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

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Not Voting Doesn't Make Worse Candidates Magically Disappear

Expanded and upgraded from my continuing exchange with the very pure "High Arka," who, it would seem, has by now had quite enough of my Secret Plan to facilitate Evil by voting for people on Election Day:
That's a nice, thoughtful paragraph, and you've done an excellent job of reframing the discussion into your preferred avenues... For the purposes of commenting here, would you be willing to directly answer the initial list of questions? I hope the irony won't be lost on you that your responses have been taken from the playbook of Karl Rove, in that you've avoiding answering the questions put to you and instead fired back a long paragraph that changed the subject to something more to your liking.
I'm not, as you put it in your earlier charges, "fine" with ANY of the many atrocities you have pornographically elaborated to spark my inferior conscience with shame at its criminal complicities for encouraging my voting for a President every four years. I know I have put off my confession for far too long, but you will be shocked, shocked! to hear that I disapprove of war crimes and child rape, even though I expect to be voting next year for Hillary Clinton.

Once again, voting is not an endorsement of all the crimes and catastrophes abetted or combated over the course of the political life of a candidate one votes for because they were the better candidate actually on offer.

Once again, there are many ways beyond but including voting to educate, agitate, organize politically to resist injustice, to bring crimes to justice, and to prevent injustice from happening.

Once again, voting for more, and better, Democratic candidates is one small part of the way one engages in such a struggle, not because no Democrats abet injustice but because they are better than Republicans in this particular debased and deranged moment in the life of the GOP.

Once again, not voting for anybody because you don't want to sully your beautiful mind with real world compromises doesn't actually accomplish anything at all in the service of the outcomes you claim to care about, although it could ensure that people who are worse than the available alternatives do greater damage in your name.

As I have said before, I will say once again, that I do hope you do other kinds of real organizational work to support actual struggles toward better political outcomes as a penance for your failure to help by voting.

But, once again, voting is usually insufficient to achieve justice, but it remains an indispensable part of that struggle nonetheless.

I actually have answered all your questions. Your insinuation that I must celebrate the US military-industrial complex and our Empire of Bases and our undeclared wars and extrajudicial killings and so on is frankly stupid. I actually have already explicitly condemned some of the atrocities on your laundry list over the course of our longer exchange but my repeated emphasis that I am anti-militarist should have given you a clue where I stand -- and, again, delving into my archive would provide you a rich record of years and years of my criticisms of our wars and war-crimes.

You seem to think that the President will cease to exist simply if you pretend they don't by not voting for anybody. Your refusal to assume your responsibility as a citizen in one of the richest, most capacious, most influential, most violent, most wasteful, most irresponsible nations in world history to vote for the best candidate on offer to occupy existing positions that will proceed to act in your name contributes nothing at all to the address or redress of the evil things that some of them will do from that position.

You will please spare me the continuing idiotic and insulting suggestions that voting for Hillary Clinton over whatever killer clown will oppose her for the White House indicates my endorsement of child rape or reveals that I would have lacked the character to notice the Nazis were bad. I'm sorry if walking and chewing gum at the same time hurts your head, and that you cannot distinguish the pragmatic politics of a green anti-racist anti-militarist democratic socialist feminist queer from the lies and frauds of Karl Rove. That is certainly your deficiency, not mine.

Although you have not learned anything by our conversation, I am glad you are at any rate edified by the beauty of my apologiae for tyranny.


High Arka said...

That's all quite long, again. Perhaps you could help me better understand your viewpoint by answering my questions point by point?

Here's another one: How long would a cycle of lesser evils have to perpetuate itself before it became too long, and thereby disproved your theory that compromising with evil was fruitful? Here's the link to all the questions, if you think you might be able to answer them now that we've reached the weekend: First of the Killaries ~ Updated.

The British Empire has been expanding militarily for centuries. You're making your comfy living on the graveyard of one of the world's largest genocides. More than two hundred years after your country was founded, it is still engaged in slaughtering domestic and foreign populations of color.

How many centuries of this would have to happen before you stopped believing that one or the other plutocrat was going to bring an end to this horror? If the year 3115 rolled around, and the robotic clone of Chelsea Clinton was promising to finally bring an end to the NeoCrusades, would you lose your patience then?

High Arka said...

I'm more than happy to answer any list of questions you provide, and I hope you'll answer mine in turn. The ones in my initial response to you, which I've linked, are rhetorical questions, so you're not intended to offend. If the answer is a big, obvious "no," then just answer no, and that answers my question!

Dale Carrico said...

Fuck you for implying I have to publicly disapprove every atrocity you care to list simply because I have the temerity to vote along with the other political work I do. I'm glad you think my living as an adjunct without job security or benefits teaching critical theory at an art school is so very comfy -- it's true that I prefer it to the alternatives.

You keep complaining that my responses are long. Nobody s keeping you from reading People Magazine if that is what you prefer. Arguments are longer than bumper stickers -- including your own.

