Friday, 2 November 2012

A Bestiary of Voters – Voters 8 to infinity!

Okay, I’ll just finish this up quickly. I mean, God, right? God!

Voter 8, THE WE-NEED-THIRD-PARTIES-TO-FLOURISH VOTER. “Third parties are our best shot at creating a more varied and open political landscape. We have to do everything we can to support them.”

Well, okay. So long as there isn’t at bottom a dogmatic dream that somehow Jill Stein is actually going to be elected prez. It has to be part of a broad and detailed strategy which admits its risks and trade-offs, not hand-waving in the direction of raising consciousness, appeasing conscience, and matching funds.

Voter 9,  THE LESSER-OF-TWO-EVILS, FIGHT-THE-SYSTEM VOTER. “Obama’s not really a progressive, in the sense that he’s not facing in the way we need to go. But if you draw a line from where Romney says he, is to where Obama says he is, that line is pointed in the right direction. That’s important. There is value in selecting the candidate who presents, even deceitfully, as the relatively more populist, the relatively less mesmerised by doctrinaire neoliberal ideology; that’s the happier outcome within the long, awful blow-out wrangle that the US’s population is trying to have with itself down the years. Furthermore, with Obama in the White House, it’s slightly easier to see the systemic nature of our present peril – at least, to see that things are complicated, rather than blaming it on the personalities of a few supervillains at the top. And finally, on the balance of probabilities, the pitfalls which Obama would create for real progressive political struggle will be less dangerous than the ones Romney would create, though we mustn’t be complacent in that crude evaluation of less danger, and try to work out how the dangers will specifically be different.”

It goes without saying, I hope, that voting is never enough. We are knight-errants, darlings, born into this world to redress wrongs, and the ballot booth is but a shady grove where we betimes do water our palfreys.

How does this translate into voting behaviour? Vote Obama anywhere with a hint of swing.

Voter 10,  THE SUPER-GENIUS, ITERATIVE-PATH-TO-SOCIAL-JUSTICE VOTER. “Every administration contributes to the conditions under which the next is established (nudged and strafed from the sides, of course, by factors external to this development). If Obama wins the next term” [this is just for example – I can’t really do the super-genius forecast!!!], “disenchantment will be so acute by the end of his term, we’ll get far-right theocrat Republican trolls in the White House for the next two to four terms. Whereas if Obama loses, Romney won’t be much worse than he would have been, and in four years’ time true centrist Democrat candidates will have a real shot at it.”

I’m pretty suspicious of this kind of thinking, because it risks being just a bit mad and self-mesmerisingly idealistic, but we should at least train for it, try it out speculatively – with multiple pathways, flow-chart thingies – and then perhaps borrow a smidge of those results for a more pragmatic, incrementalist, "who-knows-what-the-future-holds" kinda approach. At the very least, we should assume that the 2016 and 2020 elections are probably (hopefully not, and it’s probably worth fighting tooth and nail to prevent it, but probably) still going to Republicans and Democrats, and try to map various pathways of ratcheting real progress which take into account specific shifting patterns of control involving changes within the state apparatus, corporations, capital, the big parties, the media and the electorate, and to the relations among them, pace the non-starter non-strategy of hoping that minimal gains made during a period of Democratic ascendancy will not quite be wiped out during a period of Democratic ebb. I don't know how this would translate into voting behaviour.

Voter 11, THE SUPER-DUPER-COSMOPOLITAN VOTER. “I’m not just concerned about 300 million Americans. I’m concerned about seven billion people, plus those yet to be born. We don’t have time to play the long game, to struggle for a permanent shift in electoral politics. All we can do is hope to elect the enemy who will destroy us more slowly.”

Hmm. How does such a position translate into voting behaviour? Wow, it’s tricky. You’d prioritise aid, trade and war. There’s even an argument (I think a weak one) that once in power the porous Romney could become permeable to ideas from foreign states and transnational institutions. You might be swayed a little by that infographic that’s been doing the rounds, about how practically the whole world outside the US is rooting for Obama over Romney. The exception being Pakistan. No max score for you, because: murder drones? At the risk of excessive anchoring, I think I might focus on the energy policies of the two candidates. So again, if such a voter believes the election hangs in the balance, it should probably vote for Obama if it lives in any state with a smidge of swing. In super-safe Democrat states it should vote for a third party. However, if it’s confident of a Democrat victory, it should vote for a third party wherever it lives.

Bonus (non-) voter: THE I-AM-NOT-EVEN-A-US-CITIZEN NON-VOTER. “For some reason I just write lengthy blog posts about the US elections. LOL.” Yours truly! See the earlier blog post, WHY I AM NOT VOTING.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Bestiary of Voters - Voter 7


“I’m not indifferent because I really believe it won’t make any difference, or only a ‘small’ difference, who wins the election. I’m ambivalent because I don’t want to contribute to, or can’t even start to understand, the kind of difference it will make. I’m ambivalent because I’m in an epistemological grapple-hold. It would take all my energies to fight it, and I still might not get out.”

 Hmm, seems a little convenient, but okay. I think it’s still no reason NOT to vote – only a reason to vote for a third party. (Even if you don’t really much like that third party).

Cf. Stephen Squib on n+1’s Election Preview: “Someone once wrote that you shouldn’t confuse the process of writing somebody’s name on a piece of paper once every four years and dropping it in a box with emancipation. Voting has a part to play in political life, but a limited one, small compared to the importance of fostering communities based on mutual aid, deploying direct action, and practicing solidarity. In this respect, those who loudly insist on not voting or proclaim its meaninglessness are committing the old misty-eyed mistake in reverse: not voting will no more free you than voting will. And the energy spent asserting that the two parties are identical is only well-spent if it leads directly into building some further form of institutional counterpower. Voting is not an overly difficult or time-consuming process—neofascist suppression tactics notwithstanding—at least when compared to planning a march, a boycott, or any other kind of organizing. It’s really closer to making an excellent banner or attending a meeting, activities that probably have a similar return on investment, as individual expenditures, as a trip to the polls does.”