Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Here Comes The Argument (For The Lesser of Two Evils)

Here's a snippet from the linked post, it's worth reading the whole thing, but the root of my disagreement with LaBossiere is in this bit:
In the upcoming election, I intend to follow my principle. While I voted for Sanders in the primary and prefer him over Hillary, I think that a Trump presidency would be vastly worse for the country as a whole than another Clinton presidency. Hillary, as I see her, is essentially a 1990s moderate Republican with a modern liberal paint job. As such, she can be counted on as a competent business as usual politician who will march along with the majority of the population in regards to social policy (such as same sex marriage and gun regulation). Trump has no experience in office and I have no real idea what he would do as president. As such, I am taking the classic approach of choosing the lesser evil and the devil I know. If I was voting for the greater evil, Cthulhu would have my vote. 
It might be objected that my approach is flawed. After all, if a person votes based on a rational assessment of the impact of an election on everyone, then she could end up voting against her own self-interest. What a person should do, it could be argued, is consider the matter selfishly—to vote based on what is in her interest regardless of the general good. 
This approach does have considerable appeal and is based on an established moral philosophy, known as ethical egoism. This is the view that a person should always take the action that maximizes her self-interest. Roughly put, for the ethical egoist, she is the only one with moral value.
Does it leap out at you, too? For me, it's the reduction of voting for the candidate who best represents your values, whom you believe would make the best President, to an ethical egoist position. Altruism vs. ethical egoism here is a frame, not an entirely worthless one, but a frame that is hung over the argument to facilitate clubbing together would be Green or Libertarian voters with Ayn Rand and her philosophy for morons. (Sure, it actually applies to the latter group, but it denigrates the motives, aspirations, and beliefs of Greens and other progressives.)

If we consider the morality of voting for a third party candidate from deontological or utilitarian (consequentialist) perspectives, it's suspiciously convenient (though, of course, not impossible) with this framing that a vote for the Clinton can be cast as a virtuous action either way; not to mention suspiciously convenient that a principled vote for a candidate who is not merely a lesser-of-three-evils option, but a "good" option, then doesn't seem to have a philosophical leg to stand on.

So, let's remove the frame. My counterargument is that a vote for a third party candidate who best represents not only my own views, but who best represents the views of a majority of Americans -- views which I think most ethicists agree are generally "better" than dehumanizing, wealth-concentrating, warmongering, environment degrading, etc. -- is, at least from the deontological perspective, a more virtuous vote, than the one for the neoliberal candidate (or the fascist buffoon).

That we shouldn't consider voting for the best candidate a ideal normative action requires we bring in some consequentialist notions based on cynical assumptions: "a third party vote is wasted", "the mass media doesn't recognize a candidate as viable, therefore she is not viable", "if you don't vote for the lesser of the two evils, you increasing the risk that the greater of two evils will win and make things worse than they otherwise would have been", "it's selfish to vote for the candidate who best represents your values", and so on. Now, some of those are harder to dismiss than others, and I'm sure many will find no fault at all with the one that says if you don't vote for the lesser of two evils, you're effectively supporting the evil, which -- by logical necessity, I think -- would make that voter actively evil.

What subscription to that belief fails to recognize is how much it leans on a host of other assumptions, which I don't think even those people who take that position would agree with. The major networks and big newspapers don't get to decide what candidates are viable based on how it benefits their bottom line to align with the oligarchical agents in our society. That's a power determination that the internet and social media have long since undercut. It is easier today than it ever has been to find the strong arguments and dismiss the blatantly self-serving propaganda of the super-wealthy elites. A refusal to consider a third party candidate as viable, unless it's a Ross Perot-like approved option of the rich, is nothing more than a mix of intellectual laziness and moral cowardice. "Oh, the rich say this person can't win, so they are going to ignore her? I guess I might as well accept their judgment over my own," says the sucker born every minute.

Put another way, I don't think "you shouldn't vote in your best interest, and in the best interest of the country, because most people won't" makes sense. Rather, that notion reinforces the "most people won't" when any position we take ought to be voting in the best interest of the country. (Or, if you're feeling selfish, voting based on self-interest alone.)

Until people make their voices count, they won't count. I don't owe anybody my vote, and I am thinking of the greater good when I vote for the candidate who shares more of my values than any of the others. It's not my fault she "can't win," it's yours, LaBossiere and your ilk.

Now, I could be wrong. Maybe Stein would be an ineffective, or bad, President. But I'm not convinced of that by arguments based on cynical acceptance of the plutocratic definition of viable candidates. Convince me Stein is wrong on foreign policy. Convince me she's wrong on energy policy, on civil rights issues, on women's health issues, on wealth inequality issues ... go ahead. I'm waiting.

If we get Trump/Pence in 2016, then we deserve the fucking disaster that's coming.

If we get Clinton/Kaine, then the mitigated disaster that's coming is what we deserve. Enjoy your endless war, continuing concentration of wealth, private prisons, surveillance state, corporate welfare, and new trade treaties. I'll continue to speak against them, to vote against them, and remind you what you voted for when you do, too.

Anticipated questions/objections:

Did Nader cost Gore the 2000 election?
No. Gore cost Gore the 2000 election. Also, the Supreme Court. Also, Clinton, whose Administration was more moderate Republican than progressive. Had Clinton/Gore been more progressive than NAFTA and DADT, we never get into the mess Bush left us. Had they been more progressive, Gore would have been able to steal Nader's thunder; he could have co-opted the message with credibility and won those voters over. He didn't try, and wouldn't have been credible if he had.

Don't I care Trump could win if I don't vote Hillary?
Of course I do. A Hillary Presidency would be better than a Trump, no doubt. But a Stein would be better than either. I'm voting the way I think people should vote, hoping they eventually will learn because I want change, a bold new direction, an end to Citizens United, and much more. I don't believe Hillary wants those things.

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