn’t being contributed for the purpose of furthering that end we are misusing our vote. Then again, it’s our vote to misuse if we so choose.

    Thanks for the stimulating and timely OP.

    • #17
    • November 6, 2016, at 11:48 AM PST
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  18. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ve already voted and don’t think I’ve been successful at convincing anyone yet, so I should probably stop commenting on these threads.

    But (you knew there would be a “but”), while I don’t particularly mind how anyone calculates the odds to decide their vote (although, I think it’s possible to overthink it), my objection primarily comes from the near constant haranguing on the flaws of the Republican candidate — the guy I voted for and am hoping we’ll drag over the finish line — from our side. And then to be berated when I note that the only logical conclusion to draw from these repetitive critiques is a preference for a Clinton presidency.

    Your vote is secret. How you decide is personal and unique to you. But, when you (not you, Midge) make the case for or against a candidate, it makes me suspect you’re trying to persuade someone to vote your way based on your reasoning — not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that when you regularly repeat the case against the Republican nominee, I become convinced you want the Democrat nominee to win. You should expect some push-back from those of us who see the Democrats as opposed to everything we believe in.

    • #18
    • November 6, 2016, at 11:49 AM PST
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  19. Suspira Member

    Why is it that if I say (as I have) “I can’t in good conscience vote for Trump,” I’m preening? I’m sorry on so many levels that GOP primary voters, with an assist from strategically voting Alinskyites, chose the only candidate possibly more repulsive than Clinton. It is not my fault.

    Thank goodness, at least the browbeating portion of this disaster will be over soon. This toxic waste dump of an election has frayed nerves and shortened tempers. See y’all on the over side.

    • #19
    • November 6, 2016, at 12:05 PM PST
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  20. rico Inactive

    Titus Techera: If free elections produce the end of the republic; if half the electorate’s choice would be intolerable; then the consequent schism is active in the heart before it takes over the country, but it’s already at work…

    Yes, it’s already at work. You’ve put your finger on the problem. Eight years of Obama’s manifest divisiveness has forced Americans apart on a grand scale. Handing him a third term (and if so, a likely fourth term) in the form of HRC is something that must be stopped. The problem isn’t as simple as merely a Liberal being elected president; the problem is that the progression of decay established under Obama would certainly continue and accelerate unabated.

    • #20
    • November 6, 2016, at 12:09 PM PST
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  21. Titus Techera Contributor

    Suspira:Why is it that if I say (as I have) “I can’t in good conscience vote for Trump,” I’m preening? I’m sorry on so many levels that GOP primary voters, with an assist from strategically voting Alinskyites, chose the only candidate possibly more repulsive than Clinton. It is not my fault.

    Thank goodness, at least the browbeating portion of this disaster will be over soon. This toxic waste dump of an election has frayed nerves and shortened tempers. See y’all on the over side.

    You’ve got a right to make your choices to secure your dignity. The dignity of being American is not preening. & nobody knows the future of the republic to say, you do not get any choice, necessity requires that you do such & such. I really dislike it that Ricochet has allowed itself to become involved in these ugly forms of moralizing with people.

    This sort of moral bullying does not make people more united or trusting of each other & it’s not helping the coalition, either the core supporters or the extra supporters needed to turn a minority coalition into a majority coalition.

    So I hope at least some part of Ricochet is about treating you & every other American with respect. At least some of us are really trying for that, even if we do not succeed too well.

    • #21
    • November 6, 2016, at 12:12 PM PST
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  22. Titus Techera Contributor

    rico:

    Titus Techera: If free elections produce the end of the republic; if half the electorate’s choice would be intolerable; then the consequent schism is active in the heart before it takes over the country, but it’s already at work

    Yes, it’s already at work. You’ve put your finger on the problem. Eight years of Obama’s manifest divisiveness has forced Americans apart on a grand scale. Handing him a third term (and if so, a likely fourth term) in the form of HRC is something that must be stopped. The problem isn’t as simple as merely a Liberal being elected president; the problem is that the progression of decay established under Obama would certainly continue and accelerate unabated

    Many of us don’t think it’s certain. We believe American can withstand the Clintons again, not that anybody will be the better for it, really.

    We believe that one way or another, Americans have to work their way to a majority coalition. Moral bullying won’t do that. Maybe respectful persuasion might, if anyone is inclined to try that.

    The moral persuading I do on Ricochet is reassuring people whose confidence is faltering & rebuking the moral bullies who act like they’re in control of the future, if only they can compel votes they cannot persuade people into giving. I understand my position is defensive & must eventually lose, but I’m going out swinging. People here deserve a sense of their dignity independent of this election.

