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Dealing With the World As It Is to Make It More as It Should Be

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Schmookler       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   32 comments

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From flickr.com/photos/47422005@N04/12522068044/: Democratic Donkey & Republican Elephant - Caricatures
Democratic Donkey & Republican Elephant - Caricatures
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Earlier this week, I posted a piece that argued that we are obliged to help the Democrats prevail over today's Republican Party.

I wrote that piece because I had long encountered here on opednews a contrary view, and I wished to challenge it. As is generally the case with a challenge to people's beliefs and attitudes, my piece provoked considerable disagreement. I promised to resume the discussion with a new piece, and this is that piece.

My argument for such an obligation to help the Democrats prevail was built on these premises:

1) It matters greatly to our future who controls the government of the United States;

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2) History shows that (almost certainly) power over the government will be wielded by our two major political parties, who are and will (almost certainly) remain the only two combatants in that arena.

3) On every issue that matters to progressives, the Democratic Party is clearly (if not as much as we might like) better than the Republican Party.

But perhaps we should start with another still more fundamental premise, that I never made explicit. It concerns a "consequentialist" view of morality: i.e. that what differentiates the better and the worse courses of actions is whether the actions will lead to the world being a better or worse place.

If anyone here disagrees with me about that premise, then so be it. I'm not looking to engage here on that issue. If you believe that some quite different criterion should be applied for judging what's right and what's wrong to do -- like, for example, that one should follow a course of moral purity regardless of the consequences for the world -- then my argument summarized above does not apply.

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But if you agree with me that our moral judgments should be based on the question, "What can I do that is most likely to make this a better world?" -- and if you maintain that it is right to oppose BOTH the Democratic and Republican parties -- then you are whom I am seeking to challenge.

Do you agree that it matters greatly who controls the government of the United States? I cannot imagine what case could possibly be made for the idea that the decisions made in Washington will have no important consequences for what happens in the United States and indeed in the whole world.

If you do agree on that, do you also agree that we are obliged to choose among the actual possibilities? If not, does that not signify your abandonment of the moral focus on consequences on which we are presumably agreed?

If you do agree that we have to choose among actual options, are you maintaining that there is some alternative about who will be steering the United States policy other than the Republican Party and what you call its left wing?

If so, where is that alternative, or by what plausible scenario do you see it emerging?

That leaves what I understood to be the main disagreement: while I maintain that the Democrats are clearly better than the Republicans, a number of my interlocutors did not recognize any such superiority. The argument presented seemed to amount to the assertion that "The Democrats are so bad, it really doesn't matter if they or the Republicans have their hand on the helm of the nation in the coming years."

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Do you really believe that? Let's just take the subject of climate change, which was raised by one of my interlocutors. The Republicans have been just about unanimous in trying to make sure we do nothing to meet that vital challenge. The Democrats have done -- and propose to do -- something. Is there really not a dime's worth of difference, on climate change, between doing something and doing nothing?

I agree: if there were no difference, it would make no difference who wins the battle between the two parties. But I can see no rational way to conclude there's no difference. As I tried to show in the previous article, on every issue on which there has been a political battle, the Democrats' position is better, from a liberal or progressive point of view, than the Republicans'.


I have tried to understand where people are coming from in this dispute, and my intuitive sense is that it's about how one relates to the deeply flawed nature of the world we live in, and in particular how we relate to the way evil infiltrates the arenas of power.

The Democrats are seen as deeply flawed (I believe the negativity of that picture is way overdrawn, but I won't press that point), and this perception is accompanied by a degree of anger and disgust that necessitates the utter rejection of that Party.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
 

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