What you call "a cycle of lesser evils" as if it is some long grey indifferent smudge are in fact the vicissitudes of social struggle many of which involved changes for the better courageous righteous people fought for and changes for the worse courageous righteous people fought against. Your inability to discern differences that make a difference as measured against your ideals is not an insight but a form of blindness, not a strength for progress but a weakness hobbling it, not the virtue you congratulate yourself for but a true and ugly vice.

FDR was a plutocrat. We could use more allies like him, whether rich or not, though there was plenty he did that I also quite disapprove of. Real political judgments are like that -- but of course I've said that before. I agree US governance would be better off if the majorities of us who work for a living were represented by people who have done the same. There are reforms that might bring that about after a long struggle -- but I doubt you would want to vote for the imperfect characters who would be involved in such struggles in a world in which that s not the only struggle afoot.

To answer your pious question about my sinister patience (which you falsely and smugly imply means I fail to grasp the urgencies you do): So long as there isn't an alternative to patient compromised heartbreaking struggle, I will continue to be patient.

If your impatience and uncompromising standards have made you the truer revolutionary or whatever that my comfy compromising makes me unfit to be I daresay you shouldn't have the time really to be lobbing accusations on the internet against lifelong activists who happen also to vote rather than engaging forthwith in your more direct awesome kick-assery otherwise. Get to it.

Dale Carrico said...

I don't have any questions for you, and you already know that I condemn violence, exploitation, and war even if you pretend you do not. To ask questions for which you know the answers is impertinent. This exchange has provided the occasion for a useful elaboration of principles, but the topic approaches exhaustion and I don't feed trolls as an end in itself.

High Arka said...

The utility of the Socratic method--and the reason you may be shying from it--is that, by answering the questions, you may find that you're simultaneously advocating for two mutually exclusive viewpoints. To avoid acknowledging the resulting cognitive dissonance, you use an emotional counterattack to dismiss me, and the questions, as unworthy.

On the other hand, if you are correct, and we're able to keep the Socratic dialogue going, then your viewpoint's ability to sustain the dialogue will prove me wrong.

As the dialogue would test your viewpoint, it could be instructive to you, me, and your readers. Isn't that the reason scholarly debate is supposed to be useful? In pursuit of the truth?

Are you here on this blog to preach to the choir, or to help educate and inform people like me--people who are interested in you even though I disagree with you? I'm happy to try to learn from you. I hope my clumsy methodology won't put you off too much.

Dale Carrico said...

You certainly have a lot to teach me about Socrates. Let us hope I can apply some of your insights when I am teaching Plato to Berkeley undergraduates again this summer as I have done for two decades.

I am not here to preach to the choir by any means. But neither am I here to suffer fools. As someone who criticizes and ridicules techno-utopians, Republicans, libertarians, anarchists, among others you will be unsurprised to discover I get a lot of trolls and hate-readers here, and this has given me something of a hair-trigger when it comes to commenters who seem stubbornly uncomprehending of points I make repeatedly.

It does not seem to me that you have been disagreeing with me so much as insinuating that voting for Hillary Clinton against the latest Republican killer clown suggests I endorse war crimes I excoriate and am ignorant of historical injustices I teach my students about. This is worse than disagreement it is nonsensical hectoring.

High Arka said...

This one hasn't applied any insights yet; so far, the questions are just hanging out there.

Dale Carrico said...

None of those were real questions, they were deeply disgusting insults, and exhibit a combination of self-righteousness and frivolity about injustice that is really hard to take and so I really would rather you not remind me that they are indeed hanging out there in the Moot imparting a shit stink of rot that you shouldn't feel happy about at all.

Elias Altvall said...

First of all, Arka, HItler (or more precisely the german military-industrial complex under the ideology of "National Socialism") killed 14 million, not 6. & millon members of the jewish faith and culture was killed but the nazis had many more grudges than just the jews. Among these were romani, gays, trade unionists, communists, anarchists, socialists, jehova witnesses and many, many more. Secondly, voting in our current "democratic" societies is impoverished and can be occasionally meaningless but there is a lesser evil. In Sweden (my own country) the Social Democratic party held almost complete majority in most elections for roughly to decades they did this largely because of the fact that Sweden in the 1930s-40s-50s had an incredibly aggressive labor movement which was not led by them but they unlike every other party had some influence in it. They beginning in the late 1950s started to massive bureacratize them in order to consolidate them to can a "stable" country. Thanks to this movement the Social democrats got plenty of amazing and useful social reforms through while at the same time never threaten the capitalist complex which also meant that by the late 1950s Swedens capitalists was voting social democratic because they knew they would never threaten their own power base. This way Sweden has been able to supply weapons to despotic and autocratic regimes. My point being voting as way to change things is nothing and quite clearly does Carrico know this but if by voting for what you might consider to be ,by outweighing the candidates policies and ideas, the "lesser" evil you change some things for the better I agree with him. Voting for the british Whigs in 1850, you would have to realise that they create and increased imperialism but you would also get rid of the poor house and better education for working class kids (which they only adopted after they realised the threat of revolution from the chartist movement). Holding out to the revolution and saying that somehow any improvement is imperialist because the person promising to regulate the banks would attack the phillipines seems for me like and absolutist position.

