So! How ‘Bout Those Primaries?

by John Holbo on March 16, 2016

On December 23 I bet my older daughter 5 cents Rubio would be ahead in the delegate count by March 15. She (and Belle) bet on Trump (unless someone got killed at one of his rallies before March 15.) My youngest daughter remains uninterested in politics.

UPDATE: since the 5 cents comes from the change dish by the door, which would equally have been the source of the daughter’s payment to me, had she lost, this is one of those ‘can my left hand give my right hand money’ puzzles.

{ 645 comments }

1

RNB 03.16.16 at 3:10 pm

With Trump, every once in a while, behind the orange face, I smell fear. More surprised by anyone else by how far his campaign has gone, Trump now fears that he’s one black swan event away from actually having to govern the country, something he knows due to insider information about his own grandiose business failures better than anyone else that he simply cannot do. He can be like poor bloke’s vision of a rich guy, but that’s it. He’s too intellectually scattered and emotionally volatile to actually govern something complex. It’s obvious to us, but he knows this more deeply than we do. He has a profound sense of his inadequacy. He needs to talk about how smart he is, how many words he has, how many friends he has, how many people love him, how the polls have him leading and how big his penis is. You can smell the fear on the guy.

2

RNB 03.16.16 at 3:14 pm

By the way, that’s how a psychiatrist friend says Trump appears to him. A sociologist friend who knows the history of Berlusconi insists that I have to understand his rise to understand Trump’s. Don’t think there has been much discussion of Berlusconi yet.

3

Brett 03.16.16 at 3:18 pm

You did better than me. I thought Scott Walker was the likely nominee last year, and then he promptly went and sank his own campaign before he even reached the first caucus.

4

RNB 03.16.16 at 3:21 pm

Another big story is how the Republican elites are strategizing to remove Trump at the Convention. This means rising contempt for his supporters, and the elite Republican contempt for the white working class took astonishing expression here.
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/432796/working-class-whites-have-moral-responsibilities-defense-kevin-williamson
There has been a lot of discussion of this piece on the internets.

5

TM 03.16.16 at 3:39 pm

You havbe to at least understand the rise of Mussolini, if not Hitler, to understand Trump. Also, Trump exhibits symptoms of sleep deprivation (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelly-bulkeley-phd/donald-trump-the-sleep-de_b_9413588.html).

6

TM 03.16.16 at 3:44 pm

Re 4, from the link: “The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale [white trash] communities is that they deserve to die.”

Spoken like true conservatives.

7

Cervantes 03.16.16 at 3:51 pm

What made her think that somebody getting killed at a Trump rally would be a problem for him?

8

Doctor Science 03.16.16 at 4:01 pm

Back around Christmas, Trump said Hillary “doesn’t have the strength or the stamina” to be President. That would be a Rove tactic — attack where your opponent is strongest — because everybody knows that one thing Hillary’s got is stamina, omg. But I also see projection by Trump: stamina has always been his weak spot, that’s one reason pundits were predicting he’d drop out in the fall.

9

mistah charley, ph.d. 03.16.16 at 4:01 pm

RNB – While I think you’re right that Trump is afraid he can’t handle the job, I don’t think he really needs to worry.

He is running for Spokesmodel.

Kurt Vonnegut said that the President has a toy steering wheel, like that which used to be attached to the glove compartment on the passenger side for the small child who in, those benighted days long ago, was allowed to sit in the front. The opening sequences for the Simpsons shows, or did show, Maggie honking the horn of such a device.

10

RNB 03.16.16 at 4:06 pm

OK, if Trump intends only to be the chief Spokesmodel, he does tell us that he has lined up the businessmen to actually negotiate deals on behalf of the US. But then he drops the name of Carl Icahn only, who apparently will merge the roles of USTR, Secty of State and Secty of the Treasury. So perhaps we should remind ourselves of who Carl Icahn is.

11

AcademicLurker 03.16.16 at 4:13 pm

While Trump gets all the press, one of the most interesting things about this election cycle is how totally all of the “acceptable to the GOP party elites” candidates were rejected by the voters. Walker, Jeb!, Rubio…they didn’t just lose, they were stomped and humiliated. It makes you wonder what this means for the GOP going forward.

12

Phil 03.16.16 at 4:20 pm

I’m not sure about the Berlusconi analogy, but there are some parallels. The key thing that happened in Italy was the death of principled, Catholic, post-war anti-Communism. Both the Christian Democrats and – perhaps more importantly – the Socialists had been exposed as corrupt to the core, and had been discredited and electorally destroyed; with them out of the way, there was nothing to stop the successors to the Communists actually forming a government. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia was an explicit and calculated attempt to mould a new party out of all that was left of anti-Communism – which meant cynical, reactionary and anti-political populism, mobilising people who knew nothing about politics and cared less; people who were treated with contempt by the establishment Right as well as the Left, and knew it. It also meant making alliances with some pretty unsavoury elements on the Right – although as time passed the Berlusconi element of the alliance started to seem the most right-wing of them all, precisely because he wasn’t held back by anything.

But none of it would have happened without the key personal element, which was that Berlusconi was in deep trouble with the law, many times over. Being elected prime minister was his best hope of staying out of jail, and he used it for precisely that end. Cue ad personam laws to the effect that the Prime Minister (whoever he or she may be) can’t be prosecuted during his or her term of office; cue adjustments to the statute of limitations to selected crimes, enabling Berlusconi to run out the clock; and cue an outrageously successful campaign to smear those judges who wanted to prosecute Berlusconi as Communists and present the idea of bringing a crook to justice as political persecution. And the reason that worked was, in part, the existence of that bedrock of cynical anti-Establishment anti-politics.

The collapse of the ‘principled’, politically-literate Right and the surprise populist candidate coming in to sweep up what’s left, unhindered by track record, education or scruples – that much reads across rather well. I suppose the key question about a Trump presidency is the second one: what’s in it for him? If he’s got negative or positive incentives as strong as Berlusconi had, we may be in for a bumpy ride. If not… well, why is he doing it? do we know?

13

Layman 03.16.16 at 4:20 pm

Rubio made a game effort to out-crazy Trump (e.g. his insistence that Obama was deliverately working to weaken the US and strengthen our enemies), but in the end it wasn’t enough. It says something about the state of the Republican Party that its establishment offers up to the base someone like Rubio as the serious, reasonable alternative to Trump.

Also, too, at least Chris Christie finally performed a public service, with his murder / suicide act which probably ended Rubio’s Presidential aspirations for good.

14

Layman 03.16.16 at 4:25 pm

“But none of it would have happened without the key personal element, which was that Berlusconi was in deep trouble with the law, many times over. Being elected prime minister was his best hope of staying out of jail, and he used it for precisely that end.”

In this, Berlusconi honors an ancient Roman tradition, that of using public office as a means to gain immunity from prosecution.

15

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 03.16.16 at 4:40 pm

Maybe the GOP will meet its well-deserved end finally.

But I’ll bet “our” triangulating Wall St. Dems will bring them back from the brink. Again. And the richest will keep getting richer.
~

16

phenomenal cat 03.16.16 at 4:55 pm

“On December 23 I bet my older daughter 5 cents Rubio would be ahead in the delegate count by March 15. She (and Belle) bet on Trump (unless someone got killed at one of his rallies before March 15.) My youngest daughter remains uninterested in politics.”

Humbly, is this not an indication that we readers would gain greater benefit from more older daughter/Belle political analysis posts rather than Holbonian ones? It’s doubtful that older daughter/Belle would benefit in this scenario, but we all must make sacrifices when and where we can.

I respect younger daughter’s decision to take the high road as it were.

17

TM 03.16.16 at 5:09 pm

10: “But then he drops the name of Carl Icahn only”

Really, who cares?

18

LFC 03.16.16 at 5:26 pm

From the standpt of the Repub high command, Rubio on paper had a lot going for him: young, obvs. ambitious, reasonably charismatic (a couple of odd mannerisms when speaking but that’s fairly minor), ties to part of the Hispanic community, from a swing state, and an appealing personal story (humble origins, parents immigrants etc.). It looked good on paper but the campaign was badly run, which is not to say he cd have beaten Trump but he might have emerged as the alternative. The verdict (from a Repub ‘establishment’ view): good idea, bad execution.

19

js. 03.16.16 at 5:27 pm

Phil @13 — Thanks, that’s quite helpful.

20

LFC 03.16.16 at 5:31 pm

Plus most of them didn’t get behind him until Jeb B. withdrew.

21

RNB 03.16.16 at 5:37 pm

@13 Yes most interesting. ad personam laws to protect Trump from a highly unusual twelve straight years of IRS audits:)
@18 just hoping people had some juicy stuff about Carl Icahn, corporate raider. He has famously said “Some people get rich studying artificial intelligence. Me, I make my money studying natural stupidity.” Trump has gotten over $1 bn of free advertising for his brand exactly because he did not underestimate how stupid the American people are.

22

Bruce Wilder 03.16.16 at 5:47 pm

LFC @ 19

Rubio also offered a weird religious trifecta of Catholicism, Mormonism, and megachurch Protestant evangelicism.

What he never bothered with was a campaign organization, underwritten with a donor base. I get that Carson was running a book tour and some of the others auditioning for Fox News celebrity slots — I never understood Rubio. Not having a campaign organization was a clear indication he was not running for President, but what was he doing?

23

rootlesscosmo 03.16.16 at 5:51 pm

I keep hoping someone will ask Christie if he expects a Cabinet post in a Trump administration, so he can answer “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

24

rootlesscosmo 03.16.16 at 5:52 pm

I also wish someone who can draw (I can’t) would depict Trump as the big statue in New York Harbor, middle finger upraised in place of the torch, with the caption “I Lift My Lamp Beside The Golden Door.”

25

SamChevre 03.16.16 at 6:14 pm

My prognostications are equally bad; I expected the race to come down to Paul vs Walker.

26

Layman 03.16.16 at 6:24 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 23, I think Rubio was genuinely running for president but with no real understanding of how a national campaign is done. He’s won only one statewide election, as part of the Tea Party wave, in an election year where the GOP candidate in Florida was more or less assured of victory. I’m not sure he’s ever run a campaign where he had to have a campaign organization to succeed. He probably thought that if the mood of the voters was right, and the party elders were behind him, he would automatically win, as he had before. If he was wrong, he wasn’t alone – the ‘Rubio is the real candidate the Democrats should fear’ meme has been pushed quite hard by insiders and pundits through this whole primary season, and those people should certainly have known better.

27

Richard M 03.16.16 at 7:11 pm

>Trump now fears that he’s one black swan event away from actually having to govern the country

> Another big story is how the Republican elites are strategizing to remove Trump at the Convention.

It does seem to me that the Republican elites could save a lot of trouble for themselves by having a quick whip round and offering Trump the proceeds if he goes away. Walking away with a headline figure like a billion dollars has to be a win for him; a truly legendary big deal. He might hope to loot more from the presidency, but it would be a bit harder to boast about how much, and he might even end up in jail at the end of it.

Paying Trump to withdraw is not obviously illegal, and is clearly in the interests of all parties who have a say.

28

roger gathmann 03.16.16 at 7:20 pm

I never understood the press’s Rubio love. Apparently, even Nate Silver thought in January that it would be Rubio. The usual explanation is that on paper he looks good. But what explains the diff between paper and real or mediated life? To my mind, Trump has mastered the fact that visceral issues count. Viscerally, Rubio just didn’t have the bits to fit the GOP identi-kit. Small, preppy in a childish way, vacuous but not cocky about it – he was George W. shorn of all those privileged tells that the GOP constituency judges by. I think Rubio was over-estimated by the kind of people who think that the GOP has a vast “moderate” sector, and that U.S. politics has this “center” where Dems and Reps overlap. I don’t think the US has any center, but the establishment does. When the publisher of the NYT goes down to rub elbows with his fellow plutocrats and strategize blocking Trump, he probably sees a Davos like good will emanating from all sides. And, indeed, plutocrats who support Dems or Reps are probably like that Venn diagram model that the news biz assumes. But outside the 1 percent, I think it is absent. Or rather, imposed. So it gets all shocking when lowlifes kick against such obvious goods as free trade and all the rest of it. Dont they know they won’t be able to afford the tat from Walmart if they get huffy? But they are huffy, left or right.
Left or right are going to be odd categories in this race, in which the Republican nominee is a solid critic of the invasion of Iraq and the Dem nominee is a supporter of it – in which, on trade, the Rep nominee is closer to the unions position and the Dem nominee is aching to shake off the election business so she can pivot back to lobbying for the TPP. The center was never there, but in this election, it is a palpable gap.

29

DavidTheK 03.16.16 at 7:31 pm

@RNB 1&2 I don’t see fear so much in the intellectually scattered behavior as much as I see an ADD style personality. I’m disappointed the regular press hasn’t picked this up. Are they so lazy as to never review a transcript of a speech, or so clueless as to be unable to understand what a logical argument should look like? It is sad for democracy. In the USA.

Don’t feel bad about the bet. I thought the winner might come from the Govenors and Senators allstars and I expected that Trump would be one who neglected to build a ground game. Turned out he did; and it was Rubio of all people who thought he (Rubio) would just be anointed and people would therefore automatically vote for him.

30

Bruce Wilder 03.16.16 at 7:42 pm

I don’t usually feel I get much out of amateur (or professional) analysis of personalities or personal psychology. There is a ready market for it, obviously, but it seems prone to substituting mind-reading for political reality. And, the politicians and their consultants are well-aware of this line of thinking and plant stories as fodder for the psychic ruminants, about themselves and their opponents.

The harder thing is to cobble together a narrative that touches on factions seeking office, power or policy along with fund-raising and the more amorphous business of herding electoral coalitions and manipulating masses of people.

Clearly, there is disarray in the Republican “presidential” Party, but it is weird sort of disarray standing alongside the strength of the Party at the State level and in Congress.

The Democratic Party seems to me to be hiding grave weakness behind the Clinton machine. I do not doubt HRC can trounce Teh Donald, but does she have the ability to lead the Party to recover Senate and State Houses? And, does she have the judgment to avoid deepening US commitment to perpetual war? Or, going down the financial and economic drain engineered by her Wall St friends?

31

RNB 03.16.16 at 7:47 pm

@30. Overdetermination. Fear of inadequacy+sleep deprivation+ADD=Donald Trump. I really don’t see the point of not piling on here.

32

John Quiggin 03.16.16 at 7:53 pm

A minor point, but I don’t think there’s anything special about Trump. Trump, or someone like him, is exactly what you would expect after the last two Repub primary seasons. In 2008, McCain got of a lot of votes for being anti-Establishment and the wild enthusiasm for Palin prefigured Trump. In 2012, there was a strong and consistent vote for a series of obviously crazy candidates, but there was still enough connection to traditional ideas about democracy and the Presidency that they could disqualify themselves, and duly did. And there were a fair number of Repub voters who wanted crazy policies served up by someone who didn’t sound crazy.

In 2016, the overt crazies (Carson, Cruz, Trump at a minimum) have the overwhelming majority of the vote, and there’s no longer any real disqualification condition (although Carson’s vote collapsed surprisingly fast). If Trump weren’t there, someone like Ann Coulter would have done just as well.

33

RNB 03.16.16 at 7:56 pm

Ann Coulter for VP, then!

34

Layman 03.16.16 at 8:00 pm

Perhaps the one special thing about Trump is the nonstop media attention he’s gotten. It’s hard to think of someone would have gotten that same treatment. Trump has run his entire campaign without spending anything, really, on advertising, yet still commands far greater media reach than any of his opponents; probably more than all of them combined.

35

LFC 03.16.16 at 8:22 pm

JQ @33
One thing ‘special’ about Trump is his breaking of the norms of campaign discourse to ridicule and launch ad hominems at opponents: Kasich “is a baby,” Cruz “is a liar,” “little Marco,” etc. This is not totally new, of course, but Trump took it to a new level, I think.

When Rubio tried to do this vs. Trump, it didn’t work for him. Perhaps it was just too late and came off as looking desperate. Rubio did have good moments vs. Trump in one late debate when he pressed him, e.g., on his health-care non-policy, but again, it didn’t seem to make much difference.

I think Rubio came off on the whole as too staged, programmed, not quite spontaneous enough — whereas Trump is the embodiment of what at least looks like spontaneity. Kasich and Cruz also managed to carve out personae, so to speak, but Rubio seemed all over the place, unable to settle on a consistent tone and message, beyond the ‘twenty-first-century conservatism’ thing, which turned out to be thin gruel. I’m not a true campaign junkie, so take these impressions for what they’re worth…

36

P O'Neill 03.16.16 at 8:29 pm

In this, Berlusconi honors an ancient Roman tradition, that of using public office as a means to gain immunity from prosecution.

Which brings up the topic of Lula’s latest position

37

bruce wilder 03.16.16 at 9:13 pm

The usual pattern in American politics is that a more or less well-organized faction runs a Presidential candidate. In 2000, both Gore & Bush were surrounded by deep assemblies of their respective Party’s “Presidential parties”, the several thousand who are actively seeking executive or judicial office and are willing to expend time and money to get their guy elected, in order to realize power thru patronage. The senior leadership of these Presidential parties of people competing in national politics are often former office holders if not currently in office and they find ways to network. There are farm teams at the state level and among Congressional staffs, hoping to rise. In the old days, white shoe law firms provided perches for out-of-office politicoes, as did prestige universities; now hedge funds and big banks offer shelter and the insurance policy of personal wealth. (HRC herself traded futures, supposedly, from a cozy desk provided by Tyson’s, back in the day before G-S was paying six-figure speaking fees.)

When the electoral and / or fund-raising and / or ideological coalition undergirding a Party shifts radically, altering significantly the customary means of assembling a winning campaign, these factional “presidential parties” within the Party can fall apart. Maybe, the chances of winning in a particular year seem too remote to motivate those seeking office to a maximum short-term effort, but maybe it isn’t clear how to reconcile growing conflicts among traditional bases of support until some creative politician or operative finds a formula — then a faction of patronage seekers and policy entrepreneurs assembles.

Bill Clinton’s genius back in the 1990s was assembling all the necessary elements from the remnants of the fractured New Deal coalition, within himself at the center, alongside an emergent anti-Bush, anti-Reagan reaction. The third-way politics of gently corrupt DLC policy combined with white southern Bubba talk to squeeze out a plurality, and he assembled around himself an assortment of patronage-seekers. The most notorious in subsequent history was Rubin, because in the light of subsequent events he seems to prefigure the GFC, but at the time was much more benign.

I sketch this dynamic frame just to move the analysis away from individual personalities.

The crackup of the Republican Party presidential campaign is a very strange phenomenon, and would bear some speculative inquiry. Jeb¡ clearly had the backing of an establishment patronage faction, raised a great deal of money and went nowhere. The Party apparatus — the RNC — thought a long-running reality teevee show would be a good idea. Among these cynical operatives, the key to electoral success is manipulation by marketing: assembling a favorable demo you can sell to advertisers, so to speak. These people recognize capturing a healthy slice of the Hispanic vote as a clear path to a Republican Presidential electoral majority — a lot of Hispanics are religious, socially conservative, economically aspirational and racially “white” (let’s not even try to parse that). Jeb! Ted and Marco all had an angle on this path to expanding the Republican electoral base.

The Republican Party apparatus at the State level and Congressionally is much stronger than the Democratic Party, which is also a bit odd, since in some ways the Republican Presidential vote is shaped like that of a regional Southern Party. The raft of dictatorial Daddy governors elected in 2010 (patriarchy, Val!), the success of hardball voter suppression and Congressional gerrymandering all seem to indicate a Party that has some internal discipline, if nothing else. And, a corresponding weakness in the Democratic Party.

Traditionally, in American politics, because the Parties had such weak ideologies, Congressional gerrymandering did not work against the national Parties, per se; the local Party would just morph in whatever direction was necessary to adapt. The 2010 gerrymandering did work, indicating a weakness in Dem’s ideological adaptiveness. And, now the Republicans have stumbled badly at the national level, in their ideological (if that is even the right word for their racist, sexist signalling) adaptiveness.

Hispanic support was key to Obama’s electoral support, but taking it away has proven a bridge too far. In the Democratic Party, a revival of economic populism has run aground on shoals of anti-racism and neoliberal corruption.

38

roger gathmann 03.16.16 at 9:22 pm

This politico article is great! Rubio telling the reporter that they are gonna be so SORRY is even better than Nixon’s you won’t have me to kick around anymore. Cause, you know, it is all about him:

“There will be a reckoning in the mainstream media, where all these networks and cable networks are going to have to ask themselves why did they give so much coverage for the sake of ratings,” he said. “There will be a reckoning in the conservative movement, where a lot of people who for a long time have espoused conservative principles seem to not care about those anymore in rallying around Donald Trump because they like his attitude.
“I think there are a lot of people in the conservative movement who are going to spend years and years explaining to people how they fell into this and how they allowed this to happen.”

Yes, god will open up the heavens and strike down upon the ungodly press and ungrateful people. Rubio’s attitude is exactly what you would expect from someone whose whole life has been paid for by a sugardaddy. If he were in court, I’d suggest the affluenza defense. He was the affluenza candidate.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/marco-rubio-2016-campaign-drop-out-213736#ixzz436SWyHtM
Follow us: @politico on Twitter | Politico on Facebook

39

RNB 03.16.16 at 9:26 pm

40

RNB 03.16.16 at 9:29 pm

You know, he’s suspended his campaign. We don’t have to talk about Rubio, anymore.

41

LFC 03.16.16 at 9:37 pm

@b wilder
I sketch this dynamic frame just to move the analysis away from individual personalities.

When it comes to presidential politics, I think both structural forces, however one chooses to analyze them, and individual personalities are important. An attempt at a complete explanation would include both.

@ r gathmann
glancing at Rubio’s wikipedia entry earlier today, I saw that he said he had $100,000 in student-loan debt after finishing college (U Fla) and law school (U of Miami) — most of it presumably from law school. So if there was a ‘sugardaddy’ (which I assume from yr comment), the real largesse apparently did not click in until somewhat later…(?)

42

bruce wilder 03.16.16 at 9:41 pm

Ronan(rf) contributed this link on the other thread.
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/03/davis-core-millenials-bernie-socialism/

I do still love real Communists. Every day is the end of contradictions and the first day of a long revolutionary struggle to usher in the millennium (without the Risen Christ Enthroned, though).

Still, he does pick up on realignment and generational shifts that I only hinted at in my comment above.

43

LFC 03.16.16 at 9:41 pm

@RNB
You know, he’s suspended his campaign. We don’t have to talk about Rubio, anymore.

We don’t have to talk about any of this — HRC, Trump, Kasich, Sanders, Carl Icahn, “the respective parties’ ‘presidential parties'”, none of it.

44

LFC 03.16.16 at 9:45 pm

RNB @40
So Trump’s main foreign-policy consultant is himself. What a surprise.

45

roger gathmann 03.16.16 at 9:47 pm

42, so you have never heard of Norman Braman, without whom Rubio would have to face one of Florida’s notorious mortgage courts? Oh, you are missing one of the joys of welfarehood for the rightwing righteous!
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/10/us/politics/marco-rubio-finances-debt-loans-credit.html
Don’t you think we could all use a little Norman Braman in our lives?

46

The Temporary Name 03.16.16 at 9:49 pm

Rubio’s instructive.

Even before his picturesque launch at symbolic Freedom Tower in Miami last spring, Rubio’s aides were hardly the only ones who saw in Rubio an answer to the Republican Party’s prayers: a young, charismatic and Hispanic conservative, the son of a bartender and a maid with remarkably broad appeal across a GOP spectrum riven by ideological and stylistic divisions. He’d been plastered on the cover of Time as “The Republican Savior.” Rubio was the kind of rare talent who could win a primary and then articulate a conservative message that resonated in a fast-changing country in the general.

Look at everything that’s taken for granted there, even given the author knows it’s not so now.

47

Layman 03.16.16 at 9:59 pm

Rubio’s charisma and evident presidential timber cannot fail, they can only be failed.

48

The Temporary Name 03.16.16 at 10:00 pm

Right. It’s his campaign’s fault! He’s still what everybody wants! The proof is right there in that thing I wrote.

49

js. 03.16.16 at 10:01 pm

I agree with phenomenal cat: we really need to hear from Belle about this madness. (On the other hand, if the CT mgmt declared an eight-month moratorium on election-related posts, I wouldn’t be entirely displeased.)

50

LFC 03.16.16 at 10:20 pm

@46
42, so you have never heard of Norman Braman

Nope, I had not.

51

bob 03.16.16 at 10:27 pm

Not yet mentioned here, but Duncan Black (and he is not alone in suggesting this) is spot-on today with
” … it is fun to watch the institutional right stamp its feet and pretend they won’t support Trump in the Fall. They all will. Every one of them.”

52

T 03.16.16 at 10:34 pm

Trump is what happens when an economy doesn’t grow and the working class and middle class are stressed — both populist and progressive movements take hold. 35 years of trade agreements, union busting, trickle down, and corporate rent seeking initiated by the leaders of both parties have brought us to this. It’s nothing that middle-class income growth won’t cure and something that can’t be cured without it. Trump’s unfavorables are over 60% and Clinton’s are over 50%.

On another note, Warren would probably have been president if she had ran…

53

Faustusnotes 03.16.16 at 10:38 pm

I’ve also been thinking trump is running to protect himself from coming legal troubles. Bankruptcy springs to mind… I don’t know anything about how that would work though.

At this stage betting on who will win the primaries is a mugs game. More interesting bets are

1. When will trump form a militia?
2. Who will be the alternative candidate they force through at the convention?

I’m guessing mid April for 1, and mittens for 2. Not willing to bet though!

54

Layman 03.16.16 at 10:44 pm

Militia?

https://www.rawstory.com/2016/03/trump-militia-forms-to-forcefully-protect-rally-goers-against-far-left-agitators/

On your second bet, odds-on favorite must be Paul Ryan. He’s already shown he can be drafted into a job he doesn’t want, and he wants this one.

55

bruce wilder 03.16.16 at 10:46 pm

LFC. Yes, I agree, of course. Political biography, based on systematic research, can be enormously insightful and informative: man and his times and all that. But, though play-by-play in real time can be fun for some, it is not as reliably informative. The politician is building a deliberately seductive public persona, and a whole cottage industry goes to work drowning out sensible assessments. How many times did Dowd repeat the story of Romney’s dog on the car roof?

We can look back at FDR’s experience with polio and imagine its effect on his character. And, we can look back at the way he managed his image with the help of a sympathetic press corps, despite the hostility of publishers. Wonderfully complex and curious light on human experience. Sinking his personal fortune into a Georgia

But, can we know what parts of Clinton’s biography to take seriously? Was the Children’s Defense Fund youthful idealism or foresightful resume padding?

56

Tabasco 03.16.16 at 10:51 pm

Another big story is how the Republican elites are strategizing to remove Trump at the Convention.

If this happens, Trump’s supporters will burn down Cleveland.

On another note, Warren would probably have been president if she had ran…

She can challenge the extremely disappointing President Clinton in 2020.

57

mistah charley, ph.d. 03.16.16 at 10:54 pm

Speaking of Maureen Dowd, she’s known Trump for decades, she says, going to parties where he was, riding in his private plane. Her recent column on him may have some insights:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/opinion/sunday/chickens-home-to-roost.html

58

Robespierre 03.16.16 at 10:55 pm

Berlusconi, unlike Trump, also had near absolute control over television – US media may be bought and paid for by moneyed interests, but they do not belong to a single all powerful owner (we’re talking about a country where very few people read newspapers and a period before mass use of the internet; public tv channels are, by design, split between majority and opposition parties, and Berlusconi was very active in placing cronies and Mediaset employees in public tv, or blacklisting left oriented tv professionals).

59

Faustusnotes 03.16.16 at 10:57 pm

Layman that militia idea sank very quickly i think but its popularity is the clue. Also trump is gonna need a militia to deport 12 million Mexicans against the will of congress. Hence my April guess – he just needs a bit more plausible violence at rallies, but he needs it to form early enough to play a role at the convention.

Or he’s not actually a fascist! We’ll see which Italian arsehole politician he most closely resembles!

Yes yes Paul Ryan, bring out the Blank eyed Granny Starver! That way lies victory, surely…

60

Layman 03.16.16 at 11:06 pm

It does sort of highlight the basic Republican problem here. Two Republican Establishment Illuminati discuss.

GOP 1: “This is terrible! How can Trump be winning? He’s crazy, and the majority don’t like him! Why don’t they vote for the other guys?”

GOP 2: “Apparently they think those guys are crazy, too, and they like them even less.”

GOP 1: “We’re going to have to take control of this process, and find someone else!”

GOP 2: “Right. Who do we have who is not crazy and is more appealing?”

GOP 1: “…”

61

RNB 03.16.16 at 11:10 pm

@44 I do think we have to talk about Kasich.

62

RNB 03.16.16 at 11:13 pm

@45. Really LFC how are you not transfixed by this: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

63

bruce wilder 03.16.16 at 11:14 pm

No, we do not have to talk about Kasich. Though his revival of the Favorite Son gambit is mildly interesting. Social mobility has notoriously plummeted, but has geographic mobility as well? Enough to un-nationalize Presidential politics?

64

Tabasco 03.16.16 at 11:14 pm

@61

It is strange that in a country of 320 million people one of the two major parties could not come up with a single non-crazy candidate capable of winning the nomination.

65

RNB 03.16.16 at 11:16 pm

@64 I guess you’re right. We probably don’t have to talk about Kasich despite his impressive <45% showing in the state of which he is the Governor. My bad.

66

RNB 03.16.16 at 11:18 pm

But on the other hand after people come out on stretchers and we see fumata bianca from the Republican Convention, it could possibly be Kasich.

67

bruce wilder 03.16.16 at 11:18 pm

Or that the interests controlling both Parties are so monolithic and / or dissipated that no dissenting Power wants to sponsor a candidate or a real contest? Is it really just celebrity spokesmodel talent search?

68

Lee A. Arnold 03.16.16 at 11:20 pm

Via Taegan Goddard, the Economist Intelligence Unit weighs Trump as a global risk:
https://gfs.eiu.com/Article.aspx?articleType=gr&articleid=2866

69

bruce wilder 03.16.16 at 11:22 pm

fumata bianca? I love it!

70

bruce wilder 03.16.16 at 11:23 pm

Who is going to weigh HRC as a global risk?

71

Lee A. Arnold 03.16.16 at 11:25 pm

Amy Walter at Charlie Cook is pretty good:
http://cookpolitical.com/story/9370

72

RNB 03.16.16 at 11:33 pm

@71 pretty much to hear that analysis the only place to go is the comments section at Crooked Timber.

73

bruce wilder 03.16.16 at 11:52 pm

The case for HRC as a risk has been made from her own lips if you would only listen.

74

LFC 03.17.16 at 12:51 am

@RNB
LFC how are you not transfixed by this: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

It’s the kind of thing Trump would say, isn’t it? (Would be mildly amusing if it weren’t coming from a possible President.)

75

RNB 03.17.16 at 1:16 am

@74 at least you did not say in her emails if I only could read them.

76

Val 03.17.16 at 1:28 am

Bruce Wilder @ 38
The raft of dictatorial Daddy governors elected in 2010 (patriarchy, Val!)

Yay Bruce. Now I think you just need to spend a bit more time analysing the racist and anti-Muslim components in all this, and you’ll be the CT boss of intersectionality (since regrettably you still believe in hierarchy, but that’s an issue for another day, another thread)

77

bruce wilder 03.17.16 at 1:33 am

Atrios had this post, March 10: “Both the Donald and Bernie get shit for supposedly not having appropriate “foreign policy teams.” The Foreign Policy Community in DC is really where the Very Serious People live. They’re the deep state, and if you say the wrong thing Fred Hiatt will let them plant an op-ed about how unserious you are. They’re the nexus of the security state, the military industrial complex, and international oligarchs. Big War, Big Finance, Big Exploitation, Big Tax Avoidance, Big Assholes.

“Not saying that one should be ignorant about foreign affairs, just that one should not take advice from the Very Serious People who for some reason are in charge of dispensing it. Not clear they know anything about anything anyway.”

One of the refreshing things about the Republican nomination contest with Donald in it has been that it helped people see that ALL the Republicans were crazy, ignorant and mean. No one offered even the semblance of sober judgment. Donald, at least, in his stream of consciousness at least blabbered arguably sensible admissions — trade policy has hurt most people, endless war for no good result is bad.

The Democrats will try to paint Trump as a loose cannon, and that seems right enough to me. It isn’t specific utterances that disqualify Donald, but the incoherence of the whole package of contradictory and silly soundbites.

The problem is the standard of serious foreign policy the Dems will hold up for admiration.

78

jake the antisoshul soshulist 03.17.16 at 1:33 am

Avram Davidson’s No Fire Burns.
http://www.documentsky.com/9894017602/

79

bruce wilder 03.17.16 at 1:36 am

RNB @ 77

Perhaps in the super-secret for-banksters-only speeches you were too poor and ill-connected to hear.

80

js. 03.17.16 at 1:38 am

Val — Especially when the posts are that interminably long, why even bother reading them? It’s a waste of time, and no response will get through anyway.

81

RNB 03.17.16 at 1:38 am

@79 Trump is not anti-war. He has pledged to deploy at least 30K more soldiers in Iraq supposedly on the basis of advice from a general who was probably drinking champagne in a bubble bath at a Trump resort (just like Beck once imagined Storming Norman Schwarzkopf); otherwise it’s hard to imagine how Trump came to speak to any general. Trump wants to bring back torture; he wants to kill innocent family members. He wants to rip up the deal with Iran. No, he’s not an isolationist or a pacifist. He’s a highly erratic, bombastic nut job. And no Hillary Clinton is not more of a risk.

82

John Quiggin 03.17.16 at 1:42 am

“One thing ‘special’ about Trump is his breaking of the norms of campaign discourse to ridicule and launch ad hominems at opponents”

Ann Coulter, my example of an alternative Trump-like candidate, was doing this long before him – that was and is her appeal. The norms had already broken – Trump just kicked in an open door.

Of course you have to live this kind of thing: a sudden descent into the gutter like Rubio’s just looks desperate, which it was.

83

RNB 03.17.16 at 1:45 am

@81 Yeah, I think that it’s safe to assume that for a quarter million she told him what they wanted to hear: they did a great job suckering the world into recycling their savings through America’s great financial institutions (or something like that). And then she shared stories that the bankers who are also suckers with money to burn thought might give them some heads-up on risks in foreign markets. We pretty much know what happened.

84

Layman 03.17.16 at 1:47 am

@RNB, the banksters did not pay Clinton for her speech. Being a shill is one thing, but one needn’t be naive about it.

85

RNB 03.17.16 at 1:51 am

Well sure Wall Street gives the Democrats money so at a moment of crisis they won’t get nationalized but bailed out. Because we are not Sweden. It worked with Obama.

86

RNB 03.17.16 at 1:55 am

@84 Still I think until my bold recommendation today of Coulter for the Vice-Presidency nobody would have thought her anywhere near the White House.

87

Lupita 03.17.16 at 1:59 am

Lee A. Arnold@69

Entering that page you linked to is like waking up in a neoliberal matrix where you discover that the world is not what you thought it was but a bunch of robo- quants and drones with their spreadsheets and algorithms analyzing what to buy, sell, short, and hedge in preparation for the apocalypse (“Grexit” is followed by a euro zone break-up. Threat=15. Because: banks would suffer huge losses in their sovereign bond portfolios). There is no need for revolutionaries to have to figure out how to defeat the system (The UK votes to leave the EU. Threat=8. Because: position as a leading global financial services hub and leading proponent of trade and services liberalisation would be imperiled), it’s all there, all the possible threats to the global neoliberal consensus, (Donald Trump wins the US presidential election. Threat=12. Because: would undermine the coherence of domestic and foreign policymaking) quantified, analyzed, and ordered from most to least threatening (Beset by external and internal pressures, the EU begins to fracture. Threat=15. Because: would harm growth in the world’s largest single trading block). It’s evil, I tell you, evil. (The rising threat of jihadi terrorism destabilises the global economy. Threat=12. Because: dent consumer and business confidence, threaten to end the five-year bull run on the US and European stockmarkets).

88

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 2:04 am

The really interesting hypothetical is if the person who “gets killed at a trump rally” turns out to be trump himself. I’d be genuinely intrigued to see who they’d come up with next .

89

RNB 03.17.16 at 2:07 am

Why did Trump elevate to such a high position Corey Lewandowski when he should have known that he would never take a bullet for him? Beat up a journalist, yes; but no way does he take a bullet for him.

90

RNB 03.17.16 at 2:27 am

At any rate, Trump is raising the danger for himself and everyone else by musing on whether a riot would break out at the Republican convention. Even talk of violence needs to stop; it is making too many Americans sad and despondent and even fearful. I shall be embarrassed when I travel abroad. Kasich probably staged a fake protest at his victory speech in the Buckeye state so that he could stage a nice peaceful dismissal of the protestor. But I did appreciate the contrast he was trying to set up with Trump.

91

bruce wilder 03.17.16 at 2:28 am

RNB @ 83

I agree Trump is not committed to an anti-war position, or a neo-isolationist position. I don’t think he’s committed to anything other than his own brand. Erratic, bombastic — I agree. I am with you, bro.

On everything except the comparison with Clinton. I am opposed to that as a method.

Assess Clinton on the basis of what we know about Clinton. There is a long, murderous record there. Trump has no record as an officeholder — we simply do not know much with him, about how he acts or cooperates in an official capacity. And, what we do know about Trump sheds no light on Clinton.

Clinton is not an isolationist or a pacifist, either. But, what is she? Her remarks on the deal with Iran — “distrust and verify” — have been belligerent, even provocative vis a vis the Iranians. Her record in Libya seems to indicate questionable judgment, and the outcome of her policy was catastrophic. Moreover, she does not seem to realize she made serious, consequential errors. In both Ukraine and Libya, there are indications of short-sighted opportunism and ill-considered idealism.

Clinton is conventional, rather than bombastic and erratic, but conventional has been a series of enormously costly, bloody and inconclusive interventions. Not her fault exactly as she hasn’t been dictator of the world these long years, but also not met with her critique or opposition. That she is conventional is evidence that she is dangerous. That she confesses no error, no urgent desire to reform this deep state become runaway train, no vision for a better course — this should concern us.

I do not see the merit in shutting down consideration of the dubious merits of U.S. foreign policy with facile comparisons of Clinton’s serious mien to Trump’s style in stump speeches. Even if you feel you have to hold your nose and vote for Miss Lesser Evil, shouldn’t we acknowledge the evil? And, have doubts about whether we really know which would really prove less evil in consequence?

It is fine to be against torture. I am against torture. Did Obama end torture or just redefine it, do a better job of hiding it? That is the problem with lesser evil comparisons: what you get in the end are not clear reforms, but finer distinctions, and a country where no one knows anything about what policy choice is made, or the consequences of political choices. And, established elites are never held responsible.

92

RNB 03.17.16 at 2:37 am

@93 I have said more than I want to about Clinton’s actions in Libya and the nature of her Iraq war vote. No more from me on this.

93

js. 03.17.16 at 2:52 am

Meanwhile, some other primaries.

94

Alan White 03.17.16 at 2:57 am

bruce wilder–

Ok I just gotta know without prevarication–do you punch that Trump ticket against Hillary or not? Just say.

95

Donald 03.17.16 at 3:39 am

Sorry to see people I like snarking at each other. I think Bruce’s comments are generally among the best in any given thread. I think he underestimates the threat of Trump, but it’s true that on policy all the Republican candidates are awful. Trump just brings that extra odor of mob violence to the ticket. Everyone else dog whistles about this or that group. Trump just comes out and says the horribly bigoted things openly, but that is worse.

The ugliness of HRC seems pretty self- evident. What sane liberal brags about her friendship with Kissinger? She ‘s one of those Democrats who thinks you show your foreign policy seriousness by your willingness to bomb. She’s hypocritical on human rights, feigning outrage over Qaddaffi’s killings and justifying Netanyahu’s, and saying nothing about the American support for Saudi war crimes in Yemen. This is all pretty normal for mainstream Democrats. Sanders is only a little better, though in his case I think it’s more because he isn’ that interested in foreign affairs. Also, if he criticizes Obama his meager chances shrink even more.

96

Alan White 03.17.16 at 4:00 am

When we go into the voting booth this fall, we will not have an option about approval of criticism or meta-criticism about candidates. What I want to know is this: if, as we will apparently have, is a choice between Trump and Clinton, what shall we do? Or–is there an intelligible option that we should stay home?

It’s just that this meta-stuff is wearing me out. Just say, and just say why voting or nonvoting is justified if it is as it seems it will be Trump vs. Clinton.

97

RNB 03.17.16 at 4:09 am

Trump is much worse than you are admitting (that is, if you are a Latino or Muslim or look like either or perhaps both; he has also proposed the most regressive taxation of all) and there is more difference than you are admitting between Clinton and Trump or Cruz in regards to international cooperation on climate change, diplomacy with Iran , the Geneva Conventions, the bombing of civilians in Syria and elsewhere, the acceptance of refugees, and willingness to engage in arms reduction negotiations. What Obama’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Netanyahu are worth exploring at this point. The differences between Clinton and Sanders on these questions pales in comparison to Clinton’s differences with either Trump or Cruz on these issues. This is not only my opinion but Noam Chomsky’s as well. And really have today’s Kissinger critics added anything to what Chomsky wrote decades ago?

98

js. 03.17.16 at 4:11 am

@Alan White — Yes, thank you! Honestly, we need a bit more of this on these threads.

(Needless to say, I’ll be voting for Clinton because Trump and his supporters have made it entirely clear that they think there is no place in this country for people like me—people who look like me—and that’s enough justification for me.)

99

Lyle 03.17.16 at 4:17 am

@98

“It’s just that this meta-stuff is wearing me out. Just say, and just say why voting or nonvoting is justified if it is as it seems it will be Trump vs. Clinton.”

Vote your conscience: Jill Stein, Green Party. Especially if you live in a place that’s already sure to go either of the two other ways. But then, even if you don’t, why not go Green? There’s a bigger chance anyway than Americans like to admit that your vote will be stolen, lost, miscounted or otherwise invalidated.

100

RNB 03.17.16 at 4:21 am

If it’s your conscience you care about, join a non-violent conscientious objection at a Trump event or go to confession. Otherwise keep the Republicans out of office.

101

Lyle 03.17.16 at 4:40 am

So you’re basically saying I shouldn’t vote for Mrs. Clinton. Thanks, got it.

102

tony lynch 03.17.16 at 4:53 am

Ah, the unbearable lightness of political democracy.

103

bruce wilder 03.17.16 at 5:50 am

Most probably I will vote for Jill Stein, a Green.

I am not sure why the lesser evil dilemma mesmerizes so many. I vote as a duty, but with no illusion regarding either numerical significance or existential consequences of the act.

104

faustusnotes 03.17.16 at 5:56 am

This conversation is incredible … I can’t even!, as the kids say.

Trump=Clinton? Are you people mad?

105

RNB 03.17.16 at 6:45 am

Less mad than sad that my dream of decision-making by way of consensus in the comments section of Crooked Timber is dying a bitter death. But you know those tough guys who, tied to the mast, won’t sacrifice their principles even as they hear what sound to them as pathetic cries from “injured” minorities and women; well those guys, many of them older and enjoying pensions for which young immigrants are paying, are going to have to deal with what sounds to them like shrill calls and barks for the next eight years from President Hillary Clinton. You have to feel sorry for them even if you think they are mad, faustusnotes.

