Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why I'm not voting Democratic

In the 2008 election, I will donate directly to and vote in the primaries for the few actually progressive candidates for the various Democratic nominations. I do not expect any of them to win. In the general election, I'll be faced with Lantos (Representative), Feinstein (Senator) and Clinton, Obama or Edwards (President).

All of these candidates support the continuing occupation of Iraq, the outright theft of its oil, and a war of aggression against Iran. These are all profoundly evil and immoral positions, held by profoundly evil and immoral people and I cannot endorse them, nor can I endorse the party itself for presenting these evil people as candidates.

The counter-argument is: If many Democrats felt this way, one or more Republicans might win; as bad as the Democrats are, the Republicans are definitely worse. This argument is sound, and the fact that I'm writing about this issue with the intention of persuading other progressive Democrats to withhold their votes and money from the party and leading candidates makes the antecedent relevant.

The argument is sound by itself, but it ignores a more fundamental premise. It is not my job to do what is better for the country; it is my job to do what is best for myself.

The notion that I have a duty to vote for what is best for the country is incoherent: If everyone adopted this objectivist view, there would be no individual subjective decisions in the first place to determine what was actually "better" for the country: A country is not a person, it does not have any preferences of its own; thus there are only statistical measures of the preferences of the individual citizens. On this basis, the duty to do what is best for the country is being advocated by those who are by definition not doing what's best for the country: They are doing what is best for themselves. The duty itself is therefore hypocritical and incoherent.

Neither outcome, an evil Democrat or a very evil Republican, is at all good for myself. For almost thirty years, I've been asked to vote for the lesser of two evils. And look where it's gotten me: A situation where the Democratic candidates all support the occupation and exploitation of a sovereign nation. A situation where two of the three as sitting Senators failed to even try to stop the destruction of habeas corpus. The party cannot impeach a President with a lower approval rating than Nixon, manifestly guilty not only of violating federal law, the Constitution, but who has also committed crimes against humanity.

I'm not being asked anymore to choose between bad and less-than-perfect. I'm now being asked to choose between utterly evil and almost utterly evil.

The madness stops now.

Do you personally want to occupy Iraq, steal their oil, kill hundreds of thousands of Iranians, live in a police state, and maintain absolute corporate control of the lying propaganda which passes for the commercial media in this country? If that's what you really want, vote for the mainstream Democratic candidates.

If that's not what you want, if the utter moral monstrousness of our turgid, phallic military occupation offends your conscience, if you're tired of being lied to, exploited and harassed by the corporate plutocracy, then stop voting for the lesser of two evils and start voting for the good. You may fail, but better to try and fail than not try at all.

Even if such action means that the Republicans win, more unified in their naked evil, then so be it: That's who we are. Better naked evil than evil cloaked in lies and bullshit.


  1. I agree with you 100%. If the Democrats don't oppose the evil that the GOP has become, then they are useless and they don't deserve our votes even if, objectively, we are worse off if the GOP wins power.

    I withheld my vote from my Democratic Senator in the 2006 election, despite really wanting the Dems to regain the Senate, because she voted FOR the pro-torture detainee bill, one of seven (or was it 12?) democrats who did so. She might as well have been a Republican for that vote.

    I think, actually, this is a very effective strategy in the end - to withhold support on this basis. Because if you don't, then basically you become a 'safe' base of support that the candidate can effectively ignore, caluclating that we'll vote for them because we have no choice because the GOP is worse.

    Well, I'd rather not enable that. A message needs to be sent. The Dems can NOT count on my support simply because I hate the GOP and the horrid things that the GOP does. It is especially strange to see Dems asking for votes to oppose the GOP and then see them turn around and support evil GOP initiatives - like the recent failure to hold firm on troop pullout dates in the supplemental military spending bill. It just sickens me to see that.

    If not even the Dems will oppose the GOP, what use are they anyway?

  2. DBB: Remember too that the troop "pullout" only would have pulled out "combat" troops. It would still have left our Iraq mega-bases fully staffed, and mandated the theft of their oil.

    Not only did the Democrats fail to pass this bill, but it was grossly immoral in the first place, even had it passed.

  3. I know that bill wouldn't have done everything I would have wanted, but it was a significant first step, a modest one, but significant. It would have shown backbone to keep sending it back.

    Instead, as always, they completely folded. Worthless pieces of shit, that's the Dem party in a nutshell.

  4. I don't really understand your argument that voting for the best interests of the country is incoherent, at least not if we understand that duty in any reasonable way.

    So, we've got a claim: "it is your duty to vote for the position that is in the best interests of the country." The competing claim, obviously, is "it is your duty to vote for the position that is in your own best interests." You use "job" in the first interest, and "duty" in the second. But since both are normative, I assume that we can table any questions about "duty" and instead concentrate on the second part of each claim.

    Now your argument, I take it is that nothing can be in the best interests of the "country" because the country is not a name for an object above and beyond the people in it. Therefore, to say that you are voting in "the best interests of the country" is really to vote in the best interests of some statistically significant group; and what is in the best interests of that group is wholly determined by the best interests of the individuals in it.

    I don't really see how that shows incoherency at all. The incoherency only comes up if you assume that holding the first duty means totally abandoning the latter duty. Why would that be the case? Conflicting duties is certainly not a reductio, we have conflicting duties all the time. Why can we not have selfish interest and national interests simultaneously? Perhaps some radical totalitarian view where every decision is made for the common good but the common good is not defined in terms of selfish interest is incoherent; I'm going to remain noncommittal on that. But I do not see how any other claim that we have a duty to do what is best for the country is shown incoherent by your argument Nor why "do what is good for your country" assumes that the country term names something above and beyond some utilitarian calculation about what is best for the most people in the country.

