Sanders as the Democrats’ Trump

The similarities are rather obvious. But the differences matter.

Two #NeverTrump Republicans have columns out attacking the Democratic frontrunner, invoking the obvious comparisons to President Trump.

David Brooks (“No, Not Sanders, Not Ever: He is not a liberal, he’s the end of liberalism.“):

I’ve just watched populism destroy traditional conservatism in the G.O.P. I’m here to tell you that Bernie Sanders is not a liberal Democrat. He’s what replaces liberal Democrats.

Traditional liberalism traces its intellectual roots to John Stuart Mill, John Locke, the Social Gospel movement and the New Deal. This liberalism believes in gaining power the traditional way: building coalitions, working within the constitutional system and crafting the sort of compromises you need in a complex, pluralistic society.

This is why liberals like Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy and Elizabeth Warren were and are such effective senators. They worked within the system, negotiated and practiced the art of politics.

Populists like Sanders speak as if the whole system is irredeemably corrupt. Sanders was a useless House member and has been a marginal senator because he doesn’t operate within this system or believe in this theory of change.

He believes in revolutionary mass mobilization and, once an election has been won, rule by majoritarian domination. This is how populists of left and right are ruling all over the world, and it is exactly what our founders feared most and tried hard to prevent.

Liberalism celebrates certain values: reasonableness, conversation, compassion, tolerance, intellectual humility and optimism. Liberalism is horrified by cruelty. Sanders’s leadership style embodies the populist values, which are different: rage, bitter and relentless polarization, a demand for ideological purity among your friends and incessant hatred for your supposed foes.

A liberal leader confronts new facts and changes his or her mind. A populist leader cannot because the omniscience of the charismatic headman can never be doubted. A liberal sees shades of gray. For a populist reality is white or black, friend or enemy. Facts that don’t fit the dogma are ignored.

There’s quite a bit more but that’s the gist.

Michael Gerson (“No, Bernie Sanders isn’t authentic. Just like Trump.“) makes perhaps a better version of the argument.

I’m not contending that the moral character of the two men is comparable. Sanders’s is clearly superior, though this is clearing only an ankle-high bar. But both men have benefited from a certain definition of political authenticity that allows them — no, encourages them — to be unpleasant, ill-mannered loudmouths. The identification of authenticity with incivility and spontaneity is one of my pet peeves. And now my pet peeve has blossomed into a crisis of democratic values.

It is worth noting, first, that speaking your mind without filters is not a sign of political authenticity; it usually indicates a basic lack of respect for others. In almost any human interaction other than politics, Sanders’s outbursts on the debate stage would be taken as a sign of general jerkness. For Trump, such gracelessness is a lifestyle. Filtering out the worst of ourselves — demeaning language, crude insults, pushy interruptions — does not hide who we really are. It shows the kind of human beings we want to be.

There is a type of communication that seeks to change minds or clarify important differences. And there is a type of communication intended to establish dominance. The former is essential to self-government. The latter is more appropriate to professional wrestling matches and Trump campaign rallies (but I repeat myself). This is not merely a matter of style. Attempting to persuade someone — even when the source of disagreement is deep — involves the affirmation that they are worth persuading. Shouting someone down is the denial of their dignity.

There’s quite a bit more but, again, that’s the gist.

It’s why, despite having very similar ideological and policy platforms, I would vastly prefer a President Warren to a President Sanders. Even though her temperament and skills would, perversely, make it more likely that she got policies I dislike enacted, she would steer the ship of state in a far less divisive direction. In many ways, Sanders is indeed just a leftist version of Trump.

Now, unlike Brooks, I’m almost certain to vote for Sanders if he’s the nominee. While I think they’re both jerks, I agree with Gerson that Sanders is a better human being. And, while they’re both headstrong and resistant to changing their minds when presented with new evidence, Sanders does surround himself with better people.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    The similarity is evident in Bernie’s supporters. Bernie Sanders may not be aiming for a cult of personality, but one is being built for him.

    Beyond that, Trump is cruel, Sanders is not. Trump is corrupt, Sanders is not. Trump is ignorant, Sanders is, well, less so. Trump is stupid, Sanders is not. Trump enthusiastically and treasonously endorses foreign interference in our elections, Sanders does not.

    I have plenty of beef with Sanders, and more still with his nascent cult. But he’s not Trump. Bernie Sanders would not fire epidemiologists or override the CDC and import whole new coronavirus vectors because he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the world. Bernie believes in science. I think Bernie would be a lousy president, but there’s lousy, and then there’s what we have at the moment.

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  2. Jay L Gischer says:

    I pretty much agree with what James says, what Gerson and Brooks say, and what @Michael Reynolds says above.

    So the question for me is: Are we at Peak Populism, or is populism still on a growth trend. Discuss.

    I think, I hope, that we are at or near Peak Populism, that we have not developed the antibodies needed for social media-driven politics. We haven’t yet learned to see through the performance of “authenticity”, nor have the masses just burned out on the relentless churning of outrage. But I’m pretty sure they will, I just don’t know when.

    But, of course, this is a guess. What’s your guess?

    3
  3. Andy says:

    Now, unlike Brooks, I’m almost certain to vote for Sanders if he’s the nominee. While I think they’re both jerks, I agree with Gerson that Sanders is a better human being.

    Is there any circumstance where you would write a candidate in or vote third party?

    I understand opposing Trump, but voting is inherently an act of affirmative support and it’s difficult for me to understand why you would give that affirmation to a candidate that you believe has a bad character and shares none(?) of your political values or policy preferences.

    5
  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    The ads just write themselves: Bernie for President! The lesser of two evils.

    2
  5. Mikey says:

    @Andy: Your point is well-made, for normal times.

    These are not normal times.

    14
  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Mikey:

    Exactly. We’re throwing babies in prisons because they are immigrants. I will affirmatively support removing this cancer from our body politic, even if I don’t like this particular brand of chemotherapy.

    16
  7. James Joyner says:

    @Andy:

    Is there any circumstance where you would write a candidate in or vote third party?

    I understand opposing Trump, but voting is inherently an act of affirmative support and it’s difficult for me to understand why you would give that affirmation to a candidate that you believe has a bad character and shares none(?) of your political values or policy preferences.

    I live in Virginia, which was a red state when I arrived and has now seemingly raced past purple into blue. So, I can envision a circumstance where I issue a protest vote here. And I may well have voted third party/write-in in 2016 had I still lived in Alabama, where Trump was a certainty to win.

    But, as much as I dislike Sanders, I see Trump as an existential threat to our Republic and the global international order. Being willing to suck it up and vote for the least-bad alternative is itself an affirmative signal.

    18
  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    We are likely at or near peak populism, but that doesn’t mean we are out of the woods. Populism always fails, it is what comes next that is important. Tiny being reelected will mean a continued trend toward authoritarianism and can we save ourselves from that. With Bernie’s election, leftist populism will fail quickly and the bureaucracy will carry us through to 2024 or Bernie is forced from office due to health/age issues. Here’s hoping he chooses his VP well.

    5
  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    voting is inherently an act of affirmative support

    Not in my experience. With the exception of my two votes for Obama, it’s been ‘hold your nose and vote strategically.’

    It’s like repeatedly going out to dinner with a group of people who think Applebee’s is the ultimate food palace. I look at the menu and think, ‘what can I order that won’t kill me or make me hate myself?’ I want fresh oysters, an interesting salad, Maryland* crab cakes or a medium-rare aged ribeye or a rich cioppino, and for dessert a fruit tart or a selection of gelatos, all with appropriate wines, then a Talisker neat. But somehow when I show up to vote it’s always riblets.

    *All other crab cakes can fck right off.

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  10. gVOR08 says:

    Thank you. I almost read that Brooks column this morning, then thought better of it. Appreciate you reading Brooks so I don’t have to.

    6
  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    nor have the masses just burned out on the relentless churning of outrage. But I’m pretty sure they will, I just don’t know when.

    I noted elsewhere that 75 years ago the Germans and Japanese were getting their populism burned out of them pretty thoroughly, the Italians having already gone thru the process. If we get out of this with one term of Trump, Brexit, and a handful of East European and South American autocrats we can count ourselves very fortunate.

    I’ll also note that there’s a lot of asymmetry between right populism and left. Right populism has a major cable news network, the WSJ, and a huge cloud of media lying to push it.

    1
  12. @Andy:

    but voting is inherently an act of affirmative support

    I would argue that voting is one of main ways by which citizens can apply their small share of popular sovereignty. As such, and depending on context, it may be an affirmative action or one of negation. To me, it is about deploying that small sliver of power in the most efficacious way possible to produce the outcome one wants.

    That is why I argue for strategic voting (including in primaries) and that the notion that a vote is not solely about voting for the candidate.

    To James’ point above, voting for Sanders may not be an affirmative vote for Sanders, per se, but could very well be an affirmative vote for moving away from the bad governance we currently are experiencing.

    6
  13. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Not in my experience. With the exception of my two votes for Obama, it’s been ‘hold your nose and vote strategically.

    I understand the notion of accepting and supporting a less than ideal candidate – after all, not getting 100% of what you want is part of politics. I also vote for imperfect candidates, but I will never vote for a candidate who is unfit for the office or one that I’m diametrically opposed to on policy grounds.

    So it’s one thing to support Sanders if you support his policies or believe he would make a good or even marginally acceptable President, but it’s quite another to vote for him and, at the same time, believe he is unfit for the office and completely counter to your policy preferences.

    Now, I also understand the argument that voting for the Democrat instead of someone else may increase the chance of Trump losing office because we have a de fact binary choice, but the reality is that voting is an inherently affirmative act.

    There is no mechanism to vote against someone. That’s an illusion.