106

faustusnotes 03.17.16 at 7:34 am

I’m no fan of Clinton, RNB, but every election we have this stupid conversation at CT about how the Dems are no worse than the GOP and then after the election we have this long period of griping about how terrible the GOP are. I’ve seen this rubbish in every country I’ve lived in since I was old enough to vote and on the rare occasions that the opposite party gets in I’ve witnessed the tears of the people who thought there was “no difference” as the conservatives run their wrecking ball through everything. We’ll see that in spades if Trump gets in. This really absolutely is no time to vote for a third party candidate.

At least now we have it all written down, so that when Trump’s goons cart of js. for deportation (or whatever else…) we can all hyperlink Bruce Wilder’s equivocations. Fat lot of good that will do for js., mind you…

107

Lee A. Arnold 03.17.16 at 9:03 am

Hillary Clinton would make a fine President. You can vote for her, and vote your conscience simultaneously. Trump has been preaching the need for a strongman in the US, at least since he publicly admired the Chinese authorities for their crackdown at Tiananman Square, and I think it’s long past the time we can laugh it off with, “He’s only just sayin’ it.”

I think a genuine topic for a Crooked Timber thread is whether some people on either left or right will ever rise above the level of being controlled by their emotions and the usual childhood intellectual absolutism that is entrained.

108

Lee A. Arnold 03.17.16 at 10:28 am

109

JoB 03.17.16 at 10:36 am

Well, if the choice finally comes down to two or three then it is highly unlikely that one of them fully aligns with your priorities.

Politics is compromising and that compromising starts when individuals cast their votes. It’s frustrating but sure beats being at the whim of a know-it-all.

Trump’s success probably lies at his ability to portray himself exactly as how a lot of voters see themselves (as know-it-all’s).

110

TM 03.17.16 at 10:59 am

I don’t know who is “mesmerized” by the “lesser evil dilemma”. I asked the audience in a similar thread to consider the blatant cruelty visited by Republicans on the poor, minorities and women in states where they have achieved the power to realize their policies; also the damage done to the public good when crazy extremists are appointed to run education and environmental policy. Simple observation refutes the claim that electoral choices are irrelevant. Saying that isn’t being naive about the sorry state of the Democratic party. In this country, given the institutional two-party framework that won’t change any time soon, the only sane political strategy is to keep Reps out of office at all levels (which means voting for unattractive “lesser evil” Dem candidates), and to put progressive pressure on the Dems by all means (*). Voting for a progressive Green party might be a better strategy in any other country (although just look at Baden-Württemberg to see where it got us) – but not in the US. I don’t disagree with much of Bruce’s criticism of HRC, but if the only result flowing from that analysis is delusional electoral tactic, I’m sorry but I can’t follow you there.

(*) One might object that you can’t put pressure on the Dems if you are going to vote for their candidates anyway. The answer is, the day of the presidential election is too late to do that. You have to organize and mobilize and put the pressure on every day between elections, to get more attractive choices on election day.

111

ZM 03.17.16 at 11:01 am

bruce wilder,

“I agree Trump is not committed to an anti-war position, or a neo-isolationist position. I don’t think he’s committed to anything other than his own brand. Erratic, bombastic — I agree. I am with you, bro.

On everything except the comparison with Clinton. I am opposed to that as a method.”

You must find elections generally a terrible ethical dilemma if you are opposed to comparison as a method. I can’t think how you choose between the candidates without using comparison as a method… maybe drawing straws?

112

Faustusnotes 03.17.16 at 11:23 am

Following up on TM, just in terms of global warming policy this election is the most important in the history of industrial civilization. A republican gets in, fucks domestic policy in the biggest polluter, destroys international efforts on emissions and stacks scotus so it fucks all future same policy for 20 years. That’s game over. This election is the most important in modern history and possibly civilization and you wanna throw it away because Clinton isn’t left enough…

113

Lee A. Arnold 03.17.16 at 11:30 am

Lupita #69: “Entering that page you linked to is like waking up in a neoliberal matrix where you discover that the world is not what you thought it was but a bunch of robo- quants and drones with their spreadsheets and algorithms analyzing what to buy, sell, short, and hedge in preparation for the apocalypse”

Like.

114

ZM 03.17.16 at 11:32 am

Faustusnotes – I am so glad someone said that!

115

Lee A. Arnold 03.17.16 at 11:45 am

Of course, there’s always… “The Case for John Kasich” (1-min. pseudo-ad)
https://politicalwire.com/2016/03/17/the-case-for-john-kasich-2/

116

Consumatopia 03.17.16 at 1:06 pm

Clinton strategists are openly admitting that their strategy this November is to go for moderate Republican voters. It might not be a bad strategy, but if that’s what she’s going with then they must have made the calculation that she doesn’t need my vote. I’m planning to vote Green because I want Clinton to win as narrowly as possible. I might change my decision based on how Clinton behaves or what polls look like in my state.

Voting is lending your support to a faction of people trying to coerce their neighbors. I’m no anarchist, I think coercing other people is often morally permissible. But I don’t think it’s morally obligatory–I’m not obligated to side with either faction.

There’s something Anarcissie wrote in another thread that sticks with me, “Voting does not alter the outcome of a large election, but it does alter the voter.” I think it is far more likely that deciding to vote for Clinton would turn me into a worse person than it is that my vote for Clinton would be the deciding one that keeps Trump out. But, ultimately, if Hillary Clinton loses to someone as ridiculous and awful as Donald Trump, and your first instinct is to start scapegoating Jill Stein voters, please reexamine yourselves.

117

Lee A. Arnold 03.17.16 at 1:20 pm

Consumatopia #118: “I think it is far more likely that deciding to vote for Clinton would turn me into a worse person”

How would this happen?

118

Faustusnotes 03.17.16 at 1:21 pm

Voting for someone you don’t agree with 100% doesn’t change you. Having someone you agree with 0% get in and pass laws that fuck the planet, deport your friends and ruin your control over your body – that will change you. When that happens regrets will be the least of your worries.

119

Robespierre 03.17.16 at 1:24 pm

It’s extremely unlikely that any soldier’s effort will be crucial to a war. They still punish deserters.

120

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.16 at 2:08 pm

“It’s extremely unlikely that any soldier’s effort will be crucial to a war. They still punish deserters.”

That comparison would be an excellent reason not to vote if anyone took it seriously.

121

Consumatopia 03.17.16 at 2:09 pm

“How would this happen?”

I went into this but deleted it. Maybe most people here can maintain a distinction in their psyche between “I’m voting for Clinton because she’s less evil” and “I’m voting for Clinton because she’s good.” But, to me, eight months of telling myself (and only myself, since there is no way in god damn hell I could ever bring myself to ask someone else to vote for Clinton) that I’m voting for the neoliberal warmonger who’s promising to do even more “stupid shit” than Obama just so we can keep the much worse (yes, I understand he’s worse!) racist warmonger out of office just sounds too exhausting. That she’s surrounded by a media environment that’s constantly trying to convince us that war and plutocracy are good multiplies that fatigue about tenfold.

To put it another way, I’ve watched so many of Clinton’s supporters take up the mantle of every lie our corrupt establishment tells them. Why should I think that if I became a Clinton supporter I wouldn’t be just as bad as they are?

“They still punish deserters.”

They’re the ones asking me for help. They’re not in a position to punish me.

“When that happens regrets will be the least of your worries.”

There won’t be any regrets on my part, because the fault will lie with the people who voted for Trump and people who nominated the terrible candidate who (in this hypothetical) lost to Trump. If Clinton loses Clinton is to blame.

122

Lyle 03.17.16 at 2:21 pm

@118

Not sure what to call it when I’m quoting for posterity someone who’s quoting someone else for posterity, but anyway, Two Thumbs Up for this, and a Thank You:

There’s something Anarcissie wrote in another thread that sticks with me, “Voting does not alter the outcome of a large election, but it does alter the voter.” I think it is far more likely that deciding to vote for Clinton would turn me into a worse person than it is that my vote for Clinton would be the deciding one that keeps Trump out. But, ultimately, if Hillary Clinton loses to someone as ridiculous and awful as Donald Trump, and your first instinct is to start scapegoating Jill Stein voters, please reexamine yourselves.

123

TM 03.17.16 at 2:34 pm

It sounds like voting for Jill Steil will make you feel marginally better – but only if the vote has no effect, otherwise you’ll probably feel worse. I know many 2000 Nader voters felt bad about their decision, and that is not scapegoating, just a fact.

I think your reasoning isn’t totally baseless. There is a measure of psychic satisfaction to be derived from being able to say “I didn’t vote for her, and see was I right!” But I would like to see evidence (or even a plausible argument) that this kind of reasoning leads to better political outcomes.

124

Alan White 03.17.16 at 2:36 pm

Thanks to those coming out!

It seems a clear call to me–even if you think the US is in inevitable death-throes. Peggy Battin years ago wrote a stellar piece on that–“The Least Worse Death”. Voting for Clinton is clearly the way to go (so to speak).

125

Lee A. Arnold 03.17.16 at 2:41 pm

Consumatopia #123: “Maybe most people here can maintain a distinction… just sounds too exhausting.”

Oh I’m sure you can maintain the distinction just fine, and I don’t understand the source of the exhaustion.

For me to take your position, I would have to believe: 1. that I am better a better person than Hillary Clinton; 2. that I would have done anything very differently about life-or-death matters if I had been in her shoes (say, in making Sec. State decisions about the Middle East, and I have none of the inside details); and 3. that, if I were a politician, I would not have acted as say, Henwood’s book portrays her.

To which I answer, I really don’t know.

Beyond that, the questions are about the least harmful policies in a “neoliberal” world, while larger forces both within and beyond our control push us towards another (hopefully) much better configuration. In the US, at this time, the Democrats are still out far ahead on those policy details.

It seems to me that those who warn of the dangers of “lesser-evilism” rely upon two premises: A. that you will pollute (or now, exhaust) yourself and others; and B. that a better world is possible if, and only if, you vote against the continuation of the present one. I think these are psychologically and philosophically ludicrous. It’s exactly the sentiment that propels the purity of the extreme right, and now the Trump voters, in a way.

126

Faustusnotes 03.17.16 at 2:44 pm

What is this, Clinton is the one ring or something? We’re talking about voting here, not sacrificing children. It’s not a mystical process, it’s a simple practical decision about whether to do a or b. Like when you get to an off ramp and you can keep driving or turn left. Except here if you keep driving your world goes to shit for like ever, the ice caps melt and your kids say hey daddy Lyle why did you let the polar bears die and why do all the babies have tiny heads and how come it’s so hot and the air is thick with poisons and you say well that’s because Father Fuhrer trump won the election back in 2016 when I could have made a difference but I voted for a person I knew wouldn’t win and convinced other people too back when it was still safe to tell people what you think in public and he made us all burn coal and then he stacked the Supreme Court to make sure no one would be able to change direction for 20 years which is why you were taught that evolution is just a theory and all Mexicans were rapists and that’s why we had to nuke them now here’s your rifle why don’t you go off to your trump youth camp I need to take my OxyContin.

Or you could take the other choice and things would still be vaguely sane. But either way it’s your kids who will be changed, not you.

127

Layman 03.17.16 at 2:47 pm

I voted for Sanders in our primary, and will vote for whoever is the Democratic nominee in the general election. I’ll have to hold my nose to do it, but I’ve done that before.

Not that it will matter. As a resident of Arizona, my vote never counts in the general election. Still, I can’t really understand the argument to stay home or cast your vote for someone else.

128

TM 03.17.16 at 2:49 pm

From the Mike Davis interview:
Sanders “has accomplished far more than anyone would have conceived possible, and it’s up to the movement, embryonic in the campaign, to take up the long game of coordinating labor organizing, rights campaigns, and electoral insurgency.”

129

Donald 03.17.16 at 2:51 pm

I don’t see what is so difficult about voting for a candidate one despises and saying so loudly.

I am voting for Clinton in November if she is the nominee because the Republicans are considerably worse. Clinton is merely bad in the manner that many Democrats are and I agree with those who say that voting for people like this can change you, but only if you let it. So yes, I’ve seen numerous examples of people defending Clinton or Obama when they were at their worst. That is their choice. That’s why I am praising Bruce– I disagree with his voting strategy, but I also disagree with people who either whitewash Clinton’s record or think that during election season it is childish to complain about the Democrats.

130

Lyle 03.17.16 at 2:51 pm

TM:

I know many 2000 Nader voters felt bad about their decision, and that is not scapegoating, just a fact.

Well I sure as hell don’t feel bad about that decision. And I’m sick nearly unto death of people focusing on the decision that Nader voters made, rather than the rightward-leaning of Gore (via Clinton) that led a lot of people to Nader; or the criminal SCOTUS decision about the Florida vote count; or voter fraud; or voting machine fraud; or the theft of Ohio (granted, that was 2004), and more.

Nader voters have served ever since as an easy, lazy scapegoat. No surprise really, coming from people who also overlook how little (i.e., nothing) Mrs. Clinton has had to say about the right’s various methods for stealing elections.

And ffs, does it not bother you that she refuses to release the transcripts of those Golden Sacks speeches?

131

Donald 03.17.16 at 2:53 pm

This, btw, is a great argument for much shorter campaign seasons. We cut out that period of time where people can only hold one thought in their head and everything else is subordinated to who they will or will not vote for.

132

Layman 03.17.16 at 2:59 pm

“Well I sure as hell don’t feel bad about that decision. And I’m sick nearly unto death of people focusing on the decision that Nader voters made, rather than the rightward-leaning of Gore (via Clinton) that led a lot of people to Nader; or the criminal SCOTUS decision about the Florida vote count; or voter fraud; or voting machine fraud; or the theft of Ohio (granted, that was 2004), and more.”

Unfortunately, I can focus on all of those things and still blame you. Blaming Nader voters doesn’t exclude blaming other factors as well. I can hold multiple notions in my head at once. I contain multitudes!

133

Lyle 03.17.16 at 3:02 pm

Yes Layman, how DARE we think there should be more than two viable political parties in the U.S. Long live the dynastic duopoly!

134

Faustusnotes 03.17.16 at 3:04 pm

Yes vote in trump for greater democracy wtf?

135

Layman 03.17.16 at 3:08 pm

@Lyle, read the damned polls. If a third party candidate actually has a chance of winning, then by all means go for it. Otherwise, use your vote to defeat the worst outcome.

136

anon 03.17.16 at 3:09 pm

@98 “Just say, and just say why voting or nonvoting is justified if it is as it seems it will be Trump vs. Clinton.”

I think voting Clinton is immoral if the race is not close or if you’re in a safe state. Otherwise, I think voting Clinton is morally obligatory because we have a general, shared moral obligation to stop Trump (*not because we know* he will do the most awful things he promised, but because he’s willing to promise such awful things and we *don’t know* for sure if he’s serious.)

The reason *in very specific, narrow conditions* it’s right to choose the lesser evil is the free rider problem. My individual vote won’t make a difference, but I will be relying on others’ individual votes to do so, and it’s not fair to get the consequence I want (no Trump) by shifting the unpleasant burden of uneasy conscience (voting for Hillary who I don’t believe is a deserving candidate) to others.

Since I believe *we all* have a duty to stop Trump, then I shouldn’t excuse myself from that shared obligation out of convenience, even if my individual contribution doesn’t causally bring about the result.

By analogy: imagine any game that depends on most people following the rules most of the time for the game to function. I could secretly break the rules, knowing that my individual action won’t ruin the game because I can reasonably predict the majority will play the game. But it’s not fair for me to do so: morally, either I have to reject the game, period, or play by the rules I want and expect others to play by.

If there’s someone out there who truly believes it’s morally acceptable for Trump to win because the whole game’s corrupt, then they could consistently avoid the free rider problem by rejecting the game entirely (not voting at all, as opposed to voting Green). But if you want the outcome that the Clinton voters may, en masse, bring about, I think it’s hypocritical not to play.

Again, however, if you’re in a safe state or the election’s not close, there is no lesser evil problem, vote how you please.

137

Lyle 03.17.16 at 3:10 pm

@Layman

And help to perpetuate the supposedly immortal Evil of Two Lessers? No thanks. Long-term change is long-term, and I’d rather take part in that.

138

Layman 03.17.16 at 3:15 pm

@Lyle, that’s fine, it’s a free country. But don’t try to avoid your share of blame for the more shitty outcome. Own it. You (and others like you) caused it, with your calculation that the more shitty outcome would produce some progress toward your goals. How’s that working out? Better yet, ask an Iraqi how it worked out.

139

Dub 03.17.16 at 3:21 pm

@Layman, as I recall HRC voted in favor of the war in Iraq. And Afganistan. And Libya. And is arguing for more intervention in Syria. What shitty outcome is she preventing? It certainly isn’t war in the ME.

140

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 3:22 pm

I don’t see how there’s any ethical obligation to vote one way or the other. As your vote will genenerally have zero consequences there really isn’t any meaningful dilemma. A person can decide what to do with their vote for personal moral reasons, signalling, different conceptions of solidarity etc. It’s really neither here nor there. I’ve never understood this hullabaloo around how people use their vote. It strikes me as primarily either a method of disciplining people who go against the tribe, or the conversational result of a slow news day.

141

anon 03.17.16 at 3:26 pm

@123: “There won’t be any regrets on my part, because the fault will lie with the people who voted for Trump and people who nominated the terrible candidate who (in this hypothetical) lost to Trump. If Clinton loses Clinton is to blame.”

I think this is worth reiterating, because it’s exactly right in spirit. It’s not exactly true in letter, since these discussions always fail to distinguish causal and moral responsibility, and fail to note that we can be morally responsible even if not causally so.

Imagine hypothetically that the Nader critics were correct to claim his voters made the difference, then Nader voters would be causally responsible in some degree for Gore’s loss. But their causal responsibility isn’t necessarily moral: the primary moral responsibility belongs first to Bush supporters and second to the weaknesses of Gore and his campaign.

Having said that, there are *non-causal* ways of being morally responsible, as I suggest in my previous post. If I vote third party in the expectation or hope that other voters will save me from Trump, I don’t cause Trump’s victory but I’m partly morally responsible for it. I can be to blame for not voting for Clinton, even if I’m not to blame for her loss.

142

Lyle 03.17.16 at 3:29 pm

You (and others like you) caused it, with your calculation that the more shitty outcome would produce some progress toward your goals.

I reject that accusation. Blaming those who vote for a viable candidate on the left because the other one supposedly on the left is actually on the right is firing at the wrong target. Again, it’s easy, lazy scapegoating. If I’m any kind of animal here, I’m a ram, not a scapegoat. A stubborn, circumspect mule, not a short-sighted jackass.

Better yet, ask an Iraqi how it worked out.

How bout I ask a Libyan instead, about how your preference for the somewhat-less-wingnut of the two wingnut parties is working out?

143

Omega Centauri 03.17.16 at 3:36 pm

Thank goodness for Faustusnotes, says what I would have liked to say, only better.

144

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 3:36 pm

Blaming those who vote for a viable candidate

Nobody who voted Nader voted for a viable candidate. Most of them at least acknowledged that.

145

Robespierre 03.17.16 at 3:38 pm

By the way, a crushing defeat for Trump is different from a virtual tie and will have different consequences on the future direction and strategy of the two parties

146

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 3:51 pm

I don’t see how there’s any ethical obligation to vote one way or the other.

Except that elections actually happen, and people get elected through some magical process in which votes are counted. Presidentially you might be a drop in the bucket in the vote total, but in Florida that one time each and every vote really really mattered. Utter the phrase “I did nothing to prevent President Cruz’s existence” and see how it sounds.

147

Layman 03.17.16 at 3:53 pm

“Blaming those who vote for a viable candidate on the left”

Nader was polling somewhere around 3%. Viable? Good grief.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_polling_for_U.S._Presidential_elections#United_States_presidential_election.2C_2000

“How bout I ask a Libyan instead, about how your preference for the somewhat-less-wingnut of the two wingnut parties is working out?”

Hey, I’ll take the blame for that. I voted for Obama, and I’ve got some moral responsibility for his actions. If you think there’s someone I could have voted for which would have produced a better outcome, make your case. Counterfactuals are hard, but is there anyone who thinks Presdent Al Gore invades Iraq? Anyone?

148

Consumatopia 03.17.16 at 3:54 pm

anon is making sense and I probably will end up voting Clinton if the race is close. Just don’t expect me to make a commitment to that before November.

149

Trader Joe 03.17.16 at 3:57 pm

“This election is the most important in modern history and possibly civilization and you wanna throw it away because….”

While I appreciate the sentiment, it seems like every election someone proclaims its THE MOST IMPORTANT because of some reason and they four years later we always seem to have another one that somehow, staggeringly against all odds, is yet more important.

Isn’t it maybe the case that electing the most powerful leader of the singularly most powerful country on the planet is always important and isn’t something that should be reduced to petty psychoanalysis and lesser evil game theory?

Use your brain and process at the above primate-level you are capable of, the answers to how to vote become blazingly obvious in all but the rare cases where there are actually two really good candidates running.

P.S. Not meant as a jab at Faustnotes – with whom I broadly agree.

150

js. 03.17.16 at 3:59 pm

a crushing defeat for Trump is different from a virtual tie and will have different consequences on the future direction and strategy of the two parties

Yes, thanks. Also, thanks to faustusnotes, TM and others who have been talking a good bit of sense. One other thing: when I vote for Clinton (or some other Democrat), I will be voting my conscience. At least the way my conscience works, acting (in whatever small measure) to avert a fucking catastrophe is a conscientious act. Ignoring and minimizing obvious and extreme dangers isn’t.

Finally though, this from ZM:

You must find elections generally a terrible ethical dilemma if you are opposed to comparison as a method. I can’t think how you choose between the candidates without using comparison as a method… maybe drawing straws?

is the best comment of the thread.

151

Lyle 03.17.16 at 3:59 pm

Except that elections actually happen, and people get elected through some magical process in which votes are counted. Presidentially you might be a drop in the bucket in the vote total, but in Florida that one time each and every vote really really mattered.

Except that not every vote was counted. Not only was the count stopped in order to ensure a Bush win, tens of thousands of voters were scrubbed from voting roles and otherwise prevented from voting, a problem that continues today. But sure, keep blaming Nader voters. I can see how, for some reason, that makes you feel better.

152

Layman 03.17.16 at 4:04 pm

“Except that not every vote was counted. Not only was the count stopped in order to ensure a Bush win, tens of thousands of voters were scrubbed from voting roles and otherwise prevented from voting, a problem that continues today.”

But lucky for us, you voted for Nader, which means every vote WAS counted, the recount wasn’t stopped, no voters were scrubbed or prevented from voting! Yay! Well, maybe not.

If the 3% of the voters who voted for Nader as some kind of grand gesture had voted for
Gore, he wins Florida handily. Right?

153

Lyle 03.17.16 at 4:08 pm

If the 3% of the voters who voted for Nader as some kind of grand gesture had voted for Gore, he wins Florida handily. Right?

If Gore had been saying half the things that Nader was, almost no one would have voted for Nader. Right?

“Grand gesture”? How condescendingly, tellingly presumptuous of you.

154

TM 03.17.16 at 4:15 pm

For the record, I have no desire to blame Nader voters for anything. What I said was that many of those voters retrospectively regretted their choice, and that is true. The protest vote can be an empowering act and can actually lead to good political outcomes (especially when it is part of an activist political strategy) but that is by no means guaranteed. Not caring about the actual political outcome because your personal satisfaction is more important, that is an attitude I can’t follow.

155

Layman 03.17.16 at 4:21 pm

@ TM, I don’t really want to blame them either, but I do actually want them to regret what they did, so that they are less likely to do the same asinine thing again. I’ve done plenty of things I shouldn’t have, and I regret them, and so I try not to make those kind of mistakes again. That’s the function of guilt and regret. So,when people cry out for blame, by not regretting their mistakes, then blame them.

@Lyle, what was your reason for voting for Nader again? It can’t be ‘viable candidate’, that’s absurd given the polling. So, what was it, if not a grand gesture?

156

Plume 03.17.16 at 4:31 pm

Layman @156,

There is no reason whatsoever for Nader voters to feel any regret, or guilt, or to wish they had done something different in 2000. They had absolutely nothing to do with Bush’s win.

But the 308,000 Democrats who voted for Bush in Florida do. And the 52% of Democrats who stayed home and voted for no one.

Nader took all of 24,000 votes away from Gore — and that’s if we assume these same voters wouldn’t have stayed home or voted for Bush if Nader hadn’t run, which is a big assumption. Nader took almost as many votes away from Bush, and some exit polling suggests that if Nader had not run, Bush would have won by a few more votes than the 537 he did win by.

But, the key here is this: If Gore had managed to turn even 0.2% of the 308,000 DEMOCRATS who voted for Bush, he would have won in Florida.

No Nader voter needs to regret a thing. They didn’t hand the election to Bush. Democrats who voted for Bush straight up did — well, that and Jeb’s shenanigans and a Supreme Court that enabled it all.

157

Layman 03.17.16 at 4:48 pm

@Plume, I’m having a bit of difficulty following this. If some Nader voters had voted for Bush instead, then they’d be to blame for Bush. If some Nader voters had stayed home instead, they’d be to blame for Bush. If some Nader voters had voted for Gore instead, they’re to blame for not voting for Gore. So, who are the Nader voters who aren’t to blame for their Nader vote again?

158

Consumatopia 03.17.16 at 4:51 pm

“By the way, a crushing defeat for Trump is different from a virtual tie and will have different consequences on the future direction and strategy of the two parties”

I think, no matter what the outcome in November, it’s inevitable that the GOP will move in a Trump-like direction. Their base is incredibly hostile to immigration and that’s not gonna change.

What really worries me is what lesson the Democratic Party would take from a landslide victory, especially if they make a play for socially liberal suburban Republicans. We could end up with socially liberal plutocrat party optimized for Mike Bloomberg versus a racist populist party that Pat Buchanan would be at home in.

I dunno, for me it’s not so much a matter of moral purity (although that’s kind of how I phrased it up above) so much as that I don’t want Trump and Clinton to become the two poles of the possible. It just seems like there’s a lot of energy and imagination on the left right now and I hope that it amounts to something more than merely stopping Trump, which, honestly, shouldn’t be very freaking hard.

159

Donald 03.17.16 at 5:01 pm

Anon is making the most sense here. Vote lesser evil if it matters , but if you go third party you are depending on others to save us from Trump. However, that can be okay if you’re not self righteous about it.

The self- righteousness is what sticks out on both sides– ever since Nader we’ve had people who get angrier about this subject than they seem to get about anything else. Blaming Nader voters for Iraq, for instance, while Clinton voted for Iraq. Which is why I think Clinton voters should keep a certain perspective on who to blame for hundreds of thousands of deaths– personally, I put much more blame on the Democrat with her vaunted foreign policy expertise than on Nader voters in Florida. On the other side people grandly proclaim they will never vote for the Democrat. Fine. What difference will their non vote made? If it makes any difference at all, it makes a Republican victory infinitesimally more likely.

160

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 5:10 pm

There is no reason whatsoever for Nader voters to feel any regret, or guilt, or to wish they had done something different in 2000. They had absolutely nothing to do with Bush’s win.

Plume, this is just false. They’re not the only reason – I happily blame Gore and the Florida government and really really exciting game-show TV and videogames and sick infants and whatever else kept people home instead – but if Nader voters had all voted Gore instead the count wouldn’t have been close enough to steal.

161

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 5:15 pm

“Not caring about the actual political outcome because your personal satisfaction is more important, that is an attitude I can’t follow.”

Yes, people should care about the outcome. But that’s not the point. The context here is your vote doesn’t matter towards the outcome, you hope the lesser evil triumphs, but you’re deciding to not vote for some other reason. (Doesn’t really matter what). The question is whether youre ethically deficient for not voting, not whether you’re a grand strategist, and if you are responsible for some negative outcome that follows. In most cases (ie except the rare case where your non vote decides the election ) you are neither responsible or ethically wrong because your act has zero consequences.
Of course, I am not an ethicist.

162

Ed 03.17.16 at 5:22 pm

Having gone through 143 comments, this seems to be a good place to repost Ran Prieur’s recent take on the primaries:

“My dream scenario: Trump doesn’t get quite enough delegates for the nomination, the convention is a giant spectacle where the other candidates unite against Trump and nominate Cruz or Rubio, the Republican party tears itself apart, Hillary wins, the scandals catch up to her, the economy collapses, both parties get taken over by outsiders, and I live to see an unconditional basic income, a financial transaction tax, single payer health care, copyright reform, and a zero-growth economy with demurrage currency.”

Commentators on these threads tend to way overestimate the impact of a vote by one person.

163

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 5:23 pm

In most cases (ie except the rare case where your non vote decides the election ) you are neither responsible or ethically wrong because your act has zero consequences.

That votes are counted means there’s a quantifiable non-zero ethical culpability.

164

Plume 03.17.16 at 5:25 pm

Temporary Name,

No. It’s not false. At all. No one gets to blame Nader voters for voting their conscience. Not in a democratic society. They didn’t vote for Bush. They didn’t vote Republican. They voted for someone they believed was superior to both Gore or Bush. As is their right in a supposedly free society.

One can blame — if we’re going to put party above conscience — the 308,000 Democrats who sold out their own party to vote for Bush, and the 52% of Democrats who stayed home. Those Democrats actually voted straight up for Bush. They were directly responsible for his victory in Florida. Directly. One can’t blame voters who voted for neither of the corporate parties. Sorry. That’s just bullshit.

165

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 5:27 pm

Commentators on these threads tend to way overestimate the impact of a vote by one person.

Oh yeah, it’s a teeny influence on a presidential count, but it’s not a hard thing to vote. What other people like to ignore in arguing for non-voting is that there are a lot of people further down the ticket and they need votes too. Your influence on those people is bigger and it’s not like Republicans have failed to notice that local government can be easily taken over by a bloc of motivated voters.

166

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 5:28 pm

164- I don’t know. If you Tie the act to the actual consequences rather than hypothetical ones. Regardless, I don’t mind some non zero ethical responsibility, but the amount of responsibility is hugely disproportionate to the amount of effort that is expended berating people for not voting.

167

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 5:29 pm

No. It’s not false. At all. No one gets to blame Nader voters for voting their conscience. Not in a democratic society. They didn’t vote for Bush. They didn’t vote Republican. They voted for someone they believed was superior to both Gore or Bush. As is their right in a supposedly free society.

You’re mistaking a right for a smart decision. Of course they can be blamed, and I get to do that. It’s my right!

One can blame — if we’re going to put party above conscience — the 308,000 Democrats who sold out their own party to vote for Bush, and the 52% of Democrats who stayed home. Those Democrats actually voted straight up for Bush. They were directly responsible for his victory in Florida. Directly. One can’t blame voters who voted for neither of the corporate parties. Sorry. That’s just bullshit.

I can blame those guys too! Except according to you I can’t.

168

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 5:30 pm

And if there’s an ethical responsibility on the non voter then there (afaict) is also one on the berater of the non voter if that strategy (berating the non voter into compliance) is counterproductive (which it might well be)

169

Consumatopia 03.17.16 at 5:31 pm

“What other people like to ignore in arguing for non-voting is that there are a lot of people further down the ticket and they need votes too. “

If I vote for Jill Stein I’d still vote for Democrats downticket.

170

casmilus 03.17.16 at 5:32 pm

My dream scenario is that I finally wake up.

171

Plume 03.17.16 at 5:32 pm

Layman @158,

“Plume, I’m having a bit of difficulty following this. If some Nader voters had voted for Bush instead, then they’d be to blame for Bush. If some Nader voters had stayed home instead, they’d be to blame for Bush. If some Nader voters had voted for Gore instead, they’re to blame for not voting for Gore. So, who are the Nader voters who aren’t to blame for their Nader vote again?”

It’s not rocket science. Nader peeled away all of 24,000 potential — but obviously not certain — votes from Gore. Gore couldn’t even convince 308,000 Democrats NOT to vote for Bush.

It’s one thing to choose the superior candidate to the two corrupt, war-mongering, anti-worker, anti-environment, pro-capitalism-at-any-cost parties . . . . At least they can rest easy that they honestly chose the best candidate and party (Green). But Democrats who voted for Bush? Are you seriously trying to say Nader voters should feel guilty when all it would have taken is 270 voters from those 308,000 Democrats to vote Gore instead of Bush? Seriously?

172

Plume 03.17.16 at 5:41 pm

Temporary Name,

You know what I meant. Obviously you can try to blame anyone you want to. But you can’t make a logical case for it, when it comes to Nader.

Several post-election studies show Bush would likely have won by an even larger number if Nader had stayed out. But, again, he’s not the reason Bush won. Gore couldn’t carry his own state, and he couldn’t convince even 270 voters, from a pool of 308,000 Democrats, NOT to vote Bush.

IMO, blaming Nader is a cheap deflection tactic, primarily designed to let the Democrats off the hook for their own massive shortcomings. People are sick to death of LOTE voting. They’re sick to death of “not as bad as the Republicans.” They want to vote FOR someone, something, some great, inspiring agenda for positive change, instead of always feeling the need to prevent Republicans from winning. If the Democrats would actually stand for something, stand up for principles, stop cowering in fear of right-wing opinion, stop nominating centrists to the Court, etc. etc. . . . . They need to make people want to go out and vote instead of relying on fear of the GOP.

I detest the Democratic Party. I really, really do. Yes, it is true: They’re not as bad as the Republicans, but that’s a bar set so low it’s now underwater.

173

bruce wilder 03.17.16 at 5:42 pm

I don’t think electoral politics in a representative democracy is about “compromise”. I think it is about rotation in office. Voting is an alternative to revolution, a check on the political power of elites in a hierarchical political economy. Those elected to office will engage in deliberation and compromise in the course of making and executing policy choices. Overall, though, the point of the architecture of a liberal representative democracy, with separation of powers and separation of private from public spheres, rights of the individual and all that, is to legitimate conflicts of interest in a complex, hierarchical system and to provide a means by which the general public can hold those in power responsible.

Elections, with the possibility of rotation in office, are the ultimate foundation for a complex, hierarchical political system in which rational deliberation in policy choice and the supervision of hierarchy can hold its own against elite self-serving corruption, cruelty and stupidity.

TM: “In this country, given the institutional two-party framework that won’t change any time soon, the only sane political strategy is to keep Reps out of office at all levels (which means voting for unattractive “lesser evil” Dem candidates), and to put progressive pressure on the Dems by all means (*). “

What is it the wag said about insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result? A two-party system without rotation in office is a broken system; if you can only vote for the candidates of one party, and those candidates are chosen by a narrow class of corporate executives and plutocrats, well . . . it is hard to see what channels for “progressive pressure” are left. All the pressure is downward, to conform, to hypnotize one’s self with ritual comparisons to the greater evil, a greater evil offered by the same controlling elite, in a deliberately designed “heads you lose, tails we win” dilemma.

I am not making a point about the constitutional wisdom per se of a two-party system. I am making a point about the deep corruption of a political system, and the need to step away from the processes that co-opt us into legitimizing what is not legitimate, what is seriously dysfunctional. Voting for Jill Stein will not make me “feel pure”; it will be an admission of powerlessness.

I can argue that, since I live in California, which Clinton will carry in the general election with certainty, that my dissenting vote is a gesture toward applying “progressive pressure”. In the unlikely event several million join me in California’s general election, Clinton would still win California’s electoral college vote, but our voting behavior would send a signal, as they say, that might plausibly affect Clinton’s political calculations and policy behavior in a positive way. Beautiful dreams, I guess. Voting for her would do absolutely nothing to alter her behavior in office.

If Sanders were the Democratic nominee, I would vote for him. Not because I agree with him on some litany of issues, but because he understands the basic problem: the need to mobilize a mass movement against a corrupt and increasingly oppressive and dysfunctional elite, aka the need for “a revolution”. That’s what voting is properly for: to provide a check on elites. It can be a signal to dissenting elite factions that mass support is available. It can be a threat or a signal of mass dissatisfaction. And, it can just be routine rotation in office, which keeps the corruption of power down to a dull roar. It can be a wave election that enables a more or less radical and adaptive change in the course of policy. It can be voting out a prosecutor, who won’t charge police for wantonly killing unarmed persons.

To me, Clinton is that prosecutor who will not charge murderous police, only on a higher plane and a larger scale with greater scope. She says attacking Wall Street won’t do anything to overcome sexism or racism. True enough, I guess.

Continuing the exclusive domination of government at the highest levels by banksters, or the operatives of the military-industrial complex cum security state, isn’t going to overcome sexism or racism, either. What it will do is take us further down the road of an increasingly authoritarian state, and even a corporate neo-feudalism. The economic consequences, as the distribution of income and risk shifts to favor the giant corporations and the super-wealthy, are already abundantly clear, I think. But, maybe not clear to some.

Framing electoral politics around making hierarchy work for the whole society (as opposed to only a narrow elite of the society’s “owners” and their hired cadre of overseers) is different from the politics of transforming social consciousness. I am not sure I see the utility in making those different frames into platforms of opposing propositions or political organizing.

174

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 5:47 pm

You know what I meant. Obviously you can try to blame anyone you want to. But you can’t make a logical case for it, when it comes to Nader.

Plenty of people can and have because it’s so easy and so logical. Certainly there are other factors: nationwide the turnout was, I think, pretty low (but decent in Florida) because obviously the candidates didn’t inspire much. That doesn’t magically turn a stupid decision into a smart one.

175

Layman 03.17.16 at 5:48 pm

@ Plume, apparently it is rocket science, at least for you. Nader voters did not vote for Gore. If Nader wasn’t on the ballot, and they stayed home instead, they would not have voted for Gore. If Nader wasn’t on the ballot, and they voted for Bush instead, they still would not have voted for Gore. Their votes made the difference in the outcome, in any scenario. They have moral culpability for the outcome. Lots of other people do, too, but they do as well. It was a mistake, and they should admit that it was a mistake.

Any voting decision – even the decision not to vote at all – is an exercise in lesser-evilism. There are no perfect candidates, and you’re always trying to choose who you think is the least imperfect. If you decide not to vote, you’re making a decision that abstaining from the choice is less bad than making the choice from the options you have. If you make a protest vote for a candidate who can’t possibly win, you’re choosing the lesser of what you see as variably bad choices.

A long, long time ago, in my youth, I voted for Anderson, who could not possibly win, and who I knew could not possibly win. I was making a grand gesture, and it was stupid. I’m morally responsible for Reagan, just as much as the people who voted for him are. I won’t do that sort of stupid shit again.

176

Plume 03.17.16 at 5:50 pm

Bruce @175,

Well said. If it’s Hillary against Trump, I vote for Stein. If a miracle happens and it’s Sanders, I vote for him. Not because he’s perfect. Far from it. I don’t think he goes nearly far enough. But he at least doesn’t want to continue the Kabuki dance.

177

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 5:53 pm

And if there’s an ethical responsibility on the non voter then there (afaict) is also one on the berater of the non voter if that strategy (berating the non voter into compliance) is counterproductive (which it might well be)

Sure, I’ll buy that. And as many people will note from now until whenever Hillary is a belligerent when it comes to blowing people up for her perceived American interests. Yet I still want people to vote for her over the guy who wants to brag about war crimes, torture, and generally rounding up people who look funny. So all in all I kinda suck. My apologies.

178

geo 03.17.16 at 5:55 pm

We shouldn’t be discouraged; somewhere it is written that this same conversation will have to be conducted X times, where X is some enormous number, and then serious, constructive political discussion on the left will begin. So by going through these sorry paces yet again, we are subtracting one from the number of futile conversations that remain to be gotten through, thereby bringing the day of unity, clarity, and efficacy just a little closer.

I don’t mean this to sound dismissive of both sides of the argument — I’m in entire agreement with Lyle and Plume. For numerous reasons:

1) The likelihood, in the circumstances of twenty-first century America, that one vote will decide a presidential election is infinitesimally small, so small that, as in virtually every similar case, we are morally entitled, as a matter of practical reason, to disregard it. If we did not make such practical judgments, life would be strictly impossible. That is the only basis on which one can calculate one’s responsibility as a voter, prospectively OR retrospectively — the act of voting is isolated and atomic; it has no effect on any other vote cast, so voting for Nader in Florida added zero to the probability that anyone else would vote for Nader. Hence, since the 2000 election was not decided by one vote, no individual bears any responsibility for it. ANY responsibility.

2) Nader-voter critics consistently overlook that the main purpose of his campaign (along with voter education, which is about the most important part of democracy) was to get 5 percent of the vote and thereby secure federal funding for the Green Party. For this purpose, unlike the case of deciding the winner of the presidential election, every vote counted. A third party, offering an alternative to the (in different degrees, admittedly) world-destroying policies of the two major parties, would be of inestimable value to American society. So all of you who denied Nader your vote have a measurable responsibility for the two-party duopoly that is strangling American political life.

3) The electoral arrangements that awarded victory in 2000 are worse than obsolete: they are corrupt and anti-democratic. The Electoral College, first-past-the-post, and private funding of elections, among many other features of the American electoral system, are indefensible. What have you, Nader-voter critics, done or said since 2000 to challenge them?

The above are merely logical answers to the critics. But there is also a certain emotional incomprehension — sheer unsportingness — involved in blaming people who voted for by far the most qualified candidate ever to campaign in an American presidential election, someone who has done more to strengthen American democracy and defend Americans’ health and safety than anyone else in the second half of the twentieth century. Bush was a fool; Gore was a hack; how, really, can you blame someone who wanted, for once, to support someone worth supporting?

179

Lee A. Arnold 03.17.16 at 5:57 pm

Layman #148: “Counterfactuals are hard, but is there anyone who thinks President Al Gore invades Iraq? Anyone?”

Certainly. Wikipedia:

The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 is a United States Congressional statement of policy stating that “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq…” It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

The reasons why the US and any sane person would want to get rid of Saddam are easy to imagine. He was a vicious scumbag, and he was royally screwing-up any possibility of moderation from surrounding regimes.

It is harder to imagine Sen. Hillary Clinton opposing this policy 4 years later. Of course she has since said her vote was a “mistake” which is as much admission as has been heard from any politician (and more than most).

Gore delivered a speech on his views in September 2002, and they are not entirely black & white:
https://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/gore/gore092302sp.html

180

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 6:00 pm

Temporary name, it’s okay. We all suck. I’m just saying we should be more accepting of that fact.

181

Plume 03.17.16 at 6:00 pm

@Layman 177,

“They have moral culpability for the outcome. Lots of other people do, too, but they do as well. It was a mistake, and they should admit that it was a mistake.”

Complete, utter bullshit. They have zero reason to feel regret. Zero. And it wasn’t a mistake. It’s always the right thing to do to vote your conscience in a free society. Always. We have just one vote. It’s not our job to make the various scenarios/strategies work for the two corrupt corporate parties. It’s not our job to make sure it all works out as planned by the oligarchs and plutocrats. Seriously. Eff that.

Bush won by 537 votes in Florida. Gore didn’t contest an election that close, which boggles the mind, especially given Jeb as governor. But that’s another story. The key is 308,000 Democrats — get that? 308,000 Democrats voted directly for Bush. They placed their one and only vote with Bush. Nader voters, OTOH, voted against Bush just as much as those who voted for Gore. Nader voters AND Gore voters voted against Bush. Bush voters . . . . obviously decided to elect him.

Again, you’re blaming the wrong people and you have no case.