High Arka said...

Thank you, Elias. For purposes of this discussion, it's no problem to assume that Hitler killed only 14 million people, too.

The thought experiment is easy to amend: if Fuhrer Hitler would have killed 14 million, but Fuhrer Köhler would have killed 15 million, is it a just act to support Hitler?

Dale Carrico said...

Let us return for a moment to the post that began this exchange, and to its two key claim, which provide the context for the questions (deeply misguided, in my view) you asked and which you continue (falsely, in my view) to consider unanswered by me.

1a. My first claim was that I have and will continue to support Hillary Clinton who I certainly expect to be the Democratic nominee for the presidency in 2016.

1b. My second claim was that I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the California primary, because his candidacy seems to me an important vehicle for educating the general population about more consistently democratic politics (closer to the politics I myself espouse in principle) and also will pressure the Clinton campaign to grapple with such positions and articulate more intelligent and effective positions to the good of her eventual Presidency, should she win, as I hope and expect she will.

Dale Carrico said...

It seems to me that the reasons why you objected to my original post is because you disagree with these claims:

2a. You disagree that there is enough of a difference that makes a difference between Hillary Clinton and whatever killer clown will win the Republican nomination to justify a vote for her over him, or indeed justify voting at all.

2b. You also seem to think that voting for the best even if in many ways bad candidate among those on offer amounts to an endorsement of all that candidate's views and eventual conduct and also renders one more complicit in their erroneous views (even if you reject and criticize them) and bad choices (even if you expose and resist them politically otherwise) -- in which case not voting becomes the best way of insulating yourself from complicity in those erroneous views and bad choices.

3b. And you seem to think I should support the candidate with whom I actually most agree about the most urgent problems we face as well as the causes and best responses to those problems -- which would be Sanders over Clinton -- even if I do not expect him to be the eventual nominee and even if I think he is not positioned within the actually-existing institutional and stakeholder terrain to accomplish the ends on which wee agree, while Clinton with whom I agree less might nonetheless be bettered positioned to facilitate an arrival closer to many of those ends even if her premises are more modest and compromised than my own.

Dale Carrico said...

The questions you put to me, you "thought experiment," your effort at prompting a Socratic elenchus exposing the supposedly contradictory or at any rate intolerable assumptions behind my claims amounted to a string of calculations as to how many millions of rapes or murders or warcrimes or injustices I am willing to countenance before they balance out against good policy outcomes otherwise to alter my claims that I will be best to vote in the Presidential election, to vote for Clinton over the eventual Republican nominee, and to support Clinton even while agreeing with Sanders' political formulations more than Clinton's.

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

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

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:

Dale Carrico said...

I say this last because (a) such atrocities arise out of structural features that must be addressed by complex and long struggles involving diverse stakeholders, among them elected officials, and so I question pornographic comic book evocations of piles of dead and violated bodies attributed to villains and heroes in the White House, which is 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 the worst candidate instead or not voting and hence not voting against the worst candidate thereby faciiating 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?

Dale Carrico said...

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.

Dale Carrico said...

More deeply, it seems to me that reasonableness demands more than that we apply legitimate standards of justification to warrant beliefs that drive our choices, but that we recognize there are different kinds of decision justified by different kinds of belief warranted by different sorts of legitimate criteria. Moral beliefs (from the Latin mores, community-standards) consolidate membership in a "we" which inevitably excludes various "theys," -- ethical beliefs solicit imagined, logical, eventual universal assent, a "we" from which no "they" would rightly be excluded -- political beliefs assume that the "we" who share this time and place are ineradicably diverse in their histories and hopes and that reconciling our wants and solving our shared problems demands interminable efforts at compromise with "theys."

I think it is as profoundly misguided to confuse the ethical universalism of our normative ideals with the provisional compromises of political reconciliation and problem solving (a confusion that yields aesthetic politics more concerned with making beautiful spectacles of pure idealism than progressive change) as it is to confuse the membership policing of moral parochialism with the political reconciliation of worldly diversity (a confusion that yields imperial politics more concerned with imposing conforming on diversity rather than compromises among the diverse to solve shared problems).

I am not denying that moral, ethical, political, aesthetic, legal beliefs and decisions inform one another -- of course, we all weave them together in our worldviews -- but I deny emphatically that they are or should be reducible to one another. I suspect that self-congratulatory refusals to make political compromises in the struggle toward progress, as well as self-righteous assignments of absolute complicity in evil arising from expedient compromises are rooted in a moralizing or logical disavowal of politics as such. While such disavowals seem to make heartbreaking struggles seem easier and complex realities seem simpler, this is a form of laziness and self-deception that is the furthest thing from admirable in my view. I do understand how edifying it can be for those who seek to admire their view in the mirror, however, while outside the ruin mounts.