The 2016 Election And Ethics Zugswang


In a July post I introduced the concept of ethics zugswang, described in the Ethics Alarms glossary as

From the chess term “zugzwang,” describing a board where the player with the next move worsens his position regardless of which move he chooses. Ethics Zugswang occurs when all the opportunity to choose ethical options has passed. Any course of action will have unethical consequences.

I often talk about ethics zugswang in my ethics seminars as well. It is a situation where  no ethical decision is possible, because of poor choices and a failure to play competent ethics chess, not thinking ahead, not anticipating worst case scenarios, and thereby creating a situation where  ethical options are unavailable. All that is left are options that do tangible harm. The idea is to avoid such messes by not blundering through life being governed by non-ethical considerations, emotions, rationalizations, recklessness and ignorance. Sometimes, however, despite all of one’s best efforts, ethics zugswang arrives anyway.

Such is the plight of the American citizen on Election Day, 2016. For months, thoughtful voters who care about democracy and want to participate in choosing their President responsibly have been trying to decide which of several unethical decisions is the best—the most ethical, or rather least unethical– of the available options. Being angry or indignant, or holding one’s breath until one turns blue, will not do. A decision has to be made, and refusing to make a decision is still a decision. (In chess, the most common response to ethics zugswang is to resign, to quit. But one cannot quit being a citizen in a democracy.)

In past posts, mostly in the comments, I and others have exchanged proposed analogies to describe the choice between choosing Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to lead the country. Arguing that it was a binary choice that could best be compared to having one’s commercial airline flown by an untrustworthy pilot of questionable skill, motivations and objectives or, in the alternative, a seven-year old, a monkey or a spaniel, my position was that one choice was terrible and the other was infinitely worse, but the terrible one as at least survivable, with luck. Classical literature provides another useful analogy: the myth of Scylla and Charibdis.

In Greek mythology, they were two immortal and deadly monsters who lived on opposite sides the narrow waters in the Strait of Messina, between Italy and Sicily. Odysseus, trying to return home after the Trojan War,  faced the dilemma posed by having to choose between them in Homer’s Odyssey, Book XII. Scylla had been a lovely a sea nymph who was loved by the sea god Poseidon, but Poseidon’s jealous wife Aphrodite treacherously cursed the waters in which Scylla bathed. The god-poisoned water turned Scylla into huge and vicious monster with twelve legs, six heads on long, snaky necks, with each head having a triple row of shark-like teeth. The transformed Scylla’s loins were also covered by the heads of baying dogs. (Note to self: don’t mess with Aphrodite!) When ships passed close to her, Scylla’s six heads would each snatch one sailor, then devour them in her cave.

Charybdis was also once a nymph, a daughter of Poseidon, who angered Zeus, Poseidon’s brother. Zeus turned her into an even worse monster than Scylla. The transformed nymph lurked under a fig tree on the opposite shore from Scylla’s rock, drinking down and belching out  the sea three times a day, causing  fatal whirlpools no ship could survive. Odysseus managed to get the worst of this dual  monster dilemma, sailing close enough to Scylla to doom six of his sailors (who he never warned about the threat) and still seeing his chip wrecked by Charybdis, with him being the only survivor. The shipwrecked Odysseus barely escaped her clutches by clinging to a tree until the improvised raft that she swallowed floated to the surface again after many hours.  To be “between Scylla and Charybdis” means to be caught between two equally horrible alternatives.

As today loomed and this metaphor appeared more and more accurate, I sought wisdom from various versions of the story, only to gradually realize that I was not as certain as I once had been which candidate was which monster.

Deciding my own vote, as well as trying to be a useful resource as other responsible citizens dealt with the same dilemma, was a professional as well as a personal problem. For months, as least since the identity of the two nominees could no longer be denied, I have taken the firm position that in a binary choice involving two unacceptable alternatives, the most ethical choice was to do everything possible to avoid the worst result. The worst result, I was confident, was to elect Donald Trump as President. I have been fully prepared to vote for Hillary Clinton for all that time.

I believe that the beginning of a tipping point for me, where I began to question whether a vote for Hillary was really to choose Scylla  as I had assumed but was instead to choose the existentially more dangerous Charybdis, was this post, discussing Clinton’s campaign manager asserting that the news media should give Clinton an advantage because Trump was “special.” I wrote, “If the choice is between Donald Trump being elected fairly and Hillary Clinton being elected by a rigged process, I will vote for Donald Trump.”

You will note that this was before Trump began complaining that the election was “rigged,” and the news media roundly condemned him for suggesting such a thing.

My resolve continued to weaken as some of my less astute and more ideologically-biased Facebook friends posted an idiotic “OccupyDemocrats” meme that compared defeating Trump to “defeating fascism.” Much to their anger and irritation, I asked which of the two candidates, their parties and their followers displayed more fascist tendencies. Yes, the Trump campaign was certainly more nationalistic, but Democrats have come to regard simple patriotism and national pride as excessively nationalistic. Contrary to one of the prominent Big Lies wielded by Democrats and promoted  by the news media with great success, opposing illegal immigration is not xenophobia, bigotry or racism. Big Lie tactics are a hallmark of fascists. So is demanding ideological fealty, and punishing dissenters.

Is the left or the right in the United States employing speech codes, censorship, intimidation and indoctrination on the majority of college campuses? Has the left or the right taken over most of the journalistic establishment, and turned what was supposed to be a vital check on government power into an ally of it? Which party has advocated an amendment to the First Amendment, constraining political speech? Which candidate was arguing that the news media had a duty to  tilt its coverage to ensure its candidate’s election? Which candidate has argued that Australian-style gun confiscation is “worth looking at“? Whose followers, Trump’s or Clinton’s, include  those who endorse Black Lives Matter, and its rejection of the jury process and the principle of innocent until proven guilty, when police shootings are involved? Which party hired a “dirty tricks” specialist to employ false flag operations and promote violence at Trump rallies?

