Who does the thinking feminist philosopher vote for?  Whoever they want to, of course.  There are two sides to me, to be honest.  There’s the completely cynical, and the deeply idealistic.  I had made up my mind to reason completely cynically and consequentially about this election. Here’s what I was going to say:

The fact is that the media hates Clinton— in a hideous, childish, irrational, and often sexist way.  They’ve hated her for a long time, and I really don’t think they’re likely to change.  They also love Obama.  We need to get a Democrat in the White House.  We’ve tried the candidate the media hates before.  It didn’t work out too well. So this time let’s go with Obama, the one the media loves.   

Then something happened. I watched Obama’s MLK Day speech. And the idealist in me woke up and jumped on board.   Watch it yourself and see how you feel. (It’s 34 minutes, but worth it.)

 If you’re not moved, by the way, I still think the cynical argument is an excellent one.   (Why am I not discussing issues?  Because, on the issues, they are both so vastly better than any Republican that the most important thing is simply to get one of them in.)  Let me know what you think.  I can see some possible worries for the cynical argument, but I still find it powerful.

15 thoughts on “Voting

  1. I’d like to see what others say about this. It seems to me that a form of the cynical argument applies in all sorts of cases; the ones I’m thinking of right now are ones like this, when one is making a choice in a early round. Suppose you’re picking a candidate for a faculty scholarship; each department nominates one and then the dean picks two. You know the dean really likes one of the candidates and not the other. Picking the other will probably result in your department’s not getting the award. Does that decide the issue?

    What strickes me most are two things: (1) How I feel when I’m chosen against on such a basis, and (2) How much the choice is based on imperfect knowledge that tends finally too often to favor men.

    So i just don’t know what to say, and I’d love to see what others think. I think I’m most afraid that we’re going to find the Republicans will play to either sexist or racist fears, and we’ll end up with McCain or the other one.

  2. Who does the thinking feminist philosopher vote for? Well, in this case, no one. Because we do not all live in the United States of America. I am troubled by posts like this one–not necessarily because of its content, but rather because of its background assumption that all readers are American, and that all of us can vote for the next President of the most powerful nation on the planet, and that the only important election is the one that determines the next American president. The majority of the world are not Americans. (I, personally, am happy not to be.) We cannot participate in this election. Yet the choice made by Americans (at least, those who care enough to vote) will probably decisively determine the future of this planet–just as the current incumbent has. Please, when you write posts like this, remember that not all feminist philosophers are American. Remember that the USA is not the only nation on earth. And remember that, whatever decision you make, it affects far more than the citizens of your nation.

  3. Introvertica, I’m puzzled by your response. Let me note for others that, as I am quite sure you know, the author of the post teaches in an English university, and is active in issues about feminism in the UK. There really isn’t any possibility that she thinks all readers are Americans, etc.

  4. Introvertica, you’re right that I phrased it badly– sorry. But one of the reasons I’ve gone ahead and written so much about the election is precisely *because* I’m aware of its effects on others.

  5. I think Clinton is much stronger election candidate than anyone gives her credit for.

    She can take a media that hates her and despite the standard meme actually get pretty much the same result in head to head statistics against mccain as Obama does. (check them out)
    and I expect the media will hate her less if Obama is not in the race (i.e. she will only be hated by the right not by both sides – and half the country will discount what that media says)

    When the election comes close the thing that holds true again and again all over the world is it is not the great speaker, or the person who pulls in independents or anything like that who pulls ahead – it is the old hardened campaigner who has lots of experienced staff and who doesn’t make any mistakes and has a well thought out policy answer for every question. the others make some small error and everyone is surprised.

    and finally in the voting booth people vote for the person who’s name they remember – and everyone remembers the Clinton name, and remember not all people are politically savy.

    Also Obama unfortunately pulls support from people who have low turnout rates. he may find that some of the people saying they will vote for him in polls like the above won’t turn out come election day.

    Finally Mr Clinton has been raked over the coals Clinton is well and truly ready for it is Obama?

    I think somewhere in the above is the 0.6% point difference that makes Hillary a better bet than Obama.

