Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



Total Pageviews

Sunday, May 1, 2016

AN APPRECIATION OF DAVID PALMETER'S COMMENT

I should like to thank David Palmeter for his extremely useful and insightful contribution to the on-going discussion of the painful choices facing progressives in this election cycle.  He takes us back to the 1968 Humphrey/Nixon contest, which I recall vividly.  I think I have already told the story of my voting experience that year.  Depressed by the course of events, and momentarily possessed of the fantasy that things needed to get worse before they could get better, I went into the polling place on Amsterdam Avenue in Morningside Heights determined to vote for Richard Nixon.  In those days, one went behind a curtain and pulled a lever.  I reached for the lever to vote Republican, but my right arm, wiser than my heart or head, refused to obey, and in the end I voted for Humphrey.

David Palmeter's comment illustrates an important fact about complex rule-governed bureaucratic institutions like the America government:  sometimes seemingly minor changes can trigger major consequences.  Had the Florida "butterfly ballot" not been so confusing, 50,000 or so Jewish voters would not have accidentally voted for a candidate -- Pat Buchanan  -- who could not possibly have been their intended choice, and Gore would have become President.  There would have been no opportunity for a politicized Supreme Court majority to go down in history as a disgrace to the legal profession.

I offer a consoling compromise to those who are faint of heart:  If you live in a solidly blue state, indulge yourself by withholding your vote from Clinton, and instead be sure to vote in every down-ballot race, selecting the leftmost available candidate.  However, if, like me, you live in a purple state that could turn blue by a slender majority, then work for and vote for the entire Democratic ticket, regardless of your feelings about Clinton.  Would you really like to explain to a middle-aged Iraqi, orphaned during the "shock and awe," why you voted for Ralph Nader in Florida because you found Al Gore too centrist for your refined tastes?

6 comments:

Tom Cathcart said...

Just to expand on Bob's and David Palmeter's point: I live in a blue state, New York. In 1968, Humphrey got 49.76% of the vote; Nixon and Wallace together got 49.59%. I hope no one in any color state stays home.

Tom Cathcart said...

Make that "no progressive in any state stays home." May the Trumpeteers all stay home.

s. wallerstein said...

Professor Wolff,

By using the example of the 2000 presidential election, you're setting criteria, it seems to me, that make it almost impossible for someone to vote for a third party candidate in any election, not just this one.

Those who voted for Nader in Florida in 2000 had no idea and could not possibly be expected to have any idea that there would be a problem with the voting system in Florida which would miscount 50,000 Jewish voters (the Jews generally vote for Democrats) nor could they imagine or be expected to imagine that 9-11 would occur and that Bush would use that as a pretext to invade oil-rich Iraq. They voted for Nader, I assume, with the idea that Gore was a business-as-usual centrist and that Bush was a business-as-usual right-winger like his father.

If those who vote for third-party candidates are held responsible for all possible, unforeseeable consequences of their voting, then no one should ever vote for third party candidates.

2016 seems different to me. Trump is a proto-fascist demagogue, as you have pointed out in previous posts, and Clinton is a business-as-usual centrist, with strong ties to Wall St.. That is argument enough for voting for Clinton, just as in the 2002 run-off election left and centrist French people united to vote for Chirac, a right-winger, against Le Pen, a fascist demagogue.

Jerry Fresia said...

I've reviewed the comments to the previous blog to which David Palmeter responded and to which the Professor added his endorsement. I think you both have created a strawman; no one, that I could tell (based upon comments to that blog), is expressing a refined taste or suggesting that progressives ought to withhold voting for Hillary, particularly in swing states. I, myself, stated that voting for the lesser evil is entirely rational especially in light of the fact that crumbs - at minimum - from an 18 trillion dollar economy - ie, tens of billions of dollars, are quite significant and would likely help hundreds of thousands of people.

However, when you, Professor, asked what is to be done, my response was in supporting the Bernie movement as a social justice movement beyond November. The two - voting for Hillary and supporting a Bernie led social justice movement - obviously, are not mutually exclusive. Further, it is often the case that a more narrow focus on electoral strategies drains away the power and energy of social movements. The movement behind Obama in '08 and the failed recall in Wisconsin are recent cases in point. And while I too agree that voting for Humphrey ought to have been a priority of McCarthy supporters in '68, I think it would be foolish to suggest that the social justice movements that continued beyond the 68 election would have contributed more to civilizing the country and ending the Vietnam war had they adopted an electoral politics focus.

Upon reading your reply to Chris more carefully, Professor, I see that I had misread your "best solution." I had thought that you were suggesting that the "Bernie movement" could be enlisted to put pressure upon Clinton and legislators as social justice movements pressured FDR in the 30s and LBJ in the 60s. I see now that your focus is, essentially, on electing progressives.

Carl said...

The Gore voters who unintentionally voted for Buchanan on the butterfly ballot weren't all Jewish! Why would you say that?

Carl said...

Also, Buchanan got 3,411 votes on the butterfly ballot, not "50,000 or so" (though still enough to make Gore president even if only half of them were intended for him).