    Voting for Sanders is actually just voting for Sanders. You can fool yourself into believing you were voting against Trump and not for Sanders, but that’s not how the system works. Voting is an affirmative act.

    If Sanders wins against Trump he and his supporters are going to interpret that as an affirmation and mandate for him and his policies. He’s not going to acknowledge the contribution of voters like James and throw them a bone or adjust his goals. He’s going to take James’ vote and use the power of the office to try to implement everything James is opposed to.

    That, it seems to me, takes strategic voting, or voting for the better of two imperfect candidates to a whole new level.

    In my own case, I have my own minimum criteria for candidates. If a candidate can’t meet that minimum, they don’t get my vote regardless of the circumstances. And the reason for that is because voting is an affirmative act. To me, it seems bizarre and even unethical to willingly choose to give political power to someone you believe shouldn’t have it.

    So IMO, those who don’t support Sanders (or any other candidate) at all but vote for him anyway will be responsible for everything they do once elected in the same way that those who “voted against” Clinton by voting for Trump are responsible for Trump’s presidency.

    2
  14. Kit says:

    Even though [Warren] temperament and skills would, perversely, make it more likely that she got policies I dislike enacted, she would steer the ship of state in a far less divisive direction.

    The odds of the Democrats taking the Senate look long. No significant liberal legislation is likely to to arrive for a very long time. But split government will only help the Republican outrage machine soar to new heights.

    My prediction is that any Democratic president will spend 2021-2022 dealing (ineffectively) with a serious recession. Republicans will take the House at the mid-terms. The president will then spend the remainder of the term fighting off impeachment. Any of today’s geriatrics will have too visibly aged to stand re-election. The winds of a recovering economy will blow a Trump++ through a demoralised Democratic electorate and into the standard two-term presidency. Then the end game can start.

    1
  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    To me, it seems bizarre and even unethical to willingly choose to give political power to someone you believe shouldn’t have it.

    So IMO, those who don’t support Sanders (or any other candidate) at all but vote for him anyway will be responsible for everything they do once elected in the same way that those who “voted against” Clinton by voting for Trump are responsible for Trump’s presidency.

    It’s not unethical to make the best of a bad situation. I’m utilitarian, I suppose, greatest good for the greatest number. Faced with the famous trolley problem I’d have no reluctance to kill the one to save the five. Or to get more real world, would I have nuked Hiroshima? Yep. And yes, I’d be responsible for what followed.

    5
  16. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    That is why I argue for strategic voting (including in primaries) and that the notion that a vote is not solely about voting for the candidate.

    Voting in primaries is different because they are purely about preferences and do not give the winning candidate any political authority. I think with primaries any kind of strategic voting, to including “supporting” a candidate you actually oppose is justified for that reason.

    But in an election for an actual office, it’s an affirmative act.

    To James’ point above, voting for Sanders may not be an affirmative vote for Sanders, per se, but could very well be an affirmative vote for moving away from the bad governance we currently are experiencing.

    No, that is a rationalization. By voting for a candidate you are expressly and definitively telling the political system that you want that particular candidate to have the power and authority of the office he/she is running for.

    4
  17. Teve says:

    @Kit: Trump is going to lose in November. Clarence Thomas will then announce his retirement so he can be replaced by a 35 year old judge from South Carolina who still calls gay people faggots. McConnell will have the vote a week later.

    5
  18. Teve says:

    Sounds like Andy would let the trolley run over five people instead of “affirmatively” switching to the track with one person.

    5
  19. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s not unethical to make the best of a bad situation. I’m utilitarian, I suppose, greatest good for the greatest number. Faced with the famous trolley problem I’d have no reluctance to kill the one to save the five. Or to get more real world, would I have nuked Hiroshima? Yep. And yes, I’d be responsible for what followed.

    I’m utilitarian as well, but I do have minimum standards.

    Many people seem to have, as a first principle, the need to vote for a candidate that can win (the binary choice Republican or Democrat in most cases). That, by necessity, makes any degree of strategic voting possible since you’re artificially limiting yourself to only two choices. I don’t agree with that principle, which I think is a big reason why I look at voting much differently than most people.

    5
  20. Kit says:

    @Teve: Just as it took Trump to show that the Legislature is a paper tiger (it can safely be ignored, and doesn’t even control the power of the purse), the next step is to show that the SC can either be ignored or made to vote as needed. Then it will be State of Emergencies and Executive Orders all the way down.

    3
  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    Not to go all woke on you, Andy, but you vote from a secure position in society. You’re white, male, educated, not poor. AA voters have been supporting least-bads for a long time, as have gay voters, Latino voters, the poor, etc… And Jews. I’m a very attenuated Jew, but I vote like a Jew, I vote like a person who does not have the security to be anything but strategic.

    As we sit here discussing there are literally millions of my fellow Americans just itching to find a way to turn an epidemic into anti-semitism. If you have doubts about that, I refer you to the entire history of the western world over the last two millennia. A drinking game that involved taking a shot every time someone tried to attach Soros to Coronavirus would kill us both in minutes.

    I vote like all minorities vote: for the guy least likely to throw us in camps. Between Trump and Sanders that’s clearly Sanders.

    10
  22. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I vote like all minorities vote: for the guy least likely to throw us in camps. Between Trump and Sanders that’s clearly Sanders.

    Then you should vote Libertarian.

    Look, I’m not saying that no one should vote for Sanders. If you like him or at least find him tolerable, then, by all means, vote for Sanders.

    I’m simply pointing out the fact that voting for a candidate means that you want that candidate to hold the office. That is how the system works. There is no mechanism to specifically vote against someone. The system doesn’t care about any individual’s reasoning used to justify their vote. People can vote for Sanders but claim they are voting against Trump and not voting for Sanders, but that is a rationalization.

    If you vote for Sanders you are voting for Sanders and your vote will be tallied on an equal basis with the vote of the most hard-core Sanders supporter. People should not dodge or rationalize away the responsibility of that affirmative act of support – arguably the most important act in politics.

    4
  23. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “the guy least likely to throw us in camps. Between Trump and Sanders that’s clearly Sanders.”

    And worst case scenario, if Sanders did throw us in camps, they’d be nice camps with crafts and canoes and folksongs…

    5
  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    I’m simply pointing out the fact that voting for a candidate means that you want that candidate to hold the office. That is how the system works.

    No, it’s not how the system works. The system says A or B, choose one. And vulnerable groups are not reassured by a party like the LP which may have a reassuring platform but holds no power.

    6
  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:
    I assume there’d be a vegan option. . .

    2
  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    It bothers me that you don’t get this. I really hate to fall back on obnoxious lefty terminology, but you live in a world of white, male privilege. Until 2008, 100% of serious candidates for president have been white, Christian, men. Your world is not the world the other America lives in. It’s not even the world I live in, and I’m pretty secure compared to most.

    Look at it this way: Indians have the vote, have had the vote since 1924. List all the candidates a Lakota might have looked at and thought, ‘That guy’s going to be good for me and my family.” Minorities vote defensively. You don’t. Minorities are afraid. You’re not. The worst thing that can happen to you is your taxes go up.

    People did not march through Charlottesville chanting ‘Whites will not replace us,’ while carrying iconography meant to evoke the party that carried out the Holocaust. You need to understand what that means if you’re going to understand people beyond your own identity group.

    There’s a reason Jews, an educated, prosperous, successful minority still vote like a minority. There are people right here in OTB comments from time to time who would happily act as camp guards. You don’t have to think about that; I do. So, with all due respect, you are not in a position to criticize the choices others less secure than yourself make.

    12
  27. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    That is why I argue for strategic voting (including in primaries) and that the notion that a vote is not solely about voting for the candidate.

    Yep. If I could anoint any of the remaining Democratic candidates President, I’d likely pick Buttigieg. But I’m likely to vote for Biden next Tuesday if he wins in South Carolina Saturday. And likely to vote for Bloomberg in Biden fails in South Carolina.

    3
  28. An Interested Party says:

    Then you should vote Libertarian.

    Oh, in other words, he should just throw his vote away…

    6
  29. James Joyner says:

    @Andy:

    By voting for a candidate you are expressly and definitively telling the political system that you want that particular candidate to have the power and authority of the office he/she is running for.

    Not in a binary system you aren’t. When faced with two alternatives, choosing one is simply an expression of your evaluation of those two alternatives.

    @Teve:

    Sounds like Andy would let the trolley run over five people instead of “affirmatively” switching to the track with one person.

    Which is the morally correct choice if you’re a deontologist. Andy is expressing the same sentiment Doug Mataconis has argued here extensively. I disagree with it but understand it.

    @An Interested Party:

    Oh, in other words, he should just throw his vote away…

    I think voting as a signaling mechanism is perfectly defensible in our system if you live in a state that’s truly red or blue. Voting Libertarian in Texas, Alabama, Utah, California, DC, etc. is perfectly rational. But I think it’s abrogation of the responsibilities of citizenship if you live in a state that could go either way, much less a true swing state.

    6
  30. Jen says:

    But I think it’s abrogation of the responsibilities of citizenship if you live in a state that could go either way, much less a true swing state.

    Yes, absolutely. As long as we select based on the Electoral College, there is a built-in bias to a 2-party system, and that bias is amplified in swing states.

    1
  31. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The point that Andy is trying to make is that you can’t vote “against” someone, you can only vote “for” someone. The reasons you vote for that person are irrelevant (except to you).

    If you vote for Sanders because you hate him less than Trump, that’s fine. But it is, nevertheless a vote for Sanders. Once it’s cast, the reasoning behind it vanishes. All that remains is the number of votes (more or less than Trump), and the ability of Sanders to say “All these people voted for me, I have a mandate.”

