Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Irrationality and Voting for Bush

A friend of mine from Ohio, who I tried to convince to vote for Kerry prior to the election, voted for Bush. When I pressed him on his reasons, they turned out to be just as nonsensical as I expected them to be. (Not that there couldn't be sensical reasons to vote for Bush. I just haven't heard any).

For one thing, after telling me he voted for Bush, he told me he wasn't a conservative but a civil-rights libertarian. I was stunned.

I said, "So, you're all about civil rights, so you vote for the guy who put John 'hold indefinitely without charge' Ashcroft into the Attorney General's Office?"

He said, "Well, I figured Ashcroft would leave and we'd get someone else. I figured it had to be someone better."

"Like Gonzales?!? He wrote the memo for the administration saying we can torture people and don't have to obey the Geneva Conventions." (As someone involved in the Red Cross, I take the Geneva Conventions very seriously).

He admitted, "Yeah, I didn't see that coming."

What?!?!?!? He didn't see that coming? Did Bush have to come to his house and say, "Ashcroft was my first-term compromise candidate. Now that I don't have to worry about reelection, I can put a REAL right-winger in as Attorney General rather than that wishy-washy Ashcroft"?

In that moment, I realized that not all those who voted for Bush were really snowed by the media, as I had really thought. They seriously considered the issues, kept themselves informed, and somehow came to the conclusion that Bush was the better man, through a thought-process that seems to fall apart when scrutinized.

For instance, my sister, when I saw her over Thanksgiving, said she voted for Bush because she didn't "want someone who would listen to the French to be President."

That's excellent logic.

Because, of course, as we know, Americans are always right and no one else in the world ever has a good idea or good advice. There is, of course, only black and white, either the US ignores all its allies completely or it is "letting the French and the UN control" the US. It's not possible, as Kerry proposed, to at least LISTEN to our allies and consider if they have a point or not. Because that is somehow weak. We must always act unilaterally and impose our will on the entire world regardless of what they think or feel. After all, we are here to spread "freedom" to them.

I am not an "America-hating liberal" nor someone who "blames America first." But I'm also not someone who sees America as something other than a nation, a nation with grand ideals and a Constitution that still holds up as one of the greatest political documents in history, but simply a nation nonetheless.

A nation still prone to arrogance, hubris, and an inability to see beyond its own narrow worldview. A nation that I believe is the greatest in the world, but not so great that it cannot be wrong, not so great that it cannot be shortsighted or narrowsighted, not so great that it can impose its will on the entire world, not so great that it stand despite the same hubris that has brought down many a great nation (Rome being the prime example).

I simply cannot believe that America is de facto right about every issue while, say, France is de facto wrong. That's just a variation of the Argument by Authority fallacy. It is an inherently irrational position.

I see no harm in listening to the opinions of other nations to see if they have value before deciding a course of action. If France is wrong and America right, how does an intelligent debate hurt our position? And, in the end, if America has at least seriously considered the opinions of her allies and found them wanting, then we can move forward knowing that we are as informed as we can be before acting.

No one thinks asking a friend for an opinion before you buy a car is giving your friend "veto power" over your car buying decision. Why is America considering the opinions of her allies before acting any different?


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