"Vote your conscience" - in Canada, it used to be practically the slogan for the NDP. And you hear it trotted out in American politics around election time as various minor parties aim to pick off a percent or two from the Democrats or Republicans in some state or another. The problem with the sentiment as expressed is that "vote your conscience" is implicitly, pragmatically placed in contrast with something else. But what is that thing? Voting against one's conscience? Voting without a conscience? Implicitly, the sense is that voting for the lesser of two evils, or pragmatically, is either amoral at best, immoral at worst. That either you vote according to some pristine ideal, or else you are a spineless, unprincipled voter blowing with the winds of popularity. And to choose to vote your conscience, even when that would help bring about the least desirable of several possible outcomes, is somehow a nobler and more moral action than the alternatives. Nonsense. Every vote is a vote of conscience.
Of course, voting for the party or candidate that, in some ideal world, most closely approximates the positions you agree with most fully, can be a reasonable choice. Of course radical leftists in Wyoming should vote for Jill Stein and conservative libertarians in New York should vote for Gary Johnson. Or whatever. But conscience does not exist in a vacuum, absent the consequences of the choices that it motivates. To vote for a flawed candidate, where it might really make a difference and prevent your least preferred candidate from winning, is a moral decision. It involves your conscience in a fundamental way, as you look, as a voter, at all of the potential consequences and work to avoid the worst-case scenario. So, to my American friends, when you go to vote on Tuesday (if you have not voted already), please do cast a vote of conscience, by reflecting consciously on the outcomes you can produce.