Imagine All the People

When Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, there were people out there who were absolutely certain that the explanation was sexism: the American people couldn’t (they insisted) handle the idea of a female president, and voted accordingly. You couldn’t get such people to consider the possibility that maybe Hillary Clinton lost the election because she was a complacent, uninspiring candidate. Continue reading

Bernie, Cuba, Literacy, and Ill-Gotten Gains

I’m finding the dialogue of the deaf over Bernie and Cuba exasperating. I’m not going to comment on the details–on the “first-order issues,” we might say. What I want to say is that it helps to clarify the underlying issue and make some relevant distinctions.

The basic issue is that Cuba is supposed to be a dictatorship, which is evil, but Bernie is praising it for increasing literacy, which is good. Assume (for the sake of argument) that Cuba is a dictatorship, and dictatorships are evil. The puzzle is whether you should ever praise an evil thing for doing a good thing; it’s a puzzle whether (or how) good things can ever arise from evil things. Put slightly differently, it’s a puzzle whether evil agents should ever get credit for any of the good they do (or seem to do), given the discredit they deserve for the very great evil they do.

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Vigor Mortis

I didn’t watch last night’s Democratic debate–I somehow managed to fall ill without doing so–but I was struck by this passage from what was supposed to be a news story about it. They’re talking about Biden’s performance at the debate:

The former vice president demonstrated more vigor than at many of the previous debates, when he often seemed somnolent. He sprinkled local references into his comments, sought to interject even when he was not called on and complained when he felt he was not given enough time.

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Tulsi Gabbard vs. Liberal McCarthyism (2)

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

Tulsi Gabbard vs. Liberal McCarthyism (1)

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

Character-Based Voting and the Ambiguities of “Policy” (Part 4 of 5)

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

Character-Based Voting and Leadership Effects (1 of 3)

Here’s yet another post from my project on character-based voting (CBV). It’s the first of three posts on CBV and leadership effects, and one of many on CBV.

As I’ve said in previous posts, “character-based voting” is voting for or against a political candidate on the basis of what the voter takes to be his traits of character. That contrasts with “policy-based voting,” which is voting for a candidate based on the expected consequences of the policies the voter expects the candidate to pass.

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Character-Based Voting and the Policy of Truth

For the past six months or so, I’ve been working on a project on what I call “character-based voting” (CBV), construed as voting for a political candidate based on her traits of character, as contrasted with “policy-based voting” (PBV) which is voting for a political candidate based on the expected consequences of the candidate’s expected policies.

It’s a rough and in some contexts problematic distinction, but clear enough to work with. There’s a clear enough distinction to be drawn between voting for a candidate because you regard her as more honest than her rival, and voting for a candidate because you expect her to enact policies X1…Xn, which have expected consequences C1…Cn, which you regard as net favorable, but which you don’t expect her rival to enact. My modest claim is that CBV can in principle be justified, and has its place. Continue reading

Moral Grandstanding and Character-Based Voting

I’ve recently been teaching Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke’s paper, “Moral Grandstanding“–and simultaneously been working on a paper on Jason Brennan’s critique of character-based voting–and happened to see an interesting connection between the two. So this post harks back to, and ties together, two topics we’ve recently been discussing here at PoT–Michael’s recent post on grandstanding, and mine on character-based voting.

Suppose, as per Brennan’s argument in The Ethics of Voting, that character-based voting is justified insofar as character functions either as a proxy for the policies that a candidate might enact once elected, or more generally, for the quality of governance he might be expected to engage in. Now suppose that character-based voting sometimes is justified on those grounds, so that character sometimes does function as a proxy variable for predictions about a candidate’s capacities for good governance in the future. Continue reading