Which party followed the will of the voters, and which party rigged its nominating process?

Trump, who is a Constitutional dunce, advocated that being placed on a watch list (and not even told about it) was enough to justify taking away a citizen’s right to own a gun, but he’s an idiot. Clinton and Democrats, who should understand due process, the Fifth Amendment and why this proposal advocates totalitarian, police state tactics, also argued for it. Which party has overseen the use of the tax-collecting arm of the government for partisan ends? Which party’s government has politicized the supposedly objective, fair and non-partisan Justice Department to the extent that public trust in law enforcement has declined to the vanishing point?

Democrats fall back on definitions of fascism that restrict the label to conservatives only, but there is also fascism of the left, and the increasing embrace of totalitarian methods and attitudes by the Democrats and Clinton’s followers while demonizing Republicans began to trouble me increasingly with each passing day.

My view of this ethics zugswang began to evolve from an ugly but straightforward choice between two unfit (though unfit in wildly different ways) candidates for President to a choice between one horrible, unstable and unqualified leader and the conflicted and cowardly party backing him, and, in the alternative, an entire party, its submissive ideological mob, and its totalitarianism-inclined leaders who could be counted upon to use a victory in the election to claim that the nation approves of  their methods and motives. It became a choice between one terrible leader and the supporters of somewhat less terrible one that seem determined to corrupt the nation and its government, and are infuriatingly smug and self-righteous about it.

My own decision, then, came down to these factors:

1. My reverence for the office of the Presidency, the nation, and its history. I have been a student Presidents and American leadership since the fifth grade, and it is one of my four greatest passions.

2. My conviction that the United States, its society, its culture and its values require that citizens refuse to accept lowered standards and corruption among its leaders’ character and conduct.

3. My insistence that the integrity of the democratic process is essential to the survival of the nation.

4. My dedication to ethics, and my belief that society’s ethics must be protected by never accepting that the ends justify the means, and never sending the message to wrong-doers that their conduct or their values are acceptable.

The exercise I engaged in yesterday, meticulously examining all of my posts about Trump and Clinton, and distilling them into a summary that could be used by confused and conflicted voters, was for my benefit as much as that of anyone else.  I was struck by just how relentlessly dishonest and ethically corrupt Hillary Clinton has been. You would think, wouldn’t you, that having been assured that she would be the nominee for years, she could have managed to avoid scandals and controversies? She couldn’t. She proved herself greedy, careless, incompetent and arrogant.

Then, as I reviewed the Trump files, I was even more stunned at how different in kind his unethical conduct was. It was the difference between an incorrigible juvenile delinquent and a corrupt investment banker. I was also struck by how many posts I had to write defending Trump from intentional or biased exaggerations or misinterpretations of what he said or meant, because the news media was so clearly determined to defeat him.

For a few long moments, my increasing unease over voting for Clinton to stop Trump was assuaged. (Here is an argument for voting for Clinton that tracks reasonably well with my original one.) Obviously it would be madness to elect Trump, who is a narcissist, a misogynist, an ignoramus, and, for bluntness is sometimes necessary, an asshole, who possesses neither the experience, temperament, trustworthiness nor integrity to be given such power and influence. Then I reminded myself of how I defined this particular instance of ethics zugswang.

Trump must not win, but Clinton’s party, followers and supporters must not believe that the undemocratic, unethical, hypocritical and dishonest methods and values they have displayed are now the nation’s. By every measure, Clinton deserves to lose. By any definition of justice, the Democrats deserve to lose. They want to use their victory to corrupt the nation and democracy.

Ethics zugswang.

Still, no decision is still a decision. In 1972, the first election in which I could vote, I was faced with a choice between Richard Nixon and Sen. George McGovern. I had just finished my honors thesis on “The Great Man Theory and the American Presidency,” and could not reconcile what I had learned and written with a vote for either man. Nixon, I knew, was a skilled and intelligent executive who was untrustworthy and infected with ethics rot. McGovern was an honorable and deluded man who had no skills at all to qualify him for the Presidency. Voting for him would have mocked my research and beliefs, voting for Nixon would have been an endorsement of dangerous and unethical leadership. I voted for neither, knowing that McGovern would lose, expressing my disapproval that the Democrats breached their duty to run a competent candidate, and refusing complicity in the inevitable crash of Nixon’s rotten administration that I knew was on the way, and it was.

In 2016, a similar consideration is involved. I resent that both parties abandoned their duty to allow me, and removed from me and everyone else, the opportunity to have a real choice of qualified candidates at a crucial moment in our nation’s life. I resent that I am being given the choice, as a citizen with reverence and respect for the institution of the Presidency, of voting for a man who defiles that office even by seeking it, and putting in power a group of Americans who proudly and brazenly reject the values that it is my profession to study, protect, and teach. I resent that they have removed my autonomy and forced me to be as corrupt and irresponsible as they are in order to reject a candidate like Donald Trump.

Then came this morning and the inspiration for this post, in which I wrote in part,

The Democratic Party hasn’t condemned Brazile’s actions, and won’t condemn her smug words of endorsement of lying and cheating. It hasn’t asked her to step down, as her predecessor was made to step down after she was caught rigging the nomination process for Clinton. Thus it endorses Brazile’s  values, and openly so. President Obama also endorsed Brazile’s values, explicitly, by directing his spokesman Josh Earnest to praise her, and only praise her, as “a person of integrity and ..high character” after being asked about the first of Brazile’s cheats on behalf of Clinton (more have since been uncovered.)