  6. JJ- I sympathise with your worries. I do think the evidence one can be answered though– the evidence for enduring Clinton-hatred seems very strong at this point. (Though do hope that GNZ is right that it would dissipate a bit.) However, I worry quite a bit about the implications of this sort of argument– in a sufficient racist or sexist context it could be (and has been) used as an argument for never backing a black or woman candidate. So I would want to find a way of restricting the application of the argument in order to not have that consequence.

  7. Jender,
    I agree that we have a lot of evidence that the press hate HRC, but what impact that will have is less clear, as GNZ is arguing.

  8. Another (non-cynical) reason not to vote for Hillary might be this: two families in the United States have had enormous political power for the past 20 years. There have been Bushes, Clintons, Bushes again (as if once wasn’t enough!) and, if Hillary is elected, Clintons once more. I think that reveals something very disturbing about U.S. politics, I think it sends a discouraging message to those whose families do not have a history of politicing but would otherwise consider politics, and I think it needs to change. I say this as an interested (and concerned!) onlooker – I’m not from the U.S. – but I’m pretty curious to know what others think.

  9. I think connecting the power of the Clinton family with that of the Bush family misses a very important point, one that also underlies the media hostility to Clinton. The Bushes are powerful (if they are powerful, and not just tools of the powerful) because they are in tight with the Money and Big Oil. They will remain powerful as long as the oil lasts or until Big Oil gets tired of them, even if no Bush is ever elected to anything ever again. The Clintons are self-made power (to the extent anyone can ever be) less wedded to the corporate world view. (Anyway, after Hillary we run out of Clintons–they aren’t the Kennedys.) I believe the widespread hostility to Hillary Clinton stems from the Money’s fear that she might become more powerful and actually exercise a little power for the benefit of people other than the Money–as is always the case, her being a woman provides the corporate media with lots of easy ways to marshall hostility toward her. What really worries me is the media’s current love affair with Obama–evidently the Money finds him harmless.

  10. I have no confidence in a man who still thinks, despite the past twelve years, that the Republicans in Congress can be brought to compromise.
    Supreme Court appointments are of paramount importance to the future of the citizens United States, possibly the world. The Chief Justice of the SCOTUS has made decisions clearly in violation of our Constitution and international treaties, most notably the Geneva Conventions.

  11. JJ, I’m not sure the analogy between the presidential election and scholarship nomination holds, because of one crucial difference… In the case of the presidential election, it’s plausible to claim that the world will be a better place if a democrat gets into office (in fact, this seems to be a premise of the “cynical” argument); by contrast, it seems rather less plausible to claim that the world will be a better place if a philosopher gets the scholarship, rather than a hardworking faculty member in another discipline. It might be good for YOU and YOUR department to have it go to philosophy, but presumably the scholarship would do about as much good in other departments, which are hopefully doing work that’s at least as significant.

    To my mind this distinction makes all the difference. If there’s no reason to think the scholarship should go to philosophy over other departments, nominate the candidate you think more worthy rather than the one the dean would be more likely to pick. On the other hand, if there IS reason to think the presidency should go to a democrat, then the cynical argument holds a lot more weight.

    As far as the original question goes, I’ve got to say I’m waaaaay more cynical than the rest of you guys… I honestly don’t think it makes much difference at all whether Hillary, Obama, or McCain ends up in the White House. On domestic matters, all the candidates are endorsing centrist positions (actually, I’d call them right-wing, and the democratic party as a whole right-wing, but that’s another matter). In addition, the system is set up so that the president can’t make very significant policy changes even if he/she wanted to. In foreign policy, the president does have power to make ruinous moves like George Bush. But at this point, all three candidates are going to have to prove they’re hard on terror, so again I think it matters quite little. Me, I’d vote for Obama, but it’s only because I think the president’s primary function is bullshit–and his has a slightly better flavor.

  12. Eric, I think that’s a nice point; I wonder if you’d say it might be – or be close to – picking a lesser evil to prevent a FAR GREATER evil. I do see that the consequences in this case make a difference, though in fact I’d resist consequentialism in lots of cases.

Comments are closed.