How To Think About Voting in This Presidential Election.
One of the many benefits of not being a professional academic philosopher is that you can pursue real philosophy as a full-time, lifetime calling without having either a job controlled by the Professional Academic State (aka the PAS) or any professional academic social status.
This means that because you have neither a PAS-controlled job that they can take away from you nor any professional academic social status you can lose, then you can autonomously develop, hold, and express philosophically-informed opinions about all sorts of abstract or real-world issues and problems, and choose your own philosophically-guided lifestyle or “experiment in living,” without having to worry either that your wise PAS employers will threaten to suspend you or fire you for daring to think for yourself, or that your beloved “professional colleagues” will coerce you into conformity and obedience by means of official complaints, public shaming, or blacklisting.
Of course, since you’re pursuing real philosophy as a full-time, lifetime calling, without a job or any social status, you’re very probably as poor as a church mouse, a loser, and a nobody–a Dude the Obscure–but on balance, having the autonomy to pursue real philosophy is well worth it, if you can survive.
Now I’m assuming that either (1) you’re a philosopher who can vote in the 2016 US Presidential election, or (2) you’re a philosopher who cannot vote in this election for whatever reason (e.g., you’re not a US citizen) but can still rationally imagine yourself being able to vote in it.
Here, then, is an argument for philosophers about voting in this election, worked out by a Dude the Obscure, that’s fully informed by non-consequentialist principled ethics.
Let’s suppose that you believe (as I do) that Donald Trump is a bigot, a demagogue, and a would-be tyrant.
And let’s further suppose that what you and I believe is true.
Therefore, if Trump were elected President of the USA, not only would it be very instrumentally bad for a great many people in the USA and elsewhere in the world, it would also be intrinsically terrible.
I’m a philosophical and political anarchist of the Kantian ethical variety, so I think that all States are rationally unjustified and immoral.
Nevertheless, I’m still obligated to do whatever I can to prevent intrinsically terrible things from happening.
Trump is the Republican Party candidate, and Clinton is the Democratic Party candidate.
As of today (4 August July 2016), according to the New York Times 2016 Election Polls, one week after the Democratic Party Convention, 45% of the people polled favor Clinton and 40% favor Trump.
So it’s fully reasonable to assume that in November the election will be a pretty close 2-person, 2-party competition, Clinton vs. Trump, even if there are several other third-party candidates we could vote for.
Now, whatever the reasons you might have for (really) not liking Clinton’s politics, there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that her being elected would be intrinsically terrible.
Indeed, unlike Trump, she’s neither a bigot, nor a demagogue, nor a would-be tyrant.
So what should we do?
What you might think, is that if you either voted for someone other than Trump or Clinton, or you didn’t vote, you’d be doing something that’s OK.
But that’s not correct.
To clarify things, rationally imagine that you could be any one of the voters, and suppose that you’re going to be the last voter counted in this election--even if it’s just by nano-seconds, someone has to be the last voter counted.
Suppose further that on election day, just before it’s your moment to vote, it’s an Electoral College tie, and either (i) Trump and Clinton are tied in the popular vote in the state in which you are voting or (ii) Trump is one vote ahead in that state.
So if you vote for anyone other than Clinton, or if you don’t vote, then either (i) Trump won’t win by a simple plurality of votes, although he could still win by Congressional tie-breaker or (ii) Trump will win outright.
But if you vote for Clinton, then either (i) Trump will lose outright or (ii) Trump won’t win by a simple plurality of votes, modulo the Congressional tie-breaker..
But all this is really possible: logically possible, metaphysically possible, physically possible, humanly possible, practically possible, and politically possible.
Do you remember Florida, Al Gore, and the hanging chads? The really possible world I’m talking about is just about that close to this actual one.
So, back in the actual world now, if you vote for anyone other than Clinton, or if you don’t vote, then it’s functionally equivalent to voting for Trump in the really possible scenario in which your vote makes the difference between Trump’s winning and not winning, modulo the Congressional tie-breaker.
You might say: “The probability of my vote’s mattering in this way is extremely low. Therefore my vote really doesn’t matter. Therefore it’s OK for me either to vote for someone other than Clinton, or not vote.”
Defeatist thinking consists in looking for bad reasons not to act well. And it’s nothing but defeatist voter-thinking to confuse the low probability of your vote’s making the difference between Trump’s winning and not winning, with the (real) impossibility of your vote’s making the difference.
Your vote’s making the difference between Trump’s winning and not winning, modulo the Congressional tie-breaker, is really possible, no matter how low the probability, short of zero. Your vote really can make the difference.
You might say: “I don’t intend to vote for Trump and elect Trump, even though I foresee that might be a bad side-effect of my act. But sometimes it’s OK to directly intend X even though the indirectly intended foreseen side-effect of X is bad. That’s the doctrine of the double effect (DDE). So, by DDE, in this case, it’s OK too.”
Wrong. Even if DDE holds sometimes, it doesn’t hold in this case, i.e., the Trump vs. Clinton case.
In this case, the indirectly intended foreseen side-effect of your act of voting for anyone other than Clinton or not voting, is functionally equivalent to bringing about something (i.e., Trump’s election) that is not merely very instrumentally bad for a great many people in the USA and elsewhere in the world, but also something that’s intrinsically terrible, in a really possible scenario.
But it’s impermissible intentionally to bring about anything that’s intrinsically terrible, whether by direct intention or indirect intention, in an actual or really possible scenario.
So it’s also impermissible to do anything that’s functionally equivalent to intentionally bringing about something that’s intrinsically terrible, whether by direct intention or indirect intention, in an actual or really possible scenario.
Hence DDE does not apply in this case.
Therefore we all ought to vote for Clinton, even if I’m an anarchist and even if you (really) don’t like her politics.
Lonesome Trump, Immortal Trump, Il Trumpe