Is that clear? The President of the United States publicly stated, through his agent, that an individual who lies and cheats has integrity. This is what integrity has come to mean under this leader, to his party.

That settled it. For me, the least unethical course was not to vote for either candidate. As a citizen, I cannot responsibly vote for an utterly unfit man like Donald Trump. As an ethicist and a patriot, I cannot participate in sending a message to Clinton and all those who have become corrupted under her and Barack Obama that cheating, lying, influence peddling, destroying a free and independent news media, restricting free speech and individual rights, manipulating the process and undermining democracy is now acceptable in the United States of America, because cheating and lying work.

I am confident that I came to this decision as a result of a the best ethical analysis I could muster, taking all factors, including my unique situation as an ethicist, into consideration. The decision can be legitimately criticized; of course it can. It’s unethical. That’s ethics zugswang. I take some solace and pride, however, that I have spent many, many hours over more than a year doing what I could—and admittedly, what I could wasn’t enough or very much— to avoid this point.

Damn those who put us there.



209 thoughts on “The 2016 Election And Ethics Zugswang

    • I was about to just leave it blank, then decided to see if there was an honorable public servant whose conduct was Presidential during the campaign. I finally wrote in Mitt Romney, for his speech condemning Trump. It was the same as voting for nobody. But Mitt deserved something from me.

      • Jack said, “I finally wrote in Mitt Romney”


        I’ve disagreed with some of Romney’s policy items (as I do with most politicians) but I really, reallywish I’d thought of that!

        Sorry, Mr. Romney. 😦

      • Being outside the US, I had to prepare to vote early to get an absentee ballot here in time. I could not bring myself to pick either candidate…the papers sit in my desk. Both choices were so repugnant that I just couldn’t. Friends are wondering why I didn’t join the ‘I just voted!’ crowing on FB, but I’m not going to publicize the reason why. This morning, even, as the polling closes and the votes are being counted, the name-calling continues on both sides. I have expressed an opinion elsewhere that this is the most divisive, vulgar election I can recall, and was told ‘Tough..the candidates did away with honesty and truth themselves, why do you think the voters should do any differently?’. I’d hoped that this all would not be the new normal, but that hope looks pretty dim right now.

      • Writing in Mitt Romney is exactly what I did! And for very much the same reasons. And, I’m watching it appears as if Trump will win.

        And, here’s the strange thing. I’m grateful. Grateful to people who decided to hold their nose and choose Trump even though he’s the second worst candidate for president ever. As a Wyoming citizen I can only hope he means it when he says we’re going to develop our own mineral resources rather than shut them down. As a United States citizen I can only hope his foreign policy will lead us back to strength. I’m not confident, but I’m hopeful.

        It simply comes down to a necessary vote AGAINST the Democrat unethical and criminal machine and the ethics free liberals who share the blame with ethics free evangelicals for the disgusting choice we had this year.

      • Wait, after all the times you said that we had a moral obligation to vote , you not only didn’t vote for either one of the candidates you didn’t vote at all. Write in votes do not count in Virginia unless that person has declared their candidacy and filed the proper paper work with the Commonwealth.

        • No. A write in vote for a candidate that is qualified and decent is the only way to have personal integrity.

          We are a nation that needs to recover personal integrity. If everyone could be as well informed and personally vigilant as Jack has been we wouldn’t have been faced with the disgusting choices we have endured this time.

          Populations made up of people with personal integrity don’t end up with only liars and criminals to vote for.

  1. You did the right thing, Jack. I am reluctant to talk about the other people in my life or my personal life here, but my dearest friend said to me today comma with an outsider’s perspective, that it is pathetic and sad when a strong patriot like myself is unable to vote and feel comfortable about it. I agree 100% with regard to you as well. In the end, both you and I believe strongly in this country and the principles on which it was founded. Those principles presuppose that those charged with upholding those principles will not be corrupt.

    I also believe strongly in the concept of personal honor. Some of it maybe is because I have spent a large portion of my life reading both fact and fiction about heroism, especially medieval heroism. The rest is from having a strong family and working alongside people who were generally honorable for most of my career. Personal honor can be defined a lot of ways, but it generally includes, I believe, things like keeping promises, making your best effort in what you are tasked with, playing by the rules, telling the truth, making tough choices when needed, respecting the achievements and efforts of others, honoring your history and traditions while not glossing over their imperfections, and so forth. It also includes showing restraint in personal appetites and not using others. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton stand for any of these things. In some ways Trump is worse, like gross lack of restraint and complete disrespect for others. In many others, like truthfulness and playing by the rules, Hillary is worse. What is more, at least some of the GOP had the sense to walk away or hang back from this. There is not a single major figure in the Democratic Party who has stood up and said any of this is wrong, dishonest, corrupt, or whatever.

    Like yourself, I wasn’t going to put my stamp on this corruption, but also like yourself, I wasn’t going to own a lout in the White House. I voted down ticket only. God Save the Republic.

    Meantime I will continue on a long -percolating fantasy series with my own philosophy underlying. If ever it gets published, you will be first in line for a free copy of “Days of Honor: The Great Southern Crusade.”

  2. “The only winning move is not to play” sums my feelings for this election. I have the advantage of not being allowed to play (in spite of the Democrat’s best efforts to convince me of the opposite) and I respect and appreciate your decision. May the next 4 years be better for the country in spite of the stacked deck we’re facing.

  3. Jack,
    After all that has been said in these blogs over the past few months; I commend your honesty!

    If None of the Above had been a choice, like some others, maybe you would have been one of the ones that would have “voted” for that.

    Thank you very much for sharing this blog.