182

roger gathmann 03.17.16 at 6:06 pm

Replaying the Nader vote is instructive in one way, at least. The canard that Gore lost because of Nader is laughable: the dem establishment puts up another “electable” candidate who blows it. However, Gore got better because Nader pushed him to left. Not far enough, and not explicitly populist enough. The real question is why Gore couldn’t even win Tennessee, and I think the answer is the heavy moralism that made him treat Clinton like a pariah cause he got a blow job. If you are going to stir up heavy moralism, you will simply bring evangelicals out to vote for the GOP candidate.
But Nader’s case is instructive because Nader showed he was essentially out for himself after the election. Nader and the Greens were supposed to be starting a movement. Instead, Nader threw away the momentum, the Greens let him, and by 2003, when a nice Green movement would have interlocked with an anti-war movement and meant something, the Greens were back to being a provincial nullity. Sanders, more cleverly, wants the movement to occur in the structure of the Democratic party. I hope he continues on this quest, and that his campaign has seeded the party with non-Clintonites. If as I think likely Clinton wins, she will, if the past is preface, start the triangulation biz. But she won’t have Reps to triangulate with. They are in la la land. So she will be stuck with a party that is moving to her left.
What she does about that will be interesting. I suppose a tell will be what Republicans she appoints to cabinet posts. Easy to imagine her appt. McCain to defense. Easy to imagine a depressing next four years.

183

Plume 03.17.16 at 6:06 pm

geo @180,

Also well said. All of it.

Yes, Layman’s “moral culpability” part answered as well:

“So all of you who denied Nader your vote have a measurable responsibility for the two-party duopoly that is strangling American political life.”

and

“Bush was a fool; Gore was a hack; how, really, can you blame someone who wanted, for once, to support someone worth supporting?”

184

medrawt 03.17.16 at 6:10 pm

Does Nader’s recent writings in support of a potential Bloomberg candidacy – justified with almost exactly the opposite diagnosis of what’s wrong with the current two-party structure as the one he was forwarding in 2000 – cast any backward doubt on the idea that he might have been “by far the most qualified candidate ever to campaign in an American presidential election” and perhaps even “for once, someone worth supporting”? Or do we deduce that the Nader of 2016 is not the Nader of 2000, but rather a sad byproduct of same?

185

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 6:13 pm

President Gore invading Iraq is certainly plausible, imo.

186

Lee A. Arnold 03.17.16 at 6:14 pm

Bruce Wilder #175: “Elections, with the possibility of rotation in office, are the ultimate foundation for a complex, hierarchical political system… All the pressure is downward, to conform, to hypnotize one’s self… making a point about the deep corruption of a political system, and the need to step away from the processes that co-opt us into legitimizing what is not legitimate…”

I disagree on all three counts. Elections are not the “ultimate” foundation. The “downward pressure to hypnotize” oneself is stoutly resisted by almost everybody (pretty obviously) and sounds like a judgment of either paternalism or some sort of downward emanation of dialectical materialism. And, neither the “need” to step away from processes, nor the proof that those processes necessarily “co-opt” other possible processes (at this time), are in evidence.

187

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 6:14 pm

Geo, argument 1 is just dumb. A political decision you make must necessarily carry no responsibility? Pull the other one. 2 is interesting, yet worked out the same, right? It didn’t happen. 3 is something everyone should agree with.

The above are merely logical answers to the critics. But there is also a certain emotional incomprehension — sheer unsportingness — involved in blaming people who voted for by far the most qualified candidate ever to campaign in an American presidential election, someone who has done more to strengthen American democracy and defend Americans’ health and safety than anyone else in the second half of the twentieth century. Bush was a fool; Gore was a hack; how, really, can you blame someone who wanted, for once, to support someone worth supporting?

How could I blame someone for wanting that? I don’t have a fantasy Gore presidency in which he wants what I want, and I’ve blamed him for suckiness upthread. I confess I didn’t see his opponent being quite as catastrophic as he worked out to be, yet he was. The act was dumb, the sentiment certainly wasn’t (although Nader really is a shithead).

188

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 6:16 pm

For example frank Harvey’s Counterfactual

http://duckofminerva.com/2013/07/would-al-gore-fought-the-iraq-war.html

Make of it what u will, but it is plausible

189

Plume 03.17.16 at 6:21 pm

Layman,

Btw, if you voted your conscience when you pulled the lever for Anderson, you did the right thing and should feel no regrets. Your one vote is precious — to you. But, paradoxically, it carries no power, in and of itself, to change elections. None. It’s the proverbial drop in the ocean. And because of our electoral college, tens of millions of votes are actually quite meaningless, if you live in a red state and vote blue, for example.

You didn’t help elect Reagan. Reagan would still have won if you had stayed home or voted for Carter. It wouldn’t have mattered. Now you’d have reason to doubt yourself if you had pulled the lever for Reagan. But you didn’t. You voted against Reagan just as much as anyone who voted for Carter.

Same with anyone who voted for Nader. They, too, voted against Bush — and Gore. They and you have no reason to regret a thing.

190

Brett Dunbar 03.17.16 at 6:39 pm

Anyone in Florida in 2000 who didn’t vote for Gore deserves some of the blame. Not as much as those who voted for Bush but some as they either failed to vote or voted for a hopeless candidate, with no chance of getting the state’s electoral college vote.

The problem with voting for a minor candidate is that it removes you from the part of the electorate that matters leaving the effective electorate biased away from you. If you remove the leftmost 10% then the centre is moved a little to the right. Hotelling’s law predicts that the viable candidates are very close either side of the centre.

191

Layman 03.17.16 at 6:51 pm

Geo @ 183, I’m sorry to say that comes off as mostly nonsense. This is what I get from it:

1) because a vote is one among millions and can’t change the outcome, no one has moral culpability for their vote

2) except a Nader vote, which is also one among millions and can’t change the outcome, is a moral choice, and those who didn’t cast their vote that way have moral culpability for their vote

3) the system is corrupt, and non-Nader voters didn’t change it

(1) is nonsense, (2) directly contradicts the premise of (1), and (3) is irrelevant to the question of the impact of Nader votes, and the question of responsibility for them, and ignores that Nader-voters didn’t change the system either.

192

RNB 03.17.16 at 6:55 pm

@180, pt. 2 Already spoke to this on another thread weeks ago.

If Nader had been interested in making the 5% cut off for federal funding, he would have run hard in a state where more voters would have felt safe casting a symbolic vote for him, and this in turn would have strengthened the Green Party going forward; instead he campaigned hard in the hotly contested Florida where he had a harder time prying votes away from Gore. In terms of building the Green Party, his campaigning activities were self-destructive. He did not get to 5%.

In terms of bringing attention to himself as someone who could determine the fate of Florida and the country, he was successful. And then there were the still-active “radical” propagandists who told us that you might as well as vote for Nader due to the equivalence between Gore and Bush. It is the pernicious work that they did and are still doing that must be countered.

193

Layman 03.17.16 at 6:56 pm

@Plume, I’m amazed to learn that our electoral system counts not just votes for a candidate, but also votes against a candidate. If a candidate gets more votes against than votes for, does s/he lose despite getting a plurality of all votes cast in a state? Has anyone told the people?

Everyone who didn’t vote for Al Gore helped Bush get elected. It doesn’t matter how (not voting, voting for Bush, voting for someone else), or why they did that, the effect is the same. Worse, they’re probably to blame for making Al Gore fat.

194

RNB 03.17.16 at 7:01 pm

@184 Gore should be proud of not winning the Volunteer vote in TN, which surely is not an indication of his not having run left enough. The Democrats eventually discovered that they do not have to win much, if any, of the ex-Confederacy to win the Presidency.

195

Consumatopia 03.17.16 at 7:03 pm

Does the plausible existence of a lot of people on the other side having this same argument but in reverse–people for who the GOP nominee will be the lesser evil–change the way we should feel about this situation? Trump is all but promising to sabotage the GOP if anyone buy him is the nominee, and #NeverTrump isn’t quite dead yet. No matter who the GOP nominates, there’s probably going to be a lot more Republicans dissatisfied with their nominee than Democrats. In which case, LesserEvilism would help Republicans more than it helps Democrats, right?

196

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 7:10 pm

Gore should be proud of not winning the Volunteer vote in TN, which surely is not an indication of his not having run left enough.

No politician should be proud of under 60% voter turnout in their own state.

197

RNB 03.17.16 at 7:11 pm

No if having to vote for the lesser evil becomes a moral obligation that raises voter turnout, then Democrats win top to bottom in a landslide.

198

RNB 03.17.16 at 7:12 pm

But it’s TN.

199

Tyrone Slothrop 03.17.16 at 7:37 pm

Worse, they’re probably to blame for making Al Gore fat.

That’s what really gets my goat about the whole sorry affair…

200

RNB 03.17.16 at 7:45 pm

I loved the weight-lifting tips Al Gore gave when he was campaigning: Keep on lifting until it burns. So true.

201

Lupita 03.17.16 at 7:48 pm

What is the difference between an educated American who knows Clinton is a neoliberal warmonger yet thinks she is the lesser evil and an uneducated American who thinks Trump is a loudmouthed clown but, what the hell, let’s see how the elite reacts if we poke it with a stick by electing him? Many have written that Trump and his supporters are sexist, racist morons, but what about what Trump supporters think of Clinton supporters, that they are soulless, greedy traitors?

I see both the American educated and uneducated classes as equally hopeless and desperate, yet this thread only reflects what educated people think since one has to know how to express oneself clearly in writing in order to participate. That is, we have a very striking class bias going on here.

202

Ed 03.17.16 at 7:49 pm

Ronan @190, yeah at the time I favored Bush over Gore precisely because Bush seemed to me less likely to get the armed forces involved in stupid wars, for whatever that is worth.

203

Plume 03.17.16 at 7:57 pm

Layman @195,

“Plume, I’m amazed to learn that our electoral system counts not just votes for a candidate, but also votes against a candidate. If a candidate gets more votes against than votes for, does s/he lose despite getting a plurality of all votes cast in a state? Has anyone told the people?”

So where did you learn this? Not here. No one in this thread said anything remotely like the above. Good snark is based on truth, not straw men, Layman. You’re not very good at snark.

As for all of your silly talk of “moral culpability.” You support the Democratic Party, right? You’re a Democrat, I assume. And our capitalist system? You support that, too, right? The hierarchical structures in place? You’re cool with them, also, right? They all have the blood of tens of millions on their hands. Right now, in 2016, this is ongoing.

But you want Nader voters to feel guilty about their essentially meaningless vote, which you’ve fetishized beyond recognition? You want people to feel guilty for voting outside those two warmongering, death to the planet parties? Really?

And, yes, the GOP is worse, which is why it is perfectly understandable, rational and logical, from a moral point of view, not to vote for either of them. With both parties being despicable in their actions, going back two centuries for one, and almost as long for the other, the only really “moral” thing to do is end support for either of them.

Beyond all of that . . . . tell me, Layman, how was a voter to know, in November of 2000, what Bush would end up doing? How could they predict that 9/11 would happen, that Bush would exploit it, get us into two insane wars, commit all kinds of war crimes and so on? No one predicted that back in November of 2000. The book on Bush at the time was that he was an amiable eff up, a good-time Charlie who would likely be one and done like his father. Instead, 9/11 happened and the rest is (odious) history. But since no one at the time could have known he would become one of the worst presidents in American history, your “moral culpability” shtick is pure nonsense. Voting for him in 2004? That’s a different story.

204

RNB 03.17.16 at 8:01 pm

“Beyond all of that . . . . tell me, Layman, how was a voter to know, in November of 2000, what Bush would end up doing?”

Umm he had nominated Dick Cheney as his VP. May have raised a caution flag or two.

205

kidneystones 03.17.16 at 8:01 pm

March 2016 “Trump the MOSTEST EVILIST EVAH!!!! http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/democrats-donald-trump-alarm-220910

March 2016 “Dems face huge enthusiasm gap” http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/03/01/analysis-super-tuesday-trump-takeover-feelthebern-clinton-cruz-rubio-sanders/81143962/

“In every contest leading up to Super Tuesday, Democratic turnout has been way down while Republican turnout was way up…In South Carolina, 367,000 people voted in the Democratic primary, a 30% decline from the party’s last contested primary, in 2008. But 603,000 Republicans voted in the Republican primary, a 20% increase from the last contested GOP contest, in 2012. In Nevada’s Republican caucuses, 34,000 people supported Trump. That’s more than the entire GOP turnout four years ago.”

Gee, I wonder if this there’s any connection between Trump-Hitler and the prospect of more of the same only worse. Talk about yer politiks of fear. Meanwhile, HRC is busily trying to co-opt Trump’s message – now she’s going to save us from China (wtf? with neo-liberalism and globalization?).

As I said before, the DNC ought to be on their knees thanking Bernie. Just imagine how vapid and lifeless the Dem alternative would look without all those energized young Sanders’s supporters, and by that – I mean to Dems!

Squint hard, tilt your head to the side and HRC looks like Bernie and Donald.

You betcha!

206

RNB 03.17.16 at 8:02 pm

If you have all been waiting to decide on which candidate to pick until Frank Gaffney makes a choice on whom to advise, the waiting is over…Ted Cruz is your man.

207

geo 03.17.16 at 8:04 pm

Layman @193:

No, you’ve overlooked an important difference between the two votes. Votes in an American presidential election are not additive. We do not have a system of proportional representation. It is possible to lose a large majority of popular votes and win a majority of electoral votes. Moreover, each state’s electoral votes are themselves not proportionally allotted but are allotted by winner-take-all. In order for one vote to decide an election, one state must hold the balance of electoral votes and the popular vote in that one state must be decided by exactly one vote. Likelihood: infinitesimal.

On the other hand, votes count one by one toward a given percentage of the electorate. Roughly 105 million votes were cast in the 2000 election; 5 percent of those is 5.25 million votes, so the chance your vote might determine whether a third party is funded is 1 in 5 million — not large, but not infinitesimal.

In neither case (or any similar case) is a person morally bound to regulate his/her choices by remote or negligible probabilities of this sort.

Really, if all the bellyaching devoted to blaming Nader and his supporters since 2000 had been devoted to some more useful (though, of course, more difficult) goal, such as actually making American electoral arrangements minimally rational, the Electoral College, the Senate, etc., and other atrocities might now be history.

208

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 8:04 pm

Beyond all of that . . . . tell me, Layman, how was a voter to know, in November of 2000, what Bush would end up doing?

You could read his platform and his party’s platform, see where the man was coming from and who he surrounded himself with and it was pretty obvious he was the greater evil.

209

phenomenal cat 03.17.16 at 8:06 pm

“President Gore invading Iraq is certainly plausible, imo.” Ronan @187

Without a doubt it’s plausible. The neocon infiltration of the security/diplomacy D.C. establishment was already a fait accompli. Whether a Gore admin. would have been quite so infested with Wolfowitz/John Bolton types is another question, but their power and influence and willingness to work across party “lines” at that time is undoubted– see Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland today.

Maybe the Iraq fubar happens or maybe it doesn’t with Gore, but it’s always taken a special kind of precious to assume that all would have been well had Gore won. The collective fear, psychosis, and anger gripping the U.S. after 9/11 was immense– was literally a perfect environment for the neocons to advance their agenda. And, let’s face it, Gore never showed any sign of being some sort of inverse liberal mirror-reflection of Andrew Jackson, in possession of a titanium spine, capable of withstanding the (public) panic-fear and (neocon) pressure. Who knows, maybe he would have risen to the occasion. But I doubt it and doubt even more that his administration taken as a whole would have.

And this is the point, which some in these rolling debates acknowledge but don’t really get: too many of our institutions are fundamentally corrupted and actively working against the general health and welfare of Americans– never mind the rest of the world.
So vote as you will, but this or that figurehead is not likely to sway the greater balance in one direction or another very much. Change will have to come from within, below, and from the outside. The Sanders and Trump (nasty as it is) phenomena reveal that the potential is there and growing.

210

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 8:07 pm

Really, if all the bellyaching devoted to blaming Nader and his supporters since 2000 had been devoted to some more useful (though, of course, more difficult) goal, such as actually making American electoral arrangements minimally rational, the Electoral College, the Senate, etc., and other atrocities might now be history.

Who’s likely to get a judiciary that might recognize campaign finance limits and non-stop electioneering?

211

Rich Puchalsky 03.17.16 at 8:13 pm

But there’s a big advantage to not voting: I no longer have to sit through boring jury duty.

(That was a joke. In actuality all I have to do is say “I’m an anarchist, and I plan to vote innocent no matter what the facts are for any victimless crime” and no more jury duty for me.)

Having had close although not direct experience of how Nader treated his workers, I did not vote for Nader back when I was still voting. His post-election performance, I think, supports that decision.

For the people insisting that my vote is important I’ll say this. I plan not to vote. Therefore, it is morally incumbent on you, by the same logic that you’re using, to make up for my missing vote. I may be to blame, but you also will be to blame, morally, if you don’t take the fairly minimal effort that it would take to get one of the huge number of people who will not bother voting to the polls and make up for my missing vote.

212

phenomenal cat 03.17.16 at 8:16 pm

And for the 100th time, what Lupita said @203.

213

RNB 03.17.16 at 8:17 pm

OK so we are agreed it would have been crazy to vote for Bush had there been a good chance that Gore was more unlikely to start a war against Iraq that would cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, tens of thousands of American lives and catastrophic injuries, and over five trillion dollars (Stiglitz and Bilme). You are just saying that if anything Gore was more likely to have started the war against Iraq and it took extraordinary circumstances like a master’s thesis on the possibility of WMD in Iraq to push party boy W. to war. Got it.

214

Layman 03.17.16 at 8:18 pm

“Really, if all the bellyaching devoted to blaming Nader and his supporters since 2000 had been devoted to some more useful (though, of course, more difficult) goal, such as actually making American electoral arrangements minimally rational, the Electoral College, the Senate, etc., and other atrocities might now be history.”

I’ll bite: What could bellyachers have done instead, which would have amended the Constitution in ways that you suggest here? I don’t disagree that these would be good things, I just think it’s rank nonsense that what has kept it from happening is whining about Nader.

I’m frankly surprised at this. You can’t really mean, e.g., that people who choose to go along with an overwhelming evil tide are not making a moral choice for evil, because really how could they make a difference?, but that is surely the consequence of your argument (1). You can’t really mean that moral culpability obtains to a one-in a million shot, but not to a one-in-ten-million shot, because some threshold has been crossed which renders the chooser morally immune, but that’s the consequence of (2). You can’t really mean that whining about Nader has stopped the Nader voters overhauling the Constitution, but that’s what you say in (3) and again here.

215

Layman 03.17.16 at 8:29 pm

“And, let’s face it, Gore never showed any sign of being some sort of inverse liberal mirror-reflection of Andrew Jackson, in possession of a titanium spine, capable of withstanding the (public) panic-fear and (neocon) pressure. “

phenomenal cat, you may not be aware that a only minority of Americans supported the Iraq invasion, and those that did, did so only after a long campaign of disinformation about Iraq, Iraq’s alleged role in 9/11, and Iraq’s alleged WMD programs. There was little public clamor for war, and what little there was was ginned up. It would be an unjustified smear of some magnitude to claim, without any evidence at all, that someone else (Gore?) would similarly lie about these matters to the public. Absent the disinformation, what would be the source of this pressure?

216

Trader Joe 03.17.16 at 8:32 pm

@213
The great thing about non-voters is you don’t have to wait for them to die to use their name to pad the tallies. Why a good non-voter is worth 3 or 4 voters easy.

217

Yankee 03.17.16 at 8:34 pm

@geo 180

I guess nobody has responsibility for anything. Infinitesimal chance that what you said will change anybody’s mind. Infinitesimal chance that stiffing the waitperson will cause a child to starve. Infinitesimal chance selling what I have to give to the poor will leave anybody better off in the end.

In a community, it works the other way: you’re responsible for everything, whether you can personally change it or not (and you could keep THAT [pointing] child from starving). But “this is not a home, this is an apartment”. An apart-ment, get it?

218

Plume 03.17.16 at 8:38 pm

Layman @216,

“You can’t really mean, e.g., that people who choose to go along with an overwhelming evil tide are not making a moral choice for evil,”

More straw men from you, Layman. Why not, just for kicks and giggles, stop trying to rewrite what people say (in this case Geo) and instead just respond to what they do say?

219

Suzanne 03.17.16 at 8:40 pm

@31: The importance of rebuilding the party at state and local levels is a subject that she has raised more than once and she has worked hard at fundraising for the DNC. I think the task is well within her capabilities, and it’s an area where she can definitely improve on her old boss’ record.

I don’t think she will be any worse in regard to Wall Street than Obama, not a large statement. Depending on the makeup of the Congress, she may have enough on her hands just trying to defend Dodd-Frank. She is a hawk and deplorably so, but my perhaps overoptimistic hope is that she can use her reputation for hawkishness productively – at least she won’t feel pressured to bomb something straightaway in order to prove her martial bona fides.

I live in a safely blue state and will likely vote for Sanders in the primary to keep HRC on her toes. But if it were close I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for her and will do so in the general, while hoping she can stay away from unforced errors like praising Ron and Nancy for their record on AIDS. (Jesus.)

I guess it is “tribal” of me to mention it, but I do look forward to the possibility of seeing a liberal Democratic woman taking the oath of office and will be especially pleased for old warriors like Steinem and RBG and the other feminists of their generation, because they’ll have lived to see it.

With regard to Clinton’s commitment to her work on children’s rights, see this from Garry Wills back in ‘92:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1992/03/05/hr-clintons-case/

“It isn’t specific utterances that disqualify Donald,”

I think this one alone would do it for me. And it’s hardly the worst out there, as we all know:

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

220

Layman 03.17.16 at 8:42 pm

@Plume, even if you don’t understand my point, I’m reasonably sure Geo will, and I’ll wait for his response.

221

Plume 03.17.16 at 8:43 pm

Back in 2007, I argued against someone from Australia who said a majority of Americans supported the invasion. I told him, no way. That’s just Fox News nonsense. He and I got into a heated argument about it. Though, ironically, we were both antiwar.

Turns out he was correct.

Seventy-Two Percent of Americans Support War Against Iraq

222

RNB 03.17.16 at 8:44 pm

Guardian piece indicates that those Chinese elites who may or may not have invented in (Bruno) Latourian fashion the fact of global warming are using the example of Trump’s ascendence to beat back democratization.

223

Plume 03.17.16 at 8:45 pm

Layman @222,

I understand it perfectly. You’re putting words in people’s mouths here, continuously. Please stop.

224

Layman 03.17.16 at 8:46 pm

Good grief, Plume. Look at all the polling data leading up to the war. My characterization was correct.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_opinion_in_the_United_States_on_the_invasion_of_Iraq#March_2003

225

AcademicLurker 03.17.16 at 8:49 pm

Plume@223,

I believe that there was an immediate spike of support after the war started and troops were already on the ground. The poll you link to is dated as a few days after the beginning of the invasion. I think that support was much more tepid during the run up, but I’d have to do some google searching to find proof.

226

Layman 03.17.16 at 8:52 pm

@ Plume, pointing out to someone the consequences of their stated reasoning is not putting words in their mouth; it is, rather, pointing out to them the consequences of their stated reasoning. Geo has argued that if a single person’s choice (a vote) has little likelihood of changing the outcome, that choice carries no moral weight. That is a line of argument with profound consequences, wouldn’t you say?

227

Plume 03.17.16 at 8:52 pm

Temporary Name,

That’s easy to see now. But in November of 2000? Um, not so much.

That said, again, people who voted for Nader did not vote for Bush/Cheney, by definition. They didn’t want Bush to win, or they would have voted for him, like those 308,000 Democrats.

I think Layman and others here are confusing “morality” with “pragmatics and strategery,” and they’re doing so with classic 20/20 hindsight. To me, the obviously “moral” thing to do, when it comes to voting, is to vote your conscience. Voting strategically is a completely different matter. Chomsky, for instance, suggests voting strategically, while from a moral point of view, he believes both parties are despicable — as do I.

It’s really none of our business how someone votes, and instead of trying to blame third-party voters for the abject failures of the Democrats to make their own case, perhaps they should ask what is it about the Dems that turns off so many left-wing voters in the first place.

They need to earn our votes. We don’t owe then one damn thing.

228

novakant 03.17.16 at 8:53 pm

Lesser evilism is a very weak ethical position:

“as long as there is the possibility of A, and B is less evil than A, I will vote for B to prevent A, never mind what B actually stands for and even if it is evil as well

Frankly, I don’t buy it. I think most lesser evilists are actually kind of ok with bombing wedding parties to bits with drones based solely on metadata, or turning a country like Libya into godforsaken hellhole ruled by ISIS, marauding warlords and jihadist militias. If they weren’t ok with this type of stuff, they wouldn’t vote for those responsible for it.

229

Layman 03.17.16 at 8:55 pm

@ novakant, give a real world example of a choice you made that couldn’t be boiled down to a case of lesser-evilism. I’ll wait.

230

engels 03.17.16 at 8:56 pm

231

Ed 03.17.16 at 8:57 pm

Brett Bellmore, your narrative @ 227 tracks with how I remember things happening at the time.

However, I’ve seen enough of these types of threads to know that it isn’t enough to believe that Nader cost Gore the election, or that Bush stole the election in Florida. You have to believe that Nader cost Gore the election AND that Gore beat Bush in Florida and Bush stole it to satisfy some people.

So no, its really not that important.

232

Omega Centauri 03.17.16 at 8:57 pm

My thinking is pretty similar to Suzanne’s, and I’m in the safest of blue states. I might even vote Stein in the general as I did last time around -because I can afford a protest vote, which would be a throwaway vote were I in a swing state.

I’m slightly nervous that HRC however, might have extra incentive to be belicoser. Pressure to prove a woman can be just as tough as anyman, and/or that a Democrat can be just as tough as any Republican. I’d rather there weren’t these potential pressures.

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Ed 03.17.16 at 8:59 pm

“give a real world example of a choice you made that couldn’t be boiled down to a case of lesser-evilism.”

No idea what is being asked here, but I like to bring up this example in these types of discussions:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_presidential_election,_1932

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medrawt 03.17.16 at 9:10 pm

Ed –

Not to put words in Layman’s mouth, but if I wrote what he did I’d mean something along the lines of “almost every consumer product you buy, at some point in the supply chain, involves labor conditions that in the United States would be illegal, and often tip into the realm of a human rights violation; the ones that might not are in some other way demonstrably destructive of the environment or similarly deplorable. Every day we partake in our economy we are de facto ‘choosing’ between various degrees of evil. So maybe cool it with moralizing about how people willing to vote for HRC really feel about America bombing Pakistani weddings.”

And I think engels at 233 is pretty relevant to some aspects of this discussion.

235

roger gathmann 03.17.16 at 9:11 pm

#221 I think we’ve had a good preview of the Clinton foreign policy when she was at State. The massive arm sales to the Saudis, the drive by devastation of Libya, the provocative stance taken in Ukraine. Obama’s foreign policy, in my opinion, has been much better since she left – I can’t imagine the deal with Iran on Clinton’s watch.

My hope is, however, that she will be hemmed in by a more lefty Dem. congress. She’ll do harm, but not as much as she would have if Sanders hadn’t run, and if the Dem establishment hadn’t woken up to the fact that, by an amazing percentage, the coming generation can’t stand the old neo-liberal line on domestic and foreign policy.

That’s my hope. Really, I don’t see the upside of Clinton succeeding Obama, but I do see limits to the downside.

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phenomenal cat 03.17.16 at 9:17 pm

“phenomenal cat, you may not be aware that a only minority of Americans supported the Iraq invasion, and those that did, did so only after a long campaign of disinformation about Iraq, Iraq’s alleged role in 9/11, and Iraq’s alleged WMD programs. There was little public clamor for war, and what little there was was ginned up. It would be an unjustified smear of some magnitude to claim, without any evidence at all, that someone else (Gore?) would similarly lie about these matters to the public. Absent the disinformation, what would be the source of this pressure?”

Can’t tell if you’re being disingenuous or not. Of course the clamor was “ginned up.” That goes to my point about institutions, neocons, et al. The public didn’t ask for Iraq, but who did? The public didn’t ask for Iraq, but the fear, panic, and paranoia made marketing it to them so much easier. And if you think said fear, panic, and paranoia wouldn’t have affected how any sitting president received the neocon-spun “intelligence” on Iraq I’ve got some beachfront property you should take a look at. Perhaps you’ve forgotten The Project for a New American Century position on Iraq and on America’s role in a “unipolar” world which became beltway common sense in the late 90’s.

Anyway, you’re reinforcing the point I’m making. Given a “minority” of support for the war (but was it really a minority and how small of a minority?), it’s telling how easily the Bush admin made it happen. Once again: many of our institutions are fundamentally corrupted and are actively working against the general health and welfare of the American people– never mind the rest of the world. By the way, it’s precious in the extreme to postulate that another politician wouldn’t “similarly lie to the public about these matters.”

Really?

And as I recall it wasn’t just “one politician” doing the lying about Iraq. Moreover, many of them weren’t politicians at all–most in fact were advisors, lawyers, bureaucrats, diplomats, journalists, generals, and think tank types to name just a few. It takes a village you know.

Some of the moral hyperventilation/casuistry in these and other comment threads over the expressed reservations of a Clinton presidency strikes me as little more than group boundary maintenance.

[Glares with suspicion] ARE YOU ONE OF US OR NOT?

237

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 9:18 pm

That’s easy to see now. But in November of 2000? Um, not so much.

Yes it was, in fact, really easy to see. That’s why I mentioned him, where he came from, his people, and his party’s platform. And again this is not to say Gore was fabulous: he was not. It was still a simple matter to go to your polling place and do a thing that you insist is meaningless anyway.

They need to earn our votes. We don’t owe then one damn thing.

Well really, fuck Nader and Bush and Gore. What do you owe yourself and your loved ones? “I dreamed this dream for us but instead we got a catastrophe. You’re welcome.”

238

js. 03.17.16 at 9:23 pm

I don’t want Trump and Clinton to become the two poles of the possible

I would think that the Sanders campaign is good evidence that this is not going to happen. Sanders supporters (i.e. a large part of the Dem base) are not going to settle for 90s style triangulation any more than Trump supporters are going to settle for GHWB, the second coming. Speaking of which:

If as I think likely Clinton wins, she will, if the past is preface, start the triangulation biz. But she won’t have Reps to triangulate with. They are in la la land. So she will be stuck with a party that is moving to her left.

It’s as if the evidence that no matter who wins the Dem primary we won’t see a return to 90s style triangulation is practically staring you in the face. Why not just accept it?

Also, what Suzanne said @221 (with somewhat less optimism re foreign policy).

239

Plume 03.17.16 at 9:29 pm

The Temporary Name,

So you want to blame 24,000 Nader voters for something they couldn’t possible know would occur, going in? Who knew Bush would win by 537 votes? Who knew that the election would all come down to Florida? Who knew that it would be so close that Jeb’s rigging of the election, purging hundreds of thousands of votes, would bear fruit? Who knew that despite the massive number of voting irregularities, Gore would cave in and not demand a recount? Who knew that 308,000 DEMOCRATS would vote for Bush? — and if you want to blame anyone, they’re the people to blame, not Nader voters. Nader voters obviously didn’t vote for Bush.

Think about it:

308,000 DEMOCRATS voted for Bush
Tell me now how 24,000 NADER voters are responsible for his election theft.

And, again, only with perfect 20/20 hindsight could you even begin to make this a “moral” issue. Without intentionality, it makes no sense to accuse any Nader voters of anything. Without 20/20 hindsight, even intentionality is meaningless in this case.

Each person would have to know, going in, that their vote for Nader would hand the election to Bush. And no one knew that, obviously.

240

Layman 03.17.16 at 9:34 pm

@ phenomenal cat

You can’t simultaneously claim that the public support for war would have pushed Gore into it, and that the public support for war was the result of the Bush administration’s efforts to gin up that support. The actors in that effort were administration officials, some elected and some not, but all in place as a consequence of the election. Absent the Bush administration, there is no ginning up, and therefore no public pressure, and therefore no Gore war.

I suppose you could claim that Gore would have played the same con game as Bush, but really, that’s a startling claim. We can say that about Bush, because we have the evidence to back it up: but we have no such evidence in the case of Gore, so such a claim is a calumny of the first order. If you want to make it, the burden is on you to make the case. Good luck with that!

241

Lupita 03.17.16 at 9:35 pm

If the evil many can live with is a neoliberal warmonger, then fear not, that is what you will get. If you don’t like that option, too bad, that is what you’ll get anyway. The global elite has all this under control and is very experienced at removing non-compliant heads of state very swiftly and without violence.

If Trump wins, he can be removed from power just like Berlusconi was. This is how it works: Trump starts behaving erratically in a non-neoliberal way, like building walls, deporting foreign workers, and slapping on tariffs. Right on cue, investors lose confidence, bond vigilantes get all panicky, rating agencies downgrade the US, Wall Street collapses, the dollar depreciates, and bears and inflation run amok.

Then, dear Ms. Lagarde and a group of very elegant and serious bankers kindly offer to bail out the country in exchange of implementing certain measures. Problem is, they do not trust Trump to implement them, him being so erratic. So Trump steps down, just like Berlusconi, and lets a nice, comforting, pragmatic, efficient, reliable person take over. Someone like Clinton, for example. This story also has its Greek version, in which anti-neoliberal Tsipras suddenly recognized the virtue of bowing to the inevitable and was permitted to stay in power.

So I wouldn’t worry. You all will get your least evil option. You see, it is the only option.

242

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 9:36 pm

So you want to blame 24,000 Nader voters for something they couldn’t possible know would occur, going in?

I happily blame them for helping elect a guy they should have known – GIVEN WHAT HE SAID AND DID AND WHO HE REPRESENTED – would do more Bad Things than the other asshole.

308,000 DEMOCRATS voted for Bush
Tell me now how 24,000 NADER voters are responsible for his election theft.

You haven’t been paying attention: I blame them too.

Each person would have to know, going in, that their vote for Nader would hand the election to Bush. And no one knew that, obviously.

No they wouldn’t, they’d just to know it was possible.

243

Layman 03.17.16 at 9:36 pm

medrawt @ 237, you put words in my mouth beautifully. Thanks, you said it much more clearly than I would have.

244

geo 03.17.16 at 9:49 pm

Layman @229: Geo has argued that if a single person’s choice (a vote) has little likelihood of changing the outcome, that choice carries no moral weight

Not quite. If a single person’s choice has an infinitesimal probability of producing some outcome, then that choice carries an infinitesimal moral responsibility for producing that outcome.

Layman @216: You can’t really mean, e.g., that people who choose to go along with an overwhelming evil tide are not making a moral choice for evil, because really how could they make a difference?

It depends, obviously, on what one means, in the given context, by “go along,” by “overwhelming,” by “making a choice,” and by “make a difference.” Consider two people, each of whom spent WW II lying in a hospital bed in two remote locations, unable to speak. One rooted for Hitler, one rooted against him. On the last day of the war, both died. Which of them has a greater moral responsibility for Hitler’s crimes?
Now consider a Gore voter who later supported the War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq, and a Nader voter who actively opposed both. Which bears a greater responsibility for America’s crimes? Many, many other examples along these lines could be proposed; I think it’s plain that your intended rhetorical knockout punch is a very wild swing indeed.

Layman @216: You can’t really mean that whining about Nader has stopped the Nader voters overhauling the Constitution

Right, I don’t mean that. I mean that if every bit of the energy foolishly devoted by many millions of people to whining about Nader 2000 had been devoted instead to supporting Nader’s incessant calls for electoral reform, we might at least have taken a baby step in that direction.

Yankee @219: I guess nobody has responsibility for anything.

I think it’s … well, quite a stretch to deduce this from 180. To the extent you produce an outcome, you’re morally responsible for it. I wouldn’t advise assaulting someone and then citing 180 in an attempt to persuade the judge that “no one has responsibility for anything.” Now of course, if we were discussing freedom of the will, sinfulness, eternal reward and punishment, etc., then I would fervently argue, as a hidebound determinist, that nobody has responsibility for anything. But that would be a different assertion, in a different argument, with a different import.

Rich @213: Having had … experience of how Nader treated his workers, I did not vote for Nader

An understandable, even generous impulse but deeply mistaken nonetheless. In a criminal trial, you would only take a piece of evidence like that into consideration to the extent that it materially affected the likelihood that the defendant did or didn’t commit the crime. In a presidential election, you should only take a piece of evidence like that into account to the extent it helps you decide what kind of a president the candidate would be. Assuming that Nader was a high-handed, inconsiderate employer, how likely do you think this would have seriously compromised his tax, trade, health care, environmental, regulatory, national security, and other policies if he were elected? Of course it’s an unattractive trait, but a disqualification from the presidency, given the enormous advance that a (very hypothetical, I agree) Nader presidency would have meant for American society?

245

geo 03.17.16 at 9:51 pm

PS – Would someone who knows please address Brett @227? Is that really what happened in Florida?

246

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 9:58 pm

Now consider a Gore voter who later supported the War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq, and a Nader voter who actively opposed both. Which bears a greater responsibility for America’s crimes?

Well obviously the Nader voter because voting is the act that did something to tip a balance. I’d rather drink a beer with the Nader voter than the Gore voter though.

247

geo 03.17.16 at 10:02 pm

medrawt @ : maybe cool it with moralizing about how people willing to vote for HRC really feel about America bombing Pakistani weddings.

In which case, maybe also cool it with moralizing about how voting for Nader was “choos[ing] to go along with an overwhelming evil tide” and “making a moral choice for evil” (Layman @216).

And no, Nader’s current views about an independent candidacy by Bloomberg are completely irrelevant to judging whether one was justified in believing in 2000, on the basis of his 40-year career up to then, whether he was then by far the best candidate for president.

248

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 10:03 pm

Afaicr and I’ll pull up the polling later, support for removing saddam was pretty much constant since the gulf war, even during bushs push for iraq 2 (where it fluctuated mildly in the mid/high 50s low 60s support for) until the war began where an (easily explainable ) surge in support occurred

249

Layman 03.17.16 at 10:04 pm

@ Geo

“Not quite. If a single person’s choice has an infinitesimal probability of producing some outcome, then that choice carries an infinitesimal moral responsibility for producing that outcome.”

That doesn’t sound unreasonable, until you understand that this would mean that a person who voted for Bush, with the intent of helping Bush be elected, had almost no moral responsibility for that choice. That’s an absurd outcome, so there’s something wrong with your formulation.

Also, not to be picky, this is what you wrote in 180: “Hence, since the 2000 election was not decided by one vote, no individual bears any responsibility for it. ANY responsibility.”

Not an infinitesimal responsibility, no responsibility at all. I trust you understand my objection. I agree that there can be degrees of moral culpability, and would certainly agree that those who voted for Bush bear more blame than those who voted for Nader, and I’ve said that.

250

Layman 03.17.16 at 10:08 pm

Geo @ 251

“In which case, maybe also cool it with moralizing about how voting for Nader was “choos[ing] to go along with an overwhelming evil tide” and “making a moral choice for evil” (Layman @216).”

I’m shocked to find this. I made no such equivalency, and I think you know that. If you genuinely don’t, and I was that unclear, I apologize for the inference.

251

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 10:10 pm

“You can’t simultaneously claim that the public support for war would have pushed….”

Point is there was always a significant part of the population supportive, plus there was a lot of path dependance in Iraq policy, plus a group of relatively apolitical policy advisors pushing for similar goals, plus the same geopolitical concerns, plus similar elite views on regional policy, plus a similar willingness to use force (if admittedly for different goals), plus broad enough support in both parties for regime change( which could be rallied depending on who was making the decision) all of this = a plausible chance of a gore war

252

Layman 03.17.16 at 10:19 pm

“Point is there was always a significant part of the population supportive”

I don’t think you can show much popular support for the invasion of Iraq before the post 9/11 ginning. You can show support for the abstract idea of Saddam’s removal, but not for the actual invasion to remove him. I could be wrong, but there’s your challenge. I’ve already provided a link to the post 9/11 / pre-invasion polling, and support was tepid and conditional right up to the invasion.

253

medrawt 03.17.16 at 10:24 pm

geo –

Well, I personally haven’t done any of said moralizing ( … on this thread). I think the arguments for voting for Nader in a contested state are nonsense – while I would characterize them uncharitably, I probably wouldn’t say “making a moral choice for evil” – but I lost my stamina for having the discussion at length 10 years ago and haven’t recovered it.

However, I think Nader’s Bloomberg-curiosity and the reasons he indicates for it, as well as his campaign in 2004, as well as oh just about everything he’s said or done that caught my attention since November 2000, says a lot about the sort of politician he would be, and the sort of person he is, and I am left satisfied that he doesn’t play a bigger role in our politics. To sum up: I think Nader is more obsessed with opposing the two party power structure than he is with championing any particular political agenda. (This is something I think happens to many people who build an identity around speaking truth to power; eventually they turn rancid and lose coherence.) Perhaps the experience of 2000 affected him, but based on some things I’ve read about his campaign I suspect perhaps not. I’m genuinely curious what people actually involved in organizing for the Green Party think about his efforts then and now; he surely raised the party’s national profile, but I’m curious whether it’s believed that he was a net positive for local organizing, whether people were frustrated about where he directed his energies, etc.

254

Consumatopia 03.17.16 at 10:27 pm

“Sanders supporters (i.e. a large part of the Dem base) are not going to settle for 90s style triangulation any more than Trump supporters are going to settle for GHWB, the second coming.”

I suspect part of the point of these periodic two minutes hate sessions for Naderites is to keep Sandernistas in line. Which is why I have exactly zero patience for anyone still pissed about Nader.

Anyway, I don’t understand the causality of this at all. If Clinton decides that she misses the 90s, what exactly do you expect Sanders backers and other leftists/progressives to do? Take the Tea Party path with a bunch of primary challenges in 2018/2020? Doesn’t seem very likely for a faction that can’t pull off a win in 2016.

That’s even putting aside the possibility that Clinton will take advantage of the opportunity Trump is presenting her to completely redefine the party by pulling in a bunch of moderate Republican voters.

Trump vs GHWB is totally different, because Trump supporters in the GOP are obviously more powerful than Sanders supporters among the Dems. Trump is winning, right?

255

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 10:29 pm

(At the bottom) Majority support since gulf 1 with relatively minor fluctuations before the war began triggering larger support (though the argument doesn’t rest on the public pushing then into war, just there existing a significantly large part of the pop receptive to regime change )

http://www.gallup.com/poll/8074/iraq-war-triggers-major-rally-effect.aspx

256

Anderson 03.17.16 at 10:31 pm

I aspire to Bruce Wilder’s height of privilege one day.

(Nah, I’d probably hate myself.) (Even more, that is.)

257

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 10:32 pm

(At the bottom)

At the bottom it’s kind of a shitty country right?

258

bruce wilder 03.17.16 at 10:32 pm

geo: If a single person’s choice has an infinitesimal probability of producing some outcome, then that choice carries an infinitesimal moral responsibility for producing that outcome.

I would say such an individualist calculus misses the critical feature that follows from the powerlessness of the individual: politics is a team sport.

259

Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 10:34 pm

Temporary name. I don’t personally mean to imply that. It’s a human condition not solely an American one

260

The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 10:42 pm

Temporary name. I don’t personally mean to imply that. It’s a human condition not solely an American one

Ronan I’m not worried, just bitter. Carry on please!

261

Plume 03.17.16 at 10:42 pm

Geo is right about the absurd moralizing.

