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 the 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 Trump. By using your vote 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.

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