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Hillary Clinton and Pascal’s Wager

I write primarily to Jill Stein voters. I understand the festering resentments and the mistrust and downright hatred for Hillary Clinton. I understand your feelings of moral outrage and the need to vote your conscience. I also know you are sick of being harangued by Clinton supporters who have wanted your votes for over a year now. I am pressing the issue because of the high stakes in this election: the Supreme Court and future of our country for at least twenty-five years.

If you honestly think Clinton is just as bad as Trump and that you don’t care if Citizen’s United is overturned or if we have judges to fight only to protect the 1% and are opposed to women having reproductive rights, you can stop reading. We have no common ground. But if you are still smarting from the 2000 election when the economic interests of the right led their appointed judges to oppose democracy and stop counting votes in Florida to hand an election to George W. Bush then please read on.

Pascal, famously agnostic, announced that he was going to be baptized, and he defended himself against charges of hypocrisy by explaining that if there were no God, being baptized was meaningless and of no consequence. However, in the unlikely event that there is a God, then not being baptized would put his soul into danger for eternity. Therefore Pascal concluded that a prudent person would be baptized because there was nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Let’s translate this reasoning to this election. Suppose you’re right. Clinton is as bad as Trump. By using your vote to make this statement you can experience the satisfaction of refusing to be swayed by us annoying HRC supporters who bashed your candidate during the primary and now are rudely demanding your vote without apology. A pox on us. If you are right in your judgments about Clinton, then no harm, no foul.

But what if you’re wrong?

There is a possibility that you are. All people are occasionally wrong. What if your impressions of Clinton are the result of the right wing propaganda machine and she’s not a liar at all? What if all the people who know her and have worked with her and have now endorsed her understand her character more than you who have never met her? What if your “gut” that tells you she is not to be trusted is wrong?

Our guts are often wrong, though it’s hard for us to identify this experience. We do have a word for it though, counterintuitive. Sometimes the truth, like the idea that the world is flat or that Newton’s universe is not accurate, just doesn’t feel right. That’s what education is for, and that’s what trusting others, like all Clinton’s endorsers, from John Lewis to Tom Haydn, is for.

Furthermore, you may be wrong about the extent of the threat Trump poses. Suppose he’s not just hot air. Suppose he does suspend the rule of law before there is anything we can do about it, like Hitler and Mussolini did in the thirties. Suppose he packs the Supreme Court with extreme right wing judges as he has promised to do and our children and grandchildren live in a country we can’t even recognize. How will it feel to know your vote contributed to this outcome?

Unless you think Clinton’s policies are actually worse than Trump’s, Pascal’s wager dictates that you do no harm to yourself or others by voting for HRC and not Jill Stein. The only risk you take is being duped and taken advantage of which might be annoying but would have no significant real world consequence.
Voting for Stein, which is in effect supporting Trump, can have real world consequences for minorities, women, the poor, and yes, all of us because of the Supreme Court and its future. I urge you to remember Pascal’s wager and ignore your annoyance at us pesky Hillary supporters and vote for HRC to prevent a Trump presidency. Pascal’s soul (if there is such a thing) is safe.

This piece originally appeared on Medium, and has been reprinted with permission. 

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

2 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton and Pascal’s Wager

  1. This article, like most articles defending HRC, relies on the politics of fear and ignores Clinton’s militaristic history and disastrous foreign policy record. While Trump’s statements are awful and he would clearly be a terrible president, it is important to scrutinize Clinton with the same objective logic. Clinton is being supported by the same neo-conservatives who backed George W Bush and the Iraq War, which she also supported. She led the charge into Libya, a decision with terrible human rights consequences. She wants to start an air war over Syria with the Russians by declaring a “no-fly zone”, and has supported tyrannical regime’s in the middle east like Saudi Arabia. If you think George W Bush was an awful war-monger, then you should feel the same way about Clinton.

    Clinton is also supported by financial oligarchs like Bloomberg, Buffet, and Paulsen. This should signal to every voter that she does in fact represent the 1% (if not the .01%), and will push for economic policies that benefit those supporters. Her flip-flopping on the TPP and selection of Tim Kaine as VP running mate signals that she will support policies that benefit the corporate powers that already have too much control over society. She will not break up the big banks, and her unwillingness to release her Wall St speech transcripts show just how cozy she is with the large financial institutions.

    Clinton also supports fracking and has not put forth a clear vision for transitioning away from fossil fuels. She has taken money from private prison lobbyists and advocated for policies that have helped destroy the social safety nets in the USA.

    To top it all off, the daily revelations of corruption and pay-to-play allegations of the Clinton Foundation are a ticking time bomb for Democrats this fall. Wikileaks is going to release information soon that could prove the bribery allegations and other “unexpected angles” related to HRC and the DNC. Clinton supporters will soon be out of excuses and reasons to advocate for their Dear Leader, and will need a Plan B.

    On the other hand, Dr. Jill Stein provides a new way forward and an affirmative vision for our country. Her platform stands up every day people, and her history as a health advocate and organizer is exactly what we need at this point. She is a true feminist because she will protect women around the world by ending these unconscionable wars. The progressive agenda of the Green Party can help us to break free from the corporate oligarchy that is destroying our planet and perpetuating endless warfare.

    If Pascal were alive today, he would probably wager that Clinton is going to be brought down by corruption charges and vote for Dr. Jill Stein.

  2. This is not a matter of the “gut feeling” — no need to leave anything to the gut here. There are 25 years of record, billions of corporate donations, and lobby, corporate, and neocon suits who even now swirl in her orbit (Ken Salazar, Robert Kagan, John Podesta, etc) and await cabinet positions and handouts. Moreover, we know which think thanks she relies on for direction. All of this is Googlable public knowledge. I am surprised that a research academic would invoke the “gut” here and not trust instead what her job, purportedly, is. Thus — this is no wager but a clear informed decision.

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