I haven't been very mysterious about who I will be voting for this election but I'd prefer to avoid writing a lengthy political dissertation today. I agree with the concept of "vote with your conscience" but with this particular presidential election, I think the prevailing sentiment from all Americans has become "Does the other side have a conscience?". Rather than allowing the conscience to be defined in blue or red terms, or even by any religious ideology, I find myself deferring to the wisdom of philosophy when political decisions become murky. In the case of the 2016 election, I look to the words of one of my favorite philosophers and the father of existentialism: Søren Kierkegaard. You might have heard the term "petit bourgeois" from Marxism or in politico-economic discussions. It is rarely used to paint an individual in a positive light.
Kierkegaard's definition of the petit bourgeois is not a criticism of an actual social class, rather it is an indictment of a narrow worldview. Kierkegaard felt that the petite bourgeoisie personified "a spiritual emptiness that is rooted in an overemphasis on the worldly, rather than the inwardness of the self". Kierkegaard spends a great deal of time discussing the importance of "the self" and while his language can be complex, the most basic explanation is that "the self" is something like the concept of a soul combined with self-awareness. Kierkegaard believed that only a truly self-aware soul would strive to be closer to God and would thus be grounded in love. Kierkegaard was Christian but I believe his emphasis on self-awareness and love allow his core ideas to have universal meaning and applicability. In my favorite text by Kierkegaard, A Sickness Unto Death, he describes the petit bourgeoisie as "spiritless...Devoid of imagination, as the petty bourgeois always is, he lives within a certain orbit of trivial experiences as to how things come about, what is possible, what usually happens, no matter whether he is a tapster [bartender] or a prime minister. This is the way the petty bourgeois has lost himself and God".
Does Kierkegaard's depiction of the petit bourgeois sound like either of the 2 major candidates for president of the United States?
It might seem strange to apply a text written in 1849 in Denmark to an election taking place in America in 2016, but I do not feel that wisdom has an expiration date. That quote gave me clarity and peace, and I hope it did the same for you. Please exercise your right to vote today, it is a right we are fortunate to have.