    Now… I would absolutely love to see what would happen if we actually could vote negative–everyone gets one vote, and they can either “up-vote” or “down-vote” a single candidate. I wonder how many candidates would be getting negative totals.

    2
  32. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Michael, you are fighting a strawman here.

    So, with all due respect, you are not in a position to criticize the choices others less secure than yourself make.

    I’m not criticizing you for voting for Sanders or anyone else. I’m not telling people, and certainly not minorities, who they should vote for or why they should vote or what their voting reasons or criteria should be.

    I’m simply pointing out that when you vote for a candidate – regardless of your individual privilege, skin color, gender, or status in society – that you are explicitly supporting that candidate in the way the matters most in our system. The reasons and justifications for why you voted simply do not matter to the outcome. If you vote for Bernie then you are a de facto Bernie supporter even if you oppose all of his policies. If you’re Ok with that, then who am I to judge?

    If I am criticizing anything at all, it’s that I do not understand why someone would vote for a candidate that is diametrically opposed to everything the voter stands for and does not even consider the candidate to be a person of good character.

    As a Jew, I could certainly understand why you would hypothetically vote for Stalin above Hitler, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are voting for Stalin and directly enabling him.

    2
  33. Andy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Oh, in other words, he should just throw his vote away…

    Why is that a worse choice than voting for someone you completely oppose?

    @James Joyner:

    Not in a binary system you aren’t. When faced with two alternatives, choosing one is simply an expression of your evaluation of those two alternatives.

    Except it’s not a binary choice system, there are always alternatives on the ballot and there is always the option of not voting – it’s just that the systemic incentives drive most people to vote as if it were a binary choice system.

    So my statement is accurate: By voting for a candidate you are expressly and definitively telling the political system that you want that particular candidate to have the power and authority of the office he/she is running for.

    And the irony is that Trump likely won the 2016 election in large part because many people were voting “against” Clinton. And if Sanders gets the nomination there will likely be a nontrivial number of voters who vote “against” Sanders by voting for Trump.

    This is what trying to vote against candidates gets you. The system doesn’t care about your justifications. If you vote for a candidate you are, in fact, supporting that candidate.

    3
  34. Andy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m trying to get at.

    Now… I would absolutely love to see what would happen if we actually could vote negative–everyone gets one vote, and they can either “up-vote” or “down-vote” a single candidate. I wonder how many candidates would be getting negative totals.

    That would be very interesting. I wonder if something like that has ever been tried.

    1
  35. Pylon says:

    @Andy: So IMO, those who don’t support Sanders (or any other candidate) at all but vote for him anyway will be responsible for everything they do once elected in the same way that those who “voted against” Clinton by voting for Trump are responsible for Trump’s presidency.

    In a two party system, those who don’t like Sanders but have even less regard for Trump are responsible for Trump if they don’t vote, or even worse, vote for a third party candidate who takes votes from Sanders, and Trump wins, IMO.

    2
  36. the Q says:

    Who said this regarding universal healthcare for all? “Healthy citizens constitute our greatest natural resource, and prudence as well as justice demands that we husband that resource. … as a nation we should not reserve good health and long productive life for the well-to-do, only, but should strive to make good health equally available to all citizens.”

    And who gave this response” “Shall the independent professional status of physicians, dentists, nurses and medical technicians be maintained or—will you become a servant of a government agency taking orders from a departmental bureaucrat?”

    No, the first quote wasn’t Bernie, it was Harry Truman in 1947. And, no, the second quote isn’t from the GOP against medicare for all, it was the AMA’s response in 19 fucking 47. The same lame response they have given since.

    You feckless boomers keep pushing for the same DLC corporatist losers who the voters reject. The boomer “progressives” all became money grubbing limousine liberals the minute Nixon banished the draft in 1973 and the war was an afterthought since none of you would be drafted and the whole pretext of bringing down the establishment became “we are the establishment, now let us go make gobs of money while we give 8 year olds the right to declare their sexual identity so we can feel good about ourselves while the middle class shrinks and the poor rot.”

    So Jerry Rubin goes from yippie to selling time shares…the greatest wealth inequality and income disparity in the history of the US and the drastic lowering of income and inheritance tax was done under the “pot and free love” hypocrites who now cry tears of sorrow over democratic “populism”. Spare me the bullshit. The bulwarks put in place by previous generations of Dem “progressives” (Glass Steagall, anti trust laws, huge inheritance and marginal income tax rates) were systematically decimated by the spoiled boomers and now they cry “geez, Bernie is not really a Democrat”, well neither the fuck are any of you.

    The Dem neolibs are the GOP of 1973 with bathroom/gender rights and reparations on the agenda.

    Bernie scares the shit out of the Dem establishment because he threatens the unholy alliance of Wall St./Silicon Valley/Big Pharma/HMOs/WTO crowd. The neolibs like former USTR Michael Froman who gained tens of millions as a Citicorp exec are only too happy to destroy manufacturing jobs in the rust belt in return for access to foreign financial markets and the clamping down of IP theft. EVERY so called “free trade” agreement has worsened our balance of trade. Our trade deficit prior to Clinton giving China MFN status was 10 billion. Bernie was against Clinton giving the MFN status. Now our deficit with China is $400 billion. Yet Bernie is the out of control socialist that no one in the midwest will vote for?

    Then, when those dispossessed voters go for someone who cares more about their livelihoods than an illegal’s free tuition to UC Berkeley, there is contempt for the “racist white male high school flyover country morons.” Yet many of these morons voted for Carter, Clinton and Obama because they spoke to their concerns.

    So, as Obama builds his 400 million dollar library with corporate/law firm/pharma/lobbyist donations, keep spewing dreck about the “death of Dem progressivism because of Bernie.”

    1
  37. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think voting as a signaling mechanism is perfectly defensible in our system if you live in a state that’s truly red or blue. Voting Libertarian in Texas, Alabama, Utah, California, DC, etc. is perfectly rational. But I think it’s abrogation of the responsibilities of citizenship if you live in a state that could go either way, much less a true swing state.

    So if both major party candidates are unfit for office or completely hostile to my political values, I must still support one of them with my vote or be declared a bad citizen? What a terrible, undemocratic argument.

    2
  38. wr says:

    @the Q: As I’ve said here repeatedly, although he’s not my first choice if Bernie wins the nomination I will support him whole-heartedly and without reservation.

    But thanks for reminding me why some hate him and his followers…

    8
  39. Kurtz says:

    @the Q:

    My dude, you’re not helping your candidate.

    I am one of several people here who are sympathetic to your general views, and I find your posts loathesome, odious, and counterproductive.

    5
  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: In the alternative, when “:voting is inherently an act of affirmative support,” one ends up not voting for either a Democrat or Republican in 7 straight elections and starts to wonder what the point of voting is at all.

    (And I think Snow Crab cakes are just fine, thank you, and will suffice when I’m not on the East Coast–which is most of my life. I also happen to like Dungeness Crab cakes, but I grew up in Washington, so that may just be a regional preference because they’re always freshly made.)

    5
  41. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There are people right here in OTB comments from time to time who would happily act as camp guards.

    Dude, I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I need the health insurance. And government pensions are pretty good…

    2
  42. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Andy: No, it makes no sense to understand that one of the candidates WILL be President and not make a choice that reduces harm…assuming one judges both candidates to be “bad”.

    Strategic voting requires one being able to apply wisdom from both a risk mitigation or a harm reduction lens. We make other decisions from both lenses all the time.

    To state that voting is an affirmative act only, in addition to being an arbitrary judgement, practically says that a fighter can only use one hand and one strategy.

    But hey…Do you

    4
  43. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @An Interested Party: And here is where I feel like Andy has a right to have his own view of what to do with his vote…but fails to see how judgemental he comes across characterizing others choice as ‘bizarre’.

    WTF does the Libertarian party offer for the Black community? And knowing that, in almost every election, a D or R will win the election. Why would it be bizarre to minimize the damage the Rs will do to my community? By voting for the Libertarian, I will have maximized the number of people voting for R policies. Which would be counterproductive for the outcome I want.
    All I can say that its good to be in a position when you can be guided solely by principle with limited adverse affect. Many, many, many people do not live in that place

    6
  44. Modulo Myself says:

    The main difference seems to be that Bernie Sanders is a politician. I don’t care how divisive his stump speeches are–spending decades being in in office requires an incredible amount of non-divisiveness. David Brooks can write about morality as he leaves his wife for his 30-year old research assistant, and the moderates on the internet can blather about bringing people together as they shudder at any human contact, but showing up as a politician requires way more than writing an op-ed about how politicians should be.

    I think Sanders will probably lose. But he’s going to lose partly because older dying off whites are going to vote for an ex-reality tv star who plays a politicians because they have no capacity to handle reality.

  45. An Interested Party says:

    No, the first quote wasn’t Bernie, it was Harry Truman in 1947.

    Well of course that was Truman…there’s no way Bernie could ever be that eloquent…

    The Dem neolibs are the GOP of 1973 with bathroom/gender rights and reparations on the agenda.

    Oh yes, God forbid that the Democratic Party should do anything for the LGBTQ community and black people…you know, two of their most important constituencies…

    Bernie scares the shit out of the Dem establishment because he threatens the unholy alliance of Wall St./Silicon Valley/Big Pharma/HMOs/WTO crowd.

    Umm, no…Bernie scares the shit out of a lot of people because they think he would lead to a Trump reelection…

    Spare me the bullshit.

    Follow your own advice…

    So if both major party candidates are unfit for office or completely hostile to my political values, I must still support one of them with my vote or be declared a bad citizen?

    That doesn’t make a person a bad citizen, but depending on which state one lives in, that could lead to a person helping Trump to get reelected…

    WTF does the Libertarian party offer for the Black community?

