Political Thought Exercise

I’ve been mulling some thoughts over in my head since  the election, and thinking about disagreements that I had with people over how to cast my vote (not who to cast it for, which is something that of course follows, but the strategy to follow when deciding how to cast a vote).

Today in articles written in Vox, NPR, and other such publications, there was a discussion about Obama and Sanders voters who jumped ship for Trump in the 2016 election.  One of the things noted about this particular category of voters (among many, read the articles) was that they were more likely than Clinton voters to believe that there was little or no discrimination against blacks, suggesting that prejudice may have been a factor in the outcome of the 2016 election.

This is not the first time I have heard this, and I think that a good case can be made for it, but you know my  brain – off on a tangent it went.  It pulled me towards other issues potentially related to this, and allowed a question I have had for some time swirling around in my back brain to finally gel.  It did so by forming one of those thought exercises that we all hated in high school and college – “you’re trapped in a lifeboat with seven other people and there is only room for 5 – who do you throw out?” or “a trolly is about to run over an orphan – but if you pull a lever 5 fat Nazis protesting on the bridge above will fall onto the track and stop the trolly.  What do you do?”

You hated those, right?  The answer was always completely self-evident to you but there was always some IDIOT who insisted that your answer was wrong.

So – standard caveats for the thought question – you get to use the information listed in the thought question, and you don’t get to make up stuff like Martian invasions or flying whales.  The question is not meant to represent a realistic situation – realistic situations are far more messy and complex.  Rather the thought question focuses down on one aspect of the thought process to see how people deal with it and why.

I don’t have an answer to the thought question.  I have AN answer, but suspect that others will have different answers, and that’s what I would like to discover.

Preamble:  assume that the information being discussed today turns out to be true, and that prejudice played a significant role in the 2016 election.  This has been corroborated by subsequent studies and political scientists and pollsters can now say that prejudice was a “significant” factor in Clinton’s loss.

It’s 2020 and the Democratic Primary is in full swing.  As the run-up to the nomination nears, two candidates have emerged as front runners.  Both have high favorable ratings, both have near identical platforms and plans, and both are strongly supported by roughly equal portions of the Democratic party, though in this case because things have remained amicable between them, there is strong agreement on both sides that whoever loses will throw their support behind the winner.

The two front runners are Kamala Harris and Tim Kaine.

At the moment the race against sitting President Ryan Zinke (look him up) is tight, and it looks like whichever candidate is selected will have a very difficult battle against Zinke.  One of the issues that has (reluctantly) come up is the fact that prejudice played a “significant” role in the outcome of the 2016 election, and that Harris, a black female, will face this prejudice in ways that Kaine will not.

You’re getting ready to vote in the upcoming primary.  While Kamala Harris and Tim Kaine are both good candidates, based on the results of the 2016 election, Harris will have a harder time at the polls against Zinke than Kaine will.  In other words, in terms of electability Kaine will have a “significant” advantage in the general.

Obviously you want to select a candidate who will win in the general.

My interest in this question is this:  is it reasonable to choose one candidate over another based on electability, even if the reason for one candidate’s electability issues is based on bigotry and discrimination? In other words, even if you yourself do not feel biased against one of the two candidates, is it legitimate for you to pick one based on the prejudices of others – prejudices that you do not necessarily share?

One thought on “Political Thought Exercise”

  1. I left the term “significant” intentionally vague. Different people will have different ideas of what constitutes “significant”. So in this case assume that “significant” means “not determining, but biasing towards a certain outcome to a degree that it may have an effect on the outcome of the election.”


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