Archive for the ‘Voting’ 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.
A neighboring tribe became jealous of their success, and began to raid them, stealing their cattle and corn. The chief then raised an army of strong men. The next time the enemy tribe raided them, the chief and his men delivered a sound defeat, and they never attacked again. Nevertheless to discourage further mischief the tribe decided to keep a some men permanently armed and ready to defend them.
The chief grew old and his son then became leader. Unlike the father, the son was selfish and greedy. No matter how much he had, he always wanted more. He depleted the public treasury until he had amassed a great fortune. Then he began to eye the wealth of neighboring tribes, and sent raiders to steal from them. When the neighboring tribes protested and tried to defend themselves, he sent soldiers to intimidate them and demand tribute. The other tribes, weaker, began to submit.
But the people did not like this. They decided to hold an election to select a new chief.
Yet the son was crafty, and he conceived a scheme to retain his position. He went to the women of the tribe and spoke as follows: “I see how the men of the tribe oppress you women. They make you grind corn, cook, and wash clothes all day, while they enjoy hunting and sitting around the fire smoking their pipes. But if you vote for me in the election, I promise to fix things. I will improve your status relative to the men, and redress this great injustice.” This met with much approval with the women, and they agreed to vote for him.
Then the son went to the farmers and similarly spoke: “I know how much difficulty you have with the cattlemen. They steal your water, and let their cows eat and trample your crops. They grow rich while you grow poor. But if you vote for me, I will fix things. I will see to it that the cattlemen are put in their place. I will take some of their land and money for you to distribute amongst yourself.” This too met with much approval with the farmers.
And so it happened that when the election occurred, all the women and all the farmers voted for the chief; and although nobody else voted for him, he received enough votes to achieve victory. Once secure in his position, he resumed his previous behavior, only more boldly and on a larger scale. He now openly raided neighboring tribes, stealing their things. He hired mercenaries to form a large and invincible army, and taxed his people to pay for it. As the son ruthlessly plundered all the neighbors, the tribe became hated and held in contempt by all.
In time, even the weather changed. The earth would not yield her crops, and the cattle grew thin. The tribe became poor, suffered, and demanded a new leader. Yet every time an election was held, the crafty chief applied his scheme. No matter how poor the tribe became, there were always groups who believed they had less than others, and by exaggerating these disparities and promising to fix them he continued to win. And here is the paradox: that while each group acted rationally — for indeed inevitable differences in the distribution of things among the tribe occurred — when each group only sought greater justice for itself, all suffered greatly.
Thus it was that the people, by continually fighting amongst themselves about how to distribute what little resources remained, collectively had less and less, until they ceased to be a tribe at all, so that now even their name is forgotten.
The fascist, Wall Street duopoly that controls Washington would be broken were even one local Democrat action group to issue a statement saying, “This election we will vote en masse for the Green Party candidate in protest, even if that means a Republican will win.” Or were a Republican group to break ranks and vote Libertarian.
Until that happens, until someone, somewhere calls the bluff of the two parties, as long as the status quo parties can rely on people voting against the other party, no matter how rotten the candidate of ones own party is, nothing will change.
If the Democrats or Republicans were to lose even a single seat in the House or Senate because of third-party protest votes, they would immediately begin changing their platforms to win back voters.
Call their bluff. There is no meaningful difference between a Wall Street Republican and a Wall Street Democrat. Stop fooling yourself into thinking that you have to vote for one to prevent the other from winning!
ELECTION time is near upon us, and American politics is worse than ever. But let’s at least accomplish this much: to retire once and for all the fallacy that says “I should vote for a useless Republican/Democrat candidate because he/she is a lesser evil than the useless Democrat/Republican candidate.”
This is both faulty and dangerous reasoning, and why is explained below.
At this point we all agree that the available Republican and Democrat candidates are deplorable. All pay allegiance to the same rotten status quo/System/Wall Street Establishment/power elite or whatever else you want to call it.
“But,” so Democrat voters have mistakenly reasoned for the last several elections, “if the choice is between a Democrat bandit who will support Obamacare and a Republican bandit who wants to take it away, clearly I should vote for the former as the lesser of two evils.” And vice versa for Republican voters.
The logical error is twofold: (1) in supposing that there are only two choices; and (2) in failing to take a long-term perspective in the calculation of harms and benefits.
One has the option to vote for neither the Republican nor Democrat bandit. If a third-party or independent candidate is offered, then at the very least voting for that candidate will serve to protest against the status quo. And if the candidate actually stands for something good (like no more wars!), so much the better. Then you’ve made a positive statement of values to your fellow citizens. They’ll see, and be more likely to vote their true preferences in future elections. Important changes don’t happen all at once.
Look at it this way. There are three possible scenarios for the future:
- People continue to vote slavishly for duopoly candidates, and Democrats win overall. Then our country faces 50 years of bad and worsening conditions due to a failing social, political and economic system.
- People continue to vote slavishly for duopoly candidates, and Republicans win overall. Then our country faces 50 years of bad and worsening conditions due to a failing social, political and economic system.
- People vote for third-party or independent candidates with good ideas. Then our country faces, say, from 4 to 8 years of bad conditions while the current bandits rule. BUT, positive change has begun. There’s hope that in 10 or 20 years third-party candidates can win seats in Congress and things will improve. Further, as voters flee the two big parties, pressure will be on Republican and Democrat politicians to come around and stop the insanity.
By considering all available options and taking a long-term perspective, the most ethical choice is to reject both mainstream candidates, and vote for a more reasonable third-party or independent candidate.
Get over the illusion that we’ll see positive change in Washington in the next few years. It isn’t going to happen. Use your vote, then, to produce positive change in the longer term.
And there is an immediate positive: voting on principle will make you feel much better.