    Well hell, what do they offer any community? Well, apart from the community of greedy, selfish Randians…

    2
  46. Jax says:

    My Boomer mother who voted for Obama twice and then Trump informed me today that Medicare For All means everyone over 65 is going to lose their Medicare. (eyeroll)

    **I will be going through her Facebook news feed tomorrow and “hiding” whatever crap pages are telling her that**

    1
  47. Andy says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Strategic voting requires one being able to apply wisdom from both a risk mitigation or a harm reduction lens. We make other decisions from both lenses all the time.

    As I said, I don’t think strategic voting is always a bad thing. I’ve yet to vote for a candidate that I support 100%. I’m flexible when it comes to voting, have my priorities and am willing to overlook many policy disagreements and personal flaws, just like everyone else does.

    The difference seems to be that I do have minimum standards and won’t vote for any candidate that does not meet them. In other words, there is a limit to the compromises I’m willing to accept in a candidate.

    The argument I’m hearing here is that having a minimum standard for a candidate is not only wrong but also contrary to one’s civic duty and is the product of white male privilege – a benefit unavailable to minorities and the less privleged.

    The argument I’m hearing is that standards don’t matter at all – the only thing that matters is a comparative analysis solely between the two major-party candidates to determine which one is worse. And, once that is determined, then people simply must vote for the lesser evil (as determined by the arguer) regardless of circumstance or their personal views – to do anything else helps the “worse” candidate win and is actually de facto supporting that worse candidate.

    People on the left (including here at OTB) tell me that voting for a third party is tantamount to voting for Trump. People on the right tell me that voting third party is tantamount to voting for *insert Democratic candidate here*.

    Meanwhile, the argument goes, voting for the lesser evil isn’t actually supporting the lesser evil because it’s a “strategic” vote.

    The logic in this reasoning has some pretty glaring flaws.

    And here is where I feel like Andy has a right to have his own view of what to do with his vote…but fails to see how judgemental he comes across characterizing others choice as ‘bizarre’.

    Yes, I think it is bizarre to be willing to cast an affirmative vote for a candidate who opposes everything you stand for when there are other options available.

    It’s bizarre to me because I don’t understand this worldview, even though it appears to be very common. I don’t understand how people can speak about the importance of political principles and policies and then turn around and throw those principles in the trash to vote “strategically” as described above. I come at this from the perspective of trying to understand this worldview, where locking oneself into a false binary choice is more important than any other consideration. Where the “lesser of evils” voting calculus trumps everything and is even declared to be virtuous. I don’t understand why this strategy must triumph in every single instance, and that there is never a case where one would choose to vote for a third-party candidate or not vote at all.

    WTF does the Libertarian party offer for the Black community? And knowing that, in almost every election, a D or R will win the election. Why would it be bizarre to minimize the damage the Rs will do to my community?

    I’m not telling you to vote for the libertarian or for any candidate or party. I don’t even know who I’m going to vote for yet.

    I think you should vote for whatever candidate you believe is competent to hold the office and best represents your views. I’m not here to tell you who that is.

    All I can say that its good to be in a position when you can be guided solely by principle with limited adverse affect. Many, many, many people do not live in that place

    The idea that principles are a luxury for the privileged is a notion that I don’t share. It’s quite the opposite in my view. Acting on your own principles is what gives an individual agency.

    Dispensing with principles to play a narrow strategic game where the rules and the playing field are set by third parties is giving ones’ agency away.

    2
  48. wr says:

    @Andy: “Dispensing with principles to play a narrow strategic game where the rules and the playing field are set by third parties is giving ones’ agency away.”

    And choosing whatever kind of play that makes you feel virtuous when the rules and the playing field are set by third parties is nothing more than a narcissistic declaration of personal purity,

    When the system is set up so that there is in effect a binary choice, then a vote for any other candidate is an expression of nothing. And I can guarantee that when they are counting votes, they’re not going to hold yours up, see you boldly voted for Jill Stein or whoever, and say “This, ladies and gentlemen, is the last good man in America, a veritable symbol of purity and choice.” They just toss it in the losers pile.

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  49. mattbernius says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    WTF does the Libertarian party offer for the Black community?

    Functionally jack and shit until they want to acknowledge that because markets are human creations, they can have discrimination and bias fundamentally baked into them. And therefore that needs to be controlled for.

    Until then, all they want to do is prop up institutions that were optimized to essentially keep Black, and other minority communities, second class citizens.

    2
  50. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    Acting on your own principles is what gives an individual agency.

    Dispensing with principles to play a narrow strategic game where the rules and the playing field are set by third parties is giving ones’ agency away.

    Andy, out of curiosity, do you think it’s possible for an individual to hold personal principles that are at crossed purposes? Are their times when an individual to act ethically within the world preference one personal principle over another?

    1
  51. @Andy: Keeping in mind that I am honestly not trying to persuade you to vote for anyone in particular, two quick responses (and I am also working on a post about my broader views on this topic):

    I think you should vote for whatever candidate you believe is competent to hold the office and best represents your views.

    I say the following with no snark at all: if one truly adheres to this view, then I would think that pretty much every vote would be a write-in.

    The idea that principles are a luxury for the privileged is a notion that I don’t share. It’s quite the opposite in my view.

    I think it is important to note that those who are arguing with you on a philosophical level are also arguing principles. The point is that there is a conflict of principle between voting pure preference and voting as efficaciously as possible.

    Neither necessarily can claim to be the more principled position (or, more accurately, this debate is very much about which is more principled).

    1
  52. @Andy:

    Dispensing with principles to play a narrow strategic game where the rules and the playing field are set by third parties is giving ones’ agency away.

    One more response: every choice we get to make is constrained, in some ways, by third parties.

    Assessing the efficacy of action is part of life and we are all constrained, constantly, by others.

    And part of making choices is about assessing what will advance our principles or impede them, even if incrementally. And that’s not losing agency, it is actively deploying it.

    1
  53. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Neither necessarily can claim to be the more principled position (or, more accurately, this debate is very much about which is more principled).

    And, not to get too recursive, but isn’t that decision itself a matter of personal principle? So in that case I am having a hard time understanding how making said choice is “dispensing with personal principle.”

  54. BTW: we keep having this discussion because of Trump. Either Trump is truly as bad as many of say he is, and therefore is worth opposing with the only tool available (voting for the person with the best chance of beating him) or he isn’t really that bad (or, one thinks in this scenario under discussion, that Sanders is just as bad).

    If one really thinks Sanders is just as bad, then I get it. If one thinks Sanders is actually an improvement, then I have a harder time with the argument for voting third party in this context.

    Keep in mind, too, I think that margin of victory/loss matters as a signaling device, so I am not persuaded by the argument that those in deep red or deep blue states are absolved of making a choice. (In a normal election I would hold a different view).

    Keep in mind, too, I think Trump represents a serious threat to the basis of the global order (including the global economy) as well as to the basic fabric of US governance (he is corrupt and incompetent). As such, I think 2020 is really, really important.

    2
  55. Andy says:

    @wr:

    And choosing whatever kind of play that makes you feel virtuous when the rules and the playing field are set by third parties is nothing more than a narcissistic declaration of personal purity,

    Well, that’s a well worn, ad hominem argument that doesn’t have much merit IMO. But let’s test it.

    Let’s use the extreme case mentioned above – an election between Stalin and Hitler. Since your logic requires removing personal values in service of voting for a major-party candidate, which is the right choice?

    Is there ANY instance or circumstance where you would not vote for a major party candidate?

    Secondly, I don’t know if this applies to you, but in my experience partisans are hypocritical about this demand to put values behind blind support to binary voting – they love and encourage voters on the other side to vote third party or not vote at all in order to weaken their opponent. But for those who might vote third party instead of for theire their preferred candidate, then all the usual arguments are seen here come out.

    So, if we apply your rubric to the right side of politics then those who are troubled with Trump, especially #nevertrumpers, should quit with their “declarations of personal purity” and vote for Trump anyway. Correct? After all, the essence of #nevertrumpism is voting for or supporting Trump conflicts with their personal values. So why shouldn’t we call them all narcissists and tell them to get on the Trump train?

    When the system is set up so that there is in effect a binary choice, then a vote for any other candidate is an expression of nothing.

    Well, that’s your opinion and you are welcome to it. But I obviously have a different view.

    @mattbernius:

    Until then, all they want to do is prop up institutions that were optimized to essentially keep Black, and other minority communities, second class citizens.

    I’m not a Libertarian, but I think that is an incorrect caricature for most Libertarians. In general, Libertarians are opposed to institutions that limit personal freedom and autonomy.

  56. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    I’m not a Libertarian, but I think that is an incorrect caricature for most Libertarians. In general, Libertarians are opposed to institutions that limit personal freedom and autonomy.

    Understood you’re not a libertarian, but the reality is that the topic of racism is a huge blindspot in libertarian circles — which typically use exactly the description you use to cover it up. That’s how we get to the idea that civil rights legislation was a limitation on the personal freedom and autonomy of restaurants to decide whom they would serve coupled with the better solution would have been to let the market decide and have institutions that favored segregation run out of business.

    For more detailed reading on this I suggest:

    A primer:
    https://theweek.com/articles/863217/time-create-libertarian-ecosystem-that-doesnt-welcome-racists

    And the writings of Jonathon Blanks whose done an amazing job documenting this at Cato and elsewhere. In particular, the following is a great start:
    https://www.libertarianism.org/columns/why-are-there-so-few-black-libertarians

    So if I am engaging in caricature, then so are a number of others (including Cato staff writers and others like Radley Balko who, while not cited here, has written on the topic extensively as well).

