The following quote is from Chris Hedge’s most recent article on Truthdig.com Why I’m Voting Green:
“The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. . . I will step outside the system. Voting for the “lesser evil” — or failing to vote at all—is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.”
Way back when before I started graduate school and used to actually read books written by people who were not analytic philosophers I used to really enjoy Hedges’ works. And I still do when I get a chance. So when I saw a link to this article in my facebook feed I was very interested as this was a question that has been weighing on my mind, although it is mostly academic at this point as I voted yesterday.
So here is what I take Hedges’ argument to be:
1. If we don’t confront the structures of corporate power in every way possible then we will assure our mutual destruction.
2. Voting for Obama does not confront corporate power structures.
3. So, voting for Obama will assure our mutual destruction.
And in the rest of the article Hedges attempts to lay out the case that Obama does not confront corporate power structures.
Alternatively you might take Hedges’ argument to be something like this, which would probably be a little more plausible to most people:
1. The right vote is the vote that confronts corporate power structures to the greatest degree.
2. Voting for Obama does not confront corporate power structures as much as voting green does.
3. So, voting for Obama not the right vote.
However this version of the argument seems to clearly beg the question because it asserts in the second premise exactly what is at issue, that voting for Obama is actually the worse choice.
The argument could even be state more generally to show the circularity:
1. The right vote is the vote that has the best consequences.
2. Voting for Obama has worse consequences than voting green does.
3. So, voting for Obama not the right vote.
The problem for most people, myself included, is that we’re not really sure what vote ultimately has the best consequences. And I think most people who would prefer a green candidate ultimately vote democrat is because they think that voting green would have worse consequences than voting democrat.
Hedges’ does try to make the case that the only way we are going to see any positive change is by voting for a third party candidate, but I don’t his case ultimately convincing. I think he is making the issue too black and white. One could vote for Obama and work in all kinds of other ways to confront corporate power structures.
Or put another way, consider the following two people.
Jack: Jack does everything he can to confront corporate power structures (direct action protests, participating in local elections, labor union organizing, participates in local economies, avoids buying anything from any large corporation, grows his own food, etc. etc. ) And he votes green party in the national presidential election. And in general Jack votes ideologically rather than pragmatically.
Jill: Jill does everything she can to confront corporate power structures (direct action protests, participating in local elections, labor union organizing, participates in local economies, avoids buying anything from any large corporation, grows his own food, etc. etc. ) And she votes for Obama party in the national presidential election even though she ultimately doesn’t agree with many of the things Obama has done while in office and would prefer the green party candidate. And in general Jill weighs the consequences of all her votes rather than voting ideologically with any one party.
I think Jill does more good than Jack, although do way more good than Joe who does nothing to confront corporate power structures.
Hedges’ attempts to make his case for voting green based on consequences but I find that kind of argument pretty implausible in this situation. Unless of course you literally think that a Romney presidency will have no worse consequences than an Obama presidency.
Although I’ve been pretty disappointed by Obama at times I can’t quite bring myself to believe that.
Now what I think would be interesting would be exploring the non-consequentialist ethical considerations around voting, which might actually justify Hedges’ position better than the consequentialist argument he offers. But we’ll have to save that for another time.