Archive for the ‘Reform in government’ Category
SINCE 2008 I’ve been making arguments in favor of supporting third-party presidential candidates even if they seem unlikely to win. What, for example, can you tell an associate who says, “If you vote for Jill Stein, then you’re only helping Trump get elected, just as Ralph Nader’s candidacy helped George W. Bush to win in 2000.” Here are some of the arguments. Do they make sense? Are they persuasive? Can they be stated more succinctly?
1. The lesser evil is still evil.
Today the world is in a descending spiral of violence and hatred. We need a president who will oppose US wars and military imperialism. Neither Trump nor Hillary fit the bill. Yet of the two, Hillary is more hawkish. She took a lead in the destruction of Libya by the US and NATO — a ruthless war for profit disguised by flimsy pretexts and false rumors. She also tried to pull the same stunt on a larger scale in Syria, and if elected might still get her way there.
Hillary evidently sees no problem with starting wars, imposing child-killing sanctions, supporting coup attempts, training rebels, funding insurgencies, and sponsoring false-flag operations for the sake of Wall Street and other special interests. This is documentable. We have her emails (well, at least the ones she didn’t destroy).
We are responsible for the actions of officials we vote for. If people vote for Hillary, either not knowing what she’s done in Libya and Syria or because they haven’t bothered to find out, then they are morally responsible for any unjust wars she starts. The responsibility would be even greater than that of Bush supporters in 2000; at least people didn’t know Bush was a warmonger. They do in Hillary’s case.
2. It’s a racket.
The Wall Street system is setting you up. It’s giving you a forced choice between Trump and Clinton precisely to scare you into maintaining the Wall Street hegemony by voting against the more feared candidate. If you fall for it (as voters have consistently since 2000), then Wall Street will continue to work the same scam election after election. Nothing will ever change (except that candidates will get even scarier and the polarization and mistrust among citizens more extreme).
You should be angry about this and stop playing along! It’s like negotiating with terrorists.
3. It’s about more than the next four years.
In making an important choice, long-term outcomes matter more than immediate results. So, okay, suppose that many Democrats vote for Jill Stein, and Trump wins the general election. The world will not end (at least not because of that). We managed to survive eight years of George W. Bush, for example. And after that Obama became president. For all we know this all produced better results (from a Democrat perspective) than if Al Gore had been president from 2001 to 2008 followed by a George W. Bush presidency from 2009 to 2016!
The White House regularly passes between the two parties. If the Democrats lose it in 2016, they may win it back in 2020 or 2024. And in the long run, that might be better for Democrats.
We simply don’t know — and that’s the point. In a case like this it’s better to make a choice based on rock-solid principles — like the fact that US militarism is wrong and it is our absolute duty as citizens to oppose it — than based on vague speculations about what could or might happen if, say, Trump wins.
If Clinton loses because of Jill Stein in 2016, it would give the DNC a well-deserved spanking; they might just come back in 2020 with a real presidential candidate and an anti-war platform!
And what about, say, 50 years ahead? If Wall Street continues to run the world we are in danger of descending into a dystopian nightmare. Now on way or the other we’re stuck with a Wall Street president in 2016 (assuming Bernie isn’t nominated). But the sooner we start voting for third-party candidates, the sooner the journey to a better future begins. When precisely do we intend to get off the merry-go-round if not now? What’s gained by waiting? The same system clever enough to cajole us with saying, “no, just one more time” is clever enough to come up with equally and more nefarious tactics in future elections.
Whatever else is true about it, the Wall Street system is smart. And maybe smarter than us, too — but in any case in complete control of the agenda, which is the next best thing. We cannot out-strategize the Wall Street system, so we must rise above it. Our only sure defense against being deceived and manipulated election after election is to follow the certain prompting of our deepest Conscience. And that tells us these wars are wrong.
4. It’s about more than elections.
Voting is sacred. We have a responsibility to other citizens to vote in an intelligent and moral way. If you vote ‘tactically’ (e.g., voting for Clinton merely to prevent Trump from winning) then, in a sense, you’ve lied to your fellow citizens.
Suppose each ballot contained the instructions “please vote for the person you think is *most qualified*, even if that person is unlikely to win.” Then voting your true preference would be a gesture of honesty and good faith. It would say to others, “Even though I will not win, I will inform you, with my vote, what I think *should* be.”
When you vote your ideals, others see that your and their ideals are the same. It gives ideals more power to change society.
It also increases love in society as others see fellow citizens who are morally courageous. It creates a new consensus of honesty and integrity.
But if we’re a society of compromisers, that has the opposite effect. It causes fellow citizens to become cynical and mercenary.
Remember what we tell children: “Just do the right thing, and let the chips fall where they may. *Trust* that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. Believe that the universe takes care of people who do the right thing.”
5. What if everybody did that? (WIEDT)
Game theorists recognize tactical voting as an example of a social dilemma. A social dilemma occurs when, if every individual seeks to maximize personal gain, the outcome is worse for everyone. Nuclear weapons proliferation is a classic example. At one level it’s entirely rational for a country to build up a nuclear arsenal for self-defense. But because all countries think like this, the end result is a world where everyone has nuclear weapons. Then nobody is safe. Yet despite this, each country feels compelled to acquire the most sophisticated and destructive weapons it can. Acting ‘rationally’ (in this limited sense) leads inexorably to outcomes that no rational agent would want.
Some moral theorists suggest we are at a crossroads in human evolution. Unless we soon find a generic solution to modern social dilemmas, then, between the effects of global warming, pollution, competition for food and resources, and advancements in weaponry, we might not survive much longer. What’s needed, these theorists say, is the emergence of a new ethos in which people habitually ‘think globally’ in all their moral choices. In short, we must become a species where we routinely ask before acting, “what if everybody did that?” (WIEDT), and let the answer guide our action.
How would the WIEDT principle apply here? Well if everyone voted for Trump or Hillary, we’d be endorsing with massive popular support the evil Wall Street war machine.
And what if everybody voted for Jill Stein? Then we’d end US wars and militarism. Therefore this is the moral choice.
There are plenty of more arguments, but this is enough to get started.
From George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796)
A solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion….
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another….
The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed,
it is of infinite moment
that you should properly estimate
the immense value of your national union
to your collective and individual happiness;
that you should cherish a cordial, habitual,
and immovable attachment to it;
accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it
as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity;
watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety;
discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion
that it can in any event be abandoned;
and indignantly frowning upon
the first dawning of every attempt
to alienate any portion of our country from the rest,
or to enfeeble the sacred ties
which now link together the various parts.