  4. November 9, 2016
    The Honorable Donald Trump
    President-Elect of the United State

    Dear Mr Trump:

    From the bottom of my heart, I wish to congratulate you for your victory this evening. The Presidency is the most difficult job in the world, and any man or women who steps forth to purport to run has done more for democracy than most. As a patriotic American, before any party, and second only to my faith in Christ Above, I wish you success and hope that you truly “Make America Great Again”.

    However, this task is no small feat. During the campaign, you have demonstrated, repeatedly, boorish and immature behavior. This behavior must stop. It should have stopped before you denigrated Senator McCain’s capture as a POW, where he refused special treatment and early release meant to influence his father Admiral John McCain, Sr. It should have stopped before you groped dozens of women against their will. It should have stopped before you imitated and mocked a disabled reporter on national television. It should have stopped before any number of similar instances.

    Because of these terrible flaws in judgement and character, I could not, in good conscience, vote for you. Yet, despite these terrible flaws, I have repeatedly defended you against unfair exaggerations and lies. I believe Democracy only works when the media fairly, accurately, and neutrally. It further only works when citizens pay active attention and filter the truth from whatever sources are available. As a vigilant American, I promise that will support you as president. I will write frequently to offer my thoughts and criticisms of your decisions and actions.

    My first such petition is to implore you to step up to the roll of President. Your character and temperament demonstrated thus far show you are wholly unfit for office. You must prove yourself worthy for this office, lest I petition you in the future to resign.

    We are all Americans. We stand must stand as one nation, before God. Our actions must be motivated not by pride, nor self promotion, nor political power, but for the good of the nation, ourselves, and our prosperity. I urge in the most urgent of tones to step up and be a leader that unites us, or to step down if your unable.

      • I going to write a hypothetical for Hillary as well, but Trump was a bigger lump in my stomach than Hillary. I wrote this without even looking at the voting trends; the time stamp will shows it was was posted 15 minutes before the polls closed in my home state. Hillary’s would have been semantically similar, but Trump has disgusted me as a human since the election season began. He started off as a vaguely eccentric billionaire on the edge of my radar, to dead to me in a stunningly short period of time.

        Hillary’s would be largely similar content-wise and semantically, but he emotional impact would be very different. One of my earliest legitimate memories was Bill Clinton being elected; I was 4 years old at the time. Bill was the model of the Presidency for me, and I always had neutral-positive feelings towards Bill and Hillary personally. I recognized them as amazingly effect politicians and influential philanthropists after Bill left office.

        This election cycle rewrote and force me to rethink a large portion of my childhood. The cynicism and Machiavelli tactics went write over my head as a 4-12 year old. Having been vaguely told that Hillary was an exceptionally competant individual and then watching her flunk as Secretary of State was especially painful. Then learning she did everything in her power to prevent the public from knowing what she did and how she fail was stunning. (And to those out there, I cannot possibly be sexist in my opinion towards her, because I believe John Kerry, an old-white guy, is an abysmal failure that makes be long for Codoleezza Rice).

        Too many of my generation simply did not confront the same facts, and thus revise their opinions. The internet is full of early 90’s nostalgia, and the Clintons are part of that. It is a retrogressive trend where everyone lives in a bubble, carefully shielded by Facebook’s algorithms from opposing views. There is no larger perspective embraced, from which they can see that a white boy dressing as Bill Cosby does not personally oppress anyone. This is a deliberate, if ignorant, hiding of their heads in the ground and assuming everything will be alright.

        The great thing about America is that even Trump cannot destroy. While an ethical solution to elect him it was not, utilitarianly, Clinton’s motives and methods were clearly rejected, and the media will finally be critical of our leaders again (if in a heavy handed and disgustingly biased way). Hopefully, we will see some shift towards center again, as people across generations contemplate what went wrong.

  5. Thanks for the post, Jack. I read your articles faithfully and thought “Not voting” was unethical. so I voted for one of them, the one who i think will be least corrupt in office and appoint those who they can’t control but are truly qualified. We’ll see. I felt ok about it, given the information I had. Maybe if i had read this earlier, I’d not have voted for either of them. ah well.

  6. A well reasoned post. Any decision based on that reasoning cannot be very wrong, even if wrong it be (which is debatable to say the least).

    Now start planning what to do for all contingencies, including the one where neither gets to 270, be it due to faithless electoral college voters, or whatever.

  7. Jack, your ethics analysis is so far above mine it isn’t funny. Yet, I reached this conclusion before you did, when I voted early. Had to, by the way, as my grandson is having some issues and I needed to be in another city. When I did vote, I could not bring myself to vote for either of these two…people…so I left it blank. It was NOT, as yours was, a reasoned decision. I wish it had been,,,I just couldn’t put the country I love and fought for (sort of) at risk by participating in what may be her last hoorah. As I have said before, somebody’s gonna win, but not with my help..

  8. Holy Crap. Trump won Ohio, and the NYT has flipped its odds from 80%+ for Clinton win to 80+ for a TRUMP win. Meanwhile, the talking heads can barely control their panic and grief. Now, as long as he doesn’t win, this all will be to the good. Smug, biased bastards. Of course, if he wins, we’re screwed.

        • Ugh. All my cognitive dissonance at a near fatal level. I detest Trump, but boy, those smug, demonizing, Hillary-pumping creeps at The Daily Beast (Peter Bienart, Michael Tomasky), MSNBC, New York Times and CNN who laughed and sneered that no Republican, especially Trump, could beat Hillary and pre-anointed her before she had shown that she could beat anybody–boy do I enjoy seeing them be exposed as fools ruled by confirmation bias. Boy, do I 3njoy watching Obama’s divisive, arrogant, unaccountable leadership having its chickens arrive to roost. Accountability. Hubris.

