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On Integral Civics and the Fallacy of the “Lesser Evil”

Political Theater known as the U.S. Presidential Election.

It’s Presidential election season. And, this time, I refuse to choose between the “lesser of two evils.”

I cautiously voted for Pres. Obama in 2008. He didn’t have much experience back then. But, like most people, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Now that there are public records on what kind of President he is, I can make a better calculated decision. For the most part, he did not deliver on his most important promises. He did have some accomplishments that deserve to be acknowledged. But in some crucial issues, he did the opposite of what he has promised.

HOWEVER, my main issue with him is this: the way he exercised his power on the branch of government where he has the most power–Executive Branch–ran counter not only to the U.S. Constitution but also against my own basic moral intuition

The Executive Branch of the U.S. government is where the President has the most power. The President is the Commander-In-Chief. So far, President Obama has demonstrated that he is the kind of leader who will not hesitate to kill and violate the U.S. Constitution in the name of the bogus “War on Terror.” Aside from his shoddy politics, cozy treatment of Wall Street overlords, shielding the Bush administration and the CIA for their war crimes, direct assault to civil liberties, poor record on transparency, and aggresive prosecution of whistleblowers, his continuation of Bush’s War on Terror and rampant disregard for human life of his Lethal Presidency and expansion of secrecy, are just some of the main reasons why I cannot, in good conscience, vote for him in the coming election.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not that naive to consider Mitt Romney as an option. My position is more nuanced than that.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot criticisms on Pres. Obama on my Facebook status updates. Some of my FB friends think that I am being too critical of Pres. Obama. Yes, it’s true. I’m more critical of Obama because he is the President. I hold him to a higher standards because I have voted for him before. Some suggested that I vote for Romney and see what happens. I believe choosing between the two is a false dichotomy. I reject the illusory choice of the “lesser evil.” One person’s “Lesser Evil” is another person’s “Effective Evil.”

But I am not here to sway people’s votes one way or the other. That would be silly of me. I don’t have that kind of influence. Actually, I don’t care who people vote for. I don’t have any party affiliation. I don’t even label myself as a “conservative”, “liberal”, “progressive”, “libertarian”, or what have you. I think that people have already made their decisions anyway. If there’s an agenda behind my highly-charged political rants, it is not to sway, but to inform. So that come election time, people will vote for their candidates, or not vote, with their eyes wide open on as many issues they can handle.

On Integral Civics

Incidentally, Terry Patten posted a blog on Integral Life entitled “The Integral Case for President Obama.” In it he laid out his case on why “integral evolutionaries” should support the re-election of Pres. Obama. I have a lot of agreements with his reasoning. But I have also some disagreements. Below are my responses to Terry which I’ve re-posted here.

Terry Patten said in his article:

“But let’s not underestimate how much our higher-order thinking and our post-conventional subculture depend upon a foundation of traditional civil law, order, and a functioning marketplace! Please consider if there’s some ungrounded arrogance in your willingness to cast aside participation in our existing institutions. Is inviting breakdown and chaos truly a wise move? Doesn’t it run the risk of allowing the most regressive and violent impulses in our society to break forth? I would argue that our integral responsibility is to hold a difficult balance between preserving what works in our existing structures, while also pushing the edges and opening spaces for the new and higher and better that’s yearning to emerge. Our world-out-of balance will probably create chaotic “windows of opportunity” for more fundamental systems redesign without us hastening the breakdown. In the dance of “creative destruction,” I would err on the side of a more constructive type of creativity.”

In my own estimation, the above paragraph is where Terry showed his real bias (integral or otherwise). What is this bias? Well, it’s clear to me, in his own words, that he favors “constructive type of creativity” over “creative destruction.” Ok, fine. Fair enough. Normally, I also have that bias and I’d rather see a constructive type of creativity within a system. But what if the system is broken beyond patch-up repairs? For more context on this perspective, see CHRIS HEDGES: “HOPE” SPEECH (UNEDITED) and this interview with Noam Chomsky over at RT.

In the same paragraph Terry asks: “Please consider if there’s some ungrounded arrogance in your willingness to cast aside participation in our existing institutions. Is inviting breakdown and chaos truly a wise move?”