  5. I have to say that while I agree for sentimental reasons, I also disagree for more pragmatic reasons. I am tired of treating politics as the choice between two who-gives-a-shits. All three of the Democratic front-runners are Democratic Leadership Council centrist-types: essentially pro-corporate, enmeshed in their political machines, and so attached to the concept of "broad appeal" that they tack to "the center" even when "the center" politically is significantly to the right of the national polity. I blame the senatorial system that gives more weight to fucktarded little states.

    While it is morally satisfying -- and perfectly respectable and legitimate -- to withhold your vote in the fashion you ably describe (and make a passionate and smart case for), I disagree with the ultimate result. In California, we are pretty much assured the luxury of taking that moral stand; the odds of the Democratic nominee for president not taking the state (assuming, of course, that the Republican is not eventually Arnold Schwarzenegger) are slim. An individual act of conscience will ultimately amount to little in the electorate. Other voters in other states are not so lucky.

    Primaries are where we, as voters, can express our displeasure. I fully plan on voting for Dianne Feinstein's challenger. If I was thirty-five, I'd try to talk my wife into letting me run just so there was a damned alternative. If Mike Gravel's still in the race come Primary Fiesta SuperDay, I fully plan on voting for him. This is how I, as a voter, get to express my displeasure in a corrupted system.

    But, ultimately, we do have to live with the results. As much as fuckhead America may deserve a Giuliani Administration, I do not want to live in a country that had the chance to avoid it and didn't -- and perhaps because some people took a moral stance instead of biting back the bile and punching the button.

    The choice between the lesser of two evils is still just that: lesser. Democrats are, ultimately, creatures of politics. An Obama or Clinton who pulls combat forces "over the horizon" is still lessening the evil of America's actions. We can either have less evil, or more; pragmatism dictates that if no evil is not an option, lesser evil becomes the default choice. Ultimately, because Democrats are political creatures first and foremost, they can be persuaded to alter or completely change course. A President Obama, for example, might be persuaded -- especially given his declared support for "over the horizon" force deployment -- to cede the massive bases in Iraq to the Iraqi military in exchange for Africa Command-style deployments.

    I don't think that morality dictates that we stand fast for an all-or-nothing expression of displeasure. After all, an all-or-nothing moral outlook is what got is into this mess in the first place; which isn't a compelling argument, but is enough to give me pause.

  6. I should qualify that I'm thinking of Congress - Congress under the Dems is what is spineless.

    The presidency is another matter. I see some signs, actually, that Obama would not be quite so spineless, and you don't need as much of one anyway as president - you have so much more power than Congress (though they are supposed to be equal).

    Obama impressed me when he told Fox, after they did a hatchet-job propeganda piece on him, to go fuck themselves and refuses to appear on that GOP propeganda network. His example perhaps is part of what led to dropping the Dem debate on Fox altogether. That I was very happy with.

    I think we need a non-GOP non-RWA president, and that I WILL vote for. But Dems in congress are still useless pieces of shit, with very few exceptions (like Fiengold)

  7. I just can't do it. I can't vote for a candidate who supports the occupation and exploitation of Iraq, who supports aggression against Iran, who supports the corporate plutocracy, and who supports the erosion of our civil liberties.

    I am convinced that all the Democrats I am likely to be able to choose have all of the above characteristics.

    I can't support Bormann because he's not as bad as Hitler. I can't support Stalin because he's not as bad as Beria.

    I just can't do it. I'm not going to do it. I couldn't take enough showers to ever feel clean again if I were to do it. There comes a time where you have to say damn the consequences, I'm not going to do it because it's wrong, no matter how much "wronger" the alternative.

    If we get a Guiliani presidency because the left can't rally around an not-quite-so-evil Democratic president, then too bad.

  8. I'm tired of giving up 99% and having the Republicans fight to split the remaining 1% and damn us in the same breath for our intransigence.

    This is where compromise and the lesser of two evils has brought us: A race to the bottom which the Republicans and authoritarians will always win.

    I don't care how close to the bottom we are: I'm out of the race.

  9. Hmm, I guess I'm not sure how the Abilene Paradox is relevant to the coherency of the notion of "duty to vote in the best interests of the country." It seems to me that in the example in the supplied link, each person was mistaken about the best interests of the group; not that making a decision on those grounds was incoherent. In fact, it seems that the decision was contrary to the best interests of the group, due to the fact that it was against the best interests of each member.

    My point was simply this - you use this argument to dispose of the objection that voting for the Democrats has pragmatic value, and that since it's ones duty to vote for the best interests of the country, one ought to vote for the Democrats by rejecting the second premise. I don't see any reason why your objection would convince that person, since they certainly do not have to think that the best interests of the group cannot essentially depend upon the best interests of individuals.

    If, instead, your argument against this objection is that groups have a propensity for failing to identify the greater good, then I'm not really interested in pushing the issue. My only concern was with the effectiveness of the coherence argument.

  10. Jeff: I could make the coherence argument a little clearer, but I'm sick and not up to the task right now.

    Essentially, if the "good of the country" is a statistical measure of the good of the individuals, then asking me to change my declaration based on the statistic changes the statistic, and changes it away from my own notion of good.

    It's one thing to ask people to register their honest opinions and then go with the statistic. It's another thing to presume the statistic and ask people to change their opinion around it.

    Maybe if we get a Giuliani presidency, we'll start to think seriously about changed the two party system.

  11. Basically, it seems like you're arguing for the "It's gotta get worse before it gets better" approach. That is, eight more years of Bush, starting in 2008, is just what it might take to wake people up. Or, maybe it's more simple. You just ain't gonna vote for criminals.

    We all gotta remember, voting is just one way we steer the direction of our nation. There are other ways, which I don't advocate, but angry mobs just happen.


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