You’d still have miles and miles to go to make your case against people who voted for Nader, but you’d at least have to start with this. You at least have to establish intentionality — which no one had done yet. That is obviously a key component in any discussion where “moral culpability” is apportioned:

1. That they knowingly voted for Nader in order to get Bush elected. Of course, if they had wanted Bush elected, they would have voted for Bush in the first place
2. That they knowingly colluded with large numbers of other Nader voters to swing the tide to Bush.
3. That they knew before hand that the election would come down to Florida, to just 537 votes, and that 308,000 Democrats would vote for the other team, or that 52% of the Democratic rank and file would stay home.
4. That they knew before hand that Jeb would help pave the way for a Bush family victory, via cheating. That they knew before hand about all the election day hanging chadcanery.
5. That they knew before hand that the above would take place, that Gore would fold like a bad suit and not ask for a recount, and that the Supreme Court would stop the ongoing state recounts, thus handing the election to Bush
6. And that knowing all the above, they knew we’d have a 9/11, which would enable the neocon takeover and that “tide of evil” mentioned earlier. Because without 9/11, chances are Bush is one and done, goes back to his ranch to clear sagebrush with little to show for it.

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bob mcmanus 03.17.16 at 10:46 pm

Bellmore is close on the history but wrong on the implications

A state-wide recount would not necessarily have been a wash because, for example, Miami-Dade county has a lot more votes than a rural county or a few rural counties, and b) usually big urban areas have more difficulty counting and therefore more mistakes than rural-Bush favorable counties.

Finally, what I don’t remember is the legality, authority, and procedures for calling for a statewide rather than a county recount but I do know it was an active topic of discussion at the time.

263

Plume 03.17.16 at 10:48 pm

Da Bears just missed making the playoffs in 20__. They have 8 wins and 7 losses but are still in the hunt for a wildcard spot, going into the final Sunday. The last game comes down to the final seconds. They’re down by two points, 35-33. A field goal wins it for them and they get into the playoffs.

The kicker misses, and their season is over.

The fans blame everything on the kicker. He is the scapegoat, gets death threats and they all but run him out of town. None of these fans stops to think about what led to the previous seven losses, or that their defense allowed 35 points in their final game, or that their offense couldn’t score a touchdown to seal the victory at the end. It’s all on the kicker.

264

Faustusnotes 03.17.16 at 10:57 pm

Hahahaha, gore would have invaded Iraq and your individual vote doesn’t count. Keep it up chaps, great comedy. What are you ronan(rf), an economist? How can you believe this childish rubbish about your vote not counting? It counts, and anyone who doesn’t vote is an irresponsible fool. Voting for a third candidate who can’t win in a non preferential system is irresponsible. Refusing to make difficult choices because awwwww mummy I don’t like anything on the plate is also irresponsible. And because all you dummy-spitting naivicons are American, your irresponsible decisions affect the rest of us. In 2000 they led to the death of a million Iraqis, the displacement of 4 million more, the creation of Isis and the loss of our best chance to prevent the globe becoming too hot for human civilization.

Now 16 years later with all the lessons of history we’re 1.35 c over the long term temperature, the entire Middle East has fallen apart because of the irresponsible choices you people made in 2000, and you’re justifying letting a fascist in to carpet bomb the zone of your past mistakes, deport 12 million people and hand the keys of the justice dept to the klan because some chick isn’t perfect and some stupid theory says your vote doesn’t count? I can’t even…

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bruce wilder 03.17.16 at 11:01 pm

On the Iraq War, I recall writing a letter to a friend within a week of 9/11 explaining why I thought one result would be an intervention to overthrow Saddam. I was not advocating for that outcome, just summarizing the mood of the country as I saw it. Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine had fertile ground. In the course of events, the country began to sober pretty fast and Bush & Co had to do a lot of lying to get their desired result, which they did with remarkable cynicism and carelessness.

That Americans generally thought removing Saddam Hussein from power would be a sensible policy is not something I personally think is blameworthy.

What is morally ugly, to my mind, is the negligence with which that policy was pursued and implemented.

Proposing to depose Saddam was like proposing to excise a cancerous vital organ by surgery. Cutting someone open and removing a vital organ may be an extreme, though risky move, even if the cancer is painful and dangerous. Doing the surgery with dirty hands, using a rusty knife, and with no adequate plan to aid recovery — that was deeply immoral.

That the U.S. held so few to account and so feebly is what makes me think the US is a shitty country.

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Ronan(rf) 03.17.16 at 11:03 pm

I always vote, and vote moderately. But I’m very sympathetic to collective rituals,though also admire those who shoot out against the mob. It’s a bit of a personal dillema (also thanks to geo for the lovely articulation of the argument above, which I hope to link to in the future )

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Roger gathmann 03.17.16 at 11:03 pm

Re gore and iraq – i seriously doubt the attacks on 9/11 would have happened under gore. BushS incompetance was the necessary condition for that. On this point, im with trump.

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TM 03.17.16 at 11:07 pm

248: What really happened in Florida (the purge of the voter rolls of mostly black voters, the faulty election machines in minority districts, etc. etc.) can be read about in all the gory detail in Greg Palast’s The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

Btw what kind of a democracy is that where the person officially charged with election oversight is herself a career party politician, and not just that but she actually takes a leadership role in the election campaign of one of the candidates, and we are supposed to trust her to fairly identify the winner? It’s one of those things that I simply can’t fathom, that Americans seem to believe there is nothing wrong with that (to my knowledge, quite unique) arrangement.

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js. 03.17.16 at 11:09 pm

@TM — #NotAllAmericans

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Plume 03.17.16 at 11:10 pm

Faustusnotes @268,

Oh, stop it. Everything you say is dependent upon 20/20 hindsight, and even then, it’s still absurd.

How someone votes is none of your effing business. End of story. Those looking for some scapegoat for the Bush victory need to look at a Democratic Party which couldn’t close the deal — even with its own voters. In Florida, 52% stayed home and 308,000 voted for Bush. Not to mention all of the other states in which they lost. It never should have come down to Florida. Hell, Gore couldn’t even win his home state.

Nader voters, by definition, aren’t responsible for that. They didn’t vote for Bush. They voted for Nader.

Want to make sure the Third Party vote doesn’t happen? Change the Democratic Platform and deeds to inspire its own voters to turn out. Change word and deed to attract the people who would otherwise vote for Third Party.

It’s not up to us to make the numbers turn out right for the Dems. It’s not the job of ANY single American. It’s the job of the people in power to earn our trust and our votes through their deeds.

Blaming third party voters is classic scapegoating bullshit, all in service of the powers that be. Divide and distract. Divide and deflect. Same old same cowardly bullshit.

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engels 03.17.16 at 11:14 pm

Quite a good essay on the (ir)rationality of voting:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n19/david-runciman/why-not-eat-an-eclair

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kidneystones 03.17.16 at 11:17 pm

@258 I concur. This time things will be different!

Should Clinton beat Trump (far from a given) here’s a little reminder of how things are likely to unfold: every Dem who supported Bernie gets frozen out – that’s all the way down the ticket. Bernie gets a pen, or steak knives, and an empty title – which he’s bright enough to refuse.

Who gets paid? Every hack, money-person, PAC bundler, DNC insider, Big Pharma, Big Military, Big Insurance, Big Education, to name but a few. Who will HRC listen to? Maybe Bill, certainly Kissinger, Robert Kagan, all the Dem and GOP permanent class, special interests – in short the same gang of a-holes who’ve done such a fine job of transferring obscene amounts of cash up the line. Conditions for everyone except the 1% percent got worse with O at the helm, and HRC at his side. In a sense, it’s not their fault. I knew out of the gate that O wasn’t going to risk screwing-up his role in the history books by doing anything other than what he did as a senator – voting with the herd 97% of the time. Yes, he brought in the AFCA – the only problem is that just about everyone from the NYT to NPR agrees it sucks. Premiums continue to rise, many have a deductible that renders the plan useless for anything short of death, and increasing numbers are opting out if they can – that’s on top of the special interests and their goody bags. HRC is less likely to feel constrained. She, unlike O, is smart and knows it. But she’s going to steer for the center which will keep the richest very happy, and do almost nothing for most except make things worse. It isn’t too late to force an alternate outcome, but that only happens if Bernie arrives at the convention with more, or about the same number of delegates.

Remember O’s response to the GOP in 2009? I won, you lost – deal with it.

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engels 03.17.16 at 11:27 pm

“That the U.S. held so few to account and so feebly is what makes me think the US is a shitty country.”

My main reason for holding this view – the NTSC video standard – is now no longer salient

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TM 03.17.16 at 11:27 pm

I agree that 180 is weak. But I have also rejected the blame game because I don’t think it’s fruitful, and I don’t think it’s a particularly good argument. After all, intention counts when judging moral responsibility. That’s why I prefer to talk about the political outcome.

Ed 236, the presidential election of 1932 between Hitler and Hindenburg is an interesting case but maybe more interesting is the 1925 election, in which the Communist Party effectively helped elect the extreme nationalist Hindenburg by running it’s own candidate, Thälmann, in the second round of the election, thereby denying support to the centrist candidate, Marx, who might otherwise have won (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_presidential_election,_1925).

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TM 03.17.16 at 11:30 pm

273 point taken.

268 Nice rant, for a change.

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geo 03.17.16 at 11:32 pm

Layman @254: Looking back at 216, I seem to have misread you. Sincerely sorry.

@253: Yes, I see why there seems to be an inconsistency between ascribing an infinitesimal moral responsibility and no moral responsibility. I think the inconsistency is only apparent, and has to do with a certain ambiguity in the term “responsibility,” but at the moment I don’t feel up to trying to unpack that for myself, much less explain it to anyone else. So I’ll just concede (for now, anyway) that what I should have said is “infinitesimal moral responsibility.” Not enough, however, to be worth going on about to nearly the extent that many people have, even otherwise rigorously logical CT commenters.

@253: a person who voted for Bush, with the intent of helping Bush be elected, had almost no moral responsibility for that choice

Yes, that follows, but I don’t think it’s an “absurd outcome” — again, depending on what one means by “moral responsibility.” I would say that, weighing in imagination the relative causes of the Iraq war, the solitary act of voting for Bush probably had about one ten-billionth the causal efficacy of Cheney and Rumsfeld’s determined efforts over time. (Of course I’ve pulled that number out of thin air.) One ten-billionth approximates my idea of “almost none.”

medrawt @257: just about everything [Nader]’s said or done that caught my attention since November 2000 … [leaves me] satisfied that he doesn’t play a bigger role in our politics

Since 2000 Nader has written at least half a dozen books and hundreds, probably thousands, of columns. I’m not sure exactly which organizations or campaigns he’s been involved with, but if anything like his pre-2000 record holds, he hasn’t exactly been sulking and licking his wounds. I’m sorry none of this has caught your attention — perhaps you could check his website or Google him?

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Faustusnotes 03.17.16 at 11:33 pm

Plume I don’t need 20/20 hindsight to know that gore wouldn’t have invaded Iraq and was serious about climate change because he said so and in case you haven’t noticed politicians tend to act on their statements, which is why all this trump = Clinton prevarication is so terrifyingly, inanely stupid. He’s going to deport 12 million people and torture a bunch of others and burn down a few countries, you don’t need 20/20 foresight or whatever the mysterious magical soothsaying equivalent of guessing what someone intends from their stated statements is because he wrote the whole lot down and repeats it every two days to that rabble of people you see on the news who will determine the fate of the entire world if you don’t vote right.

I also don’t need 20/20 hindsight to know that throwing your vote away is throwing your vote away because when you throw your vote away that’s what you do. And contra the weird economics theorizing from ronan, every vote counts so yes the 24000 people who voted Nader made sure their vote didn’t protect Iraq. And yes those 308000 democrats should amputate their voting arm in shame but do what? We’re not talking about them were talking about the people in this thread who said they won’t vote Clinton because in the magical mystery election in their head trump is sane and Clinton is not.

And yes how you people vote is my business because 1) you made it an issue by stating publicly I a comment thread what you would do and 2) you’re American, so every time one of you swings a lever in your weird voting booths it affects everyone in the rest of the world. If you have any sense of responsibility at all you will vote for all of us, not your own pure virginal fee fees.

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Consumatopia 03.17.16 at 11:37 pm

“Who gets paid? Every hack, money-person, PAC bundler, DNC insider, Big Pharma, Big Military, Big Insurance, Big Education, to name but a few.”

This is key, and something I missed. A big part of why I don’t buy that Clinton can’t triangulate again because the party is supposedly different is that, institutionally, the party isn’t any different at all. I should be more careful not to forget this–Clinton isn’t really the problem at all, she’s just a red herring. The real problem is the system behind her–the politicians, the party officials, the think tanks, the media, the corporate interests. If Clinton wasn’t around they’d find someone else. All Sanders has proven thus far is that there’s a lot of voters who don’t like that system, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that said voters are capable of replacing it.

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Patrick 03.17.16 at 11:38 pm

If Nader voters voted for him over Gore because they wanted to break the two party system, they’re not just morally culpable for Bush. They’re morally culpable for an unforgivably poor understanding of the US electoral process. Take a poli sci 101 class already. Winner take all systems can’t stably support three parties.

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phenomenal cat 03.17.16 at 11:41 pm

“You can’t simultaneously claim that the public support for war would have pushed Gore into it, and that the public support for war was the result of the Bush administration’s efforts to gin up that support. The actors in that effort were administration officials, some elected and some not, but all in place as a consequence of the election. Absent the Bush administration, there is no ginning up, and therefore no public pressure, and therefore no Gore war.”

Layman, you are conflating a couple of different arguments and confusing them at once. I never said there was large or overwhelming public support for the invasion –though I think there was far more than you want to admit. I said fear, anger, and paranoia created very amenable conditions for the neocon faction to ram through their dreams of the “democratic liberation” of Iraq and remaking the ME. Then there are the issues of institutional “path-dependence” as Ronan puts it.

But you really have not yet engaged with my larger point and we are getting nowhere…

faustusnotes, you should take a timeout. You’re raging at people who agree with you about the damage the U.S. has done and want it to stop. Ain’t nobody here “justifying letting a fascist in.”

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The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 11:47 pm

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The Temporary Name 03.17.16 at 11:59 pm

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Plume 03.18.16 at 12:06 am

@284,

“faustusnotes, you should take a timeout. You’re raging at people who agree with you about the damage the U.S. has done and want it to stop. Ain’t nobody here “justifying letting a fascist in.””

Exactly. In fact, those who vote Green Party are far more likely to be antiwar than regular Dems. They’re far more likely to be opposed to the things Trump wants to do and Bush did. Because we leftists haven’t drunk the corporate koolaid, and we know the Dems are every bit the warmongers the Republicans are.

Dems tend to be less bellicose in speech, but their record doesn’t accord with that, at all. Obama, for instance, escalated in Afghanistan and added several new fronts in the “GWOT.” And while the Dems generally don’t succumb to Republican demands to be PC and call everything under the sun a terrorist attack — except when white Christians do it — they’ve still engaged in at least as many bomb strikes with civilian casualties as a result — likely far more.

In short, between the two parties, at least when it comes to war, surveillance, law and order, etc. there isn’t a preferred “moral” choice to make. Both parties are despicable in their actions. Voting for the Greens (or DSA, or the socialist party) is the only “moral” choice, given that reality.

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The Temporary Name 03.18.16 at 12:10 am

A period piece on Nader at The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/road-ralph-nader/ He really did want Democrats to lose via Green vote-splitting. Mission accomplished!

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Consumatopia 03.18.16 at 12:17 am

I accept that evidence existed prior to Bush’s election that he would be massively worse than Gore, but I think a non-specialist layperson could be forgiven for missing it. That’s especially true in the foreign policy realm, with Albright asking Powell “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”.

We may never have a three party system, but it shouldn’t shock anyone if someday those two parties aren’t the Republicans and Democrats. That day could come very soon now.

I still don’t buy the whole premise of obligatory lesser-evilism. If you say I’m obligated to vote for the lesser evil, do you also think that I have to pick a side in every fight in which one side is clearly more evil than the other? Like if there are two drug cartels fighting for control of my neighborhood, am I morally obligated to support the less evil of the two cartels?

I said I thought that voting for Clinton might make me a worse person, but the truth goes much further than that–I would be far better person, and probably do much more good for the world, if I never paid any attention to politics at all. I just wish I could take back all the time and energy I wasted staring into this abyss.

Also, although up above I kind of endorsed the idea that your vote only matters if it’s the marginal one that changes the election, I think the truth is much more complicated. On one level I agree with what anon@138 said about free-riding. But voting and elections aren’t the only kind of collective responsibility. We’re about to have a Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump showdown for the fate of the country. How the hell did we get here? I mean, if you told me in 2005 that Hillary Clinton would be our nominee, I would assume you were just making a sick joke–how could we nominate someone who (at the time) was still defending her Iraq war vote as a good idea? At some point, everything looks so crazy that I start wondering if my own participation in this farce is what enables the insanity–if, in the end, I bear exactly the same kind of collective responsibility for the system’s madness that I do for the outcome of an election.

It’s not unlikely that we might have a recession sometime in the next four years. Does anyone expect politics to be less insane in 2020 than it is now?

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Ronan(rf) 03.18.16 at 12:20 am

Look faustusnotes, I’m not economising anything . I’ve said I’m all for collective rituals . Have you ever seen that thing in Spain where they throw a donkey out of a belltower? I think we should all be doing that (perhaps with a fake donkey ). But sometimes you have to just accept all you’re doing is throwing a donkey out of a belltower. Theres nothing else to it. No matter how much it drives the heart

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Plume 03.18.16 at 12:23 am

A thought experiment. Let’s say there is no GOP candidate running. It’s just the Green Party against the Dems. Your vote won’t even help any Republicans win down ballot. The race is just between Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein. No one else. Just those two. You don’t have to vote strategically at all. There are only those two women running for president and there are no coat-tails to worry about.

https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/

http://www.jill2016.com/plan

Who do you vote for?

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Faustusnotes 03.18.16 at 12:34 am

Newsflash: voting is a social responsibility, not a right or a privilege. I come from a country where not voting is illegal, and for good reason. And you need to use your social responsibility responsibly, the hint is in the word. Voting for someone who represents your ideals but will never get to represent your ideals is irresponsible.

Also while we are Talking About Things That Actually Are, your conscience is not an Actual Thing. You don’t have an angel in your mind separate to your will that checks your decisions, your soul doesn’t have three executive branches, and this is not the 12 th century (although it will feel like it once trump or Cruz are done with your nuclear stockpile). “Conscience” is a weak Christian excuse for making moral decisions that have no rational justification, and it doesn’t cut it in serious political decision making. As an example: on the balance of probabilities I would say at least one of the people advocating throwing away their vote also eats prawns they know have a good chance of being processed by slaves. Where is your conscience then, taking a holiday? Say what you mean, don’t hide behind mumbo jumbo.

And finally, I haven’t drunk any corporate kool aid, and there is no corporate kool aid required to note that the republicans and the dems are not equivalent warmongers, because it is a a simple fact that they are not. It is also a simple fact that only one of those parties will make any effort to pull the globe back from the brink of civilization ending warming, only one is focused on forcing raped women to have their rapist’s baby, only one intends to defund planned parenthood, ban abortion and preside over a wave of microcephalic babies this zika summer (just wait for that curse to fall primarily on the poor and black women your conscience driven vote abandoned), and only one party aims to deport 12 million people. On the contrary, you have to be sucking back some serious naderaid to think the parties are equivalent.

And no I’m not raging, I’m just shocked that people can have such a poor understanding of basic civic responsibility on an academic blog of the left, amazed that you can equate a fascist maniac with Clinton, and worried about what will happen to my beautiful planet if this idea gets widespread in November. For the sake of all of us , this silly third party idea needs to die, along with any concept of voting as a voluntary expression of your conscience. We don’t need mysticism, now more than ever we need pragmatic anti fascism.

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js. 03.18.16 at 12:46 am

Consumatopia @258 — There needn’t be one mechanism. All that I would tentatively say is:

(1) The primary thing isn’t crazy: there are obviously famous recent cases of challenges from the left (which, admittedly, worked out badly—but no preordained reason future ones need also); and by comparison, why the Trump faction, so to speak, failed to get “their” candidate in 2012, they managed to do a lot of damage in congressional and other races. So I’m not sure the disanalogy is as sharp as you seem to think.

(2) I’d note that Obama backtracked on Keystone and only managed to get TPA through with overwhelming Republican support. Whatever the causes of this (there was more than one obviously), when Obama tried to move right, on key occasions he was successfully blocked or at least opposed by the Democratic party. I don’t see why this would change under a Clinton presidency.

Which also leads me to think that the party is really actually somewhat different now. Not least, the congressional caucus is much more reliably liberal. But look, if you’re inclined to agree with kidneystones, this might not be a very fruitful exchange.

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js. 03.18.16 at 12:51 am

And not least, Consumatopia, as I said above, for me voting for Clinton isn’t “lesser-evilism”, it’s about doing a small thing to help ensure the safety and well-being of people extremely dear to me. I understand that this argument isn’t going to move you in the same way (probably), but to me at this point all these abstract arguments about lesser-evilism are horseshit.

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Alan White 03.18.16 at 1:03 am

Holey moley what hath Holbo wrought with this OP?

Though I’m glad to have asked what people will/won’t for.

Recent-vintage comments.

Plume, aren’t counterfactuals best assessed by near-worlds? All near-worlds to this actual one contain messiness–my own state of Wisconsin is crucial on the down-ballot stuff. Any move toward Hillary (or Sanders in another more remote world) is for me more important for that than my interest in national issues. My near-world counterfactuals heighten my admitted self-interest.

Faustusnotes: I resonate with your vibrations.

And I’d point out that The Simpsons predicted a Trump Presidency

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/simpsons-writer-who-predicted-trump-876295

Hillary ain’t Lisa Simpson, but she actually understands something about the world even if she is corrupted by it as well. Trump is merely corrupted. I’ll take some intellect over that anytime in my near-world counter-futures.

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js. 03.18.16 at 1:08 am

Actually I have a question for non-voters/3-party voters: Do you think it is a good thing not to vote or to vote third-party? Or is it supposed to be some literally idiosyncratic behavior that’s supposed to have no consequence (logical, material, whatever) beyond your own case?

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Consumatopia 03.18.16 at 1:14 am

I don’t agree with (or, to be honest, fully understand) everything kidneystones says, and I’m not saying it would be impossible for leftists/progressives to push the party in a different direction–they should definitely keep trying.

But on the other side we have a set of party institutions that doesn’t particular like Sanders-style populism, we might see an influx of Clinton Republicans (i.e. anti-Trump Republicans) into the party’s voting base, and young people’s (entirely justified!) enthusiasm for defeating Trump might distract them from their long term dissatisfaction with the party establishment.

I think Clinton foreign policy will be dramatically worse than we have at present–if anything, the party is worse on these issues than it was ten years ago. On domestic policy, it’s not so much that I think Clinton will make things worse (except perhaps continuing to negotiate new trade deals) as that she would work to neutralize any movement to the left. But if Clinton really wanted to shift economics to the right, she would probably get away with it.

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js. 03.18.16 at 1:22 am

I guess I just think the be already done it over the past 12-13 years. If it weren’t for that momentum, I suppose I’d be more amenable your argument.

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js. 03.18.16 at 1:23 am

Gah. …they’ve already done it…

(Sorry for multiple posts.)

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Rich Puchalsky 03.18.16 at 1:40 am

faustusnotes: “Also while we are Talking About Things That Actually Are”

While we’re being realists, are we allowed to have a real understanding of how the U.S. political system works? Here’s a hint: my vote is not merely unlikely to have any effect. There is no popular vote directly for the President in the U.S., so…

But I repeat my previous statement for all of the people insisting on my moorland civic responsibility. I’ve announced that I’m not going to vote. Whatever badness this involves in on me, but as pragmatic realists, you of course realize that it’s your responsibility to make up this deficit now that you know it exists. So you must take the slight extra effort to get someone else to vote who wouldn’t have voted. It’s easy: there’s a lot of them (not hanging out in CT comment threads though).

If you don’t do it — if you don’t execute your civic responsibility — then it’s all on you. All of the baby eating, the planet-wide radioactive cloud and the invasion of Lovecraftian horror monsters from Yuggoth, all of that you could have prevented with a simple action and didn’t. I’d get on that right away if I were you.

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geo 03.18.16 at 1:43 am

Temporary Name @289: He really did want the Democrats to lose

In that case, this passage from the same article is kind of interesting:

“ On a cell phone in the car as he traveled through New England, Nader made calls to union leaders, telling them, as he later repeated to an audience of elderly residents at a retirement home in Maine: “Go to the Democrats and say, ‘You cannot win without us. You’ve struck us down on NAFTA, you’ve struck us down on the WTO, you strike us down on trade with China, and you’re going to lose our support.’”

“The Democrats need labor, he explains. “You need to say, ‘Our steel and auto workers are going to stay home, just like they did in ’94, when the Republicans won the House,’ and then add the following: ‘We are seriously considering publicly endorsing the Nader candidacy.’ Who do you think will blink first?”

Suppose a union leader did this, and the Democratic Leadership Council replied, in effect: “Screw you. Where are you going to go?” (Come to think of it, this may very well have happened.) What should the union leader have done in that case? And doesn’t that advice suggest that what Nader actually cared about was not getting elected but urging people to assert themselves politically — in other words, to start behaving like democratic citizens?

And what did you think of this passage:

““Think of the farmers in East Texas who in the late nineteenth century started the populist, progressive farmer revolt against the big banks and railroads,” he says. “They had nothing but their hearts, their minds and their feet. Do you think they gave up?” Think what it was like for the early abolitionists, he says, or for the suffragists, or the workers who formed the trade union movement. Conditions today are hardly any worse.”

What flaw do you see in the reasoning here?

And how about this passage:

“The problem is we progressives sit around the table, and we have such a brilliant diagnosis of the problem. The appetizer comes, and we’re still diagnosing. The entree comes, and we’re still diagnosing. The carrot cake comes, and we’re diagnosing. What are we going to do? That’s what we’re here for, right?”

Doesn’t this remind you that, unlike Nader, what the Democratic leadership wants is that you vote for them every two years and then go back to sleep, leaving the “doing” to them?

Thanks for linking to the article. I’d say it made a very strong case for voting Nader.

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Alan White 03.18.16 at 1:49 am

If small effects in complex systems were given a self-reflective voice about their tiny roles in producing large-scale effects but ignorant of complexity theory, then they might belittle themselves as ineffectual. But then again they were ignorant of complexity theory, and may be forgiven.

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Plume 03.18.16 at 2:00 am

js. @297,

Just speaking for myself. I cast my vote for the candidate who best represents my own political philosophy. I don’t feel one iota of need to be “strategic.” That’s just not my job. I don’t see that as the duty of any citizen, but if others want to vote that way, more power to them. It’s their call. Their right. Just as it’s my right to vote solely on the basis of closest philosophical fit. But I categorically reject anyone telling me I have to vote for X or it’s the end of the world. Or I have to vote for them to avoid “moral culpability.” I absolutely, 1000%, reject that nonsense.

So it doesn’t have to be, necessarily, “third party,” but it does have to be as close as possible to my view of how things should be . . . . though I also realize full well that in America those beliefs are not widely shared. Jill Stein, for instance, is pretty far away from them, too. She’s just a lot closer than any Dem, and no Republican comes within light years.

If the Democratic Party is taken over by space aliens, and they stop being warmongers, stop their support for capitalism and empire, stop their acceptance of the status quo ante in general . . . . and move decidedly in the direction of left-populism, full on democracy and anticapitalism, become antiwar, anti-empire, anti-hierarchies, etc. etc . . . . I’d vote for them. Hell, I’d vote for Republicans if they had that kind of road to Damascus conversion.

But that’s not likely to ever happen in my lifetime, and I fear that both corporate parties will help make this planet uninhabitable soon enough. And that’s where I also think Faustusnotes get things so wrong. The Dems, too, are helping burn up the planet. They talk a good game, but they’ve done next to nothing about it, and as long as they support capitalism (and its spread), this planet is headed toward the uninhabitable. Democrats or Republicans in power matters not.

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Plume 03.18.16 at 2:11 am

Geo,

This is so spot on:

“The problem is we progressives sit around the table, and we have such a brilliant diagnosis of the problem. The appetizer comes, and we’re still diagnosing. The entree comes, and we’re still diagnosing. The carrot cake comes, and we’re diagnosing. What are we going to do? That’s what we’re here for, right?”

Doesn’t this remind you that, unlike Nader, what the Democratic leadership wants is that you vote for them every two years and then go back to sleep, leaving the “doing” to them?”

They’ve been telling the Democratic base to keep its powder dry for fifty years. That powder isn’t just dry. It’s blown away to the four corners.

Sad. Because I think rank and file Democrats are pretty good eggs, and I think their hearts are in the right place. I’d much rather hang out with them than Republicans, in general. But the Democratic Party diverges radically from its base and constantly ignores it. The Republican party appears actually afraid of its base and at least tries to do what they want it to do. We need a major switch when it comes to that dynamic.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, all.

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roger gathmann 03.18.16 at 2:20 am

Well, back now to the third party candidate who really did throw an election: Ross Perot. I don’t see how Clinton would have defeated George Herbert without the massive help of Ross. Whose party members now are fixing to have the GOP party all by themselves. Now, I like that irony!

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Donald 03.18.16 at 2:22 am

Rich hits on something I’ve noticed– if you really are a pragmatic lesser of two evils voter who thinks it is everyone’s duty to vote Democratic, wouldn’t you try to reach Nader voters where they are? Wouldn’t you grant many of their points as valid points, acknowledge their good intentions and try your best to swing them to a more realistic view of what a vote can do?

Do people do this? Hell no. Not online at least. Maybe in real life they do– I wouldn’t know– but online there’s a lot of shrieking and insults and grandstanding, almost as though the real point here is moral purity and not the pragmatic need to win votes. Or in some cases, it’s simply an excuse to express hatred for people to one’s left– plain old hippy punching. That at least I understand. The shrieking goes both ways of course, but no polite Nader supporter would escape the insults. Rather odd if so much is at stake. Perhaps the stakes are so high people just can’t help themselves. Yes, I’m sure that’s it.

I’m not the most insightful person when it comes to psychology, but I noticed this 16 years ago. It’s blatant tribalism pretending to be political pragmatism.

303

js. 03.18.16 at 2:28 am

I love how people can’t even acknowledge that there might be non-lesser-than-two-evils reasons to vote for Clinton (or whichever Dem candidate)—even if you’re not on board with all their likely policies.

Or that no one (except Plume, who still failed to answer the question) wants to touch the question I posed @297.

304

Rich Puchalsky 03.18.16 at 2:43 am

No one touched the question because it’s the wrong question. If your vote has no practical significance, then your non-vote or third party vote has no practical significance either.

However, *announcing* that you’re not going to vote has significance. It means that all of the people who insist that one vote is that important are now morally compelled, by their own logic, to make up for that vote. And in fact it’s easy to get two, three, or more votes by perfectly legal means, through tried and true get-out-the-vote technology. Those people would not have voted, and now they will, so mathematically it’s the same.

So really I don’t see why you slackers aren’t doing your part. Why aren’t you telling people that you aren’t voting? If Trump wins, that’s on you.

Do you think it is a good thing not to vote or to vote third-party?

305

Consumatopia 03.18.16 at 2:48 am

“Also while we are Talking About Things That Actually Are, your conscience is not an Actual Thing.”

I guess I should thank Faustusnotes for crystalizing exactly what I find so objectionable about lesser evilism–the crude, reductionist materialism that seems to be at the heart of the whole thing. If my conscience is not a thing, then the Voter’s Paradox is inescapable and it’s no longer rational to vote.

Maybe everything is so fucked up now because we’ve been voting (and, yes, purchasing/consuming) as if our conscience was not an Actual Thing for all these years now. I don’t think you’re gonna save a world this broken through materialism alone.

Unless you’re some kind of dualist, you have to admit that any belief encoded in our brains that alters our behavior is an Actual Thing. Conscience is as real as habit and culture. My crude, yet plausible, hypothesis is that if you’re in the habit of doing or rationalizing bad things, or if the people around you are doing bad things, you’re more likely to commit more misdeeds. Maybe that’s wrong, but at some point you have to ask why everything keeps getting worse even as I keep dutifully showing up twice a year to pull the lever to make things get worse more slowly.

You’re probably not going to win the election if you have to depend solely on voters who accept the proposition that “your conscience is not an Actual Thing”. That’s probably not one you want to put on a bumper sticker. As much as I don’t like Clinton, you would have a MUCH easier time convincing me to vote for her than you would convincing me of the truth of your broader philosophical claim.

306

Plume 03.18.16 at 2:55 am

js.,

Well, you should know that most people don’t answer questions here. I posed one at #292, for instance, and it was ignored. That’s the way things go.

That said, I really did answer your question. I told you why I vote, and that it’s all about getting as close to my own political philosophy as is possible. I would have thought the “is that a good thing?” part was implicit. Yeah, I think it’s a good thing to vote one’s conscience and principles. Definitely. I think if everyone did, if everyone voted for the platform that comes closest to their own view of how things should be, we’d have very few Democrats and Republicans in DC, and that would be awesome.

As for the implication of “consequences.” I’ve already dealt with that. I don’t think our individual votes have any consequences whatsoever. None. Zero. Zip. Combined with millions of others, a bit. Alone, none.

But because of the duopoly’s stranglehold on America, that combination of millions will put one of the two corporate lackey parties in power, and on the big issues, they are all too alike in effect. Again, in effect. The Dems may say really great things about climate change, inequality, education, etc, but when push comes to shove, they’re all too willing to sell out their own base and the American people in their lust for compromise with the Republicans — and to please their donors. Sorry, but no one gets to hold the higher “moral ground” if they’re voting for Democrats . . . who consistently run from even their own New Deal legacy, and haven’t passed any new “progressive” legislation in forty plus years. All the people condemning Nader voters in this thread have absolutely no high moral ground to claim. The Dems are all talk and no action. Voting for them just preserves the status quo, and the status quo is abominable.

307

js. 03.18.16 at 2:57 am

No one touched the question because it’s the wrong question. If your vote has no practical significance, then your non-vote or third party vote has no practical significance either.

You assume things I wouldn’t grant, at least at the start of an argument. So this is a straightforward petitio. In any case, you’ll be happy to know that my argument wouldn’t touch your position at all (or that of monarchists, militant revolutionary Marxists, etc.)

308

Plume 03.18.16 at 2:58 am

Consumatopia @310,

Lots of excellent comments from you in this thread. That was another.

309

js. 03.18.16 at 3:00 am

Let it also be noted that I have no moral claims—neither asserted nor implied any obligation to vote or to vote one way or another.

310

RNB 03.18.16 at 3:00 am

Why are people treating voting as if it were some kind of ritual through which some metamorphosis in identity is achieved?

You go into the booth, cast a vote to keep out of office Trump who is saying the kinds of things that whip up exterminationist hatred against whole groups of people, and come out the same person whose radicalism takes the form of lengthy comments on CT.

You’re really no different, though I understand that if your self-image of not being a sucker is sustained by never having voted Democratic, you could have a kind of reverse Clark Kent transformation from entering a booth to vote Democratic. If never having voted is Democratic is the thread on which your self-respect hangs, then by no means should you vote for Clinton.

311

js. 03.18.16 at 3:05 am

Oh, good god! It’s just a collective action problem (at least if you want to preserve a democratic state). The utilitarian argument and the conscience argument are both wildly idiotic.

(Plume, sorry, but you really don’t understand the question.)

312

RNB 03.18.16 at 3:05 am

Um my hypothesis is that if you won’t even not to take the step beyond kvetching on social media to vote to keep a very dangerous demagogue out of office who would eliminate space for extra parliamentary politics (note the thuggishness towards the press and protestors), then you really are someone suffering from such learned helplessness that you are no help to yourself or others.

313

RNB 03.18.16 at 3:07 am

Interesting, by the way. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/03/trump-voters-are-not-angry-about-economy-really

double negative corrected. Um my hypothesis is that if you won’t even take the step beyond kvetching on social media to vote to keep a very dangerous demagogue out of office who would eliminate space for extra parliamentary politics (note the thuggishness towards the press and protestors), then you really are someone suffering from such learned helplessness that you are no help to yourself or others.

314

Alan White 03.18.16 at 3:09 am

I wish to award RNB 315 for the champion of iterated negation statements for assertion.

315

The Temporary Name 03.18.16 at 3:11 am

Thanks for linking to the article. I’d say it made a very strong case for voting Nader.

A: Bill sold us bad dope!
B: That sucks!
A: What do you wanna do now?
B: Let’s call Bill and see if he’s got dope.

316

RNB 03.18.16 at 3:12 am

Thank you. It’s something I have been aiming at for some time.

317

Plume 03.18.16 at 3:13 am

Good article about the Nader myth, from the Daily Kos.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/6/1260721/-The-Nader-Myth

In Florida, CNN’s exit polling showed Nader taking the same amount of votes from both Republicans and Democrats: 1 percent. Nader also took 4 percent of the independent vote.

Had Nader not run, Bush would have won by more in Florida. CNN’s exit poll showed Bush at 49 percent and Gore at 47 percent, with 2 percent not voting in a hypothetical Nader-less Florida race.

And lest someone think DK is even remotely pro-Nader, try to get posters there to take responsibility as Democrats for the loss in 2000 and watch your posts get flagged and quickly hidden. They hate that, or the mention of any third party candidates.

In the article, a link to Michael Moore is a 404. I found it here:

http://explorepdx.com/2000_11_17.html

318

Plume 03.18.16 at 3:16 am

js. @316,

Then spell it out. Elaborate. I gave it the good old college try, even though I think the question itself is in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.

I’d really appreciate it if you returned the favor and responded to 292.

319

RNB 03.18.16 at 3:18 am

And the people who didn’t show up to vote for Gore because Barbara Ehrenreich and others were selling the false equivalence between Bush and Gore? And that is the question today–those telling us today that there is no difference between the so-called war mongers, so one should stay home or vote Stein. A position criticized by chief apologist Chomsky as I pointed out above. But honestly 14 of the 18 people who believe this false equivalence are in this comments section. It’s not a position that Bernie Sanders has for example.

320

js. 03.18.16 at 3:23 am

Plume re 292 — To be honest, I’m not much of a Green party kind of guy, just instinctively, but in that case I would pick Jill Stein (or Jack Stein for that matter)—assuming the Green party in this scenario is actually a functioning party organization that wouldn’t be hapless once in power. (I can’t stress this enough: I care a lot less about candidates—vs. say the party—than pretty much everyone else on here.)

321

Plume 03.18.16 at 3:26 am

Thanks, Js.

Much appreciated.

322

RNB 03.18.16 at 3:29 am

Let me put it this way. Say you are an actual activist. You show up to or even organize non-violent protests. You engage in strikes or walk the picket line. Say you are not someone who just posts super radical things at Crooked Timber. And then there’s Trump. He is a thug. He will eliminate the space for extra-parliamentary politics. He will use force against non-violent protestors. He will threaten journalists with violence and even throw a few to the ground. He’s an advocate for torture. He’s not concerned about the rights of the innocent against police tyranny. Hint: he called for the death of people exonerated of crime and never once apologized or asked himself what we can do to prevent coerced false confessions.
If you are a real radical, then you believe that change comes mostly outside the ballot box, and you know that politics then depends on the nature of the extra-parliamentary terrain. And if you want to keep that favorable for what is for you actual politics, you would vote enthusiastically for Clinton to keep Trump out of office. That is, if you were serious about the radical politics people espouse here.

323

Rich Puchalsky 03.18.16 at 3:34 am

RNB: “Let me put it this way. Say you are an actual activist. “

I’m beginning to appreciate RNB’s perfect non-arguments. Yes, an actual activist would see a grave problem and then head enthusiastically to the voting booth to fix it. Normally, this activist would organize non-violent protests, but this time they’d vote, because they are serious about radical politics.

324

faustusnotes 03.18.16 at 3:36 am

Once again we see that much of the basis for this opposition to lesser evilism is that, in fact, people like Plume think that Clinton is not actually a lesser evil. Plume is arguing against “lesser evilism” on the basis that those who vote democrat are actually practicing equal evilism. This idea is ludicrous on its face. The claim above that the Dems have done and will do nothing on climate change or progressive legislation is just wrong. 100% wrong. And even where it is right, this is largely because Dem legislation has been blocked by a hostile senate or rewritten by a hostile supreme court.

If the US can get a stable supreme court and a Dem majority in the house, senate and presidency for 8 years, we can begin to make a start on righting the world’s wrongs. If not, as RNB says, your political space to support the Green party or achieve any of the labour activism goals you aim for, or to engage with the Democrat party outside anything but the narrowest official channels, will be shrunk very rapidly to 0.

If your response to this is to try and claim Clinton is an actual fascist you’re just … living in a dream world.

325

RNB 03.18.16 at 3:37 am

Again I am happy to let your reply stand, RP. No response from me beyond this.

326

Consumatopia 03.18.16 at 3:42 am

Voting should change who you are as a person. You’re picking someone to be the leader of the most powerful country and military in the world. In so doing, you are granting legitimacy to both that person and the system as a whole.

I keep conceding that I’ll probably make the lesser-evil vote. But it’s a choice under duress–like you forced me to decide between killing one person and killing a room full of people. Maybe choosing the lesser evil is the right thing to do in that situation. But you’re never gonna be the same person you were before you pulled the trigger.

327

js. 03.18.16 at 4:16 am

This thread is amazing because I have gone from being quite annoyed to an almost naive bemusement that people (#notallpeople) just don’t understand collective action problems at all.

(Also, an addendum to some of my above posts: If I bought the argument (as I used to!) that tactical voting—i.e. voting for a third-party candidate to send a “signal” to a major party so as to make it move in one direction or other—if I thought tactical voting worked, I would be all for it. Hell, I used to be all for it! i just think there’s zero evidence this sort of thing actually works. (I’m willing to be (re-)convinced otherwise!) In any case, the argument at least makes sense. Beyond that, all the arguments I’m seeing amount to rediscovering the free rider problem and pretending it’s a deep insight. Hooray!)

328

Plume 03.18.16 at 4:22 am

js. @332,

You’ve said we don’t understand a couple of times now. What is it, exactly, you think we fail to understand? Can you elaborate?

329

medrawt 03.18.16 at 4:28 am

Yes, lots of people seriously believe that their conscience is at stake in the voting process, to the extent that it can be sullied by making a morally compromised choice. I happen to think that they’re wrong, but in the absence of changing many people’s minds about that, we have to pretend they’re right, in just the same way that presidential candidates operate inside a rhetorical context that pretends they have a different set of powers than they actually have.

In the meantime, I’m pretty sure js. @325 has the right idea: “I can’t stress this enough: I care a lot less about candidates—vs. say the party”. I’ll vote for a dead dog if it’s on the Democratic ticket. I know, my wretchedly compromised sense of morality. I’m typing this on an Apple device. I grew up in New England as the Moderate New England Republican was starting to wither and die, and couldn’t help but observe that these socially liberal iconoclasts who were Republicans because they wanted to be responsible stewards of your tax dollars rarely voted their conscience when the chips were down and the Whip came calling. This contributed to my conviction that I should use my votes to put as many Democrats in Washington as possible.

