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Dr. Peikoff on which party to vote for: GOP or Democrat

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#1
softwareNerd

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A couple of days ago, Dr. Peikoff put an update on his site, providing his answer to the following question:

In view of the constant parade of jackassery which is Washington, is there any point in voting for candidates of either entrenched party? Throwing out the incumbents "for a change" is to me an idea based on the philosophy that my head will stop hurting if I bang it on the opposite wall.

Here is his answer:

How you cast your vote in the coming election is important, even if the two parties are both rotten. In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.

Socialism—a fad of the last few centuries—has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast—the destroyer of man since time immemorial—is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.

Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because “both are bad.”

The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the government, simply by inertia, imposes taxes, entitlements, controls, etc., although such impositions will be harmful (and all of them and worse will be embraced or pioneered by conservatives, as Bush has shown). What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy. And in this area the only real threat to the country now, the only political evil comparable to or even greater than the threat once posed by Soviet Communism, is religion and the Party which is its home and sponsor.

The most urgent political task now is to topple the Republicans from power, if possible in the House and the Senate. This entails voting consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a “good” Republican.

In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.

If you hate the Left so much that you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner.


The above statement may be reproduced or disseminated at will, without any requirement to consult or inform Dr. Peikoff.


Edited by softwareNerd, 21 October 2006 - 01:55 PM.

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#2
DarkWaters

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Wow. I tend to be much more distrusting of Republicans than many of the other individuals on this forum but I was still taken aback by the last three sentences:

The most urgent political task now is to topple the Republicans from power, if possible in the House and the Senate. This entails voting consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a “good” Republican.

In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.

If you hate the Left so much that you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner.

Considering how the fashion on Capitol Hill is to vote in lockstep with one's party, I agree with Dr. Peikoff wholeheartedly.
"The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled."
~Andrew Carnegie

"[N]othing to me is more revolting ..., But once war is forced on us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory -- not prolonged indecision. In war, indeed, there can be no substitute for victory."
~General Douglas MacArthur

#3
DarkWaters

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It is too late to modify my initial response but after further contemplation, I am not sure if I agree wholeheartedly with the second to last sentence from Dr. Peikoff, considering that prominent Objectivists like Harry Binswanger endorsed President Bush in 2004. But even then I found Dr. Peikoff's argument to be more persuasive than Dr. Binswanger's.
"The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled."
~Andrew Carnegie

"[N]othing to me is more revolting ..., But once war is forced on us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory -- not prolonged indecision. In war, indeed, there can be no substitute for victory."
~General Douglas MacArthur

#4
hunterrose

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Wow. I tend to be much more distrusting of Republicans than many of the other individuals on this forum but I was still taken aback by the last three sentences...

Same here.

What Peikoff said was definitely interesting, both his reason for voting Democrats over Republicans right now, and his condemnation of people who vote Republican this year.

I kinda agree with his idea that Republican fundamentalism is much more dangerous *right now* than Democratic socialism. Even moreso because the Republicans are currently in power. It was certainly an interesting and thought-provoking thing to say.

I'm not sure that I'd agree with the part about voting Republican (at this point in time) as not understanding Objectivism (and not being an Objectivist???) Is what he says here right? wrong? misguided? I'd say he's wrong, but not being an Objectivist, what do I know :P

But seriously, I do think Republican fundamentalism is more dangerous. I agree with him on that part, though I'm not sure it means we should blanket vote for Democrats.

Edit:
noting that Peikoff doesn't say that we should give Democrats a blanket vote either. Not meaning to imply words into his mouth :)

Edited by hunterrose, 21 October 2006 - 05:06 PM.


#5
KendallJ

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My take is that Peikoff has identified the correct trends and forces. The left is effectively dead. Both the neo-conservative, and religous movements are fundamentally statist, and are gaining prominence in the Republican party. Keeping the 2 groups (Democrats / Republicans) at odds, i.e. keeping both strong enough to effectively check the other is warranted.

I think it really comes down to a question of rates of change and timing. Also, I think that Islamic fundamentalism is an external form of religous fundamentalism that has affected us and continues to do so and must be checked.

If you think the Republicans are strong enough to begin damaging individual liberty within the next decade, then I'd be voting Democrat. I personally think we have a bit of time and I know that Democrats aren't going to do much about external threats.

The real key is how quickly can ARI get key Objectivist philosophers into academia and begin really changing the philosophic tone of the debate. The neo-conservative movement as an academic movement took a few key academicians, publishing over the course of 30 years or so to really get the movement some momentum. That is about what Objectivism would need minimum before you'd start to see key ideas shifting.
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#6
xavier

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In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.

