Wednesday, April 13, 2005

More Character

I just wrote something, posted it, then erased it by mistake, so I'm gonna do it again, but much shorter this time.

Skip James replied to my "Character" post. Scroll down to see his comments. He feels, by the way, that character counts a lot. (Sorry Skip, last time I quoted you at length in the body of the post, but don't have time to now.)

Actually, I agree with most of what Skip says. I just think he misses the point. Let's say you're a liberal in 1996, and think Clinton has less character than Dole. You may even think Clinton has sold out his party a few times. You will still vote for Clinton since he's far more likely to give you what you want than Dole.

Which candidate had the most character in 2004? Was it Dennis Kucinich? Ralph Nader? Michael Badnarik? Some guy I never heard of? I don't know--it's never easy to tell. But who cares. If a guy says he'll fight for programs I hate, and fight against programs I like, then the more "character" he has, the more reason I have to vote against him. That's how little character matters.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your analysis of character depends upon the shared value set you're talking about.

Your point is a good one, that the more character a Democrat has, the likelier that I, a Republican, will vote against her--assuming I am worried about, say, raising taxes or gun control.

But if I value sufficiently a number of other things that I think she values, such as our constitutional structure or any number of other things (let's say we both believe the senate filibuster should be maintained, even though I believe more than she does that it ought not to rise to the level of a minority veto), then it's exactly character that would cause me to vote for her.

I will believe that she will do what's right as against her interest--a rough definition of character--while "my guy" who says the right things about issues I care about, but has no character, will abandon me on all counts (the specific Republican issue, e.g., guns, and the "shared value" issues) as soon as it benefits him to do so.

This is the same thing Skip said, in a different way. Put another way, maybe you missed the point, not Skip.

8:30 AM, April 13, 2005  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I don't mean to argue this into the ground, but I think this still shows how little character matters.

First, in the real world, it's almost impossible to gauge a candidate's character. For practical purposes, "character" is generally a sham issue, as you can see by the fact that most partisans only seem to attack the character of the other party. So many who claim it's important are merely using it as a pretext to vote for their side. (I'm not saying they're hypocritical, by the way--they honestly believe that people who make the arguments they believe in are of higher character than those who support programs that no decent person would honestly be associated with.)

Second, even if you can separate out character, you're still going for the guy who supports your views most--that is simply 99% of what you're voting for.

Third, most "character" deficits actually have nothing to do with politics, and aren't about selling you out, but are more about being a jerk in private life. These are just not things I believe in worrying about when I vote--as I said earlier, I don't believe in voting a guy in as a reward for being honorable (virtue is its own reward), but for being someone who'll properly represent me.

Then, finally, there's the case where you have two candidates with the exact same views and you can actually tell which one has better "character." Even in this imaginary situation, you'd still often vote against character since 1) no candidate perfectly lines up with you so you'd want her to make compromises anyway and 2) someone who has so much character that she won't bend may not get anything passed in certain situations, and therefore you'll get nothing rather than the half a loaf a wheeler and dealer would get you.

1:12 PM, April 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a lawyer, aren't you?

5:05 PM, April 13, 2005  
Blogger Skip James said...

I have moved this discussion to my blog. I am not wanting to overstay my welcome with this topic on your blog. Still, I thought there was more to say. You are invited to continue the discussion (if you like) at http://imsoglad.blosgpot.com
www.imsoglad.blogspot.com

8:02 PM, April 13, 2005  
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