  57. @mattbernius:

    And, not to get too recursive, but isn’t that decision itself a matter of personal principle? So in that case I am having a hard time understanding how making said choice is “dispensing with personal principle.”

    I would agree with this.

    1
  58. @Andy:

    Let’s use the extreme case mentioned above – an election between Stalin and Hitler.

    Let me stipulate, for the record, that I concur that an election between Stalin and Hitler is one in which I would vote for neither.

    However, I would further note that a choice between Stalin and Hitler is not a democratic choice and I think it muddies the waters.

    1
  59. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    Andy, out of curiosity, do you think it’s possible for an individual to hold personal principles that are at crossed purposes? Are their times when an individual to act ethically within the world preference one personal principle over another?

    I think in almost every circumstance in life we have principles that are at crossed purposes. It’s one reason why I try (and often fail) to maintain and deliberately act according to first principles and consider the alternatives.

    Generally, I’m skeptical of those who claim there is only one legitimate path or a single solution – which frankly seems to characterize the arguments against me here.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think it is important to note that those who are arguing with you on a philosophical level are also arguing principles. The point is that there is a conflict of principle between voting pure preference and voting as efficaciously as possible.

    Yes I agree. And my basic view is there are instances where voting pure preference should be the priority principle and there are cases where efficacy should be the priority principle.

    On the other side, many here are stating that efficacy forever and always trumps every other principle and consideration and some have gone further and stated that disagreement is narcissism or shirking ones’ civic duty.

    I think I’m being fair by acknowledging that voting based purely on a least-bad binary calculation is valid in many cases. I just don’t believe it’s valid in every case. I think there are times when voting on principle is a moral necessity and I think it’s reasonable to suggest that individuals should not sacrifice all their values in the service of efficacy.

    And I’m trying to understand that absolutist position. I’m trying to understand why someone would, in every conceivable case, put the efficacy of binary choice voting ahead of their political values. I’m trying to understand why a person would willingly vote and thereby give political legitimacy and political power to a candidate who opposes virtually everything they stand for instead of another option.

    BTW: we keep having this discussion because of Trump.

    I’ve been having this same argument for almost 40 years, so I don’t think it’s because of Trump.

    What’s different with Trump (and Sanders, should he get nominated) is that the argument for considering a third party is only getting stronger. Back in “normal” times when candidates had much broader public appeal and were all nominally qualified to hold the office, the argument for voting third party was much weaker than it is today. If Sanders gets nominated then we will have two candidates far outside the mainstream and unrepresentative of the American public as a whole. And if the current predictions are correct, Sanders won’t even command a majority of primary voters.

    If one really thinks Sanders is just as bad, then I get it. If one thinks Sanders is actually an improvement, then I have a harder time with the argument for voting third party in this context.

    As I’ve noted before, I have minimum standards that any candidate must meet. If both candidates don’t meet that standard then which one is “better” doesn’t really come into play. In my view, even before considering policy, neither Sander or Trump are fit to hold the office.

    And it’s frankly difficult to evaluate what kind of President Sanders would be given his thin list of accomplishments and lack of recent executive experience. Whether Sanders is actually an improvement is, at best, untested.

    Keep in mind, too, I think Trump represents a serious threat to the basis of the global order (including the global economy) as well as to the basic fabric of US governance (he is corrupt and incompetent). As such, I think 2020 is really, really important.

    Then the Democrats should choose their candidate carefully. I’m voting on Super Tuesday, so I will have a very small say in that.

    Let me stipulate, for the record, that I concur that an election between Stalin and Hitler is one in which I would vote for neither.

    However, I would further note that a choice between Stalin and Hitler is not a democratic choice and I think it muddies the waters.

    The point of that question is to test just how strongly one believes in voting based on efficacy vs preference. I think everyone, despite what they might claim, has a limit when it comes to voting efficacy. If that’s the case then the only difference between me and everyone else is that my limit is lower. And if that’s the case, then the conversation should change accordingly.

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  60. @Andy:

    I’ve been having this same argument for almost 40 years, so I don’t think it’s because of Trump.

    While I do understand the broader existence of this argument (driven by the US electoral system), I can only be held responsible for what I am arguing, and my argument in this matter has been primarily about Trump’s election and potential re-election.

    1
  61. @Andy:

    I think everyone, despite what they might claim, has a limit when it comes to voting efficacy.

    I will stipulate this is true. But when you have to achieve proof of this by going to Stalin v. Hitler, you have changed the nature of the discussion.

    The argument, at least from my POV (and I think from a lot of commenters here, although I cannot speak for them all) is based primarily on the practicality of the moment.

    1
  62. I will add that I think you and I do have a different view on the philosophical nature of the vote itself.

    1
  63. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    I don’t really have the time and energy to give this off-topic tangent the examination and discussion it deserves. And I guess this tangent sprang from my half-jesting comment to Michael about voting Libertarian. However, on that score, if he really wants to vote for the guy (sic) that is least likely to throw people into camps, then that would probably be the Libertarian candidate.

    But to just briefly, respond to your comment, I do think it’s the case, as with most people, that Libertarians often don’t live up to their ideals. And one of the many reasons I’m not a Libertarian is that their dogma is inflexible which creates problems when it crashes into reality (socialists have this same issue actually). This is especially true for the more dogmatic and radical Libertarians. One area where this occurs is when the ideal of maximizing individual autonomy (which I support in principle) meets the reality of people using individual autonomy to promote or engage in discrimination and intolerance. There’s also a line to be drawn on when and to what extent collective action is necessary to protect individuals. Libertarians of different flavors try to deal with that problem in different ways, not always successfully.

  64. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I will stipulate this is true. But when you have to achieve proof of this by going to Stalin v. Hitler, you have changed the nature of the discussion.

    Well, you are the only one that has stipulated that this is true (to your credit).

    Most everyone else, so far, is not merely disagreeing with me. They are stating that I’m a narcissist and shirking my civic responsibilities (and that’s just in this thread, there’s been worse ad hominem and name-calling other threads) for not adhering to their view. When arrayed against debate opponents who do not grant my views even minimal legitimacy, I feel completely justified in utilizing that kind of hypothetical scenario to test their apparent absolutism.

    So yes, changing the nature of the discussion was completely intentional.

    I will add that I think you and I do have a different view on the philosophical nature of the vote itself.

    Perhaps.

    I’ll just reiterate that at its core, I think voting is about distributing political power and it’s an inherently affirmative act. When you vote for a candidate you are explicitly telling the political system that you want that candidate to have the office and power and authority that comes with it. That is the purpose of voting. Everything else is secondary.

    1
  65. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @An Interested Party: Throw it away, not use it in a Hobson’s Choice, potayto, potahto.

  66. @Andy:

    I’ll just reiterate that at its core, I think voting is about distributing political power and it’s an inherently affirmative act. When you vote for a candidate you are explicitly telling the political system that you want that candidate to have the office and power and authority that comes with it.

    And I will continue to counter that in a situation in which someone as bad as Trump is one of the options, voting third party (or abstaining) is telling the political system that you are opting out of directly influencing the outcome in any way that matters (unless, of course, Trump’s opponent is truly as bad as he is).

    And I would note this is a collective action problem, not just one of a singular choice.

  67. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    The bulwarks put in place by previous generations of Dem “progressives” (Glass Steagall, anti trust laws, huge inheritance and marginal income tax rates) were systematically decimated by the spoiled boomers and now they cry “geez, Bernie is not really a Democrat”, well neither the fuck are any of you.

    I can see his point.

  68. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And I will continue to counter that in a situation in which someone as bad as Trump is one of the options, voting third party (or abstaining) is telling the political system that you are opting out of directly influencing the outcome in any way that matters (unless, of course, Trump’s opponent is truly as bad as he is).

    And I would note this is a collective action problem, not just one of a singular choice.

    We’re talking about two different things that aren’t mutually exclusive.

    As a matter of the mechanics of how power is actually determined, my description is factual. If you vote for Sanders or Trump or whoever, you are telling our political system that is the person who you want to be President. Full stop.

    This choice is the only information that gets sent, tabulated, and collected to determine the final winner. Your reasons for voting for a particular candidate, regardless of what they are, aren’t measured, collected or otherwise recorded by the election system.

    What you’re describing, quoted above, is something different – a voting strategy and a rationalization for voting a certain way that is based on certain assumptions. It’s a perfectly valid strategy but it’s not the only strategy.

    But the fact remains that if you vote for Sanders, you are voting FOR Sanders regardless of the reasons or strategy employed to arrive at that decision. The system will record your vote as an affirmative for making Sanders the President and it doesn’t care about anything else.

  69. Andy says:

    And yes, voting does come with an opportunity cost since we only have one choice. That plays into the strategy that you talked about.

    If your only goal is to ensure that Trump gets defeated, then the highest utility option will probably be voting for whoever the Democratic candidate is.

    That doesn’t change the fact that in order to employ that strategy you must vote for the Democratic candidate, and tell the system that candidate is who you want to be President. Your goal may be to defeat Trump, but by voting for a candidate, you inherently accept the responsibility that comes with voting for that candidate.

    Similarly, someone who chooses to vote the third party, or for Trump, or not vote at all, must similarly accept the choice they make as well as all the responsibility that comes with it.

    As long as the individual voter can live with their choice and accept the outcome, whatever it is, then that is all that matters.

  70. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andy:

    So if both major party candidates are unfit for office or completely hostile to my political values, I must still support one of them with my vote or be declared a bad citizen?

    ([sigh] As has been noted before…) If one lives in a state where the outcome of said state’s balloting can turn the outcome of the entire election (I believe we call such places “swing states”), then, yes, the wisest choice for a voter will be to select which set of policies that are “completely hostile to my political values” will yield the best outcome for the citizens of the nation. You don’t appear to live in one of those states, nor do I, so we are free to vote (or not vote in my case) however we choose.