          OK, I’m satisfied. Now let’s see Trump lose by a whisker.

      • A thought experiment: if you had believed that YOUR vote and your vote alone would have actually had the effect of giving the election to Trump – would you have still done the write-in protest vote?

          • The unspoken question: how many voted, like you, thinking that they had the luxury of casting a protest vote, secure in the ‘knowledge’ that others would do the dirty work for them of keeping Trump from actually winning.
            I sincerely hope that you do not have to share the fate of liberals who voted for Nader, thereby enabling Bush. At least Bush was a relatively conventional politician.

            • I am admiring democracy tonight, as little as I like the prospect of Trump winning. Actions have consequences. Obama should have been rejected in 2012, and his second term was an untrammeled catastrophe, as well as intentionally divisive. People who felt that he had disdain for them and were right, have shown that hubris has its traditional results. Democrats and the media were crowing about how humiliated the GOP was, while Democrats arrogantly nominated another candidate based on group identification instead of ability and character. Yes, we face chaos. But if the parties learn the right lessons, it may be better for the nation in the long run.

              After Trump is impeached, and assuming we avoid a civil war or a race war, of course.

              • I do too!! i have hope that no matter how much they TRY to corruptly do all the things you said… people still have the voice and now we know it!

                I feel so bad for all my liberal friends who are sobbing. But some deserve it for their smugness but still makes me feel bad. Truly. i HOPE we can come together and listen to each other more and end the corruption.

            • Likely just as many who did the same thing *against* Trump. I understand your heart break and empathize.

              But really, quit pretending like Hillary is going to be some massive improvement over Trump. The only ones you have to blame if Hillary loses is the process you crowed about the whole damn time. YOU and your people picked Hillary. And you know you did. If Hillary loses, you don’t get to blame guys like Jack.

    • All for the good? Do you understand that the republicans have learned that talking like Trump is a way to bring in tons of votes?

      You were right about the nation of assholes. This is who we are.

      • I know a lot of Republicans. They know that a terrible, venal, smug and corrupt gender-baiting woman with a sexual predator husband can lose to anyone. This is the idiot vote that Democrats thought they had locked up after they re-elected Obama.

        • Agree. So glad for that. Just wish it wasn’t him. But perhaps he’s the only one with the balls to stand up to all the bullshit.

      • I know you will never acknowledge it, but, though Democrats may never have stooped to the truly crass and vulgar things Trump has, it has been the Democrats who have established the tone of vitriol, divisiveness and hate. They did this decades ago.

        The real phenomenal aspect of all this is that Republicans have tried to remain above the spite for as long as they did. Things started slipping in the last decade as they finally began stooping to Democrat levels of acid and venom and then went whole hog with Trump.

        I think that’s why we are acting like its such a huge surprise, because it really is out of character for Republicans to do this, whereas we’ve quietly gotten used to the Democrats spending the last generation or two erode their own standards of class to the level of hate, so we don’t notice is as much with them.

    • Well, I have finally lost faith in humanity. And in you, Jack. If an extremely intelligent person like yourself thought that it was ethical to write in someone who had no chance of winning, allowing the less ethical of the only 2 candidates who had a chance of winning to have more votes — we are truly doomed. How could you do that? How could you do that? You KNEW that a non-candidate would take votes away. I’m really disappointed in you and in all of the other grandstanding third-party/write-in voters. Even if HRC wins, as doubtful as that looks now, I will NEVER trust anyone who would do something so irresponsible. I’m sorry. This is no longer pissing contest debates or other non-real head-of-the-pin-dancing. This is real. Nothing more to say. Glad I’ve got anti-depressants to keep me from jumping off of Key Bridge.

      • Glad I’ve got anti-depressants to keep me from jumping off of Key Bridge.

        Lucky you. I’ve been on the razor’s edge of suicidal depression for 18 months and no anti-depressants. So tonight is just… yeah.

        Congratulations people, All of you who didn’t vote for Clinton are about the get exactly the government you deserve.

        • I think that reaction is unfair and undeserved. Many felt they didn’t deserve a President who had utter contempt for democratic process, honesty and the rule of law, and sick of being called sexist if they said so. Make no mistake: the Democrats are 100% responsible for this, along with Hillary. 100%. Don’t blame the public for a protest, just because they chose the only vehicle they had. Yup, he shouldn’t have been nominated or allowed to run, but an honest and trustworthy Democrat who didn’t pander to Obama fans while so much was falling apart would have defeated him easily.

          • Jack, in the future, if the day comes when you’re tearing at your hai… erm rending your garments over trumps antics, I hope you stop and remember today

            • What? Have I let up, ever, in my complete contempt for Trump? Have I ever suggested that having him as President would be anything but a disaster? The man literally has no ethical comprehension. The message sent by Clinton losing and Obama’s awful leadership being marked a a failure is a healthy message. But because the agent of that message is so unfit, the US will pay a huge and painful price for that message.

              Analogy: Obama being elected was a great message too.

              • I am not sure how to communicate with you and not just because it took a bottle of wine to make it through the results… You’re a republican and a Republican so of course you like the rejection of Clinton’s and Obama’s messages but what kind of argument is that to use against someone on the American left? While I’ll be the first to concede neither is perfect, I still ascribe to most of the platform as do they. I’m not happy that law enforcement will remain unaccountable for the overuse of force. I’m not happy that abortion rights are heading to more restrictions if the Democrats cave and allow Trump to make judicial appointments instead of paying the Republicans tit for tat. I’m not happy that gains for the LGB and hell even the T community are in danger, remember the laws Pence passed on that subject? Life just got worse for marginalized people.

