The Voter’s Dilemma (6)

My last post on this topic—The Voter’s Dilemma (5)—was on May 30. While I wanted to continue this series over the summer and bring it to a conclusion, some of my other projects got in the way and prevented me from doing so. However, just because we are in the middle of October in an election year does not mean that the topic has become irrelevant or obsolete. Even though I am writing about a particular election, the problem itself is an abiding one. As long as there is electoral politics, the voter’s dilemma will remain.

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The Voter’s Dilemma (5)

When Chomsky was asked about the “Never Biden” position by Mahdi Hasan, he began by saying that the question brought back memories from the early 1930s. At the time, the German communists refused to form an alliance with the social democrats, which—eventually— allowed the Nazis to take power. Chomsky’s purpose in recounting that episode was to support the claim that sometimes it is necessary to join hands with your rivals in order to stop a greater catastrophe from happening. If that’s the main lesson we’re supposed to learn from the story, then no one can disagree with Chomsky. It’s a valuable lesson, and the underlying principle is solid.

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The Voter’s Dilemma (4)

In the previous post, I suggested that Chomsky’s answer to the voter’s dilemma, otherwise known as “Lesser Evil Voting” or LEV, can be challenged from at least three directions. Here, I want to consider the first of these challenges.

The LEV strategy is based on the moral significance of personal responsibility. If my action produces a foreseeable outcome, then I am not only responsible for the action but also for causing that outcome. Whether or not I intended that outcome is irrelevant; I am responsible either way. As applied to the voter’s dilemma, this viewpoint says that not voting for Biden makes me responsible not only for Trump’s victory but also for all the evil that he will unleash in his second term, and the fact that I do not intend either of these outcomes is irrelevant. That, in a nutshell, is Chomsky’s defense of LEV.

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