    Those who are not you or me and do live in the so-called swing states may have a different obligation. While as independent moral agents they are entirely free to reject the above argument, such people might need to consider what will happen if all of them decide to reject it simultaneously. It might be wiser for such a citizen in such situation to decide to forego her individual agency (even though she might suspect that she will be the only one who does).

    As to whether someone who does not forego such agency is a bad citizen and should be identified as such, I suspect that you have a strong enough ego and self-identity to make that decision on your own. I got no dog in that fight and ain’t gonna buy one for it.

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  71. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    So I was writing a response to you last night, but stopped to think a bit. I decided on a simpler approach:

    If the citizens in a democracy are responsible for everything that their chosen representatives do, would that not justify the (para)military targeting of civilians?

    1
  72. Andy says:

    @Kurtz:

    If the citizens in a democracy are responsible for everything that their chosen representatives do, would that not justify the (para)military targeting of civilians?

    Intentionally targeting non-combatants is a war crime, so no.

    But in a democracy, I do think citizens are ultimately responsible for the actions of the government and elected officials. The people are supposed to be the last line of political accountability. If they aren’t ultimately responsible, then who is?

    I’m reminded fo the famous HL Mencken quote:

    Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard

    1
  73. Andy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    You don’t appear to live in one of those states, nor do I, so we are free to vote (or not vote in my case) however we choose.

    I actually live in Colorado now and prior to that was a Florida resident, so I’m a swing-state voter.

    While as independent moral agents they are entirely free to reject the above argument, such people might need to consider what will happen if all of them decide to reject it simultaneously. It might be wiser for such a citizen in such situation to decide to forego her individual agency (even though she might suspect that she will be the only one who does).

    As to whether someone who does not forego such agency is a bad citizen and should be identified as such, I suspect that you have a strong enough ego and self-identity to make that decision on your own. I got no dog in that fight and ain’t gonna buy one for it.

    I think that is a completely reasonable and tenable view. Thanks.

  74. @Andy:

    As a matter of the mechanics of how power is actually determined, my description is factual. If you vote for Sanders or Trump or whoever, you are telling our political system that is the person who you want to be President. Full stop.

    To be honest, I find this formulation problematic. Since people cast votes for any number of motivations, from the complex to the ridiculous (e.g., ballot order, they liked the name, etc), I reject the notion that “you are telling our political system” something specific as empirically flawed.

  75. More here: On the Act of Voting, which is still not a complete exploration of the topic, although I have already spent way too much time on this today.

  76. @Andy:

    As long as the individual voter can live with their choice and accept the outcome, whatever it is, then that is all that matters.

    Well, it isn’t all that matters to the nation and the world if this way of thinking and voting leads to four more years of Trump.

    Elections having consequences and all of that…

    1
  77. @Steven L. Taylor: But to be clear, I understand that a vote for X is, in fact, a vote for X (but it could also be a vote against Y).

    1
  78. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    To be honest, I find this formulation problematic. Since people cast votes for any number of motivations, from the complex to the ridiculous (e.g., ballot order, they liked the name, etc), I reject the notion that “you are telling our political system” something specific as empirically flawed.

    Again, the system does not record or care about motivations. If you pull the lever for candidate X, then you are voting for X. The system does not rank or grade your vote on a curve based on anything, including motivations.

    If you, me and a Bernie Bro all vote for Bernie, our votes are indistinguishable even though all our motivations will be different. The system counts them all equally as an explicit desire to elect Bernie to the office of President.

    Why is that problematic? It’s how the system actually works.

    More here: On the Act of Voting, which is still not a complete exploration of the topic, although I have already spent way too much time on this today.

    As have I, but I will check out your new post. Thanks.

  79. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Elections having consequences and all of that…

    This is what I’ve been saying all along and which is why I think it’s important to understand that the only way to vote against a candidate is to vote for a different candidate and thereby give that other candidate your de facto support – which has consequences. Rationalization, motivation, and strategy don’t change those consequences.

    But to be clear, I understand that a vote for X is, in fact, a vote for X (but it could also be a vote against Y).

    The system doesn’t know if it was a vote against Y or not. It only can’t count the number of affirmative votes for each candidate. That’s why we have exit polls so we can determine why people voted the way that they did – because the system can’t tell us that information.

    Ok, this is it for me in this thread, thanks for the good discussion.

  80. @Andy:

    Again, the system does not record or care about motivations. If you pull the lever for candidate X, then you are voting for X. The system does not rank or grade your vote on a curve based on anything, including motivations.

    I concur. The funny thing is that it seems to me that you are arguing that motivations matter, i.e., “By voting for a candidate you are expressly and definitively telling the political system that you want that particular candidate to have the power and authority of the office he/she is running for”

    1
  81. Indeed, I am arguing that outcomes matter regardless of motivation.

    The most efficacious anti-Trump vote is a vote for a Dem. Full stop (to borrow the phrase).

  82. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    Love the Mencken quote.

    It is similar to this.

    I figured that would be your response. But it doesn’t really work.

    Legal reasoning and moral reasoning are not the same thing–we are talking about the latter.

    As an example, I disagree with Michael about the morality of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But a utilitarian (your framework) justifies it morally if it saves more lives than it costs.

    Its legal status has no bearing on its moral status. Though a utilitarian may want to calculate its effect on the rule of law. But that still leaves open the possibilty of moral justification if the perceived long term risk is below a certain threshold.

  83. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    My initial approach was similar to your arguments, but a little different.

    I think the following makes sense.

    What I’m most puzzled by is his stance that voting for Candidate S is to assume responsibility for all of the candidates actions, yet the choice to decline doesn’t confer any responsibility on him if candidate T wins.

    That would require declination to be a different type of choice all together, but that strikes me as a false distinction. In this sense, his argument is just semantic, not substantive.

    Indeed, once he makes the argument that a voter assumes responsibility for all of a candidate’s actions, he is also responsible for not choosing to vote for the lesser threat in the event the greater one wins. Remember, one of his stated premises is that there is no “vote against” option, only a “vote for” option. But in order to gain absolution, his choice to pull a dead lever must be a vote against.

    It seems to me that his choice is merely a deferral to others, of whom he has no control. It’s like Anton Chigurh absolving himself of responsibility for murder by blaming the coin.

  84. An Interested Party says:

    If you, me and a Bernie Bro all vote for Bernie, our votes are indistinguishable even though all our motivations will be different. The system counts them all equally as an explicit desire to elect Bernie to the office of President.

    Ack, we’re now in how many angels can dance on the head of a pin territory…the bottom line is simple, do you want Trump to win this election or not? The choice is yours…

  85. @Kurtz: This is a lot of my point, yes: there is responsibility for your vote no matter what, and especially in an election like this.

    (And I do love me that movie).

  86. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Have you read the book? McCarthey is excellent. I don’t think anyone but the Coens could adapt it properly.

    The crazy thing is that it may not even be their best movie.

  87. Andy says:

    @Kurtz:

    I figured that would be your response. But it doesn’t really work.

    I don’t understand your line of reasoning here or how it relates to the topic we’re discussing.

    What I’m most puzzled by is his stance that voting for Candidate S is to assume responsibility for all of the candidates actions, yet the choice to decline doesn’t confer any responsibility on him if candidate T wins.

    That would require declination to be a different type of choice all together, but that strikes me as a false distinction. In this sense, his argument is just semantic, not substantive.

    Indeed, once he makes the argument that a voter assumes responsibility for all of a candidate’s actions, he is also responsible for not choosing to vote for the lesser threat in the event the greater one wins. Remember, one of his stated premises is that there is no “vote against” option, only a “vote for” option. But in order to gain absolution, his choice to pull a dead lever must be a vote against.

    Then let me explain. Let’s say your desired outcome is to get Trump out of office so you vote for Bernie believing that is the best way to achieve that outcome. If Bernie wins, then you’ve achieved that outcome – Yay for you. You get to take credit for that result and celebrate.

    But removing Trump from office isn’t the only outcome that results from your decision to vote for Bernie. The other major outcome is that Bernie is now President. And he is President because you and a lot of other people made the knowing and affirmative choice that you wanted him to be the President.

    Since they stem from the same action, those two outcomes – removing Trump from office and a Bernie Presidency – come as a package deal. You can’t get one without the other and you don’t get to claim credit for removing Trump while absolving yourself of all responsibility for a Sander’s Presidency. And you especially don’t get to absolve yourself of responsibility for a Sanders Presidency if you’ve strongly insisted to others that they must vote for Bernie for all the reasons previously given in this thread.

    Furthermore, there is a huge double standard here, and it kinda pisses me off. Many regulars here have directly told me, including one in Steven’s new thread, that not voting for the Democratic candidate is tantamount supporting Trump. And most others have strongly implied that assertion by making all the arguments we’ve seen in this thread as to why voting for anyone but the Democratic candidate is bad because it’s not the full monty opposition to Trump.

    So even though I’m not voting for Trump, they are trying to pin responsibility and accountability for Trump me and people like me.

    Do you see the problem here? By what logic should I be responsible for Trump when I didn’t and won’t vote for him, while those who do vote for Sanders are absolved of responsibility for anything he does?

    A few comments ago Steven said that outcomes matter. I couldn’t agree more. And if you vote for Bernie you own all the outcomes, not just the one you wanted.

  88. An Interested Party says:

    So even though I’m not voting for Trump, they are trying to pin responsibility and accountability for Trump me and people like me.

    Do you see the problem here? By what logic should I be responsible for Trump when I didn’t and won’t vote for him, while those who do vote for Sanders are absolved of responsibility for anything he does?