                That’s on top of the disaster you’re predicting.

                  • Given the things you say about abortion and law enforcement plus your support for Mitt Romney, you sure come off as a George H Bush style northeastern Republican. I certainly didn’t mean to imply you were anything like the Tea Party. And you’re certainly a (small r) republican, you’ve not said one word supporting royalist positions.*

                    *Though if you do happen to be a prince-elector I’ll certainly accept your vote for Empress. I’d be really good at the smile and wave thing.

        • “All of you who didn’t vote for Clinton are about the get exactly the government you deserve.”

          I would submit it to be an equally valid thing to say “all of you who nominated Clinton are about to get exactly the government you deserve”.

          You really ought to take a step back and recognize at the very least, given there is no reason to believe anything Trump says, that Trump at his heart is still Left of Center and espouses the same Democrat-friendly values he had pretty much up until 5 minutes before he needed to pander to the Right.

      • You don’t get to blame 3rd party voters and protest voters when your people put up Hillary. She’s maybe a half a percent better than Trump, like a negative 79% versus Trump’s negative 79.5%, according to some arguments. If she wins our national outlook won’t be much better and could be worse.

        You and your people who nominated her get the lion’s share of the “blame”.

      • “Well, I have finally lost faith in humanity. And in you, Jack. If an extremely intelligent person like yourself thought that it was ethical to write in someone who had no chance of winning, allowing the less ethical of the only 2 candidates who had a chance of winning to have more votes — we are truly doomed. ”

        I disagree Patrice.
        Odysseus had a moral obligation to avoid both Scylla and Charibdis. He should have sailed around Sicily!

        When both candidates are so odious that they must be opposed in every way possible you have an absolute obligation to stand against both of them. You can’t know how the final vote will go when you cast your own and as such an oppositional vote (I doubt that’s a real term) can end up simply getting one monster across the line instead of another.

        The correct answer is to vote for a third party so that your vote is recorded against both of them. The greatest tragedy for the US is that there was no-one prepared to spend the bucks on an ad campaign telling disaffected voters that they could write in a name and giving them a couple of center of the road options to choose from!

        I gather writing in a name is ligit in the US? Here in Oz it means your vote is invalid.

    • From 538..

      Are We Looking At Another 1980?

      That’s all I can think about right now. Carter, unlike Clinton, was an incumbent. But, similar to this year, the race looked close. Reagan, although a much more conventional politician than Trump, inspired doubts and fears about his qualifications. Carter had won the White House in a tight election in 1976 — closer than the 2012 election that Obama won — and it wasn’t an Electoral College blowout for Carter. Just like now, there was good reason to believe that the country was divided and the parties were too. Just as Clinton fought to beat Bernie Sanders in the primaries, Carter faced a challenger to the left in Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. The Republican Party, too, was divided, between an establishment candidate —George H.W. Bush — and a newcomer from the entertainment industry.

      And then on election night, the map went red.

      • Are we seeing another 1980?


        Because Reagan wasn’t a blowhard pandering buffoon with mouth diarrhea (though charles may disagree) and Carter wasn’t a debilitatingly pandering corrupt Machiavellian.

  9. There’s a myth going around that I should dispel. Refusing to vote for either major party candidate is not “grandstanding.” Among so many banal advertisements that deceive us with platitudes, telling us that the most important thing we can do for the future of the country is vote (even though it takes little effort), that voting is the ultimate expression of our freedom (though it is a limited choice), you are telling the opposite lie: That voting is not an expression of free choice, but a chore, because we already know the “right” answer. We must make the sadistic choice that is placed before us: save your true love, or the orphanage?

    What’s the point of having a democracy if we never had a choice to begin with? More to the point, what good can we do with the meager choice we have? We can chip away at the walls limiting our options. Voting for a third party sends the clear signal that we will not be herded into partisan camps, that we refuse to tolerate even a lesser evil, and that we will take a large risk for a constructive candidate rather than give tacit approval for a destructive one. Both candidates are likely to cite every vote as a person who agrees with them, and will likely cite every vote for the other candidate as a person who merely agrees with that candidate rather than admit that they are so abhorrent that people would specifically try to shut them out of office. A third party vote cannot be so misconstrued by politicians in the coming years. It declares that we do not condone the tactics of the major parties, and will risk everything to make it clear that we have higher standards.

    More than that, however, we can use our real choices to staunch the bleeding. Ignore the election. Voting is like being a player on a sportsball team millions strong: someone must win, and it may not be you, and you probably will never even see the ball anyway, so while your presence is certainly valuable (despite the heap paradox), don’t fool yourself that this is the greatest thing you can do. The real question you need to ask yourself is this: how are the stakes determined? Take it from someone who learned the hard way: the most important events are the ones that happen repetitively: the dull, boring events that play out millions of times in a year across tens of millions of people. They determine what happens in the rare, exciting events. Years of martial arts training become the ability to fight off a thug. Many nights of diligent study become the ability to get a job. What we do in our boring moments dictates what we can do in the right place at the right time.

    The boring moments of hundreds of millions of people (many of them boring as well) culminated in the election we are currently witnessing. If we want to change the country, changing the politicians would likely not help. Unless they were preternaturally skilled at nurturing consciousness, their reasonable decisions would be rejected by half the populace. Therefore, we must change the populace, using our own ability to nurture consciousness. We don’t have to be elected in order to do it, either. With patience, practice, finesse, and a good grasp of the fundamental meta-skills of consciousness, we can change our reality by shifting the paradigms that other people operate under. As the populace changes, the media and politicians must respond to their call, lest they find themselves out prospects.