But the Democrats! They’re so disappointing. But about 65% of what I want in a political party I find in the Dems, and the missing 35% isn’t in the GOP, it’s with people who aren’t going to get elected to the White House (or more than one or two seats in Congress) before I retire. So I decide that I’m tossing in my allegiance with a flawed team, for two reasons:

(1) there are only two teams currently capable of winning in a big way, so I want to make sure the team I’m 65% pleased with wins as much as possible over the team I’m 0% pleased with.

(2) the funny thing about political parties is you can push them around a bit. There’s basically two ways to do this. One is deny them your vote and make them move to chase you. The other is give them your vote and make them move to keep you. I think both work in the abstract. I think for people who are way out to the left of the Democratic mainstream, the former has not worked very well (perhaps because too few people can be persuaded to try it), and I suspect the latter will work better. And even if it doesn’t, see (1).

I also subscribe to a pair of propositions: the parties are fairly well sorted right now (hence the death of the Moderate New England Republican), and the structure of US politics is always going to slouch towards a two-party system. Trump might be in the process of cracking that first proposition wide open; I’m not sure about that. The second proposition doesn’t require, that the two parties be the Dems and the GOP – but that’s who they are right now, and voting for small potatoes presidential candidates, or withholding your vote, will have zero effect on that. Working and organizing and building a political party – whether it be the Greens, or somebody else, or even a more powerfully progressive wing of Democrats – will. Get city councilmen elected, and mayors, and state representatives, and district attorneys, into office all over America. Then a Green Party (or a Progressive Party, or a You Won’t Have To Hold Your Nose With Us! Party) can start putting up serious national-level candidates beyond the occasional iconoclast. It’s an uphill battle, and my personal opinion is that between two possible uphill battles the one where you do that inside the Democratic party rather than outside of it will be easier; Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not eternal. Either way, in 2016, voting for Jill Stein will do nothing to change the fact that either a D or an R is going to be in the White House in 2017, and I care enough about the oh so pitiful difference between the parties to act accordingly. If you don’t, so much the better for your conscience, but I wonder what country you’re looking at.

330

geo 03.18.16 at 5:09 am

Perhaps we should pause for a show of hands. Is there anyone reading this thread (besides Brett Bellmore and conscientious objectors like Rich) who would not, in a very closely contested state, where their vote might conceivably (though just barely) be decisive, vote for Clinton?

331

novakant 03.18.16 at 8:42 am

geo @ 335

I would NOT vote for Clinton. I consider Clinton’s policies to be “evil”, that’s why I wouldn’t vote for her – so there.

Let me ask the lesser evilists this in return:

Are there any boundaries, red lines, taboos which would prevent you from voting for the “lesser evil”? Or will you always support the less evil candidate no matter how evil and extreme their policies might be?

332

TM 03.18.16 at 8:45 am

RP 328, that was beneath contempt.

333

TM 03.18.16 at 8:58 am

331: “Voting should change who you are as a person.”

336: “Legitimizing it [the political system] by participation is the greater evil.”

It is always interesting in these discussions how on the one hand your vote doesn’t matter anyway, and at the same time it is such a hugely important metaphysical act that it should never be sullied by mere pragmatism. Re the second argument, have you at least noticed that your evil political system is doing just fine without being “legitimized” by high electoral participation? In fact it’s one of the lowest participation rates in the world, especially in off year elections, and the poor, minorities and the young are dramatically less likely to vote. But sure, it’s just a matter of time until the system goes away for lack of legitimization.

334

engels 03.18.16 at 9:09 am

What if you don’t for Hillary and you don’t recycle? How evil would that make you? Asking for a friend.

335

novakant 03.18.16 at 9:18 am

Lesser evilists like to see themselves as pragmatic and strategic political actors – but they are obviously nothing of the kind.

If you want to achieve political goals you need some sort of leverage, but the whole concept of lesser evilism argues that you should give up any leverage you might have and surrender your vote no matter what the policies.

The gay vote, the black vote, the women’s vote, the Hispanic vote, the Jewish vote … – the leverage of these groups lies in withholding their votes, that is their power and policies are adjusted to at least give them the feeling that they are being heard. Why shouldn’t, say, anti-war or left-wing voters have the right to do the same: influence policy by threatening to withhold their vote.

336

TM 03.18.16 at 9:32 am

Recycling is just another misguided exercise in lesser evilism, serving only to legitimize the system and delay the inevitable demise of capitalism under the weight of its own contradictions.

337

Val 03.18.16 at 9:55 am

TM @ 342
Recycling is just another misguided exercise in lesser evilism, serving only to legitimize the system and delay the inevitable demise of capitalism under the weight of its own contradictions.

Weight of its own rubbish, more like

338

TM 03.18.16 at 10:05 am

OT @RP: This might interested you:
On june 5th 2016 a referendum will be held on the federal initiative “for an unconditional basic income”.
http://basicincome-initiative.ch/

339

medrawt 03.18.16 at 10:40 am

novakant –

if the Democratic nominee were agitating for backward movement in the expansion of rights and tolerance to some slice of the population, for a xenophobic attitude towards the “different” or “outsiders,” or encouraging the kind of internal violence that Trump is encouraging, I would withhold my vote. If the Democratic nominee exhibited a level of bellicosity in foreign policy that I believed would outstrip a Republican administration’s, that would give me pause (but in our actual current context, this would be a pretty hard thing to convince me was the case).

If I perceived the distinction between the parties on the issues where I think they are importantly different was fading due to rightward movement by the Democrats, or the party started finding new platforms to stake out which I found actively repellent, my calculus would likely change.

I should note that I name myself as engaging in “lesser evilism” half as a concession to the terms of the conversation and half as a cynical reflection of my belief that everyone in this conversation partakes of evil as an inevitable byproduct of living in our society. I do not perceive the Democrats en masse (or Clinton in particular), despite their flaws (and hers), to be “an evil” who cause me to hold my nose and vote. They’re just not my ideal preference.

340

Rich Puchalsky 03.18.16 at 11:16 am

geo: “Is there anyone reading this thread (besides Brett Bellmore and conscientious objectors like Rich) who would not, in a very closely contested state, where their vote might conceivably (though just barely) be decisive, vote for Clinton?”

Actually, I’d vote for Clinton then too. Why not? If my vote actually had a chance of having some effect, then I’ve already said that I’m resigned to working within the current system to have some effect.

The pro-voting arguments here are ridiculous, as they always are. They don’t know how people think or why they don’t vote, and the whole “I’m responsible, I’m voting” bit is just a way of deflecting their actual responsibility by deflecting it onto a practically meaningless act. Activists don’t vote not because they’re pure, but because it’s meaningless. Those activists who are interested in electoral activism are already heading up a candidate’s operation in a small town somewhere, or volunteering in a big city, and they’ll vote but only because they have to to keep up appearances as part of the process of turning out hundreds or thousands of votes.

341

medrawt 03.18.16 at 11:36 am

Rich Puchalsky –

Do you vote (or think it’s non-ridiculous to vote) in local elections? I don’t know where you live, but will you vote (or have you voted) for lower level offices up until you reach the point where you think your vote is essentially meaningless and/or the candidates become to repellent? One of my cynical/pragmatic reasons for wanting other people to vote in presidential elections is that, even though I think this is rather misguided, people (especially leftish kind of people) seem to get a lot more excited about voting for President than they do about Governors and state representatives and school boards … and I think those things matter a lot in a day to day fashion (and get closer to the thinly sliced point at which saying “ah, your vote doesn’t matter” might actually affect the outcome).

342

engels 03.18.16 at 11:51 am

Well, you should know that most people don’t answer questions here. I posed one at #292, for instance, and it was ignored. That’s the way things go.

Rule of thumb: everybody ignores everyone else unless they say something really aggressive and obnoxious to them, in which case they respond with roughly twice the level of aggression and obnoxiousness

343

TM 03.18.16 at 11:57 am

346: Tell me again, what are we fighting about the last few hundred comments? Actually, strike that, let’s not start the whole thing again ;-)

As an aside, as is well known, US presidentials are currently decided in a handful of states and the rest really don’t matter objectively. But in elections for governor, US Senate and others, every vote actually does count (supposing they are counted). Yet, turnout is much higher for president, even in non battleground states, than in off-year elections that matter a great deal. Dumb.

344

TM 03.18.16 at 11:58 am

348, you are the expert.

345

engels 03.18.16 at 12:03 pm

350, I know you are but what am i

346

Consumatopia 03.18.16 at 12:17 pm

“It is always interesting in these discussions how on the one hand your vote doesn’t matter anyway, and at the same time it is such a hugely important metaphysical act that it should never be sullied by mere pragmatism.”

That seems like kind of an obvious combination to me. If the pragmatic effect of your action is small, then the symbolism of the act is relatively more important.

“Re the second argument, have you at least noticed that your evil political system is doing just fine without being “legitimized” by high electoral participation? “

It’s true, if your primary objection to voting is that you don’t want to legitimize the system, it makes a lot more sense for you to vote third-party than it does to not vote at all.

347

Consumatopia 03.18.16 at 12:26 pm

@338, what bemuses me is that, with secret ballots and without mandatory voting, appealing to other people’s consciences is the only tool you have left to overcome the collective action problem of voting. Voting is either a matter of conscience, or it’s irrational.

I’m not pretending I’ve found any deep insight, I’m just noting that some of you are getting really basic stuff wrong ;-)

348

Consumatopia 03.18.16 at 1:39 pm

It depends on what you mean by “system”. I mean, roughly, the bipartisan consensus of Republicans and Democrats. War and capitalism.

If by “system” you mean the electoral process, or democracy itself, then, yes, voting for any party at all legitimizes it.

349

Donald 03.18.16 at 2:15 pm

Novakant–I’m a lesser of two evils voter who agrees with you about the evils of the Democrats. To answer your question, I am going to go Godwin and say that I think it was right to support Stalin against Hitler. It boils down to this–as bad as the Democrats are, the Republicans are worse and would kill more people. Third party voting won’t do any good unless a third party can win. I used to think it could pressure the Dems to move left– in practice, one thing 2000 showed me was that it turned a bunch of otherwise liberal people into hippy punchers who in many cases would react by praising the Democrats and pointing out where the Dems were better and downplaying or denying all the ways they were terrible. You don’t pressure the Dems to move left with third party support- you encourage Democrats to pledge their undying loyalty and push them into whitewashing the record of their party. I might think this is a dumb reaction, but it’s how people react,and you get nowhere trying to argue with people who blame Nader voters more than they blame Clinton for the Iraq War. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that reaction ( it’s happened again in this thread) and people who are furious with Nader voters on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of dead virtually never show the same outrage towards the Democratic politicians who supported the war. If anything, they might even try to defend the vote and say it was all Bush’s fault or as Paul Krugman did, excuse it on the grounds that it was a crazy time. OTOH, if you give up on third parties and don’t suggest voting for them, then you can sometimes have a sensible conversation about how the Democrats are wrong on a particular issue. You will still encounter partisan Democrats who deny anything could possibly be wrong with any decision their Leader has made, but those people are hopeless.

Third parties can’t accomplish much in the US, unless a fourth party arises at the same time. If both the Democrats and the Republicans split, then maybe a Green Party would have a chance.

350

TM 03.18.16 at 2:20 pm

“By voting in an election – no matter who you’re voting for – you’re legitimizing and entrenching this kafkaesque political system.”

That assumes that the “system” cares about your refusal to vote. Self-importance and hubris are common phenomena in political fringe groups.

351

Lyle 03.18.16 at 3:00 pm

It’s sad and funny how all this evil lesserism automatically assumes that Mrs Clinton is the lesser.

“Hillary has now joined Sanders in calling Trump a pathological liar. She deserves credit for that; good for her. Her point would be more convincing, however, if she were not such a clumsy liar herself.”

“Could Hillary Clinton be Worse Than Trump?”

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/03/18/could-hillary-clinton-be-worse-than-trump/

352

TM 03.18.16 at 3:07 pm

:rolleyes

353

Plume 03.18.16 at 3:09 pm

Again, all of this presupposes each individual voter has perfect information at the ready — perfect double secret hidden information about the future, in fact.

To vote “strategically” in the sense asked for in this thread requires perfect foresight.

In Florida, for instance, if Nader doesn’t run, Bush likely wins with a slightly bigger margin. If Buchanan decides not to run, Bush wins by an even larger margin. Florida, unlike my state, had numerous people running outside Dem/GOP. Notice that even the smallest vote getter received enough votes to swing the election, as it turned out:

FLORIDA Presidential Results
Precincts Reporting:

100%
Al Gore, Dem
2,910,192
48.8%

George W. Bush, GOP
2,910,492
48.8%

Pat Buchanan, RP
17,472
0.3%

Ralph Nader, Grn
97,422
1.6%

Harry Browne, Lib
16,401
0.3%

John Hagelin, NLP
2,273
0%

James Harris, SWP
588
0%

David McReynolds, Soc
618
0%
Monica
Moorehead, Workers World
1,805
0%

Howard Phillips, CST
1,370
0%
_______________

My state went red in 2000. No vote for the blue team counted. They were all wasted, because, electoral college.

354

Layman 03.18.16 at 3:11 pm

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that reaction ( it’s happened again in this thread) and people who are furious with Nader voters on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of dead virtually never show the same outrage towards the Democratic politicians who supported the war.”

No doubt there are such people, though I’m not sure I recall any of them in this thread. For my part, I worked pretty hard to keep HRC from getting the nomination in 2008 because of her vote on the Iraq war and her peristent hawkishness, which seem to me to be more a matter of her political calculation than any genuine judgment about the efficacy of such foreign adventures.

I’m doing the same now, doing what I can to support Sanders and deny Clinton the nomination; though it seems unlikely that will happen. At that point, as I said earlier, I’ll hold my nose and vote for Clinton.

355

Layman 03.18.16 at 3:19 pm

‘To vote “strategically” in the sense asked for in this thread requires perfect foresight.’

Florida voters had access to perfect foresight. Before the election, every voter in Florida knew, or could have known, that the winner in Florida would be either Gore or Bush, and that the contest would be close. Strategic voting means, in that circumstance, cast your vote for the least bad alternative, because any other vote could help the worst alternative win. It’s not that hard to figure out. If you voted with some other motivation, fine, that’s your right, but this bit about not having perfect foresight is just nonsense.

356

engels 03.18.16 at 3:19 pm

If anyone wishes to do anything with the joke “mas que nader,” they have my permission, and it appears they’d be the first person to do so

357

Plume 03.18.16 at 3:37 pm

No, Layman @364,

No one in Florida could possibly have known that 537 votes would separate the two; that 308,000 Democrats would turn on their party and vote for Bush; that 52% of Democrats would just stay home; that all of those running outside the duopoly would bring in enough votes, each, to potentially change such a close election. No one knew, going in, that there would be day-long voting irregularities; that Gore would roll over and play dead and not contest an obviously corrupt election; that the Supreme Court would stop the recount . . . . . or that that “tide of evil” would occur under Bush.

It’s beyond idiocy to bash Nader voters now, or in 2001, or 2003, or whenever. They. Had. No. Idea. How. Things. Would. Turn. Out. Period. End of story. You can’t vote “strategically” when no one at the time knew the election would come down to 537 votes in Florida, and Gore wimping out, etc. etc.

The entire thing is absurd, and I’ve given you more than enough evidence to prove its absurdity. Just the 308,000 Democrats who voted for Bush is enough to end the silly season of abusing Nader voters. Just that. Throw in those exit polls that told us if Nader didn’t run, Bush would win by even larger amounts, and it’s just beyond ridiculous to keep hammering away at them.

358

Plume 03.18.16 at 3:45 pm

Engels @349,

Well you #@$%*! you #@$%*! and you #@$%*!. How dare you #@$%*!#@$%*!#@$%*!#@$%*!.

;>)

I think you’re right about how things work, when it comes to responses.

359

Layman 03.18.16 at 3:50 pm

Plume’s first law of blame: Blame is a unitary entity, indivisible. It can only be wholly accorded to one party or group, never apportioned to multiple parties or groups. By way of example, those who burn coal cannot be blamed for greenhouse gas emissions, because of the existence e.g. of those who burn wood, those who drive cars, and cow flatulence.

360

Plume 03.18.16 at 3:52 pm

Layman @368,

I’m not the person who insists that Nader voters are “morally culpable” for “the evil tide” that followed with Bush’s win. You are. You haven’t apportioned blame at all. You’ve just scapegoating one small group of voters in Florida and pinned the Democratic defeat on them and them alone.

361

extexan 03.18.16 at 3:52 pm

“The gay vote, the black vote, the women’s vote, the Hispanic vote, the Jewish vote … – the leverage of these groups lies in withholding their votes, that is their power and policies are adjusted to at least give them the feeling that they are being heard. “

For the gay community, I don’t think that’s how this works, or rather, it’s not all that’s going on. We also raise money, work for campaigns, lobby the candidate, work for the candidate (awesome combo: lobbying your buddy who is a staffer — much easier), speak on behalf of the candidate, and help in many other ways. Those are the carrots.

We also condemn loudly, complain, give less money, support other candidates in primaries, and — if necessary — withhold our vote. These are the sticks. We use both.

This is a large part of why the LGBT community has been so successful politically. We work within the existing power structure of the Democratic Party. Thirty years ago it was hostile and unresponsive, but through a mix of activism (e.g. ACT-UP), lobbying, money, and persistence, we’ve made a real and substantive difference in how we are treated by Democratic candidates. I don’t think we would’ve been so successful if we’d just condemned the party for its homophobia and walked away.

362

Plume 03.18.16 at 3:59 pm

Also, Layman,

your #368 is yet one more bit of proof that you simply can’t resist putting words into other people’s mouths, and that all of your (all too lame) snark is based on this. It’s based on you setting up silly straw men, using your own absurd premise as your conclusion, and then mocking people for believing what your straw men, and no one else, believe.

Give it a rest.

363

Rich Puchalsky 03.18.16 at 4:01 pm

I’ll try to state what I mean without reflexive irony or sarcasm, although wow is that difficult.

1. Assuming that we’re talking about the U.S. — at any rate, that’s what this thread is about — around 40% of people who could vote do not vote. Here’s a study with some typologies.

2. None of these typologies really fit people who comment on or read comments on CT. We are a tiny fragment of a fragment. You will not find any meaningful number of convincible nonvoters here.

3. There are well-known ways — technologies, let’s say — for “turning out the vote”, i.e. getting people who would not actually vote to the polls. These draw from that huge 40% pool.

4. Anyone who reads or comments on CT would probably make a good vote-turner-outer, assuming that they live in the U.S. Education, middle class income, jobs that allow flex time — people here have significantly more personal resources than the average.

5. Activists know this. They’ve already made their decisions, long before this point. If you’re a habitual nonviolent-protest-organizer, you may not be into electoral activism at all. You justify this by saying that your protests have some effect, perhaps more effect. If you’re an electoral activist, vice versa. Whatever: activists habitually do what their energy allows, and do not rely on formal gestures like their single votes.

6. If people here were saying “How many people have you turned out?” “Well, how many have *you* turned out?” and arguing over what degree of activity was sufficient, then there might be some point to this oneuppersonship. As it is, there is none. Voting is a nearly meaningless gesture: the least that you can do.

7. The people who purport to find great responsibility and self-importance in telling people that they have to vote are generally looking, to put the most sympathetic possible interpretation on it, to reassure themselves that our system could still work somehow if only everyone did their part. Less sympathetic explanations include the usual posturing and side-taking.

8. I live in Massachusetts, and my vote will not matter. Therefore I’ve decided that the only way to get any symbolic use out of my vote is to go around telling people that I won’t use it. You can decide for yourself how much of this in a principled attempt to get people to start thinking about the mechanisms of the state and how much is simple trolling of people who I find annoying and self-important.

364

Igor Belanov 03.18.16 at 4:02 pm

The argument that a vote for Nader led to the Iraq War is extremely questionable.

Here in Britain I can say that our very own war criminal, Mr Blair, was no more right-wing than Gore or the Clintons, yet was every bit as enthusiastic for the invasion of Iraq as was Bush. The idea that the Democrats (or Blairites) are more principled on subjects of peace and war than Republicans seems highly suspect.

I suspect this is another desperate argument thrown in to try and assert ‘lesser-evilism’, a position that has done much to boost the fortunes of the Right throughout the world.

365

Layman 03.18.16 at 4:09 pm

Plume @ “You haven’t apportioned blame at all.”

This is a falsehood.

Layman @ 254: “I agree that there can be degrees of moral culpability, and would certainly agree that those who voted for Bush bear more blame than those who voted for Nader, and I’ve said that.”

Layman @ 196: “Everyone who didn’t vote for Al Gore helped Bush get elected. It doesn’t matter how (not voting, voting for Bush, voting for someone else), or why they did that, the effect is the same.”

Layman @ 178: “They have moral culpability for the outcome. Lots of other people do, too, but they do as well.”

Layman @ 134: “Blaming Nader voters doesn’t exclude blaming other factors as well.”

Some of these posts were direct responses to you. Have you no shame?

366

RNB 03.18.16 at 4:11 pm

Gore would not have led Blair by the ear into war. Gore would have had some tepid mixed economy plan to start the Green economy which actually would have compensated to some extent for PNTR with China.

367

Layman 03.18.16 at 4:15 pm

Plume @ 370

I don’t mean to put words in your mouth. I’m simply trying to understand your argument about blame. As I read it, you say the existence of other people who voted for Bush absolve those who voted for Nader of any blame for Bush’s win. The point of my post was to highlight the possibility that more than one group might share in the blame. Is that not so?

368

medrawt 03.18.16 at 4:22 pm

Plume –

you seem to be agitating for the idea that if a person does not set down the entirety of their worldview with each comment, it’s reasonable to make uncharitable assumptions about what went unsaid. This would make blog comments even harder to read than they already are.

Put another way: harping on the notion that people who blame Nader voters are doing so irrationally because they also don’t blame [x, y, z], and that people who continue to blame Nader voters after you’ve unleashed this bit of rhetorical flash are just obstinately ignoring the science you’re putting down, is tantamount to calling them morons. But if I start with the premise that most if not all Crooked Timber commenters aren’t morons, I arrive at what strikes me as a more reasonable conclusion: people who blame Nader voters, in this conversation, are perfectly aware of [x,y,z] and also feel salty about them, but they’re not talking about them right now, or to them, they’re talking about and to Nader voters.

Namely: is anybody here a registered Democrat who intentionally voted for Bush in 2000? Why? Are you still a registered Democrat? Did you vote for Kerry in 2004? Are you registered as a Democrat because you voted for Carter in 1976 and just never bothered to change your registration? Did the Democratic Party move too far to the left for you? Did 9/11 make you retrospectively angrier about Chappaquiddick?

From my perspective, anyone who self-identified as a Democrat in 2000 and intentionally voted for Bush rather than Gore is much further gone and less accessible to discussion than a Nader voter. The idea that Democratic party die hards feel nothing but warmth for registered Ds who voted for Bush in 2000 is ludicrous.

369

Plume 03.18.16 at 4:22 pm

Layman @373,

Forgive me for missing those caveats, given that the central organizing principle of your posts was to blame Nader voters and hold them morally accountable for Bush’s win — which I still find absolutely absurd, even if you distribute that among various factions. It’s still absurd to hold ANY voters morally culpable for what Bush would later do. You can make a decent argument in 2004, but not in 2000.

Tell ya what. I’ll give you that rather weak “apportioning” argument — though I reserve my own caveats, etc. etc. But you accused me of doing something I’ve been fighting all along — blaming all of this on one group. I’ve done the opposite, so your bizarre “plume’s first law of blame” is ridiculous. Have you no shame, Layman?

Bottom line for me: A single voter bears zero “moral culpability” for the actions of politicians down the road. Zero. That’s on the politician, and the system, and capitalism, which you support. You support the duopoly which keeps thrusting us into war after war after war. You support the capitalist system which keeps calling for those wars. You support the blindly competitive economic/political empire that guarantees that this “tide of evil” remains in place, regardless of which party is in office.

It’s beyond absurd to hold ANY Nader voter “morally culpable” for the sins of the duopoly which you support, and which you demand must be fed vote after vote after vote. If anyone is “morally culpable” as a voter — and I think the entire concept of that is cray cray — it’s the folks who keep voting Republican or Democrat, not those of us who want all hierarchies gone, including the duopoly.

370

geo 03.18.16 at 4:28 pm

Rich @371: I generally agree, but you’ve left something important out of the picture: voter suppression. There are, as you say, many ways to increase voter turnout, but alas, equally many ways to decrease it: too few voting places (especially in African-American districts), weekday voting, non-automatic registration, felon disenfranchisement, etc. And as usual, the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

371

Plume 03.18.16 at 4:31 pm

Layman @375,

“As I read it, you say the existence of other people who voted for Bush absolve those who voted for Nader of any blame for Bush’s win. The point of my post was to highlight the possibility that more than one group might share in the blame. Is that not so?”

We’re cross-posting at the moment, so I hope I answered this above. But if not . . . .

I don’t get your insistent desire to “blame” voters in 2000 for Bush at all — rather than Bush himself. Or Cheney. Or American Empire. Or capitalism. I just flat out reject the entire idea. But if I play along with your blame-game desire, I can’t possibly agree to the notion that someone who doesn’t vote for Bush can be tagged “morally culpable” for his victory. It’s simply NOT the duty of ANY voter to make sure he or she votes strategically to effect the outcome in favor of the duopoly, if they’ve chosen, up front, not to vote for that duopoly. It’s not their job to play by the duopoly’s rules, which they’ve rejected.

They made the choice, in a supposedly free society, to vote outside the two-party atrocity. They chose to do so. Sorry, but if one or the other of the two parties “wins,” it’s not their problem and they’re not subject to any “blame.” They did their part to end the atrocity. It failed. Move on.

372

Plume 03.18.16 at 4:35 pm

Medrawt @376,

“Plume –

you seem to be agitating for the idea that if a person does not set down the entirety of their worldview with each comment, it’s reasonable to make uncharitable assumptions about what went unsaid. This would make blog comments even harder to read than they already are.”

No. I’m agitating for the opposite of this. I’m saying posters shouldn’t make those uncharitable assumptions about the unsaid. And I think I’ve done so clearly. But if not, apologies.

373

Layman 03.18.16 at 4:39 pm

“But you accused me of doing something I’ve been fighting all along — blaming all of this on one group. “

I did not. In fact, I accused you of refusing to blame anyone, in part because doing so would require blame to be apportioned. That was the gist of my post.

You’ve misread me quite badly here, repeatedly. My response to Geo did not mean what you insist it meant. I’m sure I worded it badly, for which I apologized, and Geo seemed to accept that, but apparently you don’t. When I articulate what seem to me to be the logical consequences of a view, that is not an effort to put words in other people’s mouths, and the right sort of response to to point out where I have erred in my reasoning or misunderstood the original point.

To be as clear as I can, every person who did not vote for Gore helped Bush to win, whether they intended that outcome or not, and regardless of what form their not-voting-for-Gore took. This strikes me as so obvious a statement of fact that I can hardly believe we’re debating it. Can we at least agree on that?

374

Jake 03.18.16 at 4:39 pm

People who voted for Bush obviously bear responsibility for his election. Hell, I voted for him, my only excuse being that I was young and dumb and thought “how bad could it be?” Democrats who stayed home instead of voting for Gore also bear responsibility for Bush’s election.

But most of those people have the grace to be apologetic and not lecture others on how to be properly leftist or how to maintain a pure conscience.

Nader voters also bear responsibility for electing Bush but are either unaware or in denial of this. Why shouldn’t attention focus on them? They might be reachable.

375

geo 03.18.16 at 5:01 pm

Jake, Layman, Temporary Name, et al:

J’accuse! You (and most other Americans) are responsible for not electing Nader. If not for your misguided votes for someone else, we could have had a more progressive tax system, a drastically scaled-down military, public financing of elections, single-payer health insurance, increased Social Security payments, an enlightened Supreme Court, and an EPA, FDA, NLRB, etc. headed by people determined to fulfill rather than thwart their regulatory mission.

Do you deny it?

376

Plume 03.18.16 at 5:03 pm

Layman @381,

“To be as clear as I can, every person who did not vote for Gore helped Bush to win, whether they intended that outcome or not, and regardless of what form their not-voting-for-Gore took. This strikes me as so obvious a statement of fact that I can hardly believe we’re debating it. Can we at least agree on that?”

If you’re talking in purely mathematical terms — not in terms of “morality” — and cumulatively, and with 20/20 hindsight, sure. That’s how the math works en masse. But you’re not content with that. You want to make this about personal “morality.” And, as mentioned, exit polling in Florida showed that if Nader hadn’t been on the ballot, Bush would have won by even more votes. Again, Nader voters weren’t the reason for Bush’s victory, and the “moral culpability” of voters is just not applicable here.

Hell, if I want to play that game, I could just as easily claim this: If everyone who voted for Democrats and Republicans had voted Green or Socialist or some other truly leftist variant, we wouldn’t have to deal with the LOTE situation at all. Those votes don’t belong to the duopoly by right. So it’s absurd to point this all in the direction of people who “prevented Gore from winning.” How about the people who prevented Nader from winning, or more recently, Jill Stein?

The two major parties are corrupt beyond belief, and both of them have massive amounts of blood on their hands. Both parties were involved in the genocide of Native Americans, slavery of Africans, Jim Crow laws, the persecution of women, minorities, the invention and development of the concentration camp (primarily in the Philippines), war after war after war, coup after coup after coup, the destruction of the planet, the defense and violent extension of capitalism, etc. etc.

Demanding that people continue to vote for this, or they’re somehow “morally culpable” for what follows. Seriously, that’s too insane to have to keep arguing against, and I think Diane Keaton in Godfather 2 says it all in this scene about her “miscarriage.”

“Oh, Michael. Michael, you are blind. It wasn’t a miscarriage. It was an abortion. An abortion, Michael. Just like our marriage is an abortion. Something that’s unholy and evil. I didn’t want your son, Michael! I wouldn’t bring another one of you sons into this world! It was an abortion, Michael! It was a son Michael! A son! And I had it killed because this must all end!”
―Kay Adams

377

Plume 03.18.16 at 5:07 pm

Geo @383,

Was writing my response before seeing yours. Yep. Exactly. The tables can be easily turned on those accusing third party voters of enabling subsequent horrors. Anyone demanding that votes should have gone to Gore, should think about a country not being governed by either of the corporate puppet parties. Those who voted for Gore or Bush prevented a far better outcome, outside the established duopoly. Those who will vote for Hillary or Trump will be doing the same.

378

Layman 03.18.16 at 5:26 pm

Geo @ 383, I am innocent. Or, to be more clear, if I am guilty of anything, it is being able to read a poll, and understanding what’s possible to achieve as a result.

379

Layman 03.18.16 at 5:31 pm

Plume: “If you’re talking in purely mathematical terms — not in terms of “morality” — and cumulatively, and with 20/20 hindsight, sure. That’s how the math works en masse. “

I’ll take this as provisional agreement with the premise, and snip out the bits where you put words in my mouth.

If we agree that those people, the ones who didn’t vote for Gore, however they did that, and for whatever reasons, helped Bush to win, whether they intended that or not, can we now consider whether any of them have any responsibility for the outcome? Or do you believe that none of them have any responsibility for the outcome?

380

Plume 03.18.16 at 5:47 pm

Layman @387,

We’ve been through this before. No one single voter is responsible for the outcome. Just take the number 1 and divide that by the total number of votes cast and you get your answer as far as the individual voter goes. And even that isn’t accurate, because we have an electoral college system, in which every blue vote is negated if the red team wins, and vice versa. And even that isn’t the answer, because no one could possibly know, going in, all the other variables I’ve already listed . . . . and no one could know that 9/11 would occur, or that the Dems would cave into Bush/Cheney pressure — which, of course, actually makes them “morally culpable,” along with Bush/Cheney, in contrast to voters in 2000.

I know you really, really want to convince me and others that we, as individual voters, are “morally culpable” for what Bush did after 2000, and you probably want to do this to prevent votes going to Jill Stein in November. Sorry, but it’s not going to work. Not as a historical summary of what happened and why in 2000, nor as a cautionary tale for the future. As Geo and I mentioned, if you want to “blame” voters for anything, blame everyone who voted for Democrats and Republicans through the decades. They’ve been the only folks in town while Rome burned and tried to destroy the rest of the planet.

Green party, socialists, etc. etc. never have held power. It’s ludicrous to endlessly harp on those who don’t want to feed the beast any longer — the same beast that devours the planet, regardless of which part of the duopoly is in power.

381

geo 03.18.16 at 5:49 pm

Layman @386: Very well, I’ll grant you partial absolution (assuming you lived in Florida in November 2000 and sincerely believe the state might be won or lost by one vote). But that doesn’t let your fellow non-Nader voters off the hook.

382

Suzanne 03.18.16 at 5:53 pm

@ 347: I can understand why the working poor don’t vote, because it can be really hard for them to get to the polls in a country where Election Day is not a holiday and employers won’t give them time off to vote. I can understand why the unemployed poor don’t vote, because they are alienated from the system for solid reasons. (Nevertheless, their interests are hurt by not voting.) Many younger people don’t vote consistently because voting and civic consciousness are often things that develop over time. But there is no excuse, none at all, for educated and/or politically aware people who have ample time and means in comparison to the disadvantaged, not to fill out a request for an absentee ballot or haul their sorry asses to a voting booth regularly, regardless of the color of their state or the relative “meaningfulness” of the election. And the “regularly” part is important, because as mentioned voting is a habit that doesn’t always kick in immediately; once you’ve gotten used to making time for voting, even when there’s nothing particularly inspirational on the ballot, you’re more likely to keep on doing it. When I vote in the presidential election, my individual vote doesn’t mean anything, but the fact that I’m participating in a peaceful transition of power in a genuine if deeply flawed democracy does. The problems we have will not be solved only by voting, but we can be sure that things only get worse if people who most want and need change don’t vote.

I apologize in advance for the finger-waggling.

Which is not to say that strategic not-voting or third-party voting can’t be effective and shouldn’t be employed in the right circumstances. But it’s a powerful weapon that if handled wrongly can also be used to shoot yourself in the foot with.

@ 384: Worst scene in the movie. Keaton was putrid. Which is not to your point, I realize.

383

engels 03.18.16 at 5:56 pm

What if they held an election and nobody came?

384

The Temporary Name 03.18.16 at 5:59 pm

Do you deny it?

Absolutely. Nader’s stated goal was to make Democrats lose, not to win for Green. This he accomplished.

385

Plume 03.18.16 at 6:09 pm

Suzanne,

It was a very rough scene. But I remembered it in this case for the idea of just not wanting the insanity to continue. Googling a bit about the scene, there seems a lot of noise regarding whether or not it was a real slap from Pacino, and about Diane Keaton’s reaction. I skeptical about what I’ve skimmed online, but, apparently, some audience members cheered the slap, which is revolting in and of itself. 1974. Would hope we’ve advanced enough in the last 42 years not to do that.

I like this:

“When I vote in the presidential election, my individual vote doesn’t mean anything, but the fact that I’m participating in a peaceful transition of power in a genuine if deeply flawed democracy does. “

I had a momentary sense of real joy when Obama was elected in 2008, watching the returns, watching Obama and his family walk out on the stage together for the first time as First Family, thinking about it as you mention above. I don’t always have this strong anger toward the two parties and what I know they’ve actually done. When I’m not actually thinking about that history, I’m honestly amazed at the process.

As in, it’s complex. Very, very complex.

386

engels 03.18.16 at 6:16 pm

The US is not a genuine but deeply flawed democracy. You might aswell say the same thing about Russia.

387

The Temporary Name 03.18.16 at 6:20 pm

Congress is about as democratic as stuff gets, but two-year terms mean those guys spend all their time raising money for elections. The presidential election is a cruel joke, the senate should be destroyed.

388

Plume 03.18.16 at 6:26 pm

We can’t have actual democracy as long as we have capitalism in place — for a host of reasons. Without a democratic economic system, we have, at best, partial democracy. And because of capitalism’s stranglehold over our politics, because we know that our reps listen to the 1% and virtually no one else, we have “democracy” in name only.

They don’t represent us. They represent the donor class. And without democracy in the workplace, eight plus hours of our days are spent with zero democracy in effect. At least. And more and more businesses are impacting what we can and can’t do outside of work . . . . not to mention much of our “leisure” time is spent under the auspices of capitalism in general — the most anti-democratic economic system to date.

Norman Mailer said it in the pages of Dissent back in the 1950s: Capitalism follows us everywhere. It’s only gotten worse since them.

389

Raisuli 03.18.16 at 6:28 pm

The 2000 election also had this (forgotten, it seeems?)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Lett-Simmons#Faithless_elector

390

Layman 03.18.16 at 6:34 pm

Plume: “No one single voter is responsible for the outcome.”

For the purpose of total clarity, to you mean to say that no single voter bears any personal responsibility for the consequences of their choice? Ever?

391

Layman 03.18.16 at 6:38 pm

Plume: “and you probably want to do this to prevent votes going to Jill Stein in November.”

Can you really be the one who wants to accuse me of putting words in other people’s mouths? Are you capable of no self-reflection at all?

392

engels 03.18.16 at 6:45 pm

Shall a play a game of ‘which is the genuine if deeply flawed democracy’?

Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush, Obama, Clinton, …
Yeltsin, Yeltsin, Putin, Putin, Medvedev, Putin, …

393

Plume 03.18.16 at 6:46 pm

Layman @398,

“For the purpose of total clarity, to you mean to say that no single voter bears any personal responsibility for the consequences of their choice? Ever?”

Yes. That’s what I’m saying. It’s one vote. Just one. And that one voter has no ability to get anyone elected. None. Zero. Zip. It’s literally impossible for one vote to get someone in our system elected. It’s physically and mathematically impossible, even if the election comes down to just one vote. You still have to count all of them, together, so no one vote is decisive. You still have to go back to every other state before Florida, which was only “decisive” in a fictional way, because it was near the end of the line. See my little analogy of Da Bears (268) for a somewhat related scenario.

But beyond that, and much more importantly, no voter has the ability to tell a president what to do, when, how, where, etc. etc. And no voter knows what they will do before they do it. Voting for someone like Bush in 2004, after we had seen the horrible things he had already done — that’s a different story in part. But even there, that voter still can’t make Bush do anything he doesn’t want to do, so “moral culpability” is still on Bush, not the voter. And that voter is just a drop in the ocean even then. No one vote is ever “decisive.”

Do I wish no one had voted for Bush, including those 308,000 Democrats in Florida? Certainly. But that’s also a different story. It’s not on Nader voters in any way, shape or form.

394

Plume 03.18.16 at 6:49 pm

Layman @399,

“Can you really be the one who wants to accuse me of putting words in other people’s mouths? Are you capable of no self-reflection at all?”

Do you NOT see the difference between overt speculation, as opposed to saying “so you’re saying blah blah blah”?

Come on. This isn’t rocket science. When I say you are probably doing this for X reasons, that is NOT “putting words in your mouth.” It is me speculating. Hence the word “probably.”

395

Layman 03.18.16 at 6:55 pm

Layman: Have you no shame?
Plume (as Layman speculates): No.

396

Plume 03.18.16 at 7:02 pm

Layman @403,

I have nothing to feel ashamed about. Which kinda points back to your main purpose here. To make a certain group feel guilty when there is no reason to. You’ve just added me to the mix — and I’m speculating here — because you know you’re getting nowhere with your absurd finger wagging, and your endless creation of straw men.

Give it a rest.

397

Layman 03.18.16 at 7:02 pm

Plume :”Yes. That’s what I’m saying. It’s one vote. Just one. And that one voter has no ability to get anyone elected. None. Zero. Zip. It’s literally impossible for one vote to get someone in our system elected.”

Do you mean to say that a personal choice, made by one person, which cannot in and of itself change the outcome, has no moral weight at all? None, zero, zip?

398

The Temporary Name 03.18.16 at 7:07 pm

Shall a play a game of ‘which is the genuine if deeply flawed democracy’?
Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush, Obama, Clinton, …
Yeltsin, Yeltsin, Putin, Putin, Medvedev, Putin, …

Royalty is loathsome enough, but these people don’t have the decency to simply be figureheads.

399

Plume 03.18.16 at 7:12 pm

Layman @405,

“Do you mean to say that a personal choice, made by one person, which cannot in and of itself change the outcome, has no moral weight at all? None, zero, zip?”

No. That’s not what I mean. We’re talking just about voting. And, as I understand the debate, voting in 2000, voting for Nader in 2000, voting for Nader in Florida in the year 2000. Because this, supposedly, handed the election to Bush — it didn’t — which then means Nader voters are “morally culpable” for what came after he was elected.

I may be misreading you, but it sure looks like you’re trying to move the goal posts in order to make your original point stick. Can we keep them where they were at the beginning?

400

engels 03.18.16 at 7:15 pm

Bill Clinton is a genuine if deeply flawed monogamist. Thomas Friedman is a genuine if deeply flawed prose stylist. John Yoo is a genuine if deeply flawed advocate for human rights.

401

Layman 03.18.16 at 7:22 pm

“I may be misreading you, but it sure looks like you’re trying to move the goal posts in order to make your original point stick. Can we keep them where they were at the beginning?”

I don’t mean to be moving the goalposts. I’m just trying to understand what you think about the moral responsibility of a vote. It sounds from your objection as if you think at least sometimes, though not necessarily always, votes carry no responsibility. Or perhaps you mean votes never carry responsibility but other kinds of choices do? If you would explain what you mean, clearly, then I will know.

402

Brett Dunbar 03.18.16 at 7:30 pm

Actually a single vote can make a difference. In the 17 January 1961 elections in the British protectorate of Zanzibar (which merged with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania) the Afro-Shirazi Party won 10 seats, the Zanzibar Nationalist Party 9 seats and the Zanzibar and Pemba People’s Party 3 seats. The AFP won one constituency, Chake-Chake on Pemba island, by a single vote. 1,538 for the ASP and 1,537 for the ZNP .

403

Rich Puchalsky 03.18.16 at 7:35 pm

Suzanne: “When I vote in the presidential election, my individual vote doesn’t mean anything, but the fact that I’m participating in a peaceful transition of power in a genuine if deeply flawed democracy does. “

Well, this sense that you’re participating in something larger is just as “real” as someone’s conscience is. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t real. But someone else’s feeling that by not voting they are not participating in something they have objections to is just as real.

404

Lupita 03.18.16 at 7:49 pm

Perhaps those discussing how much impact Americans have on US elections would care to know how much foreigners have. For those who do not read the Spanish-language media (the global one, not the US one, which is just your regular English-language media translated into Spanish) it is my pleasure to report that the neoliberal elites are out in full force explaining all the benefits of free trade and how we are all so lucky to be so commercially integrated. They always end with Trump being racist, sexist, xenophobe, etc., but it is clear that it is free trade they are worried about plus the free movement of capital, with great emphasis on corporations. No mention of labor rights, health care, or education.

Then there is the TPP which has been put on hold in Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Japan, and Canada, that I know of. Apparently, neoliberals will only vote if they are sure the treaty will pass unanimously, everywhere.

Third, and I think this bit of news is being spread much more outside the US than within, Clinton said that she has received the support of many foreign leaders, that they have been calling her to express their support.

So there is a global neoliberal anti-Trump elite movement forming and gaining steam. You are not alone. Just so that you know who your friends are.