    • #22
    • November 6, 2016, at 12:17 PM PST
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  23. HeavyWater Coolidge

    If someone asked you, “Do you vote for candidates who say that socialized medicine works incredibly well in Scotland and in Canada?” Your response would likely be, “No. I’m a conservative Republican.”

    If someone asked you, “Do you vote for candidates who donate money to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, Harry Reid’s 2010 US Senate campaign and Terry MacAuliffe’s 2013 campaign for governor of Virginia?” Your response would likely be, “No. I don’t vote for people who finance Left wing politicians.

    Those would be the correct responses today and this is why conservative Republicans should refuse to vote for Trump.

    • #23
    • November 6, 2016, at 12:21 PM PST
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  24. MJBubba Inactive

    Spiral:…

    Those would be the correct responses today and this is why conservative Republicans should refuse to vote for Trump.

    Trump is the most conservative candidate who can win.
    Do you think a Trump Administration would result in a greater advance of Leftist causes than a Hillary Administration?

    Vote for Trump. Stop H.R. Clinton.

    • #24
    • November 6, 2016, at 12:35 PM PST
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  25. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t think we can be entirely rational about this. I mean, there’s almost no chance anyone’s vote matters. The closest election I’ve ever seen was won by 537 votes in Florida. So even then 530-some people could have stayed home and it wouldn’t have made any difference! Does anyone think their vote is more likely to matter than that??

    Voting is in a weird space where no one’s vote matters directly, but somehow the fact that you get out and vote is indicative of the will of people like you to get out and vote, and then collectively it can matter. It only works if you don’t think about it too much!

    • #25
    • November 6, 2016, at 12:54 PM PST
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  26. HeavyWater Coolidge

    MJBubba:

    Spiral:…

    Those would be the correct responses today and this is why conservative Republicans should refuse to vote for Trump.

    Trump is the most conservative candidate who can win.
    Do you think a Trump Administration would result in a greater advance of Leftist causes than a Hillary Administration?

    Vote for Trump. Stop H.R. Clinton.

    Trump might actually be less conservative than Hillary Clinton. Trump said in the 1st Republican presidential debate in 2015 that socialized medicine works incredibly well in Scotland and Canada. Trump supported Nancy Pelosi in the 2006 Democrat takeover of Congress and said that he hoped Pelosi would impeach President George W. Bush.

    Also, there is the advantage that Hillary Clinton calls herself a Democrat. So, if she wins and fails, conservatives and Republicans will enjoy electoral victories in 2018 and 2020. If Trump wins and fails, the Democrats and the Left will enjoy electoral victories in 2018 and 2020.

    Trump is closer on the issues to Michael Moore than Hillary Clinton is. I’d rather Hillary win. But I will be voting for neither of them.

    • #26
    • November 6, 2016, at 1:19 PM PST
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  27. Basil G Inactive

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Basil G: Step aside and let us Mike Rowes get to work

    Sure, I’ve never done a dirty job, which you can totally tell by how I cast my vote. (Forgive the sarcasm here.)

    Basil G: But please don’t stand up there on the bank gloating at us down here clearing the sewage ditch, how clean you are.

    I am not gloating about my cleanliness, or indeed anyone’s cleanliness. I acknowledge politics is a dirty game. Indeed, the closest to “gloating” I have come during this election season is a bit of humorous “boasting” about being willing to get my hands dirty with a Green Thumb.

    It’s possible you may have misinterpreted the OP. Nowhere in it do I label Trump supporters as any less moral, or those opposing Trump as any more moral, than the other side.

    Fair enough. May need to tighten my aperture… Former favorite Mags and sites have become like a tedious joke. (The Corner @ NRO). “Knock Knock – Who’s there? – Trump is beneath any principled Conservative’s consideration to vote for….and if you take that personally that’s your issue.” Next hour, Knock-Knock….

    • #27
    • November 6, 2016, at 2:56 PM PST
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  28. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Thanks for understanding, Basil G.

    • #28
    • November 6, 2016, at 4:34 PM PST
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  29. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    • #29
    • November 6, 2016, at 5:52 PM PST
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  30. Weeping Member

    MJBubba:

    Spiral:…

    Those would be the correct responses today and this is why conservative Republicans should refuse to vote for Trump.

    Trump is the most conservative candidate who can win.
    Do you think a Trump Administration would result in a greater advance of Leftist causes than a Hillary Administration?

    Vote for Trump. Stop H.R. Clinton.

    I think they could be equal.

    • #30
    • November 6, 2016, at 8:05 PM PST
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