    Tempting though it is to give in to mere wrath in times like these, that would be losing. Only by maintaining finesse and eschewing collateral damage can we defeat the twin enemies of ignorance and selfishness. The plan is in motion. Who will join me?

  10. Trump is ahead of Clinton by 1.7% of the popular vote. While the voter suppression in NC and elsewhere may have had some local effects, it is most unlikely it would be more than 0.2% overall. The result is accurate. The US electorate wants Trump as President, and not by a small margin.

    I needn’t mention what global stock markets are doing. The problem is there are no safe havens for money to move to.

    Actions have consequences. Not just financial. The alt right has been unchained.

    • The alt right has been unchained?

      What’s the voter turnout this year?

      I told myself I would not look at any of this crap show until midnight at the earliest.

      If the voter turnout is low (as I suspect it is), I think you’d do yourself a massive favor rolling back the “unchained” hyperbole also.

      • Uh, no I don’t think it was low. This election is not really about Trump or Hillary but about the huge number of dissatisfied voters who are sick and tired elitists who look down their nose at them and make up a special set of rules that govern their behavior. I think even many progressives realize this and either didn’t vote for Hillary or voted for Trump.

        • If voter participation is up, Would you say this election brought in voters who used to be consistent voters but quit over the last few elections or would say this election brought in people who never cared to vote in their life but now decided to?

    • Are you sure it will be 1% in favor of Clinton? Zoebrain seems to be certain that the neo-Nazis have a landslide 1.7% mandate in their favor to go no-holds barred…

    • Great. Let me dust off all my old essays about why we have the electoral college and why the electoral college isn’t the problem (but don’t worry electoral college haters… there is a problem… it just isn’t the electoral college).

    • According to the quick google search she’s up by 160,000 votes…

      So that would mean Trump has a mandate of negative 160,000 neo-Nazis in order to start his brown shirt revolution.

      • ReallClearPolitics says Trump is up .2% in the popular vote.
        But the Times says Clinton is up by the same amount. That’s too bad. The news media isn’t making much of it so far. Of course, it’s just California, warping the vote just as it warps values and the culture.

        • So, it appears that this finishes with Clinton up by .2%.

          Historically, until the most recent era of hyper polarization, MOST presidential elections have CLEAR unarguable majorities in favor of the winner – because arguably, Americans naturally flock to the best *leader*.

          It’s actually these tight elections, where the Electoral College is most essential. If an election is so tight that Americans are so confused about who is best that it comes down to .2% of the voters. Yes, RE-READ that… POINT TWO percent. Then the Electoral College, designed to balance regional imbalances within a FEDERAL system, does it’s job as it is supposed to do.

          Hillary winning by 200,000 votes out of 120,000,000 is in no way indicative that Americans clearly consider her a good *leader*. When Americans see* a clearly BETTER leader among the options, they throw their weight that direction.

          If Hillary had won by 5% or more and the EC still threw it to Trump, there’d be an argument in favor of amending the EC, yet still not one in favor of scrapping it altogether.

          *Though this becomes less and less the case as each generation is increasingly indoctrinated by the Left to view the Presidency as just “Uncle Legislator” and view the national level of government as the end-all be-all solution to life, we will see fewer elections pushing the best *leaders* and more elections pushing the best *ideologically pure panderers*.

          • The news media used to explain that, as when in 1968 Nixon beat Humphrey impressively in the electoral college but looked like he would lose the popular vote until early Wednesday morning. Or when Clinton won in 1992, with far less than 50% of the vote. It provides the appearance of a mandate, which is a good thing.

            Now, since Democrats have lost in the college, all they want to do is abolish it. If Trump won the popular vote and Clinton was elected (this is what 538 predicted as a possibility on Monday), do you think we’d see those anti-EC columns?

              • In 7 of our 58 elections, America has decided that neither candidate was vastly superior than the other, with vote counts different by less than 1%. In another 11, America decided that one of the candidates had a slightly more noticeable superiority.

                But in 40 of those 58 elections, Americans clearly considered one candidate to be superior than another, by at least 5% of the vote. Of those 40, 28 of them, represented 10% of more landslides in favor of the winner.

  11. No matter what there’s always someone upset. Some of these people have felt forgotten and they live here too. It’s just not the country for those who think like “us”. Even though I hate all this, it seems some are happy and they too deserve a voice. Our government has done a lot of things that cost jobs and people seem sick of all the corruption in it. So maybe this is a wake up call?

    I hope we all realize we’re all in this together and we have so much possibility in this to see things we’ve been ignoring.

    • Bet we’re about to transition into what’s could be termed the “7th party system” in American politics. Though it could be the 6th. Analysts debate whether or not the 5th system should be divided into 2 separate ones or not.

  12. If, gulp, Trump wins, retch, I bet that a small silver lining is that the lefties that skulked off over the various times you vehemently exposed corruption of their preferred politicians will slowly begin slinking back to the forum.

    I might come close to possibly even maybe wagering money that tgt returns.

    • I just reviewed some of the post 2012 discussions. Oh man, a certain knee jerk right winger had a paragraph that I wonder if he’d be willing to repeat during this election cycle.

    • Hey, since I hate to say I told you so, will you pass along a reminder to lucky, Steve-O and others who roundly mocked me for assuring them that Hillary was incapable of winning an election? Even when I thought the GOP had tanked the election and began to doubt myself, that assessment was dead on, and for teh exact reasons I said: nobody likes her, she’s corrupt, and she’s a awful, awful campaigner.

      • The GOP *did* tank the election. The Democrats are just tanking it worse.

        Regardless of who loses, I can say “yay! That person lost. We can be happy about that! What? That person won? No comment.”