405

roger gathmann 03.18.16 at 8:27 pm

those lecturers on the evils of lesser evilism should listen to themselves and ask: perhaps we should make the evil lesser. Instead of bitching about the Democratic party, perhaps the way to do it is to join the GOP – or at least in the South, where its grip on the politics is pretty solid. Why let the evangelicals have all the fun? Trump has shown that a party can be seized from within, bless his toupeed head. If we are really going to make a “collective action” decision, at least in a place like south carolina or texas, then the hot spot is the GOP, and not the opposing loser party, the Dems. The Southern republican didn’t make a warm spits worth of difference between 1865 and 1965 – but conservatives just went to the Democratic party and fought for it. Texas politics is exemplary: you had both the democratic John birchers and the democratic Ralph yarboroughs.
Yet, I have never seen a discussion of what is obvious if we apply the logic of polysci to the south: the thing to do is to migrate into the Republican party and give it a liberal side.
I don’t think this will ever happen, however. Because what is ignored in rational choice political science is the very reasons that make us political: our allegiances, our self image, the rhetorics we have intoxicated ourselves with.

406

Lupita 03.18.16 at 9:25 pm

The neoliberal West has harassed and deposed quite a few heads of state and made even more go along with its neoliberal agenda. It does it by “investors losing confidence”, credit downgrades, and hedge fund attacks that destabilize countries through sudden and massive capital flight.

Once 3rd world countries understood the game, in the late 90s, many started amassing reserves to defend themselves. This, in turn, caused the dollar and the euro to appreciate and, since 3rd world countries no longer wanted any involvement with the IMF, Western banks started granting consumer loans and mortgages to their own populations. Once those bubbles burst, in the 00s, European governments got the same treatment 3rd world governments had. The banks “lost confidence” in Berlusconi and he was replaced with a banker. They got Tsipras to change his tune.

My point is, the global elite will do the same to Trump if he starts messing around with neoliberalism. Do not for one moment think that because you are mighty Americans it will not happen to you. On the bright side, if Trump were unceremoniously deposed, Americans would realize, as practically the whole world has by now, that there is no democracy outside choosing one neoliberal over another and there is no way out of this conundrum except joining a global anti-neoliberal movement.

Workers of the world, unite!

407

engels 03.18.16 at 9:34 pm

“the global elite will do the same to Trump if he starts messing around with neoliberalism”

I think you might be forgetting the “lesser evilism” of the ruling class: fascism always beats socialism hands down

408

Plume 03.18.16 at 11:23 pm

Layman @409,

“It sounds from your objection as if you think at least sometimes, though not necessarily always, votes carry no responsibility. Or perhaps you mean votes never carry responsibility but other kinds of choices do? If you would explain what you mean, clearly, then I will know.”

I separate voting out from the rest, but context is everything. Personal choices can and often do carry the weight of moral responsibility, sometimes to profound degrees. Sometimes beyond profound. But I see voting in our sham system as carrying close enough to zero to just call it none. “Gesture” is perhaps a better word, IMO.

To me, for a choice to have moral weight, the chooser must have a strong degree of intentionality and some degree of foreknowledge regarding outcomes. There are exceptions, but I’ll just stick with the basics for now. So, if you sit on a three-person panel, and you’re deciding the fate of some person, your choice has obvious weight. The foresight component screams out at you if you’re the final of the three to cast your ballot yes or no. Of course, this is also tempered by context. It’s not the same thing to be the decisive (judge’s) vote cast for American Idol contestants . . . . versus the death penalty. Obviously. But you at least know that your choice is decisive.

In our voting system, we don’t have foresight regarding consequences. We don’t even have foresight regarding immediate outcomes for the vote itself. Not only is it the case that we don’t know what politicians will do with the golden ticket they receive from our combined votes; we can never know, going in, if our vote will be the decisive one triggering all the rest. And as is always the case with counterfactuals, we can never know if the losers would have been better, worse, or break even, etc. etc. For instance, while I doubt this would have been the case, we simply do not know how Gore would have acted as president. It actually is conceivable that he could have done more damage — though I highly doubt it. I think Bush was arguably a top three worst president of all time . . . . but we really never know on voting day what will happen in the future. We don’t have foreknowledge of consequences . . . . Again, voting for him in 2004 is a different story.

And I think you need that — at least to some degree — along with intentionality before we can start talking about “moral culpability.” From there, we’d also have to throw in matters of power over events, along with the concept of cancellation. How many others are involved? How complex is the set up? How many variables are in play, etc. etc.

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Suzanne 03.19.16 at 12:02 am

@411: It’s true that my warm fuzzies, on those occasions when I feel that way (doesn’t happen at every election, believe me) are only meaningful for me. It’s also true that I live in a country that’s probably too big for ideal democracy and is also an empire with all that designation implies. But when people do/don’t go to the voting booth, the implications and consequences are all too real.

@393: One of my favorite multicultural moments was on veep night at the 2000 Democratic convention. As Joe Lieberman and his wife waved to the crowds, you could see African-Americans, hearty white union guys, Asian-Americans, people with turbans and scarves, you name it – all waving signs reading “Hadassah!”

410

js. 03.19.16 at 1:01 am

Like any sane human being, I consider upvotes to be practically the zika virus of comment threads. Nevertheless, I wish I could upvote medrawt @334 and @346 and Suzanne @392. Amazing good sense there, which has been a bit lacking on this thread at times.

411

engels 03.19.16 at 1:37 am

Funny how the entire establishment bangs on about how important it is to vote and how they wished everyone would when if they wanted that to happen they could make it really painless – send everyone a postal vote. Could it be that they don’t actually mean it? Could this even be true of middle-class do-gooders who say the same thing?

412

engels 03.19.16 at 1:57 am

Suzanne you imply there would be terrible consequences of a lower turn-out, but surely that would work in favour of Hillary, who is your preferred candidate anyway…

413

Consumatopia 03.19.16 at 2:07 am

Is there any task other than voting in which people are as harangued for inaction as much as they are for not voting the way you want? That might be the real disconnect here–I just don’t think anyone is obligated to vote, period. Or, at most, it’s way, way, way down the list of almost everyone’s unfulfilled moral obligations.

414

LFC 03.19.16 at 2:35 am

@engels
since you think Russia, a ‘competitive authoritarian’ regime (see Levitsky & Way) at best, is roughly as democratic, if not more democratic, than the U.S., why even bother participating in a thread on the U.S. election, which is (you wd say) a transparent ruling-class sham (as is the rest of the U.S.’s claim to be any kind of democracy)? Also, in your list you wrote the word “Obama” once but you shd have written it twice, since he has had two terms: hence it shd read “Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush, Obama, Obama, …”

415

js. 03.19.16 at 2:41 am

I just don’t think anyone is obligated to vote, period.

I agree, and I for one have not said or implied otherwise. (But then, I take the idea of an obligation rather seriously.)

416

dr ngo 03.19.16 at 2:56 am

For anyone still following this thread who does not read Slacktivist, may I recommend: It’s Not About You

417

Jake 03.19.16 at 3:42 am

@423 It’s a fair question. Is there anything that has the same dynamics as voting, i.e. whichever side gets more people to show up wins, so not supporting your side is half as bad as voting for the other side?

Consider: Republicans spend a lot of time and effort preventing people who might otherwise vote Democratic from voting. They must believe that this helps their political cause. Doesn’t it give you pause to voluntarily do something that shady Republican political operatives try to coerce others into doing?

418

ZM 03.19.16 at 4:07 am

Jake,

“@423 It’s a fair question. Is there anything that has the same dynamics as voting, i.e. whichever side gets more people to show up wins, so not supporting your side is half as bad as voting for the other side?”

In Australia voting is compulsory. That means you have to go to the polling hall, get your name ticked off, and take two voting slips to vote with. If you decidedly don’t want to vote you go through the procedure but don’t number the boxes and then you put the voting slips in the voting box like everyone else.

People who don’t vote without a good reason get a fine. In 2013 our voting turn out was about 93%.

Voting turn out has been over 90% since 1925.

Voting was made compulsory here in 1924. Between Federation in 1901 and 1924 when voting was made compulsory voting turn out was between 50% and 78%, with the higher figures over 70% of voting turnout from 1913-1919 due to WWI I suppose.

419

ZM 03.19.16 at 4:21 am

In USA Presidential elections the voting turnout has never been over 90%. With the lowest being in the 40%s — 48.9% in 1924, 1996 was another low of 49%, and so was 1920 at 49.2%.

1840 was the first year voting turnout was at or above 80%, 1860 was 81.2%, 1876 was 81.8%. 1876 was the last time voting turn out was at or above 80% at Presidential elections.

White men got the vote in 1856, white women got the vote in 1920, and Native Americans in 1924, and African Americans and others in 1965.

In 1920 41.2% of eligible voters turned out. In 1952 turnout reached above 60% at 61.6%, in the 1960s voting turnout was above 60% at all three Presidential elections.

After the 1960s voting turn out never reached 60% again, ranging from a low of 50.3% in 2000 to a high of 57.8% in 2008.

420

ZM 03.19.16 at 4:23 am

should be : “After the 1960s voting turn out never reached 60% again, ranging from a low of 49% in 1996 and 50.3% in 2000 to a high of 57.8% in 2008.”

421

Raisuli 03.19.16 at 4:31 am

Very briefly checked in on Chris Matthews this evening, when somehow multiple basketball games went to simultaneous commercial.

The point of topic was whether Clinton should pick a Republican as a running mate, to capture ‘moderate’ Republican voters rejecting Trump. Secondary topic was which Republican; Marco Rubio(!) was suggested.

422

ZM 03.19.16 at 4:31 am

Someone said voting was a collective action problem, Elinor Ostrom theorised that in collective action co-operation is more likely to occur in settings where:

1. Many of those affected have agreed on the need for changes in behaviour and see themselves as jointly sharing responsibility for future outcomes.
2. The reliability and frequency of information about the phenomena of concern are relatively high.
3. Participants know who else has agreed to change behaviour and that their conformance is being monitored.
4. Communication occurs among at least subsets of participants.

Voter turnout is politicised in America, as Jake said with “whichever side gets more people to show up wins”.

In fact this is divisive not collective action – since each major party mobilises its own voters.

In Australia we decided the collective action problem was we wanted everyone to vote. So it was made compulsory. Voting is mandated and encouraged for everyone, as a civic action separately from who people actually vote for.

423

Val 03.19.16 at 4:50 am

I agree with faustusnotes and others that it is important for Americans to think globally when voting. With global warming now predicted to reach 1.5C by about 2020, the time to prevent runaway climate change is very limited. The election of a Republican president seems likely to have dangerous consequences for the whole world. Therefore it seems those people on this thread saying that you should vote Democrat even if you have to hold your nose to do so are right.

However from an outsider’s perspective, it does seem there’s also some key things that you (American voters on CT) could unite on rather than just fighting amongst yourselves. Your voting system seems a complete sham – disgraceful for a nation that aspires to be democratic. The first two steps seem to be
– Polling places at times and locations that are convenient for people
– Preferential voting so votes for candidates outside the two major parties aren’t wasted.

Those are two basic steps forward. Surely you could unite around those and work for them, so that in future you are not required to vote for a corrupt system or else waste your vote?

424

dr ngo 03.19.16 at 6:23 am

Those are two basic steps forward. Surely you could unite around those and work for them,

Absolute proof that this “an outsider’s perspective”! No American nowadays would even dream of such an idea as “uniting around” even the most basic steps forward (or, for that matter, in any other direction).

425

Layman 03.19.16 at 6:33 am

@ Val, at least one of the two parties relies on voter suppression to achieve electoral success. Why would they ever agree on more convenient voting conditions?

426

Val 03.19.16 at 7:44 am

@ 437
Because you the people took to the streets and demanded it?

Is part of the problem that people have lowered expectations?

427

engels 03.19.16 at 8:51 am

LFC, I didn’t Russia was more democratic – that was Ze Kraggash. I don’t think either of them are at all democratic but I really wouldn’t know how to compare them. (If someone told me that a fish was ‘furry’ and I replied sarcastically that ‘you might as well say that about a fish’, I don’t think that would mean I thought that fish and lizards are equally furry or that lizards are more furry than fish. Both claims strike me as ideologically motivated nonsense.)

428

engels 03.19.16 at 9:30 am

Let me try that one again:

If someone told me that a lizard was ‘furry’ and I replied sarcastically that ‘you might as well say that about a fish’, I don’t think that would mean I thought that fish and lizards are equally furry or that fish are more furry than lizards. Both claims strike me as ideologically motivated nonsense.

why even bother participating in a thread on the U.S. election, which is (you wd say) a transparent ruling-class sham (as is the rest of the U.S.’s claim to be any kind of democracy)?

Erm why not? Sorry, this question makes no sense to me at all.

429

engels 03.19.16 at 9:39 am

e it seems those people on this thread saying that you should vote Democrat even if you have to hold your nose to do so are righ

I think it would require a bit more than holding your nose. Drinking or drugging yourself unconscious, then embarking on several years of therapy to combat the feelings of self-loathing might do it

430

Hidari 03.19.16 at 10:10 am

@435

This viewpoint of course is correct. All (literally all) other political questions are less important than the increasing threat to the future of civilisation from global warming.

So from that viewpoint perhaps the Democrats are slightly better.

But, on the other hand……what serious, definite policies on this issue does Hilary Clinton have?

431

ZM 03.19.16 at 10:24 am

“what serious, definite policies on this issue does Hilary Clinton have?”

I was looking up policies, and I discovered my favourite candidate for President in 2016 — Martin O’Malley. Except he is sadly not running any more. I never heard of him before, but he had the best climate change policy of any candidate.

Why wasn’t anyone American on Crooked Timber saying how Martin O’Malley would make a good President? He was better on climate change than either Clinton or Sanders:

“Unveiled last week in an op-ed for USA Today, the plan calls for the U.S. to move entirely to clean energy within 35 years.

It also aims to double energy efficiency in the next 15 years, create a Clean Energy Jobs Corps to retrofit buildings, modernize the energy grid, end fossil fuel subsidies, and extend tax credits for solar and wind power.

Some of these are policies already championed by Obama, but O’Malley still goes further, by wanting to adopt a “zero-tolerance policy” for methane from natural gas production and to expand carbon regulation to other major sources (presumably meaning agriculture and industry, which account for 9 and 21 percent of domestic emissions, respectively); and he says he’d deny new permits for offshore drilling and in Alaska.”

https://newrepublic.com/article/122227/omalley-exploits-clinton-and-sanders-shared-weakness

432

ZM 03.19.16 at 10:37 am

Hilary Clinton spoke last year about the role of climate change in the current global refugee crisis.

Her website said her climate policies are;

Generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of Hillary’s first term.

Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.

Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships and trucks.

Defend, implement, and extend smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan

Launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with states, cities, and rural communities and give them the tools and resources they need to go beyond federal standards in cutting carbon pollution and expanding clean energy.

Invest in clean energy infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing and workforce development to make the U.S. economy more competitive and create good paying jobs and careers.

Reform leasing on public lands. As president, Hillary would reform fossil fuel leasing and significantly expand clean energy production on public lands, from wind in Wyoming to solar in Nevada.

End wasteful tax subsidies for oil and gas companies.

Cut methane emissions across the economy. Hillary would cut emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, by 40-45 percent and put in place strong standards for reducing leaks from both new and existing sources.

Revitalize coal communities. Building a 21st century clean energy economy will create new jobs and industries, protect public health, and reduce carbon pollution. But we can’t ignore the impact this transition is already having on coal communities. Hillary’s $30 billion plan to revitalize coal communities will ensure coal miners, power plant operators, transportation workers, and their families get the respect they deserve and the benefits they have earned; invest in economic diversification and job creation; and make coal communities an engine of US economic growth in the 21st century, as they have been for generations.

433

Igor Belanov 03.19.16 at 10:52 am

@ 416

“those lecturers on the evils of lesser evilism should listen to themselves and ask: perhaps we should make the evil lesser. Instead of bitching about the Democratic party, perhaps the way to do it is to join the GOP – or at least in the South, where its grip on the politics is pretty solid.”

Why not go the whole hog and join the Republicans, thereby ameliorating the malevolence of the ‘most evil’ party? ‘Entryism’ hasn’t usually been a very successful tactic:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militant_(Trotskyist_group)

434

engels 03.19.16 at 11:34 am

From the point of view of climate change, wouldn’t it better for her to lose, then she can make a self-aggrandising film like Al Gore and jet around the world boring the bejesus out of people?

435

engels 03.19.16 at 11:38 am

Okay, I’m trolling now. Gonna to try and find something less boring to do. As you were.

436

Val 03.19.16 at 12:50 pm

It is interesting the way engels complains about how boring these discussions are and then makes multiple posts.

437

Val 03.19.16 at 12:52 pm

I’d put my house on it that the Democrat policies on climate change are better than the Republican ones, whoever is the candidate. (That’s a lot more than 5 cents I might add).

438

engels 03.19.16 at 1:15 pm

It is interesting the way engels complains about how boring these discussions are and then makes multiple posts.

I’d go further, it’s fascinating. Maybe someone will write a Master’s thesis on it.

439

ZM 03.19.16 at 1:23 pm

I am going to ask my university archives if they want to archive everything about me getting put in songs, film clips, three books, visual artwork, and promotional materials since I was 19 by a circle of artists none of whom I know personally who never asked me.

Maybe if they archive Crooked Timber threads a historian will write a masters thesis on you Engels. I don’t know why you’d like to be a historical character, I think it’s a great imposition myself. Look at how unhappy bob McManus was just getting a short review on lawyers guns and money.

440

faustusnotes 03.19.16 at 1:41 pm

Val, if you’re looking for rainy-day philosophical questions to ponder, consider this one: are modern-day marxists like engels more cynical about feminism or climate change?

On the one hand, they manage to find ways to ignore feminist concerns that are simultanously intellectually shallow (“female leader X did bad thing Y so having more women in power is a waste of time”) yet breathtakingly ballsy (e.g. recycling 60s ideas about how the chicks should put off their issues until the revolution is done). But on the other hand, they always manage to find a way to ignore the warnings arising from climate scientists despite their ostensibly materialist philosophy, and simultaneously manage to make any leader’s actual concerns about climate change sound like narcissism.

Regardless of your judgment about which topic they’re more cynical on, one has to admit: upon studying the rhetoric of people like engels, it’s very easy to see why the Spiked! crew are all ex-Marxists.

441

engels 03.19.16 at 1:41 pm

ZM, I’ll bear that in mind.

442

engels 03.19.16 at 1:52 pm

Faustusnotes you’ve talking to, at and about for about the last two days and as I’ve pointed out pretty continuously until I got exhausted with it about 9o% of the accusations you’ve been making have no contact with anything I’ve said or think. But do carry on fighting the good fight…

443

Rich Puchalsky 03.19.16 at 1:54 pm

dr ngo: “For anyone still following this thread who does not read Slacktivist, may I recommend: It’s Not About You”

Why? I mean, why recommend it? I read a shot away in and promptly ran aground on statements like “It’s the difference between voting as taking responsibility and voting as preserving purity by avoiding complicity. The former is our obligation — legally as well as ethically. ” Wait, this article is evidently about U.S. voting. Voting, “as taking responsibility” or otherwise, is not a legal obligation in the U.S. Is being condescended to supposed to become better when it’s accompanied by outright falsehoods?

The article has, near the beginning: “We have a long history of circular firing squads and of giving in to the tendency to blur the line between standing on non-negotiable principle versus a narcissistic focus on our personal purity — of imagining that our politics consists mainly of voting, and that our voting should be an expression of tribal or ethical identity.” But, of course, that is what the author is doing. They are thinking that politics consists mainly of voting, and they are using it to reinforce an ethical identity. The rest of the article is largely an anecdote about how the author didn’t vote because they were into narcissistic politics, and later on they got it out of their system and voted the right way. But they are still just as much of a narcissist as before, since their focus sis on their nearly meaningless personal vote and what it says about that.

This did make me remember why I don’t read Slacktivist, so there is that.

444

engels 03.19.16 at 2:30 pm

“Faustusnotes you’ve been talking to, at and about me for about the last two days…” (Time for a break from liberal blogs)

445

Layman 03.19.16 at 3:12 pm

Plume @ 420

Thanks for making the effort to spell this out.

“To me, for a choice to have moral weight, the chooser must have a strong degree of intentionality and some degree of foreknowledge regarding outcomes.”

It strikes me that there are many elections that match this criteria. You mentioned earlier that you thought votes for Bush in 2004 might carry more moral weight, presumably because voters could know better what sort of person Bush was.

But there are many elections where we have a good idea who the candidate is – they have a record, after all, and they’ve spent a lot of time telling us what they plan to do. Trump is a good example, he’s made a number of statements about what he’d do which offer insight into his character, if you take his words at face value.

And there are many elections where everyone knows the outcome will be close, particularly in a handful of states; so those people are aware that their own vote is more likely to be determinative of the outcome.

So it seems to me that sometimes elections meet your criteria. Would you agree to that?

446

LFC 03.19.16 at 3:48 pm

Ze K, 439
And ‘competitive’ is good.

yes. it modifies ‘authoritarian’ in this typology. i.e., regimes of this sort are somewhere ‘in between’. Or so I gather. I mean, I haven’t actually read Levitsky & Way. That would require *effort*, and it’s so much easier to waste time on CT threads, isn’t it.

447

Faustusnotes 03.19.16 at 4:01 pm

Rich, you have a social obligation to vote, legally mandated or not. This obligation should be codified in law, because legal codification sanctions and makes clear social rules , but in a sadly large number of countries voting is still mistakenly seen as a right or privilege rather than an obligation. It’s no surprise that lots of people from such countries don’t understand this simple fact.

Voting is not and should not be a choice or worse still a privilege exercised by people lucky enough to be able to duck out on a Tuesday and pull a lever. It’s a fundamental obligation. People who don’t discharge this obligation are lazy and selfish, and even worse are those people who don’t discharge this obligation and then complain that no party represents them. Why should clintknor Obama care to change their policies for people too lazy and irresponsible to vote ? People who have no respect for basic social norms hardly deserve social consideration, do they?

448

Rich Puchalsky 03.19.16 at 4:15 pm

faustusnotes: “Rich, you have a social obligation to vote, legally mandated or not. “

So falsely saying that it is legally mandated in the U.S. is good, because it should be?

Let’s go to more radical critique, because this thread is going over the same old stuff again. It’s clear that democracy is capitalism’s preferred and most stable social control system. Let’s not even talk about “flawed democracy” as opposed to some ideal. It’s inherently bad.

People on the left are typically able to say something vaguely Marxist about the false consumer choices under late capitalism. But they don’t apply the same thinking to the obvious fact that they start out with a notional world of choices in democracy but end up with the choice of voting for Trump or Clinton. How does that work?

Let’s not even talk about shady elites and 1%ers manipulating the system. Let’s just talk about coordination problems. Why, exactly, does anyone need to make joint decisions with everyone else over a national scale? How likely are people to have any actual control over these decisions, and how likely are they in practice to be turned over to a managerial class? Who is going to have the wealth to influence the decisions that are made in this scale?

People have a fundamental obligation to disassemble the states that keep forcing these choices on them as necessities and that otherwise do various horrible things in the world. Perhaps they should worry more about that fundamental obligation and less about whether they are jumping through the hoops that have been set up for them.

449

LFC 03.19.16 at 5:09 pm

@Ze K
As I say, I haven’t read the bk in question, so perhaps I shd postpone a response until I have (if ever). But it does seem to me that the existence of multiple parties is only one of several indications of how ‘democratic’ (or ‘polyarchic’ or whatever) a system is. I understand that you see probably 95 percent of what is produced in Western pol sci depts (and the soc-sci academy in general) as “self-serving western propaganda.” You are of course entitled to that view. Since, however, it’s likely that at least 90 percent or so of the people who produce this alleged propaganda do not read CT comment threads, your opinion is not reaching the ears or eyes of those directly responsible for that propaganda.

450

roger gathmann 03.19.16 at 5:21 pm

447 – the obvious answer is that the rest of the country doesn’t suffer from one party rule. In the northeast, midwest, southwest, west, the GOP and the Dems are at parity – not in the South. And of course the dominance of Southern republicans pulls the GOP right. Take, for instance, Texas. In the 1940s, Texas had a run of Democratic party governors going back eighty years. Its senators had been democrats since reconstruction. It was a one party state. But within that one party there was a distinct fight between the liberals or populists and the conservatives. See this abridge account for the history: http://www.houstonmatters.org/segments/segment-b/2016/01/19/red-state-the-story-of-how-republicans-seized-control-of-texas-2

As pointed out by Wayne Thorburne, in the 40s or 30s etc., more people would vote in the Democratic primary than would vote in the election – the election was pro forma, rather like in the Soviet Union. Now the opposite is the case. There isn’t a single democrat in the statewide offices. And there won’t be one in the foreseeable future. Every Democratic campaign for governor now begins with a lot of press noise about how the Dems are coming back, which is of course window dressing. They are dead as far as statewide offices are concerned. If, by some miracle, a Democrat was elected to represent Texas in the US senate, it is guaranteed he or she would be voting with the Gop most of the time. So, why bother? Progressives in the 40s didn’t go to the GOP, but instead, fought within the dominant party.
The story is the same in many other southern states. Here’s the headline on the elections in Alabama in 2014:

“Republicans have won every statewide race in the last three elections and on Tuesday the GOP tacked on to what was already a supermajority in the Alabama Legislature.”

Compare the GOP now to the GOP in, say, 1960, before the GOP dominated the South. The Republican platform of that year actually bragged about GOP support for higher minimum wages, advocated for settling the ‘human problem’ of Arab refugees, and supported unions, albeit on the Taft principle. Read the account of the passing of the civil rights bill in 1964, championed by the Republican chair of the judiciary committee in the House, william mcculloch of Ohio, in Geoffrey Kabaservice’s history of the takeover of the GOP by the right.

Unless “moderate” republicans can make a comeback in the South, national elections in the US will continue to be lesser evil contests for liberals.

451

Lupita 03.19.16 at 5:33 pm

@Ze K

But since it’s not completely subservient to the US elites, it can’t, by definition, be called ‘democratic’

The same thing happened to Hugo Chávez.

452

Plume 03.19.16 at 5:55 pm

“Obligation to vote.” That’s total, unadulterated, one-sided bullshit.

What I’m reading from the voting scolds is that the onus falls solely on the voter, not the ruling class that created the game and controls its flow, or the politicians who win. I see no demand that those in power — or those waiting to serve them — have any obligation to represent our interests. Or, to go bigger picture, that there is no obligation to actually offer legitimate, observably different choices for the voters. And if anyone truly believes that the Democrat/Republican A to B sham offers us legitimate choices, they’ve drunk the koolaid. Saying we have to vote for one of the two “official” power brokers is like saying we must pick Crest or Colgate, that we can’t make our own toothpaste from better, safer ingredients at hand.

Our so-called “democracy” — at least in America — amounts to little more than a snow job/marketing scheme. We’re presented with the illusion of choice, never the real thing, which matches up quite well with the capitalist system that owns it all. And this con job has been so incredibly successful at indoctrinating people, almost no one questions this, or the capitalist system that requires this sham for political cover, defense, bailouts, etc. We actually think we have real choices, and that our lives depend upon choosing the right one of the two corporate puppet parties . . . . with so few citizens ever asking why we only have those two . . . . or why they seem so alike on core issues . . . . or why there’s always so much white noise about “culture war” issues to divide us and pit tribe against tribe. Two parties are much easier to control, and it’s much easier for the powers that be to herd us into two narrow pens, rather than to allow dozens, or simply a free range, which would, heaven help us all, provoke free thought, independent thought, and radically expand political possibilities.

To me, voting in this kind of blatant herding system isn’t a “moral act” and can’t be. But voting does allow for “gestures,” futile and otherwise. If Hillary wins the Democratic nod, which looks to be 99% certain at the moment, I’ll likely make a futile gesture and vote for Jill Stein — if I vote at all. But I absolutely reject calls from voting scolds that I have an “obligation” to vote.

Perhaps when the folks running the show meet their obligations, I’ll change my mind. But even that’s unlikely. I’m never going to feel obligated to any system that maintains steep hierarchies, class divisions, ruling classes, etc.

453

Donald 03.19.16 at 6:00 pm

I read slacktivist and I thought that post was a particularly good example of what I complained about earlier. Repeating myself, if it is important to win votes, why would you insult people who vote differently? Why would you go out of your way to attribute the worst possible motivation to their actions? Wouldn’t you try to meet them halfway, acknowledge their legitimate concerns, and then explain to them why their theory of voting is wrong? And speaking of that, isn’t there also something wrong with telling the Democrats that you will vote for them no matter what, so long as the Republicans are worse? Doesn’t that give the Democrats an incentive to do what many of them want to do anyway, which is take the left votes for granted, and then move right?

A whole string of rhetorical questions there and with obvious answers, but I’ll answer a few anyway. Fred Clark’s post has been written in some form about a million times since 2000 — it’s ritualistic and it has little to do with trying to persuade people and everything to do with posturing, tribal flag waving and making oneself feel better. But it does serve a purpose with people like me. Reading that kind of crap– my first encounter with the genre was a piece by Eric Alterman– made me realize that there are people who get angrier about how to vote than they do about any of the actual issues, unless a Republican can be blamed. Which again is why someone of this sort will be enraged by Nader voters and blame them for Iraq and then turn around and defend Clinton’s record with no sense of cognitive dissonance. If you do point to an issue where a Democrat is bad, they will either point to how the Republican is worse, point to some other topic where there is a clear difference, or worst of all, defend the policy because their beloved Leader supports it. It is bizarre to me, but one has to take this into account and it’s part of why I think third parties are a total waste of time. They not only don’t put pressure on Democrats, they actually make the problem worse because they stir up reactions like Clark’s. And no amount of discussion will change this.

454

Layman 03.19.16 at 6:48 pm

@ Plume, again, every choice you make is a choice between imperfect alternatives. Yet presumably you make those choices, as you still live, breathe, and rail on the Internet. If choosing the lesser of two evils is acquiescing to the evil inherent in the system, you probably do that every single day. Why is that deplorable, entirely to be avoided, only when it comes to voting?

(Never mind that voting for Nader in 2000, or Jill Stein in 2016, is also acquiescing to the evil system.)

455

roger gathmann 03.19.16 at 6:52 pm

468 – that was a weird post in Slacktivist. So, if Dole had been elected over Clinton, it would have been an overwhelming catastrophe? Why, Dole would have abolished Glass Steagall, deregulated the futures industry, and signed off on a massive deregulation and dangerous recomposition of the mortgage market, would he? Thank heaven we missed that!

456

Jake 03.19.16 at 6:57 pm

Plume – if given the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as president you’d rather have Donald Trump, that’s fine. It’s a valid political position – there are millions of Americans who agree with you.

457

Plume 03.19.16 at 7:01 pm

Layman @469,

I think I’ve explained my position in depth, and I don’t think you’ve reciprocated. For instance, I truly can’t even fathom your insistence that an individual’s vote makes one “morally culpable” for the actions taken by that politician in the future. I tried. I really did. But I just can’t begin to imagine how anyone could process things that way. Honestly, it’s as if you live in an alternative universe to mine . . . . and I say that knowing — or at least guessing — that many more people would agree with your take than mine. Perhaps millions more. But that still doesn’t help my understanding of your position.

That said, I much prefer your overall attempts to persuade via the Socratic method than someone like faustusnotes, who goes full on voting scold and just comes off as unhinged in my view. The Socratic method is preferable to scolding . . . . and it at least carries some small chance of changing minds. His/her way causes further alienation . . . as if their actual purpose is to drive people away from voting at all.

I have the same reaction to Hillary scolds, with their pathetic “Berniesplaining” memes. Yeah, that’s the way to get people to vote for one’s candidate. Call them sexist and racist for having the nerve to support someone else. Yep. That will change hearts and minds!!

458

Plume 03.19.16 at 7:08 pm

jake @471,

“if given the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as president you’d rather have Donald Trump, that’s fine. It’s a valid political position – there are millions of Americans who agree with you.”

Oh, stop with the passive-aggressive scolding already. It’s. Not. Working.

I can’t stand either candidate, okay? Yeah, between the two, Hillary is preferable. But they both suck. They’re both terrible candidates for America. Not gonna vote for either of them, and all the scolding and passive-aggressive bullshit in the world isn’t going to change my mind.

Funny, when it comes to Hillary. I never see her supporters even try to make the case for voting for her on the merits. It’s always about how terrible it would be to have Trump as president — and, yes, it would be terrible. But, speaking for myself, I need a lot more than someone to vote against. I need someone to vote for, and enthusiastically for. Hillary supporters don’t even try to convince undecideds in those terms; which, to me, says a lot about their candidate of choice and their own level of support.

459

Layman 03.19.16 at 7:10 pm

Plume @ 472

“For instance, I truly can’t even fathom your insistence that an individual’s vote makes one “morally culpable” for the actions taken by that politician in the future. “

To me, it seems perfectly obvious. If Trump says he’ll kill the children of terrorists, and I vote for Trump knowing he says that, and Trump wins, and Trump kills the children of terrorists, how can I not bear some of the blame? Did I not act to empower his act? Or would you say that, because I couldn’t be sure he would actually do it, and I couldn’t be sure how other people were going to vote, and because my vote wasn’t the deciding vote, I’m blameless?

460

bruce wilder 03.19.16 at 7:25 pm

Hillary’s husband killed half a million Iraqi children with his sanctions policy and his Secretary of State affirmed that she thought the results of that policy were worth it. Given Hillary’s enthusiasm for bombing places, a reasonable appraisal says she will kill plenty of people. Does it bother you to enable that? Or, does an entirely speculative and counterfactual analysis assure you that Trump, who has never killed anyone insofar as we know, will kill “more” than Clinton, so you are off the hook for Clinton’s body count?

461

Rich Puchalsky 03.19.16 at 7:25 pm

What I find interesting about the Slacktivist post is not it in itself, but the fact that so many people can recommend pieces like it and find them compelling when they are obviously so poorly argued. I think it’s time to face up to the fact that voting is primarily a magical ritual, a reaffirmation that our society works, and that the undoubtedly real benefits that it has for people are the same kind of benefits that some societies get when the yearly fertility ritual (or whatever) is done. And of course you just can’t have people dissing the fertility ritual and still have it be as effective as a ritual.

462

bruce wilder 03.19.16 at 7:29 pm

It does not seem to be a civic ritual for many people or a duty. People want to elevate this individually inconsequential act into some grand moral gesture. It is absurd.

463

engels 03.19.16 at 7:30 pm

People who don’t discharge this obligation are lazy and selfish

And people who don’t work are lazy and feckless. people who don’t serve in the army are cowards and traitors, people who protest or strike are violent and dangerous…

And of course there’s a special place on hell for women who prefer social democracy to neoliberal capitalism and endless war

464

Layman 03.19.16 at 7:36 pm

bruce wilder @ 475, unlike Plume, I don’t thing voters bear no reaponsibility for their choices. So, yes, if I vote for HRC, I’ll bear some responsibility for what she does.

465

Plume 03.19.16 at 7:54 pm

Layman @474,

By radically inflating the importance of the act of voting, and making it a matter of “moral culpability,” you place yourself in a trap with no escape. As BW notes in 475, if you vote for Hillary, instead of Trump, or against Trump, you vote for someone with a history of supporting deadly strikes against civilian targets. You vote for someone who rarely met a war she did not like, a supporter of the invasion of Iraq, a recipient of gobs of Wall Street cash and a supporter of the neoliberal status quo. Using your own logic, you shouldn’t vote for Hillary or Trump. You should either stay home or vote for Jill Stein — or some other leftist alternative. Stein has the least chance of the three to commit acts of barbarism, at least if we go by her history and her platform.

Your own belief system, regarding the importance and moral weight of the vote, should make it impossible for you to vote Democratic or Republican.

466

Jake 03.19.16 at 7:55 pm

473: I’m not being passive-aggressive or scolding. And how can you say it’s not working without knowing what I’m trying to accomplish?

Talk is cheap – remember how GWB was a “compassionate conservative”? Not voting for either presidential candidate indicates that you are indifferent between them. Which again is fine – most of the United States is in a similar situation. Hearing your rationale is also very interesting; it gives me a good starting point for trolling National Review message boards in an effort to depress Republican voter turnout.

467

engels 03.19.16 at 7:57 pm

@393: One of my favorite multicultural moments was on veep night at the 2000 Democratic convention. As Joe Lieberman and his wife waved to the crowds, you could see African-Americans, hearty white union guys, Asian-Americans, people with turbans and scarves, you name it – all waving signs reading “Hadassah!”

Another genuine if deeply flawed democracy – heart-warming…

468

kidneystones 03.19.16 at 7:58 pm

@477 People want to elevate this individually inconsequential act into some grand moral gesture. It is absurd.

I’m a fan, but sometimes you produce a statement that is so thoughtless, so stupid, and so wrong that you strain all credulity. The Trump-Hitler hysterics here like to think that Ur-Mer-ick-Ah is perpetually on the cusp of fascism. One of the key reasons why we won’t be seeing fascism in America, or any other country that permits the creation of political parties and universal suffrage, is that people in this select group of countries can make their voices heard. It’s vitally important that people understand that freedom isn’t an abstract. Freedom to vote, like other freedoms, is taken for granted too often. My wife asked me to take our son to see “My Name is Malala” last year. As long as 15 year-old girls are being shot for attending school, there’s a need for democracy, and for the export of democracy as an intellectual and political vision. Totalitarian states/theocracies remove freedoms from the citizenry. These lack of freedoms are not abstracts, they are bars on a cage encircling the human spirit. Saw some Amnesty International organizers today, reading your comment makes me regret I didn’t stop to lend my support.

The right to vote is everything.

469

Layman 03.19.16 at 7:59 pm

Plume @ 480: “By radically inflating the importance of the act of voting, and making it a matter of “moral culpability,” you place yourself in a trap with no escape.”

By answering in this way, you avoid a direct response to the question I asked you @ 474.

470

Jake 03.19.16 at 8:10 pm

bruce – “does an entirely speculative and counterfactual analysis assure you that Trump, who has never killed anyone insofar as we know, will kill “more” than Clinton”

Is there really no value in being pretty sure of something yet not 100% certain?

At the time of the 2000 election GWB was complicit in far fewer deaths than Al Gore, yet even comedy newspapers could tell that electing him was going to result in far more future deaths.

Even today we have people saying that accepting the certainty of an economic slowdown due to restricting greenhouse gas production is a bad idea given that we aren’t certain that global warming is due to human activity.

471

Val 03.19.16 at 8:11 pm

We are social beings so there will always be some need for collective organising. If you’re going to use voting as a method, you should try to make it fair.

In the US, you clearly have a system that makes it difficult to vote, and forces people to choose between two main parties or else waste their vote. As far as I can see, you can’t do anything to change that before your next Presidential election, but you could start working towards it as a longer term goal.

Of course I see that some of the Marxists here would consider voting in a capitalist system a false goal anyway, but you could see giving people valid voting choices beyond the two main capitalist parties as a step on the road to socialism. Getting some form of preferential voting system would at least allow you to have a stronger Greens party.

472

bruce wilder 03.19.16 at 8:20 pm

k @ 483: I’m a fan, but sometimes you produce a statement that is so thoughtless, so stupid, and so wrong that you strain all credulity.

One of the hazards of a three sentence comment, I suppose, is that there is less constraining context on how others may read it.

If I may be so bold, I would recommend my own comment @ 176 in this thread for a fuller statement of my view on the importance of elections, a view you may find accords better with your own. (Lee declared himself agin’ every point I made @ 176, which is surely among the strongest endorsement a comment can get at CT.)

473

engels 03.19.16 at 8:25 pm

Kidneystones, the fact that it’s valuable to possess a right doesn’t seem to entail that it’s important cute a given individual to exercise it. Compare: the right to remain silent, the right for women or gay men to serve in the military, the right to practise a religion, etc

474

engels 03.19.16 at 8:26 pm

“important for a given individual”

475

Plume 03.19.16 at 8:26 pm

Layman @484,

“By answering in this way, you avoid a direct response to the question I asked you @ 474.”

Wrong. I haven’t avoided anything. I reject your premise, and I’m not sure how many other ways I can put this. I don’t see a single voter as being “morally culpable” for the actions of politicians. I don’t. Sorry. You can keep rewording it and trying different angles, but that won’t change.

That said, you avoided dealing with the point I raised — which, of course, has been the history of our dialogue. ;>)

Unlike me, you actually do believe your vote carries moral weight. So if you really do believe this, how on earth could you vote for Hillary or Trump, given the former’s history in government and the latter’s rhetoric?

476

Layman 03.19.16 at 8:36 pm

Plume: “I reject your premise, and I’m not sure how many other ways I can put this.”

Another way you could put it – a clear way – would be to answer the question. If the answer is ‘no’, say ‘no’.

“That said, you avoided dealing with the point I raised “

I have not. On the contrary, I’ve conceded the point, and have said (repeatedly) that I’m responsible for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of my vote, which causes me to take a ‘lesser-evilism’ approach to casting it. So, since I’ve given you a clear and unambiguous answer to your question, how about returning the courtesy?

477

kidneystones 03.19.16 at 8:38 pm

@487 Hi engels. Don’t know what got into with your whining about being misunderstood and maligned – a username like that is a kaka-magnet. Good to see back in fighting trim.

Agreed. BUT – sneering at the right to vote insults every person denied that right – which unhappily turns out to be an extremely large and significant number of people today. Many of these are children of parents who have never had the right to vote, and who are themselves raising children who may never know the freedom.

Not quite slavery, but too damn close to be acceptable anywhere today. We may not be able to convince others that democracy is best, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend the alternatives are remotely plausible alternatives.

Cheers!

478

Plume 03.19.16 at 8:46 pm

Layman @490,

No, you didn’t respond to my point. Saying you’ve decided to vote LOTE doesn’t address the obvious conundrum you’re in. Why restrict yourself to the duopoly at all, given your beliefs? If you are willing to move beyond it, you have a chance of voting for someone with no record of civilian deaths (unlike Hillary), and no record of hate-filled rhetoric (unlike Trump) — to name just two areas of concern. Outside the duopoly, you have a chance to vote for someone who is far more likely NOT to make you regret your vote on the basis of things like war, the surveillance state, neoliberalism, mass incarceration, climate change, education, health care, etc. etc.

Can you please explain why you rule that out? Again, given your own belief in the moral weight attached to your act of voting, why would you even, for a second, consider Democrats or Republicans?

479

Layman 03.19.16 at 8:59 pm

“Can you please explain why you rule that out?”

I have done so, repeatedly. I can read a poll, and I know the other candidates can’t possibly win, and a vote for them is effectively identical to a vote for the worst major party candidate, because any vote not cast for the lesser evil aids the greater evil.

Can you please try to exercise some good faith? You might not agree with my reasoning, but it is false to say I haven’t offered it.

Now, can I have a clear answer to the question I asked you in 474?

480

Jake 03.19.16 at 9:00 pm

Plume, is it fair to say that you view your own satisfaction with the person you voted for ultimately as more important than who is President of the United States?

481

Plume 03.19.16 at 9:12 pm

Jake @495,

No.

482

kidneystones 03.19.16 at 9:13 pm

@492 You.Are.Full.Of.Shit.

Islamic societies perfected the African slave trade centuries before English pilgrims got lost and ended up on Plymouth Rock. There’s universe of difference between exporting ideas and invading nations. Blaming America for the short-comings of a 7th-centuary community of misogynistic homophobes is par for the course in some circles.

