So here’s a case of character-based voting–not a particularly dramatic one, I’ll admit, but a case just the same, and evidence that character-based voting can, under the right circumstances, make perfect sense.
I recently got my mail-in ballot for the upcoming general election. One of the offices on the ballot is that of Hunterdon County Clerk (for Hunterdon County, New Jersey). The Republicans are running incumbent Mary H. Melfi as their candidate; the Democrats aren’t running a candidate this time. Assuming that I vote in this election (as I plan to), I have three options:
- I could vote for Melfi.
- I could leave the relevant part of the ballot blank.
- I could write someone in besides Melfi, or write something in the relevant slot, whether or not it’s the name of a candidate, up to and including a ballot-spoiling piece of profanity.
As it happens, I’m a Democrat strongly opposed to the Republican Party in its current incarnation. In previous elections where a Republican was running unopposed by the Democrats (or I was, due to a bureaucratic glitch, forced to vote Republican in a primary), I’ve either left the ballot blank, or in some way voted against the Republicans by some ad hoc expedient–e.g., making use of the write-in option, and writing “Not X” with the Republicans’ name for “X,” or writing in “NOTA” (None of the Above) in rejection of everyone on the ballot. In general, I have no problem with taking a party-line stance on voting, whether for the Democrats or against the Republicans.
In this case, however, I’ve decided to vote for Melfi on grounds of character. So yes: voting on character means voting Republican, at least in this case.
Jason’s Brennan’s self-parodic idea of a parody, titled “I Am Immune to Criticism” (my italics):
I’ve decided to copy-cat a style of argumentation which is prominent among democrats and socialists in the philosophy literature. This move will now render me and my work immune from criticism.
By epistocracy, I henceforth mean not only a system that gives greater weight to the wise during voting, but which actually makes substantively wise decisions! Thus, any time a seemingly epistocratic decision-system makes a bad choice–such as a choice that runs afoul of the demographic objection–it wasn’t *true* or *real* epistocracy! Epistocracy by definition always makes the wisest choices. Therefore, to oppose epistocracy is to oppose good choices and favor bad ones.
Lorenz Kraus is (or was) a candidate for US Senate, based in Troy, New York. My knowledge of his candidacy is based on about ten minutes’ Internet search after he sent me a crank email cc’d to Counter-Currents Publishing, a white nationalist website, among other recipients. Ten minutes is all it took to figure out that Kraus was a crank, and all it would have taken to figure out not to vote for him.
How? Because Kraus’s entire campaign is based on anti-Semitism of a wild, overt, over-the-top sort. No need to hash through the details; once was enough for me. If you don’t want to take my word for it, spend maybe ten minutes scrolling through his Twitter feed below (underneath the separator), or whatever else comes up in a Google search. If it takes you more than ten minutes, you’re doing it wrong.
Readers of this blog know of my obsession with the topic of character-based voting. Suppose that we accept some workable distinction between matters of character and matters of policy with respect to politicians and political candidates, each a potential consideration for or against their continued stay in office or their candidacy.* What role should judgments of character play? Is it ever justifiable to vote for or against a candidate (or support or remove a sitting candidate) on grounds of character abstracted from considerations of policy? Clearest version of the question: can a person’s moral character ever be bad enough to disqualify him or her from office independently of anything we know about their views on policy, or even in defiance of the knowledge that they have the “right” views on policy?
It may seem strange to have so political a reaction to the death of a spouse, but I find myself, in the wake of my wife Alison Bowles’s recent untimely death, seeing the world through her eyes. And she was, if anything, a politically opinionated person whose perspective on the world permanently changed the way I look at it. I’ve certainly done my share of entirely private grieving for her (and have a long way to go), but I can’t help feeling an imperative to preserve what I regard as her distinctive outlook on the world beyond our marriage.
This story in The New York Times about Andrew Cuomo strikes a particular chord.
The problem with Neera Tanden is not, as is now widely being asserted by Republicans, that she’s “partisan,” “divisive,” or “mean.” Nor is her great virtue, as a lot of centrist Democrats seem to believe, that she’s some kind of persecuted truth teller. The problem with Neera Tanden is that she’s full of shit–a lying windbag and reckless big mouth who’s mastered the art of invective without being able to argue her way out of a paper bag on any substantive issue.
The New York Times, covering Hillary Clinton’s reputation-destroying claim that Tulsi Gabbard is being “groomed” by the Russian government to undermine the Democrats in the 2020 election.
Tulsi Gabbard Lashes Back at Hillary Clinton After Claim of Russian Influence
Why not “Hillary Clinton Floats Unverified Conspiracy Theory About Tulsi Gabbard?” Never mind that she did it while criticizing Donald Trump’s reliance on unverified conspiracy theories (the relevant segment is about 35 minutes into the interview). Continue reading
If there’s anything you might have thought “we’d” learned from the Trump presidency, it’s that well poisoning, guilt-by-association, and reputation-destruction-by-innuendo were all thoroughly bad ideas. Evidently, this isn’t what the leaders of the Democratic Party or the Democratic Party establishment have learned. What they’ve learned is that well poisoning, guilt-by-association, and reputation-destruction by innuendo are useful instruments for the conduct of internecine warfare against ideological positions they don’t like or don’t understand. Continue reading
As someone who unapologetically wears brownface every day, I find the hysterical front-page revelation of Justin Trudeau’s 2001 experiment with brownface pretty underwhelming. I also find the reaction to it on the part of various brown-faced Canadian politicians to be a transparent instance (so to speak) of grandstanding. If ever there was a case where policy ought to trump a supposed matter of character in politics, this is it–not so much because policy always trumps character in political matters, but because the supposed matter of character involved here is so morally inconsequential that just about anything trumps it. Continue reading
Apologies for the delay in posting the fourth part of my five-part series on character-based voting. Here are parts one, two, and three, which are probably necessary as background to part four. Earlier in the series, I make reference to what I call a “Murad-type meeting,” referring to Donald Trump’s behavior at a recent meeting with Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad.
The first part introduced the topic of character’s ambiguous relation to “policy.” The second part focuses on character’s instrumental relation to policy. The third part considers the possibility that expressions of character might be constitutive of “governance.” This part considers the possibility that expressions of character might have normative significance out of relation to policy or governance, at least on conventional construals of those terms. Continue reading