Let me answer that with a question. Which of the two seem more arrogant:

1) exercising one’s freedom by choosing to not participate in a rigged system, or

2) having the illusion/delusion that the pooled resources of some fringe community will have an iota of impact against Super PACs and the Power Structure that virtually controls the ruling elite?

I can argue in favor or against either of the two points above. But in this instance, I’ve chosen to follow my basic moral intuition rather than my idealized version that the Kosmos somehow favors a constructive type of creativity. We don’t have to invite chaos. It doesn’t need our permission. It will invite itself at its own bidding.

Terry responded to my comment. I encourage the reader to check it out in its entirety.

But I will just focus on this part wherein Terry said:

“On the other hand, we can ask ourselves: What is the choice I can make that will do the most good? All it takes is casting a vote (if you live in a swing state.)”

Bingo, for mentioning “swing state.”

First, let me say that I commend Terry’s political engagement in this very crucial juncture in American politics. It is not my intention to dismiss or belittle his efforts. I do have a lot of agreements with his political views. But it just so happens that in my personal space, I have chosen to disengage from choosing between the two (Obama vs. Romney) for the following reasons:

#1 – I live in Washington state which is a BLUE state. Whether I vote for Obama (or Romney) is inconsequential. Economists know this. That’s why economists don’t vote. Therefore, I can afford to express a symbolic “civil disobedience” by not choosing between the two. Think Maslow’s Hierarchy–one can afford to pursue more developmental goals if the basic needs are already met.

But this doesn’t mean that I won’t vote in the local elections. For instance there is an important Initiative in Washington right now which I will be voting in favor of: Initiative 502- Decriminalizing Marijuana (even if i haven’t smoked a joint in my entire life).

My point here is that, people focus too much on the Presidential election. Then they fall into a simplistic logic of “lesser evil”, and then rationalize that “a non-vote for Obama is vote for Romney.” I emphatically reject that simplistic binary logic. Here’s how I frame my personal decision of not choosing between the two:

A non-vote for Obama and Romney is a vote on upholding our collective civil liberties; it’s a vote on putting the war criminals (Bush, Cheney and co.) to justice; it’s a vote on repealing the Patriot Act; it’s a vote on closing Gitmo; it’s a vote on restoring habeas corpus (due process); it’s a vote on easing down on the Drone warfare; it’s a vote on ending Corporate Welfare; it’s a vote against Crony Capitalism; it’s a vote on *real* Healthcare reform; it’s a vote on ending the Filibuster rule; it’s a vote against authoritarian rule; it’s a vote against continued expansion of the National Security State.

#2 – The President is powerful, especially on foreign affairs. However, in matters of the economy, such as balancing the budget, job creation, etc. his powers are limited (and this is by Constitutional design). The President can only propose (and sign or veto). it’s Congress (Senate and House) that has more power. They are the ones who deliberate and make compromises on bills. Even if Obama wins, if the Republicans still has the majority in House and the (non-Filibuster proof) Senate, then we’ll just have a replay of the past four years: political gridlock. That’s why it’s important to educate likely voters on this issue. It’s not enough to get Pres. Obama re-elected. It’s more important that the Democratic Party gets control of the House and the Senate, which means paying more attention to local elections.

I understand that Terry has touched on issue #2. But I think that he could’ve expounded on it some more and shifted the focus from the President to educating people on Civics. Instead of just “Integral Obama” I would prefer to see “Integral Civics“. It may sound that I’m nitpicking, but I think that a slight shift in framing makes a significant difference, for two reasons:

1) It educates people how the 3 branches of the government work (or at least how they were originally designed in the Constitution). It demystifies the role of the President as having some magical powers to solve our national problems (Congress is more powerful in this regard).

2) It will not alienate the informed people who have decided to express their freedom of choice by not participating in a rigged system. (Incidentally, I fall in this category. Hence my verbose and nuanced response.)