    A little while ago I was looking at the results from the 2016 election…I noticed that in Pennsylvania, third-party votes vastly outnumbered the difference in the vote totals between Trump and Clinton…those who voted for third-party candidates would have had to have been delusional if they thought that the person they voted for had any chance of winning the state…how can those who voted third-party not receive some blame for why Trump won…

  89. Andy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    how can those who voted third-party not receive some blame for why Trump won…

    Blame them if you want, but don’t be hypocritical about it. The hypocrisy and naked double-standard is what I’m objecting to.

    Also, you can only conclude that those third-party voters helped Trump by assuming that almost all of them would have supported Clinton absent a third-party option.

    For the same reasons, one can’t assume that Trump would have won the popular vote if not for the 4 million people that voted for Gary Johnson.

    As far as I know, we don’t know what the “normal” partisan preference is for those voters.

  90. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    I’m not scolding you at all. I understand not liking the double standard.

    I’ve spent the last two weeks antagonizing Michael though I think we have similar policy goals, partially because I see some double standards in his behavior. I found his responses to you in this thread to be damn good. But I don’t hesitate to be critical of people’s arguments or style just because we typically vote the same way.

    I don’t judge people for their politics, but I do judge their arguments.* Maybe I am able to look past their politics because I am way out of the mainstream in my personal views, and because I have lived most of my life in areas that are mostly populated by people who hold views that are the polar opposite of mine.

    Anyway, think about the civilian-targeting argument–it’s pretty sound. Also look through my other post, I think you have a couple fatal errors in your philosophypositionm
    *There are a few exceptions–Guarneri deserves to be judged.

  91. Starchild says:

    It’s kind of amazing that something so central to many of the issues we see and read and hear about in the news every day, something on which billions of dollars and countless hours of scheming by political “professionals” are expended every year, continues to be so widely misunderstood. Yes, that description can be applied to government itself, but here I’m simply talking about voting. If you’re registered with an alternative party, or even just a free-thinking person who’s ever confessed to somebody else that you plan to vote for a candidate who isn’t among the perceived front-runners (i.e. those declared viable by mainstream media outlets in a particular race), you’ve probably heard some version of a response like, “Why are you wasting your vote? They can’t win. Be realistic. If we don’t vote for Tweedledee, we’re going to get Tweedledum.”

    The truth that’s overlooked in such thinking is this: When you vote in any election in which many thousands of people or more are voting, you can be virtually certain that your individual vote will NOT change the outcome. Changing the outcome of such an election requires the votes of many other people whose behavior at the ballot box you can’t control. Voting on the wishful premise that your vote might change the outcome of an election is LESS realistic than voting on the basis of thinking a Libertarian might get elected! Libertarians actually do get elected far more often than a single vote changes the outcome of any major election (hundreds of Libertarians have been elected around the United States). In the very rare instances when a major election is anywhere close to being decided by a single vote, there’s almost certain to be a recount in which the vote totals will change anyway.

    So in terms of how you choose to vote, it really doesn’t matter whether your chosen candidate has a good chance of winning or not, because whether they are likely to win or not, you won’t be changing that outcome with your vote. The popular idea that you’re “throwing away your vote” by voting for a candidate who “can’t win”, as opposed to supposedly “making your vote count” by voting for one who “can win”, has no basis in reality!

    In fact, mathematically speaking, the fewer votes a candidate receives, the greater the proportional impact that your vote for them will have! To take a simple example, if someone receives only 10 other votes in an election, then your 11th vote for them increases their vote total by 10%. But if you cast your ballot for someone who receives 1,000 other votes in an election, your 1001st vote increases their total by only a tenth of 1%.

    Nor do you get any special credit, or benefit, for picking the response option that turns out to be most popular among your fellow poll-takers; at best you’ll get the psychological satisfaction of having voted for the winner (if that’s the sort of thing that makes you feel good). If you’re lucky, that warm fuzzy feeling might last a few weeks past Election Day. However once the candidate takes office and starts doing stuff you don’t like (which, admit it, happens way more often than not), you’ll be stuck with the embarrassment, shame, and feeling of having been suckered into supporting a bad politician for the rest of their term or beyond.

    So if it’s all but guaranteed your votes won’t change any election outcomes (except maybe at the local level if you live in a very small town), and there’s little to no personal well-being to be gained by voting for candidates who end up getting elected, does this mean voting is a waste of time?

    Not at all. Imagine you’re part of a crowd of hundreds of people who are trying to roll a huge, heavy fallen log out of the road. When you put your hands on the log and add your energy in pushing, or stop to take a breather, you can’t see any effect – whether you push or slack off seems to make no difference whatsoever in terms of whether the log rolls forward or it doesn’t. Nevertheless you know that at some point when enough people are pushing hard enough, the log will start moving, because you’ve already seen it happen. All you can do is your part. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “What you do may seem insignificant, but it is vitally important that you do it.”

    Voting can be seen as akin to taking an opinion poll and adding your mark next to one of the response options. If most of the people taking the poll happen to choose the same response option as you do, then the poll results (if it’s a fair poll) will show this option as being the most popular, but that part is beyond your control. When taking public opinion polls, most people seem to recognize that they are simply giving their opinions, not measurably changing the poll results, and consequently give their honest opinions rather than attempting to answer based on how they think others will respond. But for some reason when it comes to elections, a lot of people apparently think they can “game the system” and change the outcome by voting “strategically” based on how they expect others will vote.

    This type voting is imagined to be “strategic”, and consequently the people who engage in it may feel they are being clever, but in reality it is rank nonsense. Those who believe in it have not properly understood the math or the probabilities involved. Worse, it is actually undermining democracy, because to the extent that voters cast their ballots based on how they think others will vote rather than voting their own actual preferences, election outcomes will not reflect the true preferences of voters. And when election outcomes don’t reflect the true preferences of the electorate, that pretty much by definition means democracy is broken.

    Bottom line: The smart and responsible way to vote in any major election is to vote for the candidates you would most like to see do well, regardless of what you think their chances are of being elected. For me, this almost always means voting Libertarian when that option is on the ballot. Even when our candidates don’t win, adding to Libertarian vote totals helps the party and this advances the cause of freedom. Voting is an act of solidarity with others who believe as you do. Together we can roll the dead log of statism out of the path of human and universal progress. It is always true (assuming the election isn’t rigged) that if enough people vote for a candidate, that person WILL win.

    Essentially, each of us has a choice: To vote in a manner which may superficially feel clever but actually hurts our own franchise both individually and collectively, or to be part of the solution – a solution which is always possible, and which will manifest itself in reality as soon as enough people choose to be part of it.

  92. @Andy:

    For the same reasons, one can’t assume that Trump would have won the popular vote if not for the 4 million people that voted for Gary Johnson.

    Which is why plurality rules are a problem (setting aside the EC). It is why we need a popular vote with IRV or a two-round process.

    Perhaps this is the gateway to explain my position: I am asking you (and others) to think in two-round terms and vote like there are really only two candidates (because, effectively, that is what is the case and Trump’s extra special unfitness for office suggests the D would be better).

    Perhaps Biden will pull this out and make this an easier choice for many.

  93. Andy says:

    @Kurtz:

    Anyway, think about the civilian-targeting argument–it’s pretty sound. Also look through my other post, I think you have a couple fatal errors in your philosophypositionm

    Again, I don’t understand this civilian targeting argument you’re making or how it relates to this discussion, so it’s difficult for me to seriously consider or think about it.

    Keep in mind I spent 23 years in the military and personally had to wrangle with questions regarding the legal basis and justification for lethal force and was directly involved in the employment of force that killed many people. So I am familiar with domestic and international law on this topic and my views will be highly influenced by my experience and training.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Which is why plurality rules are a problem (setting aside the EC). It is why we need a popular vote with IRV or a two-round process.

    Yes, I too would prefer a popular vote system with IRV to what we have now. But if that system existed today, I would not rank Trump or Sanders at all on my ballot to ensure my vote would not flow to either one of them.

    Perhaps this is the gateway to explain my position: I am asking you (and others) to think in two-round terms and vote like there are really only two candidates (because, effectively, that is what is the case and Trump’s extra special unfitness for office suggests the D would be better).

    The same problem remains – you’re asking me to subsume everything, to vote for a candidate that I think is not fit for the office, and the reason you’re asking me to do this is merely to adhere to a voting paradigm that we both agree sucks. Why should I affirmatively support a candidate I honestly believe should not be allowed anywhere near the Presidency? Artificially restricting my options to force that choice is not a compelling argument.

    Honestly, you will have a much better chance to convince me to vote for Sanders by arguing that he won’t be a terrible President than you will by arguing that I should vote for an unqualified candidate because of the stupid incentives in our system.

    And you’ve admitted that you would vote third party if the two candidate choices were sufficiently bad. So you actually do have a minimum standard just like me – a floor that you won’t go below. So as I see it, the only difference is that I have stricter candidate standards than you do and my floor is higher.

  94. @Andy: Let me ask this: do you believe that Sanders is equally as bad as Trump?

    This may be the entire crux of this conversation.

  95. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Let me ask this: do you believe that Sanders is equally as bad as Trump?

    This may be the entire crux of this conversation.

    Well, I’ve answered this many times before, but here it is again.

    I have a minimum standard that I expect any candidate to meet before I will consider voting for them. I’ve explained the specifics in earlier threads so I won’t repeat them here. If a candidate doesn’t meet that standard (and it’s not a super high standard) – regardless of their party affiliation – then they don’t get my vote.