      • I did bother to look up the senate and house results. Someone characterized those races as the GOP sweeping congress. Yet I’m pretty sure republicans, though appearing to maintain a majority, did lose seats overall.

          • No, definitely not sweeping but the Republicans will retain both the Senate and House which means it would be very difficult for Hillary to appoint a Supreme Court Justice of her choosing if she somehow wins the election.

        • But as early as 2012, the media was saying that the GOP was going to get killed in 2016. It was going to lose the Senate, and maybe even the House. The GOP typically does well in midterm elections, because the Democrat constituencies—the minorities—tend to sit them out. Keeping control of both houses is huge, especially behind TRunp, whose candidacy was supposedly going to doom the down-ballot races.

        • Illinois was a Dem pickup in the senate and NH is still out but that looks like a razor thin second one, maybe recount level close.

          • Off topic and wildly fantastical: I hate that 1/3 of states don’t even turn over a senate seat at each election. I say it’s high time to add a 3 senator to each state so each state has one senator up for election every 2 years.

            Ok. I’m back down to earth now.

            But really. I think it’s dumb.

            • Well, as long as we’re changing things up, let’s give DC one rep and one senator and require all congressional districts to be drawn by non-partisan committees.

              Also I want a pony.

              • No. D.C. Gets zero reps. Anyone living in DC gets treated like the military- vote for your state of residence. D.C. Wasn’t meant to be a permanent residence but a temporary place for politicians and support institutions.

                Anyway it’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

              • Oh and gerrymandering isn’t the problem.

                Lack of represenation is the problem.

                At 1 Rep per 700,000+ citizens, no method of districting will EVER be representative or “fair”. Certainly not when trying to follow laws that ensure whole ethnicities are grouped to vote in line with identity politics.

                No the problem is that there is no way in hell 1 representative can hope to connect with 700,000+ citizens.

                The solution is MORE representatives and SMALLER districts. Yep I know. Unwieldy huge House. I don’t care. It’d be better than what we have now. It would also solve a lot of the complaints about money in politics as every single seat would become a whole lot less expensive to campaign for. You would even start to see ordinary joes. Modern day “log cabin” politicians start to run…and win.

                THAT would be representative.

      • I like her, I’ve admired her since she was first lady. Ever since that day the right went on the attack after she made a comment about not baking cookies. Even though when I was young and stupid and supported Bob Dole, her I liked.

        • Well, you’re deluded, and and choosing to disbelieve or ignore an awful lot. She’s corrupt and dishonest, venal and inept, an insignificant Senator and a lousy SOS. Saying you like her is like saying you like the San Diego Padres. It’s nice, but they are still lousy. It is infuriating to meticulously and objectively document, for years, who completely devoid of trustworthiness this woman is, and have someone say, “I like her.” Which part do you like? The greed? The lying? The enabling her husband’s serial sexual assaults?

          • Probably for the same reason I liked Conan when I was younger. He was someone who did what he wanted, defied the rules, and got away with it. Plus if anyone crossed him he would break them in half. Feminists, particularly frustrated third-wave feminists, love women like Hillary, like Elizabeth Warren, et al, who say what they want, act nasty, push others around, and get away with it.

      • [Reply to Jack Nov 9 at 1:57 am]
        I remember disagreeing with you, but not mocking you.

        As for “…nobody likes her, she’s corrupt, and she’s a awful, awful campaigner,” (1) damned near 50 percent of voters like her enough to have their votes counted for her; (2) she’s corrupt, so what? See (1) and (3), and (3) she is not so awful a campaigner that practically every damned propcaster that isn’t on Rupert Murdoch’s payroll (and even some of them!), every rich performing artist who stays rich bilking pathetically gullible and needy-of-practicing-idolatry Americans, and every tenured professor in American colleges and universities would not pass up the most fleeting chance to campaign with her and for her.

        I caught the tail end of somebody saying on one of the TV channels that she was the only one he could beat, and he was the only one she could beat. They’re both that bad, and both that capable of winning an election.

        • But if she couldn’t beat the only one she could beat, then she clearly couldn’t win an election. Which makes me have a bit more respect for the voters. Except that they voted for Trump.

      • It’s ok. I know what I said, I stood by it, twice, and I was SHOCKED when I woke up this morning and read the news. The biggest question in my mind now is how did all these pollsters, including the supposedly infallible Nate Silver, get it so wrong? Was it rigging? Was it the Bradley effect? Was it just too many people getting too fed up with the Democrats’ crap from one side and the accusations of racism, xenophobia, etc from the media and keeping their preferences to themselves?

        I’m glad to put this supremely ugly campaign, which made 2012 look like an Edwardian game of cricket, behind us, and I won’t lie, I AM glad the Republicans are back in charge fully, hopefully to quickly erase the failure that is Obamacare. However, I am not exultant that the man in charge now is THAT man. He needs to tap his inner honor and do the long-overdue pivot NOW, or we’re all doomed.

        I am NOT sorry to see Hillary lose, and I hope this is the fall of the House of Clinton and their corruption, once and for all. Both parties have some important points to make, but it’s impossible to make any of them if they are spewing insults or fending off scandals.

  13. All my liberal friends are losing their minds and saying the most stupid things!!! HATE won… all his followers are uneducated… the world is over… we’ve lost our democracy…. Facists rule is now in America… etc. tears, drama… and I want to yell, “maybe they are sick of being called names and told how stupid they are and hateful???”

    I think this is a big “eff you”… so sad.

  14. Among the things I’ll be writing about tomorrow: CNN’s Van Jones calling Trump’s victory a “whitelash”; Hillary’s classless and hypocritical refusal to concede, and the complete surrender to partisan distress by so many TV reporters, like Gayle King, Oprah’s gal pal.

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