Your grotesque description of tribal life in Pakistan as ‘democratic’ insults every Muslim living in democracies around the globe. Not to mention all women in the west, who in most cases have enjoyed the right to vote for less than a century. What about African Americans? You think these folks lack an understanding of the value of vote?

Many Muslims leave everything behind to build new lives in nations where they can choose to practice a form of Islam of their own choice, where women do not need the permission of anyone to work, study, travel, and even vote. One of my friends who grew up under the communists in Eastern Europe put it best, for me: “If westerners don’t respect their way of life, why should anyone else?”

You’re pond-scum, and with that I’ll wish you well!

483

engels 03.19.16 at 9:14 pm

sneering at the right to vote insults every person denied that right

At the risk of ‘whining about being misunderstood’ I don’t think I did ever “sneer… at the right to vote’ but at the idea that people who don’t vote are being irresponsible or selfish

A little context: before the last election there was a lot if this from Milifans, who actually persuaded Russell Brand (not exactly a political hero but an influential figure) to drop his ‘don’t vote’ line at eleventh hour. IMO this was a mistake. I’ve often not voted in the past and don’t regret it. I voted for Corbyn and will vote Labour if he’s leader but this is a political choice, not a moral duty.

(PS. As ‘Marxist’-bashing cranks up again my gut feeling is that this is traditionally a position one associates more with anarchism then Marxism….)

484

Plume 03.19.16 at 9:19 pm

Layman @494,

The LOTE scenario only exists as long as people like you “reason” as you do. As long as people avoid voting outside the duopoly over fear of the greater evil, you’re guaranteed “evil” of some kind regardless. Lesser or greater as the case may be.

Just a thought. How about advocating that Americans vote so we don’t have “evil” at all?

What a concept!!

Why not vote to break the back of the corporate puppet state completely? Can’t do that as long as you “reason” the way you (and others) do.

And I’ve already given you direct answers to your question, a dozen times now. No. You are not responsible for what Trump or any other politician does in office. He or she is. As is the system that so aggressively narrows our choices and seeks to herd us into two competing pens, all too close together in effect, if not rhetoric.

No. You’re not to blame. Those in power are. Those who created this sham are. The capitalist system is. The herders are, etc.

485

kidneystones 03.19.16 at 9:21 pm

498 Fair enough. I live in Asia. Democracy isn’t widely practiced in many nations there. Droll remarks about it not being practiced in the west either are fine, for what it’s worth. You’re not going to convince many that you’re serious citing a millionaire former hooker as political exemplar, imnsho.

Just sayin’

486

Layman 03.19.16 at 9:21 pm

Val @ 486

Election processes in the US are more or less regulated by the states. So long as states comply with federal law, as defined by the Constitution, federal statutes and current judicial rulings on what those statutes mean, there’s little a sitting President can do directly to rein in state efforts to suppress voting. S/he can direct the justice department to challenge the actions of states under those laws, which challenges end up being resolved by the courts; s/he can lobby Congress for more effective protections; s/he can try to convince voters to vote for parties and candidates who favor broader election participation; and s/he can nominate judges who hold a broad view of voting rights and protections. Should a Democrat be elected, it’s certain s/he will do all of these things, but much less certain that any of them will be effective. A Republican president will do none of these things – in fact, will do the opposite.

487

Layman 03.19.16 at 9:25 pm

“And I’ve already given you direct answers to your question, a dozen times now. No. You are not responsible for what Trump or any other politician does in office.”

Fair enough. I’ll drop the subject – if you’re compelled to reach this conclusion in order to defend voting for Nader, that’s on you.

488

engels 03.19.16 at 9:31 pm

You’re not going to convince many that you’re serious citing a millionaire former hooker as political exemplar, imnsho.

Well he does have 12 million Twitter followers (I’m not one fwiw). I agree that liberal freedoms and representative government things worth having.

489

Jake 03.19.16 at 9:32 pm

plume @496
Hmm. Do you think that there is anyone in the US who prefers Hillary Clinton to Jill Stein if no one else was running?

490

js. 03.19.16 at 9:34 pm

Do you think that there is anyone in the US who prefers Hillary Clinton to Jill Stein if no one else was running?

Jeffrey Goldberg?

491

Plume 03.19.16 at 9:37 pm

Layman @502,

“Fair enough. I’ll drop the subject – if you’re compelled to reach this conclusion in order to defend voting for Nader, that’s on you.”

No one needs to defend voting for Nader. No one. Given the other candidates in the race, it was the “moral” thing to do — if we have to insert that word in the mix. The people who do need to defend themselves, however, are those who keep voting for the duopoly, from which all hell breaks out. The parties in power through our endless wars, our mass incarceration, our genocide of Native Americans, our slavery, our Jim Crow laws, our illegal coups, and our state-sanctioned oppression of women, minorities, workers, the earth, etc. etc. . . . . were/are Republicans and Democrats, not Greens, or Socialists, or Communists, or Left-Anarchists, etc. etc.

I know it’s asking too much of you, Layman, because you refuse to think outside the two-party box. But you should at least consider who has been at the helm when all of this shit happens in America and to the world. It aint the Greens or any other alternative to the Duopoly. It’s Democrats and Republicans. And you know that going in.

492

js. 03.19.16 at 9:42 pm

The responsibility thing is kind of problematic though. Usually, if I am responsible for x and x turns out very, very badly, I am liable to face various sorts of consequences, I can (usually) be held at fault in one or more concrete ways. I am having trouble seeing how this would apply if individuals are responsible for the actions of the people they voted into office. It seems like an oddly anemic and inconsequential notion of responsibility.

(There’s also a different and more obscure sort of problem with the view that I am in some measure responsible for the actions of someone I voted for but in no measure responsible for the actions of someone I voted against, but we’ll let that one go.)

493

engels 03.19.16 at 9:53 pm

Usually, if I am responsible for x and x turns out very, very badly, I am liable to face various sorts of consequences, I can (usually) be held at fault in one or more concrete ways

This probably isn’t likely to improve the quality of the debate but fyi Osama bin Laden had some famous opinions on American and British voters’ collective responsibility for US and UK policy and the consequences they faced as a result. NB I don’t endorse them

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js. 03.19.16 at 10:07 pm

Yes, engels, I am aware (obviously).

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Jake 03.19.16 at 10:09 pm

js. @507
The negative consequences for this responsibility are minor for sure. People will think and maybe say bad things about you. They’ll ask you to repent. In extreme cases they may try to retaliate somehow.

Seems fairly minor as consequences go yet some people really want to avoid it.

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Ronan(rf) 03.19.16 at 10:09 pm

“You.Are.Full.Of.Shit.”

A person doesn’t have to agree with ze ks positions, or romanticise life in tribal Pakistan, or blame the United states for everything, to acknowledge that “tribal societies” (in terms of how relationships and politics are structured, what value people get from them, how local institutions evolve) are probably more complicated than your mindless posturing.
Though have a good day!

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engels 03.19.16 at 10:24 pm

Js. perhaps you’d agree that the notion of holding voters responsible for the governments they vote for needn’t be ‘anaemic and inconsequential’ then?

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js. 03.19.16 at 10:28 pm

@engels — I was limiting myself to possible same positions. But you are right, insane positions are certainly possible in this area (as in most).

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TM 03.19.16 at 10:58 pm

Val 438: “Is part of the problem that people have lowered expectations?”

Bingo.

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TM 03.19.16 at 11:03 pm

454: engels doesn’t strike me as a Marxist. But then, maybe somebody *should* write a thesis about our favorite troll.

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engels 03.19.16 at 11:09 pm

I love you too, TM

502

TM 03.19.16 at 11:16 pm

ks 483: “One of the key reasons why we won’t be seeing fascism in America, or any other country that permits the creation of political parties and universal suffrage, is that people in this select group of countries can make their voices heard.”

First the pol-sci, now the history experts. Can this thread get any more embarassing?

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engels 03.19.16 at 11:29 pm

And speaking of that, isn’t there also something wrong with telling the Democrats that you will vote for them no matter what, so long as the Republicans are worse? Doesn’t that give the Democrats an incentive to do what many of them want to do anyway, which is take the left votes for granted, and then move right?

I think you could be onto something.

504

TM 03.19.16 at 11:34 pm

RP 476: “I think it’s time to face up to the fact that voting is primarily a magical ritual”

Compare 340. It’s a question of attitude.

505

Rich Puchalsky 03.19.16 at 11:38 pm

The people writing in this thread are collectively committing a grave injustice. What does one have to write in order to be criticized for “sneering” at democracy here? I ask you, people, does #462 not count?

Or perhaps I see the problem. It’s like being a pacifist and criticizing war. Even the most ardent warophile will pause for the ritual “I respect pacifists very much, but they are very much in the minority” before going back to plans for new and improved bombing.

I also dislike puppies and kittens.

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kidneystones 03.19.16 at 11:44 pm

@511 I agree with everything, but the ‘mindless’ and the ‘posturing.’ Who denied, btw, that tribal societies don’t provide structure and order. They’re just not democratic, and retaining power in these societies often involves violence, often against women. Which is how an actual real live Pakistani civil servant explained village stoning to me and a few friends a decade, or so ago, when I actually, you know, asked.

I doubt you’re cool with stoning, or shooting 15 year old girls in the face for trying to go to school, but given your romantic description of high-infant mortality rates, illiteracy, lack of mobility, and general ignorance of what’s taking place in the 21st century the uncharitable might believe you do.

You should see the movie, btw, everyone should. You’d like it! There’s nothing like watching a 15-year old girl teaching her middle-aged mother to read a book on camera as these ‘tribal’ people adjust to life in Birmingham. That and listening to the other children shot in the attack helps put ‘tribal’ life in sharp focus. Talk about courage.

Glad we can be friends.

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kidneystones 03.19.16 at 11:49 pm

@517. You could break out your pocket calculator.

Rest assured I’ll continue to do my tiny part to lower the general tenor.

So little time, so many to disappoint.

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js. 03.20.16 at 12:25 am

TM @517 — What poli sci? I feel like this thread could actually use a bit of poli sci (not that I am political scientist).

(Meanwhile, I did want to respond to Jake @510 more seriously. Still hope to!)

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engels 03.20.16 at 1:52 am

The responsibility thing is kind of problematic though. Usually, if I am responsible for x and x turns out very, very badly, I am liable to face various sorts of consequences, I can (usually) be held at fault in one or more concrete ways. I am having trouble seeing how this would apply if individuals are responsible for the actions of the people they voted into office. It seems like an oddly anemic and inconsequential notion of responsibility.

Fwiw I don’t thinkt his is right anyway. The idea that moral responsibility requires some legal system of punishment for severe failure seems implausible to me on its face. About the analysis of moral responsibility I know next to nothing but according to SEP mainstream philosophical approaches fall into two categories: ‘accountability’ (is the agent an appropriate candidate for reactive attitudes, such as resentment) and ‘attributibility’ (does the agent’s action disclose her evaluative judgments) views. I can’t see anything problematic about voting under either of these – can you? Or did you have something else in mind?

510

Val 03.20.16 at 2:15 am

Layman@ 502
I wasn’t talking about what the President could do though, I was talking about what people on CT could do, given that there does seem to be some common ground – basically the current political system in the US is not democratic (whatever the limits of democracy). I was suggesting people here could work together to build a case for change, given that many here are at least in some sense public intellectuals.

I think it illustrates the problem of lowered expectations that people on CT seem to prefer fighting with each other in a quite nihilistic and defeatist way than consider the possibility of working together for change. I know there’s empirical evidence the US political system is stuffed – or more formally, that legislative change reflects the influence of powerful vested interests rather than the views or wishes of the population. However theoretically you could respond to that by trying to make a case for change.

511

js. 03.20.16 at 2:35 am

engels @525 — Look, I chose my words carefully. I didn’t say “moral responsibility”; I said “responsibility”. And I said “responsibility” because the people on this thread that I was responding to were saying that voters bear (some) “responsibility” (not “moral responsibility”) for the actions of elected officials that they helped put into office by voting for them. For what it’s worth, I don’t think that view is crazy; I do think that under existing circumstances, it’s wrong.

(And surely, the sense of “responsibility” at issue here is that of accountability—it’s the only one that allows invocations of blame, and if you read the comments where this is at issue, “responsibility” is invariably tied to “blame”.)

What I do think is that under better (though not necessarily “ideal”) forms of democratic government, citizens (again, choosing my words carefully) would be responsible, at least in some significant measure, for the actions of the government. But under actually existing democracy, so to speak, I think it’s, well, unfair to hold individuals responsible (morally or otherwise) for the actions of governments.

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Plume 03.20.16 at 2:51 am

js. @527,

Layman may not be on the list of people you were responding to, but he used the term “morally culpable” in several posts. To be more specific: His assertion was/is that Nader voters in 2000 were “morally culpable” for Bush’s future actions, because their votes supposedly led to Bush’s victory — even though they didn’t. That each lone voter who cast their ballot for Nader is to be blamed for what Bush did while in office. That’s been the thrust of the argument for several people here, which they want to use as a blunt instrument to guilt people into voting for Hillary — or we get Trump. For them, a vote for Jill Stein, for example, means that voter will be “morally culpable” for the actions Trump takes.

So it’s not even just a matter of your voting for the person who actually wins. We’re supposedly “morally culpable” for the indirect effects of our vote. Third Party voters are supposedly to be blamed for the actions of persons they don’t even vote for!

It’s absurd enough to suggest “moral culpability” for those who do cast their ballots for X president who actually wins. But to blame those who cast them for someone else?

This thread went down the rabbit hole long ago.

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js. 03.20.16 at 3:03 am

OK. I realize I need to retract a bit of @527. This bit:

I said “responsibility” because the people on this thread that I was responding to were saying that voters bear (some) “responsibility” (not “moral responsibility”)

They were saying “moral responsibility” and conceptual cognates left and right. I don’t think this changes the rest of what I was saying.

514

Jake 03.20.16 at 3:31 am

js, what would be better about the democracies you envision that would allow people to bear responsibility for the results of their votes? For instance under our current first past the post winner take all democracy I don’t think it’s reasonable to assign responsibility for everything a politician does; only for the difference between what the elected politician and the next best realistic alternative.

And it’s moral or social responsibility is the only thing that makes sense here; no one is suggesting that if someone votes for a politician who bans abortions that you have a legal obligation to adopt unwanted babies. But they should acknowledge (to themselves if no one else) that the unwanted children were partly their doing. It’s exactly this sort of moral responsibility that Plume is trying to avoid.

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LFC 03.20.16 at 3:46 am

js. @524
TM @517 — What poli sci? I feel like this thread could actually use a bit of poli sci (not that I am political scientist).

I took TM’s remark, rightly or wrongly, to be a dig at my reference upthread to Levitsky & Way, both of whom are political scientists. It was on a side pt however, not connected to the main argument about voting.

On that a more pertinent poli sci — or political theory — reference might be Richard Tuck’s bk on free riding. FTR, I have only glanced at it (a long time ago) and I have not read Levitsky & Way’s bk on competitive authoritarianism (though I am slightly acquainted w Levitsky). When all else fails, drop names. ;)

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LFC 03.20.16 at 3:54 am

p.s. On the substantive issue, I tend to agree w/ js. @527.

517

js. 03.20.16 at 4:06 am

And it’s moral or social responsibility is the only thing that makes sense here; no one is suggesting that if someone votes for a politician who bans abortions that you have a legal obligation to adopt unwanted babies.

Well, sure. But that’s not the kind of problem I had in mind. And I’m also not sure what “moral or social responsibility” is supposed to mean here. The basic problem, as I see it, is this:

I think, and for the sake of argument I’m going to assume you agree, that GWB and others in his administration are guilty of war crimes. (Democratic presidents too, yes, so adapt this as you please.) If you (the general “you”) want to say that voters for a (presidential) candidate are in some measure responsible for the actions of that president’s administration, then it is really not at all clear to me how you block the inference that voters for GWB are in the aggregate responsible for war crimes, with all that that implies. But I think that in our actually existing form of government (in the US), there’s simply not enough accountability for elected officials to their electors to allow that inference. (Sorry if that’s a little obscure; it’s late and I was already hoping to be watching some ’40s Hollywood.)

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Plume 03.20.16 at 4:07 am

Jake @530,

“And it’s moral or social responsibility is the only thing that makes sense here; no one is suggesting that if someone votes for a politician who bans abortions that you have a legal obligation to adopt unwanted babies. But they should acknowledge (to themselves if no one else) that the unwanted children were partly their doing. It’s exactly this sort of moral responsibility that Plume is trying to avoid.”

It’s not a matter of me trying to avoid anything. What you insist upon simply doesn’t exist. There is no moral link, whatsoever, between a single vote in an election for president and the actions of said president after he or she wins. That moral link becomes less than zero when a person doesn’t even vote for the person who wins — which is the case when it comes to Bush 2000/2004. It goes from zero to less than zero. When a person chooses to vote outside the duopoly, they are even less “responsible” for the actions of a Democratic or Republican president, because they voted against the duopoly, period, and individual voters who vote inside the duopoly aren’t “responsible,” either. The person in power is. The persons with actual power are. Those who actually hold the levers of power and use them are, not individual rank and file voters whom presidents and congress critters ignore anyway.

Again, there is nothing to “avoid” here. It’s all in your imagination, and in Layman’s, and in anyone else’s who believes as you do. You’ve created an absurd link which simply doesn’t exist outside of your warped sense of cause and effect. And I’m guessing you’re so insistent on your fiction because it likely makes you feel superior. Delusions of grandeur are never a good thing, but they’re especially troublesome when they come from holier than thou fantasies.

Seek help. Seriously. Seek help.

519

js. 03.20.16 at 4:09 am

LFC — Ah, thanks! I did also mention “collective action problems” upthread. I should read more about free riding at some point, am oddly fascinated by it.

520

Plume 03.20.16 at 4:16 am

In short: It’s down the rabbit hole nonsense to try to hold individual voters “morally culpable” for the actions of a president, period, but especially for a president they despise and didn’t vote for. Especially for a party they despise and didn’t vote for. Especially for an entire political ideology they despise and do not support.

It’s among the all-time most ridiculous suggestions I’ve ever seen at CT. Easily.

521

Jake 03.20.16 at 4:57 am

js @533 –

War crimes are a legal construct, not moral or social. So yeah, it doesn’t make sense to try to squeeze all Americans into the witness stand in the Hague or whatever. But people who helped put GWB in office should feel some responsibility for his administration.

Now what should one do if they feel like they’ve violated a moral responsibility? Acknowledge that they fucked up, feel guilty, try not to do it again, make amends if feasible, do penance if not. Right?

Are these reasonable things to ask of people who voted for GWB or otherwise helped put him in office? It doesn’t seem like much to ask for.

522

dr ngo 03.20.16 at 5:27 am

NB: This is not addressed to anyone in particular; I’ve long since lost track of who said what:

In the privacy of the ballot box, vote the way you want. Or don’t vote. It probably doesn’t matter. Those who said the significance of a single vote was almost infinitesimally small are generally right. (Though one Tuesday afternoon forty years ago my wife and I decided to vote in spite of the rain, and the candidate for mayor we both voted for won the election by exactly one vote. Go figure.)

But when you publicly articulate who you are voting for, or against, and why, you are trying to up the ante. You are trying to convince others that your choice is the best one, and thus multiply the infinitesimally small into some number of finite (though still small) weight in the process. If you only do this on Crooked Timber, it still matters little; there are few enough of us, scattered over a wide enough number of countries, states, precincts, constituencies, that even if – to reduce ad absurdum absolutum – everyone on CT actually agreed on a voting (or non-voting) strategy, it would probably change nothing.

Yet I suspect most of us, particularly the more outspoken, do not limit our/their opinions to this particular forum. We let our views be known to family and neighbors, we write letters and opine in public forum, we expose the entire Internet to our wisdom. And thus we potentially bear greater responsibility than our single individual vote implies.

If you go into the polling booth and vote for X, and s/he wins, your responsibility is little; if you don’t bother to vote, and Y wins, it is even less. If, however, by your speech and writings and actions prior to the election you have managed to persuade others to do the same, it increases marginally. If you are one of those (I certainly am not) who is an “influencer,” it may even be significant; if you help to convince thousands upon thousands of potential voters not to show up, you have affected the election.

And if you’re not trying to persuade others, why are you commenting here?

523

Collin Street 03.20.16 at 6:06 am

> War crimes are a legal construct, not moral or social.

524

Collin Street 03.20.16 at 6:13 am

To include my actual content:
+ drawing a dichotomy between “legal” and “social” is so thoroughly misconstrued as to baffle [the legal system being a part of society and acknowledged as same by society, all legal constructs are inescapably social ones]
+ a legal construct can only be governed by “laws”, which would mean that the boundaries and thus the existence of the category are governed by same. Which would mean that genocide, prisoner-killing, etc could be made legal by appropriate legislation as set out in the administrative structures of the polity, which is… not a position that’s had much traction for seventy-odd years.

525

Jake 03.20.16 at 6:22 am

The distinction was meant to show that the inability to meaningfully prosecute an entire nation for war crimes (do you agree that this is impossible?) doesn’t mean that the nation has no moral responsibility for them.

526

js. 03.20.16 at 6:48 am

War crimes are a legal construct, not moral or social. So yeah, it doesn’t make sense to try to squeeze all Americans into the witness stand in the Hague or whatever. But people who helped put GWB in office should feel some responsibility for his administration.

I really, honestly do understand the impulse to say this. I also still think it’s not right.

(1) I’m really not comfortable with “feel some responsibility”; that seems unhelpfully subjective to me. I can talk about whether (I think) people are, or should be held, responsible (in one sense or another) for the actions of officials I elected.

(2) I don’t think the legal construct vs. moral category can do the kind of work you want it to. So, for example, forget war crimes; let’s say murder. I think it’s fair to say that the Bush administration (to take an easy example) is guilty of the murder of innocents (through certain complicated institutional mechanisms, sure—but I will say that about the GWB administration; I won’t say it about the people, as an aggregate, who voted GWB).

The point is: moral responsibility for what? Moral responsibility “for the administration” is a sort of placeholder until one specifies the actions, or kinds of actions, that the people supposed to be responsible for. And I do think that once you start specifying those actions, you can’t make the responsibility lighter by adding “moral” as a qualifier.

527

js. 03.20.16 at 6:56 am

…And the other thing is: if we take democratic legitimacy seriously (as this view seems to require), I don’t think the people who voted against or didn’t vote at all should get off so easily.

528

Jake 03.20.16 at 7:12 am

It is unsatisfyingly subjective, but so is politics, right?

Anyway, murder. It’s pretty clear that the international cocaine leads to lots of people getting murdered. There’s a non-zero connection between someone buying coke in New York and a reporter getting killed by the Zetas in Mexico. The family of that reporter is entitled to be pissed at the person buying coke in New York. The person buying coke should probably ponder the effect of their life choices on others. But we don’t say that they should be charged in relation to the murder, do we?

As to responsibility for what: let’s go with the invasion and subsequent disaster in Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the Bankruptcy Act, the tax cuts and associated trillion dollar deficit, and John Roberts / Samuel Alito enabled gutting of the ACA. Can’t people who voted for GWB have a vague and minor responsibility for these things?

529

Jake 03.20.16 at 7:24 am

I don’t think the people who voted against or didn’t vote at all should get off so easily.

This is totally correct. I think that there’s a range of responsibilities; some people quit their job to go door-to-door against Bush in a swing state they didn’t live in, some people voted for Al Gore, some people didn’t find the energy to vote because they had more pressing personal issues to deal with, some people didn’t vote because they didn’t see a difference between Bush and Gore, and some people thought that Bush would be dramatically worse than Gore but voted for Nader anyway because they didn’t want to compromise their principles.

530

ZM 03.20.16 at 10:58 am

js.

“(1) I’m really not comfortable with “feel some responsibility”; that seems unhelpfully subjective to me. I can talk about whether (I think) people are, or should be held, responsible (in one sense or another) for the actions of officials I elected.
….
The point is: moral responsibility for what? Moral responsibility “for the administration” is a sort of placeholder until one specifies the actions, or kinds of actions, that the people supposed to be responsible for. And I do think that once you start specifying those actions, you can’t make the responsibility lighter by adding “moral” as a qualifier.”

I think there are different stages of responsibility:

1. Citizens have the responsibility to vote for a candidate they think is most fit to hold and carry out he duties of the office (president, congress-person, senator)

2. the office holder has the responsibility to fulfil the duties of the office during the term as trustee of the public good

3. Citizens have some sort of responsibility between elections to do civic activities to ensure office holders carry out their duties eg. letter writing, meetings with elected office holders, demonstrations etc

531

ZM 03.20.16 at 11:01 am

I think foreign affairs is the most difficult here, because neither citizens or office holders would appear to have responsibilities to foreign jurisdictions and their citizens, but maybe these responsibilities are invoked through membership of international bodies like the UN and the Commonwealth

532

TM 03.20.16 at 12:19 pm

Jesus, that was sarcastic, I wasn’t seriously blaming pol sci for our amateur discussion of democracy here (although you are right if you deduce that I don’t generally respect pol sci much). My actual point was against kidneystones, who seriously claimed that fascism has never appeared in countries with multi-party elections, in case that point got lost.

Btw Ze K is obviously totally correct, not that I expected to write this. Of course,“precisely because of “export of democracy” anti-American extremist movements gain support”.

533

TM 03.20.16 at 12:21 pm

Re all the responsibility back and forth: do you see now that maybe it would have helped to focus on political outcomes (and perhaps how we can get better ones) rather than fighting over who is to blame?

534

engels 03.20.16 at 12:47 pm

The point is: moral responsibility for what?

Official actions they took as part of their mandate from you

535

engels 03.20.16 at 12:53 pm

(Perhaps – I think this is a complicated issue and as with other CT threads don’t really understand the righteous abuse it is provoking on both sides)

536

engels 03.20.16 at 1:02 pm

Examples
1. I vote for Clegg because he says he’ll scrap uni fees. He raises them. Maybe I’m not responsible.
2. I vote for Trump because he says he’ll build a wall to keep out Mexicans. He does. Maybe I’m (partly) responsible.

537

Plume 03.20.16 at 2:20 pm

TM @550,

Yes. That is what should happen. Voter scolds are missing the forest and the trees.

. . . .

Another factor here: My guess is most of the voter scolds voted for Gore in 2000. So their post-election, blame-game crusade seems incredibly self-serving — to add to their sense of holier than thouness, etc. etc. . OTOH, I defend Nader voters in Florida, but have never been a resident in that state, and my own state negated all Gore votes, because, electoral college. None counted, effectively. I didn’t vote for Bush in 2000 or 2004. But a Gore vote wouldn’t have meant a thing in my state. It was as if no one voted for Gore there.

But the real issue to me, aside from the absurdity of holding individual voters responsible for the future actions of politicians (who couldn’t care less about them), is the perpetuation of the duopoly. Anyone who believes that voting entails “moral culpability” shouldn’t be voting for either Democrats or Republicans, strategically or not. The record of the Democrats has been almost as abysmal as the Republicans, for decades, and you don’t fight right-wing idiocy by offering up kinder, gentler right-wing idiocy, which has been their norm since the 1960s. The only way to fight right-wing idiocy is with left-wing sanity and good sense. You don’t get that with the Democratic Party. You have to go outside of it for that.

538

engels 03.20.16 at 2:42 pm

Fwiw I think Plume’s argument – I can’t be responsible because if I hadn’t voted, the result would have been the same – is the strongest but I don’t think it’s valid. Compare: 10 men stab J to death. If B had’t joined in, J would still have died. Was B then not responsible? Neither law nor common sense would say this…

539

ZM 03.20.16 at 2:48 pm

I always (mis)use statistics to think about how important my vote is.

According to the statistics of polls, about 1 in 1000 people will vote like me. Therefore if I don’t vote all my other 1 in 1000 voters like me won’t vote, if I vote for X all the other 1 in 1000 voters like me will vote for X, and if I vote for Y all the other 1 in 1000 voters like me will vote for Y.

This comforts me about how important my vote is, even if it is a misuse of statistics.

540

Plume 03.20.16 at 2:54 pm

Engels @556,

But you are talking about direct action — or its absence — with intentionality and potential for decisive action/inaction. In this case, life and death. The act of voting by the individual doesn’t entail any of that, at least not in the case presented by the voting scolds. The people who voted for Nader, for example, had no intention of enabling the Bush we saw after 9/11 (or prior to it). They couldn’t possibly know what he would do, or how events would unfold in the future, and they actually wanted Nader, not Bush, to be president. They had no way of knowing how their own, individual vote would impact the election, or how any future president would act — including Nader. Their individual vote wasn’t decisive. It can’t possibly be decisive when millions of other votes are in play as well.

No foreknowledge of effects or events. No foreknowledge even of how the election would turn out. No ability, whatsoever, to play a decisive role in any of this. The individual voters is so far removed from power, events, control over events, control over any outcomes, period, it’s just ludicrous to assign blame to them.

Your example is in another universe from voting.

541

Layman 03.20.16 at 3:36 pm

The gist of the ‘no moral responsibility for my vote’ argument seems to be that voting is an act or decision which is somehow different than any other act or decision. Perhaps this is so, but I haven’t seen an argument yet which explains clearly why it is so. The strongest arguments I’ve seen are 1) that a voter is a snowflake in a blizzard, what possible difference could one snowflake make?, and 2) that the voter can’t know the outcome of the vote, ‘outcome’ meaning anything from result of the election to the actions of the elected.

I don’t find either of these particularly convincing. Even if we accept the premises (more on that later), we would not grant either as a reason for a moral pass if you joined a violent mob, e.g. what difference could one more person have made, and how could I have known those people would be hurt? There are plenty of good examples one can bring up where we would not accept either of them as a moral defense.

And we shouldn’t accept them as premises anyway. Neither 1 nor 2 even consistently describe the circumstances. Often polls show us a very close election (so we know our own vote is especially important to the outcome), and we cast that vote precisely to impact the outcome. Often politicians running for office promise to do a thing and, when elected, try to do that thing. So we cast our vote with an intent (among others) of achieving that thing.

Most of those arguing that the vote is meaningless paradoxically offer up a meaning or motivation for their own votes. They voted in order to achieve what was, to them, some higher good purpose. Their vote could result in funding for a third party. Their vote could deliver a message of dissatisfaction to one or both parties. Their vote could serve as an example to others, building support for change. Their vote could destroy the system.

So, while they argue that no vote is morally consequential, they cast their own vote because they thought it was consequential. They cast it with the intent of creating an outcome, and if they had created that outcome (e.g. Green Party gets federal election funding) they would no doubt take pride in that vote, which is to say, they would gain satisfaction from achieving their desired result and believe their action to have been both consequential and right. If anything, they seem to feel their action was right regardless of whether they achieved the outcome they wanted. I can’t separate their sense of satisfaction with their vote from the idea they feel their vote to have been right, which is to say, moral.

They don’t really seem to believe that their vote was a random, meaningless, inconsequential act. They didn’t toss a coin to make their choice, which, if every vote is an inconsequential, meaningless stab in the dark, is the only sensible thing to do. They articulate an argument for why they did what they did, what they hoped to achieve. Make of that what you will.

542

engels 03.20.16 at 3:38 pm

Just to be clear, I’m not taking about the Nader voters specifically. I think there are a range of cases. Holding Nader voters responsible for eg. the “war on terror” seems to me tenuouys; holding someone who voted for Bush because she wanted to see such policies enacted seems to me less so.

543

engels 03.20.16 at 3:44 pm

“voted for Bush” ie. in 2004

544

Layman 03.20.16 at 3:47 pm

@ engels, I agree. GWB voters (or non-Gore voters) in 2000 could not have known Bush would invade Iraq. They could have predicted what sort of judges he would nominate, what sort of team he would build, what he would do with tax laws, etc.

545

Plume 03.20.16 at 4:07 pm

Layman @559,

“I don’t find either of these particularly convincing. Even if we accept the premises (more on that later), we would not grant either as a reason for a moral pass if you joined a violent mob, e.g. what difference could one more person have made, and how could I have known those people would be hurt? There are plenty of good examples one can bring up where we would not accept either of them as a moral defense.”

Again, like Engels, you pose an example of direct action/inaction, in which the people involved can clearly see the impact of their actions. If one joins a violent mob, he or she sees the effects right away. It isn’t about remote possibilities out of their control and unknown to them at the time. They see other people in that violent mob beating people, setting things on fire, and it’s more than apparent that others could be directly hurt or even killed. Joining a violent mob means, at the very least, one is accepting violent conditions in the here and now.

An individual vote, for first-time presidents? Though, if you do vote for Democrats or Republicans, you know going in that both parties carry the banner of American Empire, so there will be blood is a given. But you refuse to admit that part into your argument, right?

Boiled down, your argument depends upon reading back into November of 2000 the events that transpired in 2001 or later. It all rests on 20/20 hindsight and the rather convenient absence of what a Gore alternative might have entailed. As has already been mentioned, the voter in 2000 had no way of actually knowing who would be better or worse. It is absolutely impossible to know. Though I highly doubt it, Gore could have caused far more harm to far more people than Bush, and those who voted for Bush likely thought in those terms. From where I sit, your argument rests on the absurd premise that people in November of 2000 should have known what Bush would do, as a first-time president, before it even happened . . . . and you luckily don’t have to deal with the alternative . . . . that Gore could have been worse.

Beyond all of that, you don’t seem willing to acknowledge that it’s not just a matter of “the lesser evil.” If you vote for the duopoly at all, Democrat or Republican, it’s a perpetuation of “evil” in some form, because both parties have been at the helm for pretty much all of it — with rare exceptions for short-lived parties, etc. They both have that history, jointly held. Not just one of the two. Both. The Greens, Americans socialists or communists, left-anarchists, etc. etc. . . . . they don’t share that burden of guilt. They have never held power in America. The duopoly obviously has. If there is “moral culpability” to be delegated here, it’s for people who perpetuate the duopoly, not for those who vote to stop the insanity.

546

Layman 03.20.16 at 4:17 pm

I wrote this:

“Most of those arguing that the vote is meaningless paradoxically offer up a meaning or motivation for their own votes. They voted in order to achieve what was, to them, some higher good purpose. Their vote could result in funding for a third party. Their vote could deliver a message of dissatisfaction to one or both parties. Their vote could serve as an example to others, building support for change. Their vote could destroy the system.

So, while they argue that no vote is morally consequential, they cast their own vote because they thought it was consequential. They cast it with the intent of creating an outcome, and if they had created that outcome (e.g. Green Party gets federal election funding) they would no doubt take pride in that vote, which is to say, they would gain satisfaction from achieving their desired result and believe their action to have been both consequential and right. If anything, they seem to feel their action was right regardless of whether they achieved the outcome they wanted. I can’t separate their sense of satisfaction with their vote from the idea they feel their vote to have been right, which is to say, moral.”

Plume replies with this:

“If you vote for the duopoly at all, Democrat or Republican, it’s a perpetuation of “evil” in some form, because both parties have been at the helm for pretty much all of it — with rare exceptions for short-lived parties, etc. They both have that history, jointly held. Not just one of the two. Both. The Greens, Americans socialists or communists, left-anarchists, etc. etc. . . . . they don’t share that burden of guilt. They have never held power in America. The duopoly obviously has. If there is “moral culpability” to be delegated here, it’s for people who perpetuate the duopoly, not for those who vote to stop the insanity.”

I rest my case.

547

Plume 03.20.16 at 4:24 pm

Layman @564,

You don’t have a case to rest. My response is to your insistence that there is “moral culpability” involved. As in, I am arguing (in that case) using your own premise, which I’ve already said I reject absolutely.

IOW, even if we allow for your premise, even if we go with it for a walk, we see, after just a few steps how ridiculous it is. And you won’t even acknowledge how it all backfires for you. And it does.

Oh, well. I tried.

548

engels 03.20.16 at 4:25 pm

I am proud to accept my share of responsibility for thus

549

js. 03.20.16 at 4:39 pm

I think this is a complicated issue

I agree.

550

Anarcissie 03.20.16 at 5:11 pm

engels 03.20.16 at 2:42 pm @ 556 —
I think your example might show what I meant when I said that while a vote does not change the outcome of a large election, it changes the voter. The voter becomes an ally, an accomplice, however minor. One might generally feel that one had no choice but to choose between criminals, but there could be a limit, a crime, which one could not pass over. For instance, it is certain that in modern war, innocent, harmless people will be killed. A person who helped start such a war as a matter of political calculation is, then, a person who murders in cold blood. One might feel one could not be the accomplice of such a person, even if the alternative might be worse. One might reject such a choice. Or, if one accepted the choice, find oneself among those who make the calculations of Stalin and Albright — ‘… it’s a statistic’, ‘We think it is worth it.’

551

Jake 03.20.16 at 5:19 pm

Plume – this “it is absolutely impossible to know” stuff is a dishonest cop-out.

It was absolutely impossible for GWB to know that the Iraqi people wouldn’t rise up and greet him as their liberator. It was impossible for GWB to know that a bunch of random Heritage Foundation interns would fuck up the running of the country. When Henry II said “will no one rid me of this troublesome priest” it was impossible for him to know that someone would actually kill Thomas Becket. When someone votes for Jill Stein it’s impossible for them to know that 200 million other Americans aren’t going to vote for her also.

Yet anyone who honestly thinks about the situation would realize that these are the likely outcomes.

552

Plume 03.20.16 at 5:38 pm

Jake @569,

“Plume – this “it is absolutely impossible to know” stuff is a dishonest cop-out.”

No. I’m being perfectly honest when I say that with respect to individual rank and file voters. There is nothing dishonest about it, nor is it a copout. Your view of things has no basis in the real world and exists solely inside your little voter-scolding head.

You, however, are being, at best, disingenuous when you try to present individual rank and file voters as equal to Bush in “moral responsibility” — for Bush’s own actions!!

Step back and think about that, Jake. Step back and ponder what you’re trying to do here. You’re actually trying to put people who voted Third Party in 2000 on the same (“moral responsibility”) level as Bush. As if they had any control over the outcome of the election, or any control over the doings of any president once they were in office. As if a single voter is just as responsible for Bush’s war crimes as he is — and to top it all off, you want to tag the people who didn’t even vote for Bush with this “moral responsibility.”

It’s beyond asinine to the nth degree.

Give a rest, Jake.

553

Layman 03.20.16 at 5:52 pm

“You’re actually trying to put people who voted Third Party in 2000 on the same (“moral responsibility”) level as Bush.”

This yet another falsehood. No one has said this.

554

geo 03.20.16 at 5:56 pm

Layman @559: You address two arguments for not ascribing more than infinitesimal, negligible responsibility for Bush’s election to any individual Nader voter. (I assume you agree with me that collective responsibility has no meaning in this case, since, as I pointed out back @180 or so, one person’s vote has zero probability of affecting anyone else’s, unlike the act of joining a violent mob — your example — which does affect others’ choices to do so or not.) I agree with you that the second argument, that no one can foresee the results of electing one candidate rather than another, is invalid. But the first argument, that the odds against one vote determining the result of a presidential election are so high that any voter is morally entitled to disregard it, is not vanquished by your counter-argument that “often polls show us a very close election (so we know our own vote is especially important to the outcome), and we cast that vote precisely to impact the outcome.” For one thing, in a winner-take-all election that is decided by more than one vote, one’s own vote has no impact whatever. The winner is legally, even if not morally, entitled to act as if elected unanimously. (Which is essentially what Bush/
Cheney did.) For another thing, no “very close election” with a hundred million voters has ever been decided by one vote, and the chance that it would be remains, as far as I can see, infinitesimal. Your argument might still be valid if voting were literally and entirely costless — I don’t mean virtually, I mean absolutely, which is of course physically impossible. Otherwise even an infinitesimal cost (or lost benefit — in this case, the benefit of advancing the prospects for third-party funding) would justify either not voting or voting for someone else. Your “aha!” directed at those who “offer up a meaning or motivation for their own votes” while at the same time recognizing that the material consequences of their individual vote are negligible falls flat, I think.

Plume @534: Seek help. Seriously. Seek help.

As your ideological comrade, I urge you not to adopt this tone, whatever the provocation. It hurts the cause.

555

Layman 03.20.16 at 6:18 pm

@ Geo

“For one thing, in a winner-take-all election that is decided by more than one vote, one’s own vote has no impact whatever.”

I don’t agree that this is the case. Every vote counts toward the winning tally, and every non-vote counts toward the winning margin, whether the non-vote is wasted on a non-viable candidate or simply not cast at all. Given that, this:

“For another thing, no “very close election” with a hundred million voters has ever been decided by one vote, and the chance that it would be remains, as far as I can see, infinitesimal. “

…is I think moot.

If you can articulate a reason for voting for Nader in 2000 (e.g. “I wanted to achieve federal funding for the Green Party”) then you thought your vote had the power to make that so. Else, why bother with reasons or voting at all? Further, if you believed that your vote had potential consequences for the good, then you believe any vote can at least potentially have consequences for good and, obviously, bad. Once there, the argument against lesser-evilism becomes hard to maintain. I take Rich P’s point that, in a state where the outcome is not really in doubt, there is no downside to lodging a protest vote (or non-vote), but that was not the case in Florida in 2000.

I’ll add that I didn’t bring this topic up, and I don’t believe I’ve ever engaged in an argument about Nader voters before. It’s not something I’ve spent any time lamenting. I just think the arguments I’ve seen put forward here in defense of that vote aren’t very convincing, I’m surprised to find that people don’t regret that vote at all, and I’m astonished that their defense is that votes are meaningless.

556

Layman 03.20.16 at 6:29 pm

@ Geo

On reflection, even this:

“one person’s vote has zero probability of affecting anyone else’s, unlike the act of joining a violent mob”

…strikes me as wrong. It is possible that no one Nader voter discussed Nader, or their intent to vote for Nader, or their reasons for so doing, with anyone else; but it seems unlikely in the extreme. That discussion recruits others to the same cause, or at least intends to do that, so one person’s voting intent can surely impact another’s.

557

geo 03.20.16 at 6:32 pm

Layman: I think moot
Well, I think schmoot!

I didn’t bring this topic up
You are exonerated.

558

engels 03.20.16 at 6:43 pm

collective responsibility has no meaning in this case, since, as I pointed out back @180 or so, one person’s vote has zero probability of affecting anyone else’s, unlike the act of joining a violent mob — your example — which does affect others’ choices to do so or not

I think that argument probably goes through for people who:
a) never talk about their voting preferences
b) aren’t members of political parties
c) refuse to take part in opinion polls

559

Jake 03.20.16 at 7:11 pm

Plume, my apologies for not writing in a perfectly clear manner. I’m not saying Nader voters are equivalent to GWB; or even that Bush voters are morally equivalent to GWB. They’re obviously not.

I do say that claiming lack of 100% certainty beforehand absolves one of all moral responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions is an argument used by supporters of GWB to justify their actions. And it’s bullshit.

560

Suzanne 03.20.16 at 7:29 pm

@555: For the record, since I guess I can reasonably be called one of the “voter scolds” – in 2000 I voted for Nader, since my state is a comfortable shade of blue. I disliked Gore (those of you who think HRC is an unappealing candidate, go check out some old Gore video. Yes, the press hated him, but he still had issues) and was disappointed, not to say angered, by aspects of the Clinton Administration. So as a protest meaningful mainly to myself, I did not vote for Gore. I’ve never been tempted to do any scolding, online or otherwise, of those who voted for Nader in Florida. Voting is important, but I agree with js. — that’s a ridiculous moral burden for any voter to bear in our system as it stands. I vote, and I pay my taxes, and my tax money goes toward many things that I abhor; that’s the price I pay for being a citizen of the American empire.