Is Peikoff saying that anyone who votes Republican, or does not vote, is automatically not an Objectivist? It seems like it's some kind of ad hominem or argument from intimidation. It's like he's abusing his position as the "world's foremost authority on Ayn Rand's philosophy," which I had agreed with, until I read this - now I'm not so sure.

It's one thing for prominent Objectivists to disagree on complex, top-level issues like voting. But this seems to be something else altogether. Does anyone interpret that paragraph differently?

Edited by xavier, 21 October 2006 - 06:26 PM.


#7
Inspector

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Okay, but what about This?

I really wish people like Leonard Peikoff, Yaron Brook, Harry Binswanger, Craig Biddle, Edward Cline, and Robert Tracinski would get together and compare notes before publishing.

#8
khaight

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Okay, but what about I really wish people like Leonard Peikoff, Yaron Brook, Harry Binswanger, Craig Biddle, Edward Cline, and Robert Tracinski would get together and compare notes before publishing.

Um, why?

Deciding who to vote for is a complicated question of applied philosophy. There's plenty of room for legitimate disagreement over how the principles of Objectivism that all the above people share should be applied to the modern world. There's no rule that says that the concrete political views of all Objectivists must or should march in lockstep.

#9
KendallJ

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Is Peikoff saying that anyone who votes Republican, or does not vote, is automatically not an Objectivist? It seems like it's some kind of ad hominem or argument from intimidation. It's like he's abusing his position as the "world's foremost authority on Ayn Rand's philosophy," which I had agreed with, until I read this - now I'm not so sure.

It's one thing for prominent Objectivists to disagree on complex, top-level issues like voting. But this seems to be something else altogether. Does anyone interpret that paragraph differently?


Strong statement, yeah?

I'm not sure I'd take it quite like that. I look at it like this. There are many things that Rand said with quite a high degree of certainty which I didn't think one could be so certain of, back when I was a young Objectivism enthusiast. Fifteen years later, I realize, that she was certain, and she was right, and just how right she was.

So I respect Peikoff. If he says that from where he's at, this action is so obvious that those who don't see it too, don't understand Objectivism, well he may be right to the extent he understands it better than I do. I know noted Objectivists disagree with that tactic, so I know it can't be quite that simple. But you know, I know with a high degree of certainty that I'm not going to go out and change my vote without understanding why I'm doing it, i.e. without relying on my own reason, and I'm sure that regardless of how strongly he words it, he wouldn't want me to follow his edict blindly.

It's only argument from intimidation if you care what he thinks about you. But then if one does, then there really is some stuff about Objectivism that one doesn't understand.

Go Boilers!
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#10
Inspector

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Um, why?

Deciding who to vote for is a complicated question of applied philosophy. There's plenty of room for legitimate disagreement over how the principles of Objectivism that all the above people share should be applied to the modern world. There's no rule that says that the concrete political views of all Objectivists must or should march in lockstep.


You're reading a lot into what I said.

#11
DarkWaters

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I think it really comes down to a question of rates of change and timing. Also, I think that Islamic fundamentalism is an external form of religous fundamentalism that has affected us and continues to do so and must be checked.

::::SNIP:::::

I personally think we have a bit of time and I know that Democrats aren't going to do much about external threats.

I am not so sure how much more the Republicans will accomplish in terms of extinguishing external threats. They have not and will not identified Islam itself as the problem, North Korea mobilized its uranium enrichment program under the watch of the first George W. Bush Administration and we are stuck in Iraq while Iran is becoming ever more threatening, especially now that their former number one enemy Saddam Hussein has been removed from power and therefore giving radical Iranian shiites an opportunity to ally with the formerly oppressed shiite majority in Iraq.

I think ultimately the problem is that both Democrats and Republicans prefer to be contrarian and struggle with eachother for political power rather than unite against the real enemies of the United States. In terms of game theory, I perceive this strategy as an unfortunate equilibrium of our current voting system. This is why I am in favor of Instant Runoff Voting.

If you think the Republicans are strong enough to begin damaging individual liberty within the next decade, then I'd be voting Democrat.

The emphasis is mine.

I would also say that Republicans have already began damaging individual liberties directly and indirectly. Two extraordinarily conservative judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court, federal funding for stem cell research has been rejected on arguments based in faith not reason, the right to privacy is being whittled down as the federal government has began wiretapping while circumventing the FISA court (this is mainly a concern because it is a relinquishment of freedom with no clear end in sight), the anti-abortion movement is getting stronger, the intelligent design movement is getting stronger and has been given legitimacy by the President, our national debt has ballooned to record proportions, an Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has been established...

