Character-Based Voting, 9/11 Celebrations: Some Election Day Re-Runs (Updated)

I thought I’d re-run my post on character-based voting from two years ago, in case anyone finds it of interest. I’m inclined to think it has clear application to the candidacy of Donald Trump. The thesis of the post plus the facts that have emerged about Trump over the past year or so rule out voting for him. Whatever you do tomorrow, there is no justification for voting for Trump.

I updated the post to include some facts about Trump, but stopped after December 2015. That was enough. I really don’t think you can justifiably vote for someone who lies about whether thousands of his fellow-citizens have been celebrating in the streets over a mass-murder terrorist attack on the country.

As I said the first time around, a year ago, Trump  lied about those “celebrations.” He didn’t just mis-state the facts. He didn’t just get the facts wrong. He didn’t just mis-remember this or that detail. He didn’t just exaggerate. He lied. Then he doubled down on the lies. He hasn’t disavowed his lies, he hasn’t stopped lying, he shows no sign of ever stopping, and he shows no consideration for the foreseeable consequences of this particular lie–that those who believe the lie will regard people of Muslim or even apparently or nominally Muslim or Arab background as traitors and enemies of the state who, in virtue of that fact, deserve mass deportation, mass incarceration, or for that matter, mass death.   

Just to be clear, in case you didn’t get this the first forty times around: There is no bona fide evidence that anyone in the New York metropolitan area celebrated the 9/11 attacks, with the possible exception of a small handful of Israelis. Donald Trump didn’t produce any evidence, and neither has anyone else–in sixteen years. And it’s not entirely clear what the Israelis were doing, either, so don’t take my bringing it up as an excuse to start promulgating rumors about Jewish or Israeli celebrations or foreknowledge of 9/11. (The most thorough inquiry into the “small handful of Israelis” and what they were doing is Marc Levin’s, in the film “Protocols of Zion” (2005). I highly recommend it.)

My university has given us tomorrow off for Election Day. I’ve been telling my students to use the time at their disposal to do their civic duty. I told them all to get flu shots. As my Facebook friends already know, having voted a few weeks ago (for HRC and the rest of the Democratic ticket), I’m getting a different kind of shot.

Postscript, Nov. 8, 2016: Roderick Long’s “The Benefits and Hazards of Voting” is well worth reading. I don’t accept the specifically libertarian or anarchist assumptions he makes, but I agree with his argument against (c), as well as his rejection of (b).

I’m not sure where I stand on  (a), because (like Long) while I reject (a) as stated (i.e., that we have a general duty to vote), there is probably a weaker version of (a) I can accept. I guess my view is that it can be rational to vote, and in a weak and attenuated sense some of us sometimes have a duty to vote: voting is one acceptable (and easily discharged, and otherwise enlightening) disjunct of a disjunctive set of activities that constitute our imperfect duty to contribute to the common good. There are plenty of other acceptable ways of performing that duty, but voting is one way, and in the right circumstances can be a legitimate one.

Since I’m neither a libertarian nor an anarchist, it’s not my political aim (as it is Long’s) to de-legitimize the system, but to reform it–so I don’t accept the part of his advice that aims at de-legitimization. I should add that while I regard myself as a reformer, I probably sound like I’m de-legitimizing even when I’m trying to reform. So I regard myself as a rhetorically vehement reformer. But still a reformer.

I should also add that I’m a big fan of mail-in voting, which is easy where I live, and which I find very entertaining. (Granted, I’m single, so my standards are pretty low.) It’s worth remembering that there are down-ballot choices to be made, not just on candidates but on public referenda. Even when I don’t vote for candidates, I vote in referenda. Which yields hours of free entertainment. Because why go on a date when you can sit at home and figure out whether the new gas tax should be earmarked for the transportation fund?

Anyway, take a look. Part of your imperfect duty.

9 thoughts on “Character-Based Voting, 9/11 Celebrations: Some Election Day Re-Runs (Updated)

  1. Love the Ramones! I shutter to think what a Trump administration would look like and the damage that would ensue. I will give credit to Trump for one huge favor he has done for this country and that is to draw attention to the corrupt way our government operates. i am a former lobbyist. Votes can be bought. I hope that the public, now that it has been opened up as a talking point, will follow through and show enough interest to generate discussion on how to fix the system. Here is a link at our effort. it’s an attempt at educating the public to the inner workings of our legislative process. it begins with how initiatives enter our political system and follows it through the process to show how special interest work the system – all too often turning our system against us.


    • I don’t think we needed Trump to point that out. It’s been well known for my entire adult life. More to the point, I don’t think we have any reason to believe that he will do anything to change it. He knows it first-hand because he has been on the buying end of the corruption, and he has been monumentally dishonest in business for decades. Perhaps he will take aim at corruption in certain quarters that he perceives as a threat to his self-interest, but there is no reason to expect that he will make politics any less corrupt. On the contrary, I’ll be more surprised if it doesn’t become more so. Trump has never refrained from subordinating everything to personal profit before; why expect that he will now?

      In any case, we can all shudder now. As for shuttering, well, I admit I’m feeling inclined to shutter myself up in a room for four years. Unfortunately, I cannot afford the supplies.


    • As I predicted yesterday when I wrote that, Trump did not offer to pay anyone a million dollars to vote for him today.

      But the thought experiment is intriguing. It reminds me of an essay on photography that I read by W.J.T. Mitchell. Apparently he teaches a class on the theoretical aspects of photography as an art form. He asked his students if we should treat photographs as being morally on par with the things that they depict, and in unison, the class answered that it would be absurd to do so. He then asked if they would be willing to take a treasured photo of their mother and poke the eyes out. In unison, they expressed revulsion at the idea. Well, suppose you were paid a million dollars to desecrate or mutilate a photo of your mother? (Assume that the photo was a copy, and that there were others around. If you don’t love your mother all that much, substitute someone more precious.) It seems instrumentally irrational not to do it. But it also seems expressively problematic to do it.

      Change the example a bit. Imagine voting on a public referendum question like this:

      Resolved: Motherfuckin niggers should all be lynched. Black lives don’t matter.

      Or imagine a resolution that required you to affirm Trump’s “bus conversation” (the “grabbing pussies” one). You can imagine the resolution formulated in such a way that it requires you to say, “I approve of the following…” followed by a transcript of the conversation.

      Imagine that the possibility of your vote’s serving to enact the resolution (“legislation”) is very, very low (0.00000001%). Now suppose you get paid $1 million for it. Should you? I’m inclined to think that the money would be ill-gotten gains. It’s beneath a rational person’s dignity or sense of self-respect to affirm the racist resolution or the “bus conversation” for any amount of money.

      I would say that voting for Donald Trump is somewhere between mutilating a picture of your mom and voting for one or both of the preceding resolutions. I might do the former (for a million dollars); I couldn’t do either of the latter (for any amount of money). And I wouldn’t vote for Trump for any amount of money, either. For now, I simply report the endoxon. It’s a further task to explain and justify it.


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