We have a situation where an awful lot of democrats who supported Bernie Sanders, now have to decide whether to redirect their support to Clinton in order to secure the contender who isn’t Donald Trump. I am not disputing for a second that voting for Trump is racist. But given the everything, is it still racist beyond permissibility to vote for Clinton? Clinton has exhibited a racist mindset and plenty of racist and imperialist behaviour, but can a vote for her still be part of an anti-racism fight?
I’ve been trying to apply a bit of ethical philosophy to this clear moral dilemma because I think it’s a good example for it but it also shows to a certain extent how abstract and overly idealised the main ethical stances are. You’ve got Kant and the deontologists arguing that acts are good in bad in themselves, they’re either part of your duty as a moral being or they’re not. Then you’ve got consequentialists like utilitarians who argue that actions are only good or bad depending on the consequences they bring. Any act can be excused if it brings a good enough consequence.
I don’t like consequentialism. I think there’s something very perverse about torturing the innocent losing its horror just because a position has been orchestrated which means more people will be rescued from a fucking volcano or something as a result of it. All the pain fades into irrelevance. That’s not morality to me. Here, I see two consequences of voting for Clinton:
a) You stop Trump winning. This is the lesser of two evils.
b) You maintain a two-party system which will continue to create situations which drum up endorsement of racist, sexist, problematic leaders just because there is someone else worse than them
(a) would justify voting for her as the right act and (b) justify not voting for her as the right act. I don’t think it’s obvious which one we should listen to. I don’t think we can understate the damage that president trump would do. What with America being so powerful, i’m not sure Earth itself would be the same again afterwards. This makes me feel nudged towards accepting (a). Even despite the fact we are not really comparing Trump’s world to Hillary’s world, but Trump’s world to the accumulation of racism and violence of all the violently-racist-but-not-the-most-racist-one leaders the two-party political structure will offer up for decades. I still think Trump is this most dangerous game-changer.
But truer to my deontological tendencies, morality isn’t a case of weighing up outcomes, so that’s kind of irrelevant. From a deontological perspective, the act of voting for Hilary could be either;
aa) a racist and violent act because of Clinton’s racism and imperialism.
bb) An act of solidarity and duty to protect billions of people across the globe and the Earth itself from Trump.
Amongst all of these justifications of condemnations of voting for Hilary, honestly I find (bb) the most compelling.
I find the rest could be easily accused of focusing too much on the individual. That feeling of perverse-ness creeps back in every so slightly at the mental footage of a burning disintegrated world under Trump and people saying ‘i just couldn’t bring myself to vote for Clinton!’. This has been a good set-up to flesh out one criticism of deontology, that it obsesses on, to the extent of ‘fetishizing’ as it can sometimes be referred to, agency and the self. The ‘I will not be a part of that’ is admirable most of the time, is it so straightforwardly admirable here? Given what other people will be forced to be a part of under Trump’s reign?
I think a way to look at this is to see that we have a world with levels of violence and racism, and events like these will mean they will fluctuate. I think if we accept a duty to protect fellow humans and act morally in accordance with that duty whenever we can, then as a major contributor of terror towards fellow humans racism is a major force to reckon with in that noble cause. So, when the world becomes a place which may collapse into the type being run by a disgusting fascist dictator, we have duties to act in accordance with the moral requirement for that not to happen.
It doesn’t mean that our duty will stop there. Just because in this instance one duty has been (literally!) trumped by another. We still have the duty to fight a system which systematically forces votes for inadequate leaders. We vote for Hillary and then we fight, tooth and nail, for what we really want, what our duties are really fighting for. It means it is incredibly important we do not derail conversations about Clinton’s racism with ‘at least she’s not X, which is worse’. Words are free. (aa) would continue to be extremely relevant and extremely important. Similarly for (b), but isn’t it more achievable to dismantle the two-party system in a Trump-free world? (deontology doesn’t pay absolutely no attention to consequences). Is voting for Hilary a brief short-cut in chasing noble higher goals? Is it the best setting-up we can do? Or, is this just deontological draping and decoration over choosing the lesser evil as a ‘good act’?