Perhaps I am being too much of an alarmist but I really am not comfortable with this administration.
"The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled."
~Andrew Carnegie

"[N]othing to me is more revolting ..., But once war is forced on us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory -- not prolonged indecision. In war, indeed, there can be no substitute for victory."
~General Douglas MacArthur

#12
ian

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What if conservatives got everything they wanted?

- No gambling
- No drinking
- No pornography
- No blasphemy
- No abortions
- No contraception
- Prayer in schools

It wouldn't be great, but it wouldn't be the end of the world.

Edited by ian, 21 October 2006 - 08:54 PM.


#13
Inspector

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Personally, I've given up on the idea that the Republican party will offer us results any better than the Democrats. In their current form they can, have, and will push power to the state in a worse fashion even then the dems. I can certainly see where Dr. Peikoff is coming from here, and appreciate the fact that he was 10 years ahead of the curve on this one. See Here.

But the idea of collapsing the Democratic party so that a meaningful policy debate can take place is still appealing. Such a change might fundamentally alter the makeup of the Republican party and change the nature of the game.

Before making a full evaluation of Dr. Peikoff's position, I would like to hear his opinion on that article. Is he aware of that angle? If so, does he think it has merit?

Does anyone have a line of communication with him, to ask such a question?

#14
DarkWaters

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But the idea of collapsing the Democratic party so that a meaningful policy debate can take place is still appealing. Such a change might fundamentally alter the makeup of the Republican party and change the nature of the game.

Although Robert Tracinski's op-ed is interesting, his advocation presupposes that the meaningful debate within the far right can be won by like-minded individuals and not by the conservatives who are described by Dr. Thompson. Needless to say, it would be horrible if the Right grew to monstorous proportions and subsequently stamped out those among them who were in favor of smaller government and secular leadership.

Ian: Since your list referred to the agenda of the religious right, my response will assume this as context. With regards to what could happen if the religious right hypothetically completed installed all of the reforms that they preferred, you are missing some key things:
  • Treating homosexuals as second class citizens
  • Increase in ISP monitoring (Actually, more than the religious right wants this)
  • Intrincism over objectivism (this would be the worst one). Note: I originally wrote "primacy of consciousness" here. I realized my error later.
I was sort of hoping that Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan's planned Catholic town would be a microcosm of this, but it is my understanding that some planned restrictions have been backed off.

Edited by DarkWaters, 22 October 2006 - 08:54 AM.

"The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled."
~Andrew Carnegie

"[N]othing to me is more revolting ..., But once war is forced on us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory -- not prolonged indecision. In war, indeed, there can be no substitute for victory."
~General Douglas MacArthur

#15
DarkWaters

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[*] Intrincism over objectivism


I meant to correct the spelling here too from "intrincism" to "intrinsicism" but I suppose I just missed the editing deadline. What a day!
"The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled."
~Andrew Carnegie

"[N]othing to me is more revolting ..., But once war is forced on us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory -- not prolonged indecision. In war, indeed, there can be no substitute for victory."
~General Douglas MacArthur

#16
tommyedison

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Note: I originally wrote "primacy of consciousness" here. I realized my error later.


If my understanding is correct, intrincism too is based on the "primacy of consciousness". Intrincism is disguised subjectivism because it is ultimately based on whims rather than reality.
I made my fortune on the seas, and in the mines, and in the cattle wars of the old frontier... I made it by being tougher than the toughies, and smarter than the smarties. And I made it SQUARE! -Scrooge McDuck

#17
ian

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Ian: Since your list referred to the agenda of the religious right, my response will assume this as context. With regards to what could happen if the religious right hypothetically completed installed all of the reforms that they preferred, you are missing some key things:

  • Treating homosexuals as second class citizens
  • Increase in ISP monitoring (Actually, more than the religious right wants this)
  • Intrincism over objectivism (this would be the worst one). Note: I originally wrote "primacy of consciousness" here. I realized my error later.


Yup, I did forget those. I didn't include things like the last one because I wanted it to be a concrete list.

Just wanted to concretize what we're talking about, because the conservative policies of today and not the same as putting people's heads on pikes and what not from 1000 years ago. Though if they hold the same principles, then I guess in the long run it will be the same.

