The American Election

Donate!As you may be aware, there is an election coming up in the U.S. shortly. And I’ve tinkered with the blog a little bit.

On the non-partisan side, I’ve posted a link above to a U.S. vote registration site. I imagine most readers of this site who are eligible to vote in the U.S. are registered. But many of you probably teach students who are eligible and are not registered. And voter registration closes in a couple of weeks in most states. At Rutgers there is a large push on by the university to register as many students as possible. And I think it would be very good to encourage students to register to vote. While I think it would be irresponsible to use one’s position in a class to promote one particular candidate, I think promoting vote registration is a perfectly good thing to do, even in an official capacity.

But this blog isn’t a classroom, so I don’t have to be non-partisan. And I think that it’s pretty overdetermined who the better candidate is this election.

The last 8 years in America have been considerably worse than the previous 8. The country has been involved in unnecessary wars, wages have stagnated, the markets have been in a mess, and the legal foundations of the country, from the separation of powers to the prohibition on torture, have been undermined. There’s no reason to think that things will get better under McCain, and some reasons (his cavalier attitude towards getting involved in wars in Iran and Georgia, his Hooveresque insistence that the economy is fundamentally sound) that things will get worse.

Barack Obama’s plans, on the other hand, are, in my opinion, the most promising set of policies and priorities we’ve ever seen from a major American Presidential candidate. On the environment, on healthcare and (dear to my heart) on immigration, he’s pushed for sensible positions that, until recently, most Democrats would have been too scared to touch. So there’s a pretty stark difference between the candidates.

In any election campaign there’s a lot you can do. Due to the odd nature of the American electoral system, for many people there is no close campaign within 100, or even 500, miles. So it’s often hard to work on the ground. But you can donate money! There’s an interesting collective action problem here of course. But I think if everyone who wants Obama to win, especially everyone who has a decent income and can spare a few dollars, donates what they can spare, there’s a much better chance we’ll have a much better America in the next few years.

Note that while only citizens can vote in U.S. elections, permanent residents are allowed to donate money to the campaign. Indeed it’s one of the few ways that (non-naturalised) immigrants can be involved in the politics of the country they live in. So I’d certainly encourage all green card holders out there to help out.

I’ve posted a small donation link on the sidebar, and donations through TAR will be counted up there. Happy donating everyone, and even if you don’t want to donate, encouraging as many students as possible to register to vote will be helping democracy grow one student at a time!

2 Replies to “The American Election”

  1. Why do you think it would be irresponsible to use one’s position in a class to promote one particular candidate? Given the current political climate in this country, I’m tempted to think that it would be irresponsible NOT to use one’s position in a class to promote one particular candidate. (I don’t mean offering A grades, or any other kinds of material incentives, to the students who vote the right way — that would of course be irresponsible. But I take it that wasn’t what you meant either.)

  2. This is similar to Mike’s question: I was just wondering why you thought there was a disanalogy between using your official position to encourage voter registration and using it to promote a particular candidate. I imagine we agree that anyone who can vote is morally obliged to vote for Obama, so the only reasons I can think of against urging students to vote for Obama is that (1) that’s just not your job – you’re there to teach them philosophy and (2) you don’t want the Republicans amongst your students to be angry or upset.

    (1) seems to apply in one case as much as in the other. But doesn’t (2) as well? What about the anarchists amongst your students who think that if you vote you’re participating in an inherently corrupt system and have thereby sold out to The Man? Is it just that it’s far more unlikeley to come across someone who has a serious objection to voting than it is to come across someone who has a serious obejction to voting Democrat? If so, would it be okay to urge your students to register and vote for Obama if you knew (which isn’t that unlikely at Rutgers I’d guess) that most of them would agree that that’s the right thing to do?

    I kind of share your belief that there’s an asymmetry, incidentally; I was just having a hard time justifying that to myself, given the moral facts, so was wondering what your reasons were.

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