    This appears to be basically the same calculation as what you wrote in your more recent post. Your minimum standard (the #nevertrump standard you explained) is that the candidate must be sane and not in the power of a foreign government. If they meet that low bar and are a major party candidate, then you will vote for them. And it seems that all the current Democratic contenders meet that low bar, therefore you will vote for any of them. If one became insane or it was revealed they were under foreign influence, then you would presumably eliminate them from consideration. Is that a roughly accurate assessment of your view?

    If that’s the case then the difference between us is that my minimum standard is simply higher than yours. For me, if they don’t make the cut, they are gone unless I can be convinced that my assessment about their fitness for office is wrong.

    Now, suppose, just for the sake of argument and to make a point, that the trumped-up allegations that Joe Biden is an agent of Ukraine were actually proven true. In that case, Biden would no longer meet my standard and I wouldn’t vote for him. Presumably, it would also remove Biden for you since he failed to meet the minimum standard you set.

    Now, after eliminating Biden, suppose someone tries to argue that you should still vote for Biden because Trump is worse. And they further argue that by failing to vote for Biden, you’re actually helping Trump, and that you are a bad person for not voting for the “lesser evil.” And this person would also ask you to categoricially state whethere Biden or Trump is worse. And that question would be a rehtorical trap for obvious reasons.

    That hypothetical I’ve tried to place you in is exactly the position that I am in right now. Would that argument and line of reasoning be convincing to you? Would you ignore the minimum standard you set for yourself and vote for Biden anyway?

    To sum up, both Trump and Sanders don’t currently meet my standard so neither will get my vote. The question of which is subjectively worse is irrelevant.

    By contrast, if Biden wins the nomination he does meet my standard and it’s very likely I would vote for him, despite his many flaws and policy disagreements.*

    So whether Sanders is worse than Trump by whatever criteria one wants to use doesn’t enter into my calculation at all. Arguments that Trump is worse than Sanders are not going to sway me, unless you can rehabilitate my assessment of Sander’s fitness for the office and bring him up above my cutoff. I’ve looked at Sanders, his history and record extensively and think that would be a hard case to make.

    * But, the election is still a long ways away. And despite the efforts of many on this site over the last year to force me to commit, a lot could change between now and November and I reserve the right to change my evaluation at any time until I actually vote. If Sanders gets the nomination, it’s possible, though very unlikely, that he could change his ways and convince me that he is actually fit for the office. I’m very doubtful that would happen, but I’m open to the potential. So my opposition to Sanders is based on my current assessment and is subject to reevaluation and revision should new information come along. But right now, he is a hard no.

    That was a longer response than I intended, but I hope it’s comprehensive enough that it makes my position very clear.

  96. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    I did not know your background. I take some risks when arguing in this comment section, so like a tinkering inventor or a creative chef, I am bound to make some out there arguments that turnnout poorly.

    Had I known about your military experience, I likely would not have used that example. It just wouldn’t be persuasive given your training and experience.

    I just wanted to say that I’m not telling you that you’re doing the wrong thing. On the level of moral philosophy, I think your argument requires a few false distinctions and a detour or two to avoid obstacles.

    As an intuitive position, I see your point. I can’t really blame you for it.

    To make this short, my more specific argument can be described as follows:

    To say that pulling lever A at the exclusion of levers B-Z, only puts you on hook for what you voted for (lever A’s results), but not the precluded options seems convenient. If we accept the moral responsibility in a representative democracy, options not taken must be part of the calculus.

    Thanks for the discussion–it’s always a pleasure. Also, thank you for your service.

  97. @Andy:

    Well, I’ve answered this many times before, but here it is again.

    I appreciate the thoughtful response, but I would counter that I asked a yes or no question.

    Your minimum standard (the #nevertrump standard you explained) is that the candidate must be sane and not in the power of a foreign government. If they meet that low bar and are a major party candidate, then you will vote for them. And it seems that all the current Democratic contenders meet that low bar, therefore you will vote for any of them.

    More accurately:

    1. I calculate that either Trump or the Democrat will be president.

    2. Trump is compromised in both ways noted above (mentally and in terms of foreign influence(

    3. Ergo, I pick D because I don’t want a mentally incompetent, compromised president (unless the D is similarly compromised, at which point we are all f*cked and it won’t matter how I vote).

    Basically, I could better understand your position if you thought that Sanders was equally as bad as Trump. I find the side-stepping of that very direct question to be kind of odd, TBH (but you are within your right to do so).

  98. @Kurtz:

    To say that pulling lever A at the exclusion of levers B-Z, only puts you on hook for what you voted for (lever A’s results), but not the precluded options seems convenient. If we accept the moral responsibility in a representative democracy, options not taken must be part of the calculus.

    This is where I come down: that at least in terms of collective action that one has to take into consideration all the variables to determine one’s moral culpability.

  99. Andy says:

    @Kurtz:

    To say that pulling lever A at the exclusion of levers B-Z, only puts you on hook for what you voted for (lever A’s results), but not the precluded options seems convenient. If we accept the moral responsibility in a representative democracy, options not taken must be part of the calculus.

    If your point is that all choice has consequences, including choosing not to make a choice, then I agree (and insert Rush’s Freewill song here).

    I am choosing not to vote for Trump. The consequence of that is that he doesn’t get my support. I may also choose not to vote for the Democratic candidate, depending on who it is and the circumstances. That could, in an infinitesimally small way, benefit Trump, depending on the collective actions of millions of others Americans because of the perverse incentives that most voters face. But then again my third party vote might not mean or result in anything or any difference at all.

    Not voting for Trump is by far the most powerful way for an individual to deny Trump the presidency. And I’m doing that. The potential effect of my lone third party vote on the outcome of the election is a risk I am perfectly happy to live with compared to the risk of giving my vote and political legitimacy to a non-Trump candidate that is manifestly unqualified for the office. It’s a risk I’ve lived with before. I am still perfectly comfortable with my vote for Gary Johnson in 2016 who, IMO, was objectively the best candidate in the race.

    So, people who want to criticize me for not completely sacrificing my political standards and values to go from 95% Trump opposition to 100% Trump opposition are free to do so and I am just as free to ignore their criticisms. The fact that most making this criticism are Democrats/progressives who demand I sacrifice my standards and values to vote for their candidate while they sacrifice nothing just makes ignoring those arguments all the more easy.

  100. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I appreciate the thoughtful response, but I would counter that I asked a yes or no question.

    Coming from most other people, I would consider it a dishonest, “gotcha” question, but since you are not that kind of person, I’ll answer below, though probably not in the way you would like. And I would counter-counter that you have also not answered any of my yes or no questions in this thread….

    Let me ask this: do you believe that Sanders is equally as bad as Trump?

    So, my first answer to your yes/no question is that the question is irrelevant to me. My stance on Sanders/Trump is the same to me as your view of a choice between two compromised candidates which you describe thusly: “at which point we are all f*cked and it won’t matter how I vote”

    Yep! In my view, in a Trump/Sanders matchup, we are basically fucked and it doesn’t matter how I vote. That really distills the essence of my point in this argument. Place yourself in the position of voting for the two compromised candidates as you described and that will basically give you the gist of how I feel about a Sanders/Trump contest – that we are all fvcked and all the exhortations about “lesser evil” become irrelevant.

    My second answer to your question is: I don’t know for sure. I can’t definitively say yes or no. Let me explain:

    In short, I think it is actually very difficult to make an accurate comparison.

    Trump is now a known quantity with defects that we understand and have direct evidence for. With Trump we know what we are dealing with, so understanding that side of the comparison is pretty straightforward.

    With Sanders, I don’t think anyone really knows for sure what kind of President he would be. That so many Democrats are rationalizing-away Sander’s many massive defects without much thought or research and assuming that his worst instincts and policy preferences will be stymied or controlled is not a good sign. The GoP played that same rationalization game with Trump, lost, and got absorbed into the Trump borg.

    Most of what we do know about Sander is, IMO, not positive. Many of Trumps worst character flaws are also seen in Sanders. But he also has a lot unknowns with potentially very big downsides. He has almost no legislative accomplishments and his executive experience is from decades ago and that experience is not doesn’t give me any confidence in his abilities to competently manage the country. Rather, I think it’s much more likely he will be the uncompromiser he always has been and utilize the power of the office in a maximalist way to achieve his ends. Not unlike Trump, but the big difference is that Trump cares more about “winning” and his ego than policy. Sanders is a zealot on policy. If you like Sander’s policies, then that’s a good thing. I don’t like Sanders’ policies.

    But, as I said, Sanders could be a closet compromiser and genuinely interested in governing for all the American people and not just his ideology and Bernie Bro thralls. But I don’t see it.

    So I can only look at a Sanders presidency right now in terms of potentials. In the best-case scenario, he could be better than Trump. In the worst-case scenario, he could be as bad or worse than Trump, though in ways that would different from Trump.

    But there’s more to consider!

    I would also need to consider the effect of a Sanders presidency on the Democratic party and how that would play out on our national politics generally. As you’ve ably described, the party tends to sing to the tune of an elected President and not the other way around. A Bernie win would fundamentally change the Democratic party and, at a minimum, lurch it significantly leftward. How that would play out is highly speculative and emergent. But it seems likely we’d then have two entrenched national parties that represent small slices of the American population. The center would be gone.

    So all that, taken together, is not a risk I’m willing to take with a Bernie vote. If you are willing to take that risk and vote for Bernie, then more power to you.

    That answer isn’t a simple yes/no and probably won’t satisfy you, but I don’t think it’s a question that can be answered definitively base on objective criteria.

    1
  101. @Andy: Thanks. This helps me understand your position.

    (And, TBH, I interpret your answer as “yes” from a practical POV–you at least suspect them of being equally bad).

    1
  102. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    To put it simply, I would say, “I don’t know but there is a non-trivial chance that the answer is yes.”