Well I've now read and reread the responses to my post on the Nader issue, trying to make up my mind on how to vote. I appreciate everyone's comments. I thought there were good arguments on both sides. Here's why was ultimately persuaded to vote Gore. 1. On "voting your conscience" There are two rough approaches to moral decision making -- consequentialism, the idea that good actions are the ones that have good results and various sorts of non-consequentialism. I am a consequentialist. (Brad Duren is not.) I believe that doing an act that makes you feel good, and leaves you with a clear conscience but does not have good consequences is moral self-indulgence. Too many people can suffer from it. So the question for me whether a vote for Nader would have good consequences 2. And note, I'm concerned here with the consequence of VOTING a certain way. Voting is different than educating, party building, protesting, and all kinds of other activities. Voting can only do so much, but the question here is how will the vote you cast do the maximal good and the least harm? In this election, voting Nader can cause a lot of harm. And I don't see that it does a lot of good that couldn't be gained in other ways (like working for Nader organizations (which I have done)). In 1964, I would have voted for Johnson over Goldwater, but would also have joined various organizations to vigorously protest Johnson's war policies. I must say, I find the idea that it would be GOOD if the Democrats lost (which Jeffrey Blankford hinted at, with his comments that NAFTA would never have passed under Dole) to be just as implausible as the (sometimes suggested) idea that voting for Nixon over McGovern would actually produce good results for progressives. Do we really want to be in a situation where things like "The Contract with America" can easily pass in its entirety and be immediately signed by a republican president? Under Nixon, at least there was a democratic congress. 3. Even though my concern here is with voting, I have two comments on progressive activity outside of voting. A. I completely disagree with the idea that more things necessarily get accomplished by direct action, than by passing laws. Nothing anyone could do in direct charity work could have helped de-impoverish the elderly than social security did. Wonky things like the earned income tax credit have done much more to help the working poor (while keeping intact their self-esteem intact) than any private charity work every could. B. Even large popular movements aren't worth much of they don't get large or powerful enough to influence policy. One of my biggest frustrations with working with the Nuclear Freeze movement was constantly encountering the attitude of "Well at least we are out here: at least we are trying." As a consequentialist, I want to see my actions really having good results. I must agree strongly with Marty Jezer, here: "Direct action is essential for getting issues into the news, for movement building, manifesting (but not wielding), rallying the troops. But without an electoral component it goes nowhere and, worse, builds frustration within the movement. Seeing our activism going nowhere, having no influence in the arenas where policy and laws are made, we got frustrated. We raised the ante of direct action without addressing our lack of electoral strategy. This was one of the decisive mistakes of the 1960s. Miltance for its own sake is a dead-end." Bill Mandel talks about "changing the rules of the game" It seems to me that we also have to try to win the game we're playing WHILE we work to change some of the rules. It seems that's what successful progressives have always done. Bill writes that, "We who were Communists in the thirties were able to win welfare, unemployment insurance, social security, and legalization of the right of labor to organize, although we started with only ten thousand members and never rose to over ten time that." No -- the communists did none of those things on their own. Those things were accomplished because Roosevelt's New Deal democrats, rather than Hooverian republicans were in power. And less people suffered because of it. I love Ralph Nader. But think that truly learning from the sixties tells us that totally eschewing established party politics leads to opportunities wasted. So I think that voting for Gore is the morally right thing for progressives to do.
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