Tuesday, November 6

Choosing

What most of us think we're endorsing at the polls is mainly a function of partisan branding. Admittedly, it's rather more fun to vote expressively—to make a statement to oneself about the kind of person one likes to imagine oneself to be—than to vote based on a realistic appraisal of the actual difference between the candidates' approaches to governance. So I suppose it's not really surprising that political commentators offer us almost no help at all in making such appraisals. There's no demand! Unionised teachers don't want to think of themselves as voting Democratic because Democrats protect the interests of unionised teachers, just as rich people don't want to think of themselves as voting Republican because Republicans protect the interests of rich people. We like to see ourselves as voting according to conscience. The branding function of philosophy in politics is to give individual conscience a form congruent with group interest, to transform the mathematical necessities of coalitional partisan politics into many millions of separate acts of self-congratulating private virtue. It's a neat trick.
On the choices of the day.

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