I might have done as those Florida Nader voters did, and if so, I’d feel pretty bad about it, rationally or not, and even with the knowledge that I couldn’t have anticipated exactly how awful GWB was going to be or that in this crazy instance my vote would actually make a difference in a national election.

It’s been a pretty long time since the parties could be called Tweedledum and Tweedledee with any justification, particularly on the domestic front. There are reasons why the GOP is fighting so hard to keep Obama from nominating a justice to replace Scalia.

561

js. 03.20.16 at 7:57 pm

ZM @547 — I’m sympathetic to this view, but it’s worth noting that in the US context, that’s going to seem like a rather demanding notion of responsibility to a lot of people (esp. (3)).

562

Plume 03.20.16 at 7:58 pm

Jake @577,

I never suggested voters need anything close to 100% certainty. But when it comes to voting for first-time presidents, they have close to none — other than, as mentioned, if Democrats or Republicans win, there will be blood. They both maintain the American empire, so that’s a given. There will be blood. That is a certainty. I can’t think of a single American president — from either party — who did not engage the nation in unnecessary violence, foreign and/or domestic. Not one. And I can’t think of a single American president — from either party — who did anything of significance to reduce the level of unnecessary violence he inherited. I’m honestly at a loss to name a single American president who could make that claim.

That said, going forward, thinking in terms of 2016 and beyond, when people consider the evils Bush perpetrated, and find themselves thinking how much better it would have been if Gore had been elected, they should also think about this:

The Republicans have all but shut down Obama for the last three years, and one could argue, for the vast majority of his time in office. His acquiescence in this is another story. But it’s at least fair to say the GOP has done everything in its power to obstruct Obama, including threats to shut down the government and defund all of his efforts. And what has Obama attempted to do that supposedly needs this obstruction? The most modest, cautious little efforts to maintain the status quo.

Now, compare what happened under Bush. Bush pushed for and won radical changes in policy and thrust this nation into two unnecessary wars, and there was no concerted Democratic obstruction, no threats to shut down the government, no attempt to defund the wars, etc. etc. There was no concerted attempt, even rhetorically, to block Bush from doing what he said he would do, after 9/11. The Dems rolled over and played dead, for all intents and purposes.

As in, this is the party you think would have made so much of a difference if it had been them and not Bush in 2000? Really? They allow their own president/Democratic agenda to be blocked by the GOP, when it’s oh so modest, but they can’t be bothered to obstruct a truly repellent, massively dangerous Bush agenda.

This is not the knight we should be choosing to ride in the tourney.

563

Plume 03.20.16 at 8:01 pm

geo @572,

Good advice acknowledged and appreciated. Will do my best, etc.

Layman @571,

Jake apologized for the lack of clarity which made it seem he was indeed equating the two. I have told no falsehoods here.

564

engels 03.20.16 at 8:11 pm

collective responsibility has no meaning in this case, since, as I pointed out back @180 or so, one person’s vote has zero probability of affecting anyone else’s, unlike the act of joining a violent mob — your example — which does affect others’ choices to do so or not

If so, it seems quite easy to tweak the mob example so this isn’t the case (they’ve already agreed or are in the process of carrying out a murder by multiple stabbings – you can join them or not…)

565

Layman 03.20.16 at 8:15 pm

@ Plume, that’s one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that you put words in his mouth, attributing it him things he didn’t say. As you have with me, multiple times in this thread. You repeatedly ignore what people say in favor of arguing against what you pretend they said. And, it seems you rarely (if ever) take responsibility for it, which is something of a theme. All of which is to say, I think you’re guilty of bad faith here, and I’m not really interested in discussing it with his further. That said, pointing out your bad faith is not discussing with you, and I’m happy to go on doing that when I see it, until you give it up.

566

Plume 03.20.16 at 8:20 pm

Suzanne @578,

I don’t see you as a voting scold at all. At least my own use of the term is for those who berate Nader voters — or Jill Stein voters — with the lesser LOTE’s bat. Going back to the beginnings of this argument, that Nader voters in Florida somehow gave us Bush — they didn’t . . . . and much ink has been spilled in this thread going back and forth about that, with no one budging, of course.

567

Plume 03.20.16 at 8:26 pm

Layman @583,

That’s so funny. You’re describing your own actions here to a T, not mine. Not mine at all.

So, feel free to point out your own bad faith and hypocrisy again and again, and if it makes you feel better to pin your own “issues” on me, go for it. For what it’s worth, you’re only making yourself look foolish.

But, as the young kids used to say, whatever.

568

Jake 03.20.16 at 8:38 pm

This is not the knight we should be choosing to ride in the tourney.

Instead we should go with someone who has never been able to get themselves elected to political office, much less do a good enough job to get re-elected. Because they offer us the promise of a better way forward and a reason why our current misfortune is not our fault. Sure, it’s never worked before, but this time we really want it to work and anyway we our righteousness will see us through.

This is exactly the mindset used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

And when it all goes horribly wrong the originators will come up with stories about how it’s not their fault and who could have known and we had to try, leaving the rest of us to clean up the pieces.

569

Plume 03.20.16 at 8:55 pm

Jake @587,

Your post is filled with so much that truly baffles, I don’t know where to start. Your premise is so wildly false, it boggles the imagination.

And this again? You’re trying to equate support for Third Parties with Bush war crimes. Sheesh! And then:

— “This is exactly the mindset used to justify the invasion of Iraq.”

Where on earth are you getting this from? What mindset? Please provide exact quotes in context. What on earth are you even talking about?

—- “And when it all goes horribly wrong the originators will come up with stories about how it’s not their fault and who could have known and we had to try, leaving the rest of us to clean up the pieces.”

Given that we’ve never, ever had a leftist president, or a leftist party in power, and that all the shit that hit the fan from the Civil War to the present happened under Republican and Democratic auspices, I think you really, really need to rethink your premise — and your wildly misplaced alarmism. For nearly two centuries, it’s been the Democrats and Republicans in DC, and we’ve had to “clean up the pieces” of their disastrous governance, world without end. And you, apparently, don’t see this as a problem.

570

Jake 03.20.16 at 9:08 pm

Saddam Hussein was a pretty evil man, and his rule was bad for the Iraqis. No one really questions this. GHWB and Bill Clinton both did not depose Saddam because they recognized that there were worse things that his continued rule, and that deposing him was likely to bring them about. GWB and his people disagreed; they thought that they could depose him and the Iraqi people would greet us as liberators and democracy would bloom across the country. When people questioned whether this was actually going to work, the response was always “but don’t you see that Saddam is bad?”

You believe that our current setup is so bad that someone you consider a suitably leftist president would have to be better. I think that a president that meets your approval would be far worse for the United States than a Democratic president, and probably even worse than a Republican. You never address this, only point out how everything bad has happened while a Democrat or Republican has been in office, so clearly something else would be better.

It’s the same rationale. “What we have now is bad, anything would be better, if you disagree with me you are either a moron or evil.” Now I think that some elements of the GWB administration were advancing this in bad faith while you probably believe what you’re saying, but it’s still the same rationale.

571

kidneystones 03.20.16 at 9:21 pm

@ 546 I read your short post carefully. I’m sorry to inform you that you failed to construct even one sentence that isn’t provably false. But because that kind of consistency is an accomplishment of sorts, I’ll break a personal rule and address your ‘point’, as you call it. If you’re talking about Afghanistan ‘Malala,’ you cannot conflate the response to democratic policies foisted at gunpoint by the corrupt US puppet government with universal suffrage, granted or won. So, I’ll stand on my point that nations with universal suffrage do not choose to become fascist. This really is good-bye. Which leads to…

@ 549 Never totally wrong (see above), your gaff is to seize on a detail and then insist or imply that if one part of an argument is provably false, we can and should ignore the entire offending comment. In this case, however, you’re calling me out on the universal suffrage argument. Fair enough. Only one country name needs to be on the list to ‘win’ – I’ll concede the Weimar Republic, happily. We can discuss why Weimar is a special case after you triumphantly whip out your long list of nations that have earned/won universal suffrage, and rejected universal suffrage for fascism. I can’t think of one.

572

Robespierre 03.20.16 at 9:49 pm

Italy?

573

bob mcmanus 03.20.16 at 10:00 pm

GWB and his people disagreed; they thought that they could depose him and the Iraqi people would greet us as liberators and democracy would bloom across the country.

That is what they said, or others said they said. It is not fact or history.

I personally believe they were lying. Better to be believed stupid than evil, and liberals since the Enlightenment pretty much stopped believing in evil, and love to call their enemies stupid, even as they are getting their asses whupped.

The long con demands you never go off-message. This is why you watch what people do, and even better what happens. Historical materialism doesn’t really require agency.

574

bruce wilder 03.20.16 at 10:12 pm

And, pointing out agency is automatically dismissed as “conspiracy theory”

575

TM 03.20.16 at 10:27 pm

ks, your comment about countries with universal suffrage never becoming fascist was obviously wrong. I didn’t get the impression that that claim was a “detail”, but if you will, why don’t you restate your argument without including obviously wrong claims.

576

bob mcmanus 03.20.16 at 10:54 pm

And, pointing out agency is automatically dismissed as “conspiracy theory”

Well, I have a lot fewer problems with those who believe in conspiracies than those who are selective with them, but that level of causality doesn’t matter to me that much. Although I will use conspiracy or agency rhetoric to reach people.

Halliburton made buchu bucks from the Iraq War. The lesson I take into and take from that is not Cheney with his buds studying oil maps in the WH basement, but something like late capitalism needs neo-imperialism to maintain profits and accumulation. If not Cheney, then somebody else.

This method loses some specific black hats, but the good news is that it loses the white hats as well.

So I don’t have to pay attention to what Obama and Clinton say about Libya or Iraq, but just know that “capital” really wants to get that gas pipeline from the Gulf to the North Coast of Turkey. And we get war and devastation. To say the problem is Bush or Cheney or Clinton is to descend into bourgeois moralism and liberalism and perpetuate the system.

I know I should personify or anthropomorphize abstractions, but in a way I don’t. Capitalist and imperialist logic is a material force, that realizes itself in the apparent agency of replaceable, even commodified actors.

577

Plume 03.20.16 at 11:04 pm

Jake @589,

Thanks. That was your most revealing post to date.

It’s pretty clear now that you believe these two things stem from “the same mindset.”

1. Peacefully voting for a third party candidate, in a legal, open election — who, btw, ran on an antiwar platform. If that person wins, a peaceful transfer of power will take place to the person who ran on an antiwar platform.

2. The unprovoked military invasion and occupation of Iraq, which led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and some five thousand American soldiers.

578

geo 03.20.16 at 11:18 pm

Bob @592: Completely agree (except that I don’t know, or care, what “agency” means).

579

Layman 03.20.16 at 11:31 pm

“Peacefully voting for a third party candidate, in a legal, open election — who, btw, ran on an antiwar platform. If that person wins, a peaceful transfer of power will take place to the person who ran on an antiwar platform.”

Also, too, ponies!

580

Jake 03.20.16 at 11:54 pm

Plume – you can’t imagine any way that a Jill Stein administration might turn out worse than a Hillary Clinton administration? Is it so remote a possibility that it’s not worth considering what might go wrong?

Have you ever considered the distinction between starting assumptions and the method of reasoning used from those starting assumptions? And that two people could have different starting assumptions, use the same method of reasoning, and arrive at different conclusions?

Do you consider yourself neurotypical?

581

kidneystones 03.20.16 at 11:56 pm

@591. Nope. Limited suffrage and easy to check, btw. but your a lot braver than TM.

@ 594. TM substantiate your claim or retract it. It’s that simple. You’re the one claiming I’m wrong. So, prove me wrong. Just pick any three countries that enjoyed universal suffrage and became fascist. Or just one. Maybe some of your pals can help you out. Or, you can just run away from your charge and accuse me of being ‘irrational’ for demanding ‘proof.’ As if.

The only facet of this discussion that’s becoming blindingly obvious, btw, is you appear to be completely full of shit on the topic of fascism and universal suffrage in addition to being too nutless to admit it.

582

Alan White 03.21.16 at 12:09 am

Wow. Perpetual motion may be illusory, but apparently not perpetual emotion!

What a thread!

Still, as I said waaaaay upthread, even if we’re doomed here in the US, Hillary is the least worst death, and a vote for her has that backhanded optimism going for it, unless one has an argument in favor of a Trump catalyst for cataclysm.

583

Donald 03.21.16 at 12:12 am

A Stein administration imposed on us by an Iraqi invasion ordered by Saddam Hussein would be worse than a Clinton administration, especially given that Saddam , being dead, would have to be a zombie.

So there’s that. Stein is incredibly unlikely to win an election for President in the current US , so it’s hard to imagine what would happen next and I thought it better to go with the more plausible zombie apocalypse theory.

584

Plume 03.21.16 at 12:20 am

Layman @598,

“Also, too, ponies!”

I described the typical voting process in America. Do you think that was too generous? Too pollyannish to say people who voted for Nader did so peacefully? Are you under the impression they were all throwing bombs before, during and after they pulled the lever?

(Not putting words in your mouth. I’m obviously being sarcastic to make a point.)

And the Green Party’s platform is antiwar. So what did I get wrong there, hmmm? What is it about my description that would lead to your (admittedly) silly, lame level of snark? Would you have made the same silly comment if it had been a description of a Gore voter and the peaceful transfer of power to him?

Also, too, ponies!! Right?

Come on. You’re floundering, desperately.

585

geo 03.21.16 at 12:25 am

Donald @602: I agree with you about the clear and present danger of an Iraqi invasion, led by a zombie Saddam and employing weapons of mass destruction. But why would he impose a puppet Stein administration rather than, say, a Kristol administration? After all, if Stalin had successfully invaded the US, he would have sent I.F. Stone to a concentration camp in the Nevada desert but would definitely have found much use for J. Edgar Hoover.

586

Plume 03.21.16 at 12:27 am

Jake @599,

“Plume – you can’t imagine any way that a Jill Stein administration might turn out worse than a Hillary Clinton administration? Is it so remote a possibility that it’s not worth considering what might go wrong?”

Now you’ve backtracked wildly and moved the goal posts. You’re asking something completely different now.

Your previous assertions weren’t that a Jill Stein administration or a Nader admin back in 2000 might have turned out worse than the alternative. You weren’t suggesting that those of us who vote Third Party “consider” that something might go wrong. You basically said they would be cataclysmic, and you flat out claimed that the same mindset used to rationalize the invasion and occupation of Iraq was in play when Americans vote Third Party.

Jake, I’m done with this. I have no desire to continue our dialogue.

587

Robespierre 03.21.16 at 12:35 am

@600:
Look, there aren’t that many examles of properly fascist governments. One very prominent one clearly got to power in a country with universal suffrage. Italy pretty clearly also had universal male suffrage. Austria was not properly fascist and operated a sort of self-coup, but again, there are pretty few examples of “proper” fascism.
How about you stop defending an indefensible point?

588

LFC 03.21.16 at 1:00 am

bob mcmanus @592
Historical materialism doesn’t really require agency.

mcmanus seems to adhere to the most deterministic version of Marxism. What’s surprising is that geo says he agrees. Geo’s hero Chomsky has no doubt written about the crimes of, e.g., Nixon and Kissinger. Would it be Chomsky’s position that Kissinger’s worldview, beliefs, personality, and modus operandi were completely determined by the material forces at a particular historical conjuncture, such that the identity of Nixon’s natl security adviser and sec. of state didn’t matter? I doubt it. Yet
that is the consequence of mcmanus’s view with which geo says he agrees.

589

js. 03.21.16 at 1:11 am

590

Val 03.21.16 at 1:15 am

TM @ 550 says:
Re all the responsibility back and forth: do you see now that maybe it would have helped to focus on political outcomes (and perhaps how we can get better ones) rather than fighting over who is to blame?

Then Plume supposedly agrees with TM, while calling other commenters “vote scolds”. And so the fight blunders on and on, getting more and more lost in the swamp.

Bob @ 595
Capitalist and imperialist logic is a material force, that realizes itself in the apparent agency of replaceable, even commodified actors.

Thank you for a clear statement, with which I agree. But I still say to you, that the origins of capitalism and imperialism go back to the historical development of patriarchal hierarchy and the material exploitation and enslavement of women and subordinate ‘races’. Getting rid of patriarchy and racism is essential to getting rid of capitalism and imperialism – it is a precondition, not an after-effect. For that reason, although it may sound counter-intuitive (I do see that) even electing a woman such as Hillary Clinton could contribute to these eventual goals, because it is not the individual woman that counts (indeed the first women elected are likely to be those that the system approves of) but getting a critical mass of women into the system in order to disrupt the patriarchal foundations of the system.

591

Donald 03.21.16 at 1:22 am

Looking at JS’s link reminded me of the immortal internet meme ” I am aware of all internet traditions.” I just want to correct the record on something misreported here–

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/i-am-aware-of-all-internet-traditions

I am the “Donald” that helpfully explained the meaning of ” shorter so and so” and there bye elicited the response that achieved immortality. It’s a pretty small claim to fame, but as my one indirect and lasting contribution to culture, I insist on what credit is due me.

592

Rich Puchalsky 03.21.16 at 1:27 am

Jake: “Do you consider yourself neurotypical?”

Um, what?

593

Val 03.21.16 at 1:32 am

Bob @ 595

Weber: politics arises from competition between men over “women, cattle, slaves [and] scarce land”.

The difference is that Weber thought that was an essential, a-historical fact about the nature of society, whereas I am saying it was the result of historical processes and that those historical processes underly the situation we find ourselves in today. There may not have been many societies which were peaceful and cooperative and in which women and men were equal, but there do appear to have been some.

So I am suggesting we could disrupt the situation by getting equal representation of women in power, and then we might be able to move towards peace and cooperation. As I’m saying, it’s counter-intuitive, and TBH if I was an American I probably couldn’t justify supporting Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders on these grounds myself, but it is still worth supporting women in principle.

Empirically, societies which have a higher proportion of women in public life have taken more action on climate change, for example (Ergas and York 2012)

594

geo 03.21.16 at 1:33 am

607: mcmanus seems to adhere to the most deterministic version of Marxism. What’s surprising is that geo says he agrees. Geo’s hero Chomsky has no doubt written about the crimes of, e.g., Nixon and Kissinger. Would it be Chomsky’s position that Kissinger’s worldview, beliefs, personality, and modus operandi were completely determined by the material forces at a particular historical conjuncture, such that the identity of Nixon’s natl security adviser and sec. of state didn’t matter? I doubt it. Yet
that is the consequence of mcmanus’s view with which geo says he agrees.

Interesting. Just before posting 597, I fell into a trance (happens to me all the time) and foresaw this very comment, word for word. I hastened to add the phrase in parentheses, sure that that would prevent misunderstanding. Sigh …

595

js. 03.21.16 at 1:43 am

I don’t know, or care, what “agency” means

@geo — Are you inclined to hold people responsible for their actions—people like, say Kissinger or Rumsfeld or Albright? (I mean look, I know that you know what “agency” means. I’m just sort of curious.)

596

Plume 03.21.16 at 1:43 am

Val @609,

” Getting rid of patriarchy and racism is essential to getting rid of capitalism and imperialism – it is a precondition, not an after-effect.”

Actually, no. Capitalism and imperialism would thrive quite nicely in the absence of both racism and patriarchy. I think you have it backwards. Getting rid of economic apartheid (capitalism) is a necessary precondition for getting rid of other apartheids — racial, gender, etc. etc — though we can and should work on these things at the same time.

If, for example, we diversify the 1%, and create perfect parity between genders, races, etc. etc. . . . we haven’t done a thing to alter the economic system, its coerced relationships, its coerced class divisions, its inequality between members of different classes. We haven’t altered any of the arbitrary (though extremely effective) incentives in place that ensure the top fights to stay on top, as it lords it over everyone else. And there is no evidence that women or minorities behave in a more egalitarian fashion once they’ve reached the top of the pyramid. They become a part of the Borg, like anyone else.

In short, we could have perfect legal equality between groups within the same class, but without ridding ourselves of capitalism, its neck-breaking hierarchies, its competitive laws of motion and its class divisions, we will never have equality for human beings.

597

Val 03.21.16 at 1:44 am

geo @ 613
I hastened to add the phrase in parentheses, sure that that would prevent misunderstanding. Sigh …

I found the phrase in parentheses totally mystifying :)

598

js. 03.21.16 at 1:49 am

@Donald — Wow! You elicited “I am aware of all internet traditions.” That is genuine Internet claim to fame. (I just think this should be acknowledged.)

599

Val 03.21.16 at 1:53 am

Plume @ 615

I thought someone might think I had it backwards. The point of my comment is that I don’t think I do have it backwards and I am asking you to consider the possibility that I don’t have it backwards, rather than just tell me I have it backwards.

Can you imagine a possible world in which women are equally represented at all levels of power and the economic system actually changes, because men have to do 50% of the caring and unpaid work, so it can no longer be taken for granted? I would rather change the mainstream economic system first, but it may be easier to do that when unpaid and caring work is no longer invisible to most male economists.

600

Val 03.21.16 at 1:55 am

@617
yeah me too.

601

Jake 03.21.16 at 1:57 am

RP @611
I work with some libertarians who use argument styles uncannily similar to Plume. In their case they attributed their difficulty seeing nuance and understanding why other people thought the way they did to an underlying condition. Recognizing that it wasn’t really under their control made it easier for everyone to peacefully co-exist.

602

Val 03.21.16 at 2:00 am

Plume @ 615
Although I grant you there does seem to be some school of economics (DK if it has a name) that tries to explain all of human life in terms of competition and exchange. So babies exchange cuteness for their parents’ sleepless nights, etc.*

* that’s my example, I haven’t seen an economist use it yet.

603

Plume 03.21.16 at 2:01 am

Val @618,

I’ve definitely considered the possibility, and did so long before we met on the Internet. Nothing personal when I say I think you’re wrong, and nothing gender-specific. It’s just a conclusion I’ve reached over the course of the last few decades, and I think I’m right. Could I be wrong about this? Definitely. Most definitely. But I don’t think I am.

Tragically, I fear neither of us will live to see our views put to the test. I foresee a very long struggle ahead for both the fight against patriarchy and racism, as well as capitalism. And in my darker moments, I see our environmental crisis doing us (humanity) in before we get the chance to resolve either. My guess is I’ll be long gone, regardless.

604

Plume 03.21.16 at 2:05 am

Jake @620,

Please stop. Seriously. I don’t want to continue any dialogue with you, and I’d appreciate it if you left me out of any dialogue with others. It shouldn’t be difficulty, unless you’re the stalker type.

One could say, “stalkertypical,” I suppose.

Again, please leave me out of your future discussions.

605

Val 03.21.16 at 2:05 am

@622
Yeah well, I obviously have a very strong belief that if we could get equality between men and women we could also ultimately get a more peaceful, fairer, more sustainable world. I don’t know if I’m right either, but what have we got to lose (except male privilege)?

606

Plume 03.21.16 at 2:12 am

Val @624,

That’s cool. As mentioned, we should be doing this stuff at the same time. In no way am I suggesting stop your activism and wait for the end of capitalism. That wouldn’t be a very good idea, given the likelihood of such a long wait, unfortunately — at least I’m guessing it will be.

And it seems to me that these goals work very well in tandem. Ending class and gender/racial/sexual orientation divisions, barriers, etc. etc. Should be a pretty natural coalition to go after all hierarchies, right? Bring them all down, bring down all the artificial pyramids, and that includes your goals as well as mine.

607

Jake 03.21.16 at 2:15 am

Sorry Plume, Rich asked a reasonable question and I thought he deserved an answer.

608

Anarcissie 03.21.16 at 2:37 am

Val 03.21.16 at 1:15 am @ 609 —
I think the problem with your idea is that the word woman is itself a term of oppression. De Beauvoir famously says that ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.’ I generalize this to the observation that every social order based on classes of people with different statuses has to (re)create those classes by remaking those born or assigned to them into suitable examples of their class, a procedure to which considerable force may be brought. As the needs and preferences of the more important members of the community change, the modes of classification may change, but the structure of domination and exploitation must still be carried forward or the dominant people will lose their power. The modes might also change back, if the need arises; thus, the extirpation of racism or sexism in a classed-based social order would not necessarily be permanent, since the class system would, so to speak, set up a fundamental vibration of which sexism and racism (and other invidious distinctions) would be constantly regenerated overtones.

609

geo 03.21.16 at 3:32 am

js @614: I’m sorry, js, historical materialism is a fascinating subject, but I simply haven’t the time or stamina for what would necessarily be an extended discussion. I would, though, be very interested to hear mcmanus on the subject of individual responsibility. To hold his feet to the fire, ask him to explain why he thinks (if he does, as I do) that Kissinger and Rumsfeld should be cast into the lowest of dungeons.

Val @616: What I meant is that “agency” seems to me a pretentious and superfluous term, useful only for doing critical theory, an activity I abhor.

610

Val 03.21.16 at 3:38 am

@ 627
Did you hear a faint sound of screaming from the southern hemisphere? that was me

Simone de Beauvoir was talking about the category ‘woman’ in a universe of discourse in which ‘man’ is equated with ‘human’. In such a universe, woman can only be defined in relation to man, as the ‘other’, or the ‘second sex’ as de Beauvoir put it. She was not saying that we are not embodied in male or female bodies (most of us, that is, although it’s not an absolute distinction).

Put it this way: if I said to you that feminist researchers were concerned that much medical research has been done on men, and that therefore drug dosages and other treatment modalities are not necessarily appropriate for women, I doubt you would be concerned that the term woman was a category of oppression.

By the same token, the fact that people embodied as women make up less than 20% of the US legislature is both a form and a result of oppression. It is not calling them ‘women’ that is the oppression.

(Of course I am presuming you’re serious, whereas you may be making an elaborate joke at my expense, in which case, well done you.)

The Marxist Feminists used to say that capitalism could not continue in its present form if women were liberated because capitalism rests on women’s unpaid labour in ‘re-producing’ the labour force. That’s not actually my position, because my position is that procreation and caring work are work in their own right and that they are not secondary to ‘production’ in the Marxist sense. However it’s a good thing to remind some of the Marxists and neomarxists here about, I think.

611

Val 03.21.16 at 3:48 am

geo @ 628
well do you think ‘individual responsibility’ is also a pretentious and superfluous term? Because you could substitute ‘individual responsibility’ in Bob’s statement above and it might not sound as ‘critical theory-ish’ but it would still have a very similar meaning.

612

Val 03.21.16 at 3:59 am

geo @ 628
oops I guess I am asking you a question you have already answered. You think it is ok to talk about individual responsibility, but not about agency, because agency is a pretentious term. I’m not sure that makes sense, but I see it’s what you are saying!

By ‘agency’ I think people are trying to get at something like individual responsibility but also the old term ‘free will’ – capacity to choose between different courses of action. Therefore I think it is useful.

Mind you I agree with both you and Bob – I think Bob is right that the actors in the scenario he discussed were substitutable, but I also agree that they do bear individual responsibility for the results of their actions. So I don’t think the two positions are irreconcilable.

Mind you

613

js. 03.21.16 at 4:10 am

geo @628 — Humbly, if someone says “historical materialism doesn’t really require agency”, the notion of agency has to be independent of the concept of historical materialism and all that it might entail. Point being, you don’t need to talk about historical materialism to talk about agency.

614

js. 03.21.16 at 4:12 am

615

geo 03.21.16 at 4:55 am

js (and Val): Bob’s comment @592, which I commended, was:

GWB and his people disagreed; they thought that they could depose him and the Iraqi people would greet us as liberators and democracy would bloom across the country.
“That is what they said, or others said they said. It is not fact or history.
“I personally believe they were lying. Better to be believed stupid than evil, and liberals since the Enlightenment pretty much stopped believing in evil, and love to call their enemies stupid, even as they are getting their asses whupped.
” The long con demands you never go off-message. This is why you watch what people do, and even better what happens. Historical materialism doesn’t really require agency.”

All but a few words of Bob’s comment have to do with arguing against the idea that the Bush administration had any interest in promoting democracy in Iraq (or anywhere). That’s what I was agreeing with. Alas, I couldn’t resist slipping in a dig at Bob’s suggestion that one needed to invoke historical materialism or any other theory to motivate his very sensible observation. Bob is occasionally given to lofty theoretical flights and barbarous theoretical jargon, and I was gently and amicably mocking him. Sorry it turned out to be a red herring.

616

Val 03.21.16 at 5:20 am

geo, do you like, hate theory? I am having to write my ‘theoretical chapter’ at this very time so I have mixed feelings about this …

617

geo 03.21.16 at 6:22 am

635: both. Actually, from my slight and unprofessional acquaintance with Rorty, Davidson, and Quine, I’m not sure it’s possible to distinguish “theory” rigorously from commonplace activities like explanation, speculation, imagining, etc. But leaving those knotty questions aside (and resolving not to be tempted into uninformed philosophical smoke-blowing about them), yes, I like (speaking very broadly) scientific theories, as well as some of Hume and Adam Smith the moral theorists, JS Mill the democratic theorist, Marx the (anti-)economic theorist, William James the theorist of religion, Freud and Winnicott the psychological theorists, Chomsky the linguistic theorist, C. Wright Mills the sociological theorist, Simone de Beauvoir the feminist theorist, William Empson the literary theorist, and lots of other theorists and theories. I generally don’t like post-structuralist theory and post-modernism generally, which I do NOT think is pernicious nonsense but rather just more trouble than it’s worth and a distraction from practical literary criticism and practical political activism.

In short, I really have nothing interesting to say about theory. I simply like the theories I like and don’t like the ones I don’t like.

Good night, dear Val et al. In this latitude, it’s the wee hours of the morning.

618

geo 03.21.16 at 6:30 am

PS – Forgot to mention my other favorite feminist theorist, Catherine MacKinnon.

619

Layman 03.21.16 at 1:49 pm

“I am the “Donald” that helpfully explained the meaning of ” shorter so and so” and there bye elicited the response that achieved immortality. “

I, of course, was aware of that. I am aware of so much.

620

engels 03.21.16 at 1:55 pm

For that reason, although it may sound counter-intuitive (I do see that) even electing a woman such as Hillary Clinton could contribute to these eventual goals, because it is not the individual woman that counts (indeed the first women elected are likely to be those that the system approves of) but getting a critical mass of women into the system in order to disrupt the patriarchal foundations of the system

“Abolishing Patriarchy: An Underpants Gnome Approach” (University of Sydney Press, forthcoming)

Step 1. Support female neoliberal politicians or social democrats and pro-feminist men
Step 2. …
Step 3. DISRUPTION

621

engels 03.21.16 at 2:00 pm

“over social demorats”

622

Rich Puchalsky 03.21.16 at 2:10 pm

“over social demorats”

Didn’t think I’d feel sympathy for engels’ late-thread one-liners but arghh stupid spellchecker. Transforms every mistype into some valid but comical word, misses anything that you wanted corrected.

623

Anarcissie 03.21.16 at 2:27 pm

Val 03.21.16 at 3:38 am @ 629:
‘By the same token, the fact that people embodied as women make up less than 20% of the US legislature is both a form and a result of oppression. It is not calling them ‘women’ that is the oppression.

On the contrary, inventing, defining and naming categories, grading them, and forcing some into one and others into another, is crucial to setting up and maintaining a system of oppression. In a truly egalitarian social order, such distinctions would fall out of use and eventually out of the language; for instance, the inability to get pregnant or the emotional burden of excess testosterone might be seen as an unfortunate disability, but hardly one that could not be overcome or compensated for. It certainly would not be a prerequisite for higher office, income, or social status.

With a class system and its invidious categorizations remaining in place, however, we have seen that an existing oppressive system like that of the United States does not have a problem with reconfiguring itself so as to loosen some categories and tighten others while maintaining its central purposes. Americans elected a ‘Black man’ to their highest office and started to talk about a ‘post-racial society’. We have seen how that came out.

624

engels 03.21.16 at 2:55 pm

‘Israel’s Security Is Non-Negotiable’: Hillary Jabs Trump in AIPAC Speech
insider.foxnews.com/2016/03/21/video-israels-security-non-negotiable-hillary-jabs-trump-aipac-speech

625

engels 03.21.16 at 6:12 pm

626

bruce wilder 03.21.16 at 7:40 pm

geo @ 634

I remember the good ol’ days when asserting that Bush’s invasion of Iraq had something to do with oil would provoke lengthy refutations.

627

engels 03.21.16 at 7:49 pm

..or curt dismissals as a conspiracy theorist if you were less fortunate

628

JanieM 03.21.16 at 7:53 pm

Didn’t think I’d feel sympathy for engels’ late-thread one-liners but arghh stupid spellchecker. Transforms every mistype into some valid but comical word, misses anything that you wanted corrected.

OT, but can’t spellcheckers be turned off? Are the benefits so much greater than this frequent revision into nonsense people are always complaining about? (I don’t have a smartphone so I don’t know the answer to this question for that kind of device. I turn spellchecker off in any tool I use. I’d rather have typos.)

629

JanieM 03.21.16 at 7:55 pm

Moderation? SRSLY?

630

bob mcmanus 03.21.16 at 8:15 pm

Geo: Alas, I couldn’t resist slipping in a dig at Bob’s suggestion that one needed to invoke historical materialism or any other theory to motivate his very sensible observation.

It wasn’t just an observation, but an example.

And you need theory, Marxian or other critical theory (good feminism can probably work, critical race, post-colonial) , in order to avoid being seduced and confused by your apparent allies, in order to forestall thoughts like “It is different in Libya and Syria because Obama isn’t Bush, Obama is a Democrat and a good guy.”

As I said just above that theory removes both black hats and white hats.

631

bob mcmanus 03.21.16 at 8:30 pm

And Geo asked above why I might want Bush & Cheney in prison…

…mostly I think in order to “sharpen the contradictions” Bush and Cheney facing the gallows for Iraq would likely have incited the Republican Party to Civil War.

I no longer have any faith at all in reformism, melioration, incremental improvement, “justice” under the current system, although I don’t necessarily disapprove or obstruct some palliatives. Marx is misinterpreted, opiums of the people do provide essential relief.

632

Val 03.21.16 at 10:04 pm

geo @ 636 Thanks! I’m sorry to have to admit it, but my question to you was some kind of misguided gettin with the youf joke, such as ‘are you like, hating on theory?’ But I like the way you answered it much better. I may have to look at some of those people you first mentioned. However, apart from the belated addition of McKinnon, your list does look rather dead white male-ish, one of the things I don’t like about ‘theory’ as it usually done.

engels – IF you had read what I said carefully, you would realise that I actually said I would probably vote Sanders myself if I were an American, but there are some potential gains from voting Clinton in terms of increasing the number of women in public life. However I realise that that particular IF is not just a big IF, but an IF in the realms of wild far-fetchedness.

Arnacissie – I realise we are talking a bit past each other here but hopefully we will converge eventually – anyway I don’t think the etymology of the word woman is particularly oppressive, rather the oppressive thing is the way the word man came to mean simultaneously male human beings and human beings per se http://thiswretchedhive.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/etymology-of-woman.htm

– that is, maleness became normative and femaleness became other – for which there is no justification whatsoever.

I think what you are talking about is the negative, othering meanings that patriarchy has attached to the word woman – inferior, lesser, subordinate, dependent, weaker, etc.

You haven’t responded about my question on the medical research btw.

633

engels 03.21.16 at 10:28 pm

Food for thought:

The “1 per cent feminism” you criticise in Lean Out often focuses on issues that affect women in elite positions, such as equal representation in corporate management or at the top level of politics. Is there any evidence that such a focus can improve the lives of working and middle class women

Not really, partly because the women are so few and far between. For there to be a knock-on effect for women lower down the social ladder the few at the top would need to enact some pretty bold policies. What often happens instead is that women are scrutinised far more than men, especially in hiring decisions, and become focused on proving themselves, often by assimilating the macho culture at the top, rather than subverting it.

Where things have changed, such as in the Swedish public sector, it’s due to a concerted decision to address gender equality in every part of the recruitment process, so women and men are represented in every part of the public sector, from top to bottom. That came from political will to change the entire culture, rather than a slow, trickle-down shift that relies on a few individual women breaking through to the top…

634

Val 03.21.16 at 10:53 pm

engels @ 651

I think that’s all very sound and that’s why I’m in favour of quotas. However I think you also need to take into account the powerful symbolism of seeing women in positions such as President of the USA.

I remember when Julia Gillard became Prime Minister of Australia. I was standing with some other women in the rec room at my workplace when it was announced on TV and there was such a feeling of ‘I’m glad to have seen this in my lifetime’. Whatever the wrongs and rights of how she got there and what happened after – which I won’t go into here – it was still a powerful historical moment.

635

Suzanne 03.21.16 at 11:24 pm

@584: Thank you, Plume. I didn’t think you were referring specifically to me, but I suppose I did strike a bit of a scolding note previously.

@424: If higher turnout resulted in turning out HRC, then that would be how the cookie crumbled. The Trump phenomenon is certainly pulling in lots of voters to the polling booths, and if such a trend gave us President Trump that would not be a Good Thing. However, in general higher turnout favors progressive candidates, which is why the GOP is working so energetically at voter suppression these days.

636

novakant 03.22.16 at 12:18 am

Donald, I actually was about to exempt you when U wrote my rant above, but then thought that might be a little presumptuous – it’s true, lol.

Nevertheless, one of the reasons I will always disagree with you on this issue is that I know many people who have been at the sharp end of (not only) US/UK foreign policy and they would find it rather unconvincing ethically when somebody told them that they voted for the people who murdered their fellow countrymen in order to prevent an outcome that might potentially have been even worse.

637

novakant 03.22.16 at 12:19 am

“when I wrote my rant above”

638

Donald 03.22.16 at 1:30 am

Novakant– That’s a fair point.

I was a Nader voter in 2000 because of this. Nader was an anti- imperialist. Gore wasn’t. It was easy– I don’t live in a swing state. I could vote for Stein this time, but the problem is that you need tens of millions of people all deciding to vote third party or you just end up with a bigger maniac if the third party person does manage to get enough votes in swing states. We ended up with the worst of all worlds in 2000– the neocons in power and on the Democratic side the the Nader campaign actually closed some Democrats off to listening to criticism. This thread was less bad than most, because people lean further left on average, but in most discussions at most blogs I’ve seen the mere mention of voting brings out the partisan reflexes.

I think it unlikely Gore would have invaded Iraq, though he did choose Lieberman as his running mate.

639

js. 03.22.16 at 4:19 am

JanieM @647 — I think the thing that people generally leave out is: if you’re typing on a normally sized phone (I wouldn’t know about tablets), predictive text (i.e. the dreaded “spellchecker”) is actually rather useful—when it’s not on, I at least really, really miss it.

On the other hand, if anyone has spellchecker in whatever form turned on when they’re typing on an actual keyboard, I’d worry.

640

Anarcissie 03.22.16 at 1:56 pm

Val 03.21.16 at 10:04 pm 651 —
The way I would interpret the medical research thing is: the research goes where the power (money, political influence, connections, social status) goes. Medical researchers do recognize that there are other kinds of people, for instance, some of them actually gave diseases to lower-status Americans and foreigners to see what would happen. And maybe still do. (Poor people, especially prisoners, can be ‘allowed to volunteer’ for medical experiments.)

Although I know there is a thread of seeing the male as normative going back to the ancient world, there is a contradictory thread of seeing the male, especially the Great Noble White Man, as rising above an undifferentiated mass of ordinary humanity to some higher political and moral realm precisely because of his specialness, his remarkable qualities. I think this more nearly corresponds to the cultural progression by which slavery and civilization were invented. At first, the lesser breeds would be around for the noble types to enslave, terrorize, torture, rape, and kill openly; only later would they be shut away in purdah and prisons and on plantations and in slums, so that they would become invisible and the GNWM would seem to be the norm.

641

JanieM 03.22.16 at 10:10 pm

@js. Thanks for the explanation! That makes sense, actually. One of these days I’ll get a smartphone, and then I’ll see for myself. If it’s anything like Word 2013, I’ll probably throw it in the river first chance I get. :-)

642

bob mcmanus 03.22.16 at 11:13 pm

Anarcissie, 659.2: Nietzsche says you have it backwards, that the justification follows not precedes the physical victory, the material victory being accounted for by instinct and material advantages, like size and fangs and claws, and not requiring pre-justification.

Whether the dude with his foot on the neck of the vanquished is “better” is a question only the vanquished asks, in desperate search for a rhetorical path to mercy. The victor just wants and enjoys the spoils, with no aspirations to universality.

At least that is how I understand the ancients and barbarians. Since when did we start to identify with the vanquished rather than victors, start to feel it was better to be a victim?

Wait. Oh yeah. The Crucified God.

643

bob mcmanus 03.22.16 at 11:22 pm

For the record, I can just spout it, I am not a Nietzschean, and identify with neither victors or vanquished.

Just arguing with the argument that the inferiority of slaves were the cause or justification of slavery. Almost anybody could be an ancient slave, your “inferiority” was demonstrated by your enslavement. It was a brute fact, a matter of fate.

Or an openly constructed social status system, as in Tokugawa Japan. Why do Samurai have these privileges and these restrictions? Because we say so.

It was the Early Modern ideas of universalism, equality, and natural right that demanded a moral or scientific justification of status.

644

Anarcissie 03.22.16 at 11:46 pm

bob mcmanus 03.22.16 at 11:13 pm @ 661 —
Neither Nietzsche nor I were around to witness the processes of which I speak. I have noticed in the world around me that many of the master types like to have an ideology to explain, guide, and regulate their mastery, but as N says that might have arisen later. Note, though, that victors, having been totally and finally victorious, would not need an ideology any more.

As to identifying with the victims, according to N’s Genealogy of Morals, the defeated Jews outsmarted the victorious Romans by switching everyone’s values around. I think this is a dumb idea, but a lot of the world is sort of dumb, so maybe it’s correct.

I don’t think the early slaves were ‘inferior’, whatever that means, they just happened to have the bad luck of losing their freedom in some struggle. However, the master ideology would want to portray them as inferior, and then make sure that they and their descendants became as inferior as hard treatment and an imposed ideology of mastery-slavery could make them.

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Val 03.23.16 at 2:04 am

@ 659
I agree with what you are saying in your first paragraph, but you miss my point that recognising that women are embodied differently than men is not in itself oppressive and that on the contrary, treating men as the norm is oppressive for women.

In your second para, the two things you are talking about are not contradictory, they are part of the same thing. Men were treated as normative and thus also as superior, both in patriarchal monotheistic religious thought (God – man in god’s image – women and the lower races serving man) and in modern enlightenment thought (man – rational, of the mind, in control – women and the lower races – of the body, subordinate).

As I’ve indicated, this applies to ‘white men’ as the dominant ruling group. As for what Bob has said about Nietzsche, it either confirms my theory that N was Just Wrong, or else Bob has got it mixed up, as you suggest.

Gerda Lerner in her work on patriarchy, suggested that male rulers learnt from their subjugation of women how you could persuade people that they were other and inferior so that they accepted their own subjugation, and then they (male rulers) subsequently used that knowledge to persuade enslaved men similarly (to internalise their own inferiority). Prior to that, they had tended to kill all the conquered men. That’s a pretty crude summary, but something like that.

I wanted to reply even though this thread is probably ending, because I found our conversation interesting, but I really need to stop spending so much time on CT, so may not reply in future. Anyway, thanks, see you in the future maybe.

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