I am in favor of a Democratic congress proposing big spending and having it vetoed by a Republican president, as against a Republican congress proposing big spending and having it waved through by a Republican prez. So maybe it would be ok the Dems won back congress.

#18
Spano

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I'm surprised by Peikoff's wording. While I agree with his assessment that the philosophical danger of the right is stronger than the left, I wish he would explain why he doesn't address the left's obvious desire to surrender in foreign policy. He's right to note the paramount importance of philosophy in human life, but the idea of sacrificing the last remnants of self-defense in foreign policy in order to combat the long term theocratic tendencies of the right is hard for me to swallow. Of course, he'd probably point out that philosophically, the right really isn't committed to self-defense, but to altruism -- a conclusion supported by the current foreign policy decisions regarding Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. If anything, the right's commitment to self-defense seems to be mostly limited to talk, with little corresponding action.

To me, the controversy over voting left or right has strong parallels to a lifeboat situation, which leads me to be all the more confused by Peikoff's inclusion of "immorality" in the choice to vote. The fact is that both choices will result in more evil, and that the debate among Objectivists reduces to which will result in the least increase in evil. If we were on a sinking ship, it would be silly to condemn people as immoral because they're forced to select between two alternatives that aren't life-promoting. Similarly, I'm not sure I understand why Peikoff would use that term in reference to the larger lifeboat scenario that is modern politics. It's fine to argue about various facts and trends that would enable one to pursue the lesser of two evils -- but to condemn those who choose one or the other as immoral?

On the one hand, we can vote for the left who will surrender in foreign policy but won't threaten us with religion (though the left, too, is embracing religion, at least publicly). On the other hand, we can vote for the right who will surrender more slowly in foreign policy, but continue to push religion. This is no clear choice. Come to think of it, I'm surprised Peikoff makes such a strong distinction between left and right, given that both share a fundamental philosophical commitment to primacy of consciousness metaphysics, faith-based epistemology, and altruistic ethics. Given this, how could one come out strongly in favor of either side?

Thoughts?

#19
ian

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Another point is that even though socialism has been discredited, environmentalism has not. So maybe the left do have some intact philosophical base.

#20
Antonio

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To be sure, what Peikoff asserts about the long-term trends of both of our major parties is very interesting and worthy of discussion. Neither are perfect, but one lends itself to long-term prosperity and the other toward a second-rate economy. Kind of like the difference between the worlds of V for Vendetta and 1984 or maybe Max Headroom, to bring it to extremes. Neither are good. All politics are local, and politics is quite complicated. This is especially so in California where our local elected offices are not partisan and the media will not report political affilliations in covering local races (I have lost this battle as a newspaper editor a number of times in my roughly 14-year career). Nonetheless, Peikoff's statements are provocative.

All that said, the tail end of this remarks serve only to further the misconception that Objectivism is a cult and that people who like Rand are a bunch of weirdos. Objectivism is a philosophy, not a religion. Telling people what they are based on a blanket statement on something such as partisan choices in voting is tantamount to the actions of a priesthood. Here is comes full circle. Disavowing religion and then creating one's own where rather than worshipping a deity, the worship is of a living human who claims to be the pope of a deceased writer and philosopher (regardless of the fact her ideas were brilliant).

We can think for ourselves, therefore I'm sure we are all smart enough to figure out how to vote without needing this false pope from telling us how to do so.

#21
Antonio

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Here's something interesting from Donald Luskin's Web page. It boils down to priorities, really, when it comes to voting. Mine is prosperity and national security. The rest is collateral. The left will rob us of prosperity and weaken America so I don't vote for leftists. The right is not perfect. One should vote according to one's priorities.

In particular interest to me is that I'd be paying, as a middle-income head of a family of four, about $2,500 more in income taxes annually without the GOP tax cuts. That's a lot even for an upper-middle income family. As one of the 93 million American individuals who own a piece of our markets and our businesses, I also consider the power of that money when it is invested for the long-term and compounding takes effect. We as individuals can spend or invest that $2,500 more efficiently than government.

http://www.poorandst...117823731413421

FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS Our friend Dan Clifton at the American Shareholder Association sends along this "Harpers Index"-style look at the "Bush tax cuts by the numbers." What more should any citizen or legislator need to know?