BOTTOM LINE: This election has *already* been decided. We’re just waiting to see it unfold. There’s only a small percentage of undecideds. The real battleground will be in the *swing states*. That’s why there are voter suppression efforts spearheaded by the RepubliCONs. But the real influencers are the uber-wealthy elites and the Super PACs (thank you Citizens United!). We are now effectively a Corporate Plutocracy in an Invisible Fascist National Security State.

That said, I’m confident that Pres. Obama will get his second term. I’ve called out the result of the election months ago, even before the Republican Presidential Nomination. That’s why, right now, I’m more concerned with what Pres. Obama will do in the next 4 years. I hope he makes good on his promises this time. But based on what I’ve seen in the last 4 years, I’m not optimistic.

As George W. Bush once said, “Fool me once, shame on — [pauses] — shame on you. Fool me — [pauses] — You can’t get fooled again.” That’s how I feel about Pres. Obama right now. Words do matter.

P.S. Local elections are more important. Get to know your local representatives and the initiatives on your local ballots. And don’t forget that there are other political parties beside the reigning duopoly. Jill Stein of The Green Party and Jesse Ventura have more to say about this Two-Party Dictatorship.

P.P.S. Ata boy, Mittens! for not understanding taxes. And for those who paid $50,000 a plate just to be bamboozled by this a-hole, you deserve what you paid for.

“Most Americans who owe neither income tax nor payroll tax, according to the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, are seniors, the disabled, or students (who are likely to join the ranks of taxpayers soon). They’re not freeloading wards of the government — they’ve either paid for their benefits or are preparing for productive careers.

“And by the way, at least a couple of thousand tax filers owe no income tax despite earning more than $200,000 in income, for reasons that include especially low rates on capital gains and dividend income and other tax benefits.”

~ via Debunking Romney’s attack on Americans who don’t pay income taxes

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Comments (5)

  1. Eric wrote::

    Well said brother. I’m behind you, and beside you, on this. A greater, more inclusive and nuanced understanding of political power structures needs to be given voice. You are accomplishing this here with your words. Thank you.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 8:27 pm #
  2. Sorgfelt wrote::

    This is why we need instant runoff elections. Nothing will be accomplished as long as people think that voting for a third party is throwing away their vote.

    Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 4:48 am #
  3. ~C4Chaos wrote::

    wow. someone who actually thinks along the same lines as me when it comes to not settling for the “lesser evil”.

    —-

    “Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can’t bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn’t believe in Darwinian evolution, and they’ll nod along. Say that you’d never vote for a politician caught using the ‘n’-word, even if you agreed with him on more policy issues than his opponent, and the vast majority of left-leaning Americans would understand. But these same people cannot conceive of how anyone can discern Mitt Romney’s flaws, which I’ve chronicled in the course of the campaign, and still not vote for Obama.

    “Don’t they see that Obama’s transgressions are worse than any I’ve mentioned?

    “I don’t see how anyone who confronts Obama’s record with clear eyes can enthusiastically support him. I do understand how they might concluded that he is the lesser of two evils, and back him reluctantly, but I’d have thought more people on the left would regard a sustained assault on civil liberties and the ongoing, needless killing of innocent kids as deal-breakers.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/why-i-refuse-to-vote-for-barack-obama/262861/

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 10:27 am #
  4. ~C4Chaos wrote::

    Chris Hedges tells it like it is.

    “…Obama is not in charge. Romney would not be in charge. Politicians are the public face of corporate power. They are corporate employees. Their personal narratives, their promises, their rhetoric and their idiosyncrasies are meaningless. And that, perhaps, is why the cost of the two presidential campaigns is estimated to reach an obscene $2.5 billion. The corporate state does not produce a product that is different. It produces brands that are different. And brands cost a lot of money to sell.”

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/how_do_you_take_your_poison_20120924/

    Friday, September 28, 2012 at 11:12 am #
  5. Michael Grove wrote::

    To quote a.n. other YouTube commentator -

    “When I hear criticism as elegant as this I wonder
    why everyone thinks Obama is such a good speaker.
    Your garden variety British Politician is tons better
    than Obama, who needs a squad of speechwriters, axelrod, and mr. teleprompter to hold his hand while speaking.” –

    http://letschangetheworld.ning.com/profiles/blogs/peace-on-earth

    Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 10:01 am #

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