Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, May 03, 2015

In Which I Answer Insane Questions Such As: How Many Murders And Rapes Would It Take To Get You To Stop Voting in Elections?

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:

The questions you put to me (which look to me to be insults pretending to be questions), your "thought experiment," your declared effort at prompting a Socratic exposure of my supposedly contradictory or at any rate intolerable assumptions involved your presentation of a string of imaginary calculations as to how many millions of rapes or murders or war-crimes or other injustices I would be willing to "countenance" before they might balance out against good policy outcomes otherwise to alter my decision to vote in the upcoming Presidential election, likely to vote for Clinton over the eventual Republican nominee, and also to support Clinton for pragmatic reasons even while agreeing with Sanders' political formulations more than Clinton's. These are decisions that are debatable (the last one most, the first one least), but I do not agree that your questions are much to the point should you really want to debate them. Nevertheless, I will answer you.

The answer to your question is that I do not countenance a single murder, rape, war-crime, or injustice.

The answer is that I expose and decry and organize and agitate against murders, rapes, war-crimes, and injustices when I am aware of them and that I struggle to create an intellectual and legislative environment in which these are less likely to occur and more likely to be punished than they are now.

The answer is that I do not expect Sanders to be the eventual nominee and even if he were to win I think he is not positioned within the actually-existing institutional and stakeholder terrain to accomplish the ends on which he and I agree, while Clinton with whom I agree less might nonetheless be better positioned to facilitate an arrival closer to many of those ends even if her premises are more modest and compromised than my own to start with.

The answer is that voting for the best candidate on offer is not a matter of countenancing all the atrocities with which they may eventually be associated.

I say this because I question pornographic comic book evocations of piles of dead and violated bodies attributed reductively to villains and heroes in the White House, which is, after all, just one site of historical change (but indeed IS such a site). But I also say this because the alternatives to voting for the best candidates on offer are either voting for worse candidates instead or not voting and hence not voting against worse candidates thereby facilitating their elevation to office. If voting for a better but bad candidate is taken to countenance unjust outcomes associated with their terms in office (however oversimplified the view of the relation of individual agency and historical change implied in such an assertion) then why wouldn't voting for or not voting against an even worse bad candidate be taken as countenancing the same and worse still? 

Which of the millions of dead, violated bodies you make a self-righteous spectacle of would be rendered not dead or not violated by the choice to support the worse bad and not the better bad actually-existing candidate for actually-existing offices? Which of the millions of dead, violated bodies you conjure would be saved because you were too pure to vote for anyone at all even though somebody was going to be elected to hold that office making decisions in your name whether you participated or not in the election?

As I have said over and over again, voting is usually insufficient to the struggle to bring about more just political outcomes, but it is one dimension of that political struggle with an impact it is truly foolish to ignore when you do not have to do so, especially when it is mostly easy and safe enough here in the US (although reactionaries who understand its potential better than some progressives seem to do, are quite eager to make it harder and riskier all the time) not to interfere with other forms of political struggle, education, agitation, organization, criticism, assembly, legislative campaigns, and so on (many of these directed at the very people we vote for, to make the better bad better still and more accountable for the bad they do).

I do not agree that we cannot adjudicate better from worse candidates even when both seem bad by our lights, or both advocate policies with which we agree and disagree at once. If judgment is impossible under such complex circumstance then judgment is always impossible because life is never not complex in this way. Surely an abdication of judgment is not evidence of superior judgment but inferior judgment.

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