* $14,374,330,000,000 Total Increase in Household Wealth Since April 2003
* $5,700,000,000,000 Total Increase in Shareholder Wealth Since May 20, 2003
* $863,654,000,000 Total Amount of Tax Cuts Enacted Since Fiscal Year 2003
* $783,890,000,000 Total Amount of Additional Tax Cuts to be Returned to Taxpayers Through 2010
* $625,000,000,000 Total Increase in Federal Tax Revenues Since FY 2003
* $207,788,000,000 Reduction in the Deficit in the Past 29 Months Due to Stronger Economic Growth
* $98,600,000,000 Combined Income Gains for Shareholders From Dividend Increases & Tax Savings 03-05
* $62,000,000,000 Surplus of Capital Gains Tax Revenue Not Accounted For By Revenue Estimators
* $60,000,000,000 Deficit REDUCTION Since the Tax Cut Was Signed Into Law
* 300,001,643 Total Number of Americans benefiting from President Bush’s Tax Cut
* 91,000,000 Number of Individuals Owning Shares of Stock in America
* 23,000,000 Number of Small Businesses Benefiting from Income Tax Reductions
* 6,600,000 Number of Jobs Created Since the Tax Cut Was Signed Into Law
* 12,000 The Magic Number of the Dow Jones Industrial Index is an Arms Length Away
* $2,092 Tax Increase for a Family of Four With $50k of Income if Tax Cuts Are Repealed
* 200 Number of House Members Who Voted Against This Growth Generating Tax Cut
* 50 Number of US Senators Who Voted Against This Growth Generating Tax Cut
* 25 Number of Years Dividend Paying Companies Declined Prior to the 2003 Tax Cut
* 164.0% % Increase in the Dividend Tax Rate if the Income and Dividend Tax Cuts Expire
* 123.0% % Increase in Dividend Income and Share Repurchases Since 2003 Tax Cut
* 91.0% % Increase of Stock Ownership in the Bottom Quintile of Income Distribution Since 1995
* 74.0% % Increase in S&P 500 Companies Boosting Their Dividend Since 2002
* 65.0% % of Voters Who Were Investors in the 2004 Elections
* 51.2% % of Total Tax Cut “Cost” That Has Been Recouped From Higher Levels of Growth
* 14.0% % Margin of Victory for Republicans From Investor Voters in 2002 Elections
* 4.6% Unemployment Rate Which Continues To Disprove the Constant Economic Pessimism
* 3.7% % Average Quarterly GDP Growth Since Tax Cut Was Enacted (long run average is 3.3%)

Edited by Antonio, 22 October 2006 - 12:10 PM.


#22
DavidOdden

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Another point is that even though socialism has been discredited, environmentalism has not. So maybe the left do have some intact philosophical base.

This points in the correct direction, though I would not limit the concern to just classical socialist political matters. There is a vast world of leftist views that are just waiting to be exploited -- multiculturalism, environmentalism, veganism, epistemological nihilism. And not just exploited, but made into law. While the right may, for the most part, stand for evangelical Protestantology, that is a well-defined evil. Leftists are predominantly anti-ideologists -- the other name for them is nihilist. Combatting nihilism is vastly harder that nailing jelly to a tree. The danger of the left is their little-appreciated non-political base, namely their rejection of the idea "philosophical base".

Dave Odden


#23
LaszloWalrus

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Antonio, your attacks on Dr. Peikoff are unwarranted and unjust. Peikoff is expressing a view (one I disagree with), but he is offering reasons for that view; he is not saying, "I'm Leonard Peikoff, and I say vote for the Democrats so you should do so on my authority." Peikoff is not the "Pope" of Objectivism, and never claims to be.

#24
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I think it largely depends on what positions you're voting for and the specific people that are running for those positions. Since Democrat and Republican (not to mention "right" and "left") are not really ideological terms, you're not going to be able to support an ideological position by voting consistently one way or the other.
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DavidOdden

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I think it largely depends on what positions you're voting for and the specific people that are running for those positions. Since Democrat and Republican (not to mention "right" and "left") are not really ideological terms, you're not going to be able to support an ideological position by voting consistently one way or the other.

I think the former idea (that it matters about the specific people) is correct only insofar as you consider all of the specific people running; and not for particular positions, but for positions in a particular governmental unit. If you can integrate the totality of Democrats, or Republicans, running for US House, and conclude that the Democrat House "position" is better than the Republican one, then it would make sense to vote for the Democratic party House candidate regardless of the candidate's individual beliefs. I don't generally expect a Democrat to vote contrary to the party position (nor do I expect that from a Republican); so while there is no ideology behind being a Democrat vs. a Republican, there is a convenient position, which you can decide if you can support. Assuming, of course, there's a relationship between what's said this year during the campaign vs. how the brands are distinguished the following year.

Dave Odden



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