Last night I participated in a wonderfully stimulating panel and audience question-and-answer sponsored by Baruch College's Department of Journalism. After the panel, most of the participants enjoyed a good meal and great conversation. The discussion was lively, respectful, fun.
One of my fellow panelists, James Taranto, who most certainly does not share many of my opinions on social and economic policy, helped me clarify my thoughts about the point of conscientious objection: a reflective choice to withhold one's vote from Barack Obama while also not voting for John McCain.
I was explaining the connection between my views and M.K. Gandhi's approach to Indian independence from British rule. James asked me some interesting clarificatory questions, particularly about Gandhi's reason for caring so deeply about HOW Indians achieved self rule and not just WHETHER they did. In replying, I said that Gandhi believed that if Indians did not include members of all castes in the independence fight and if Indians engaged in violence to achieve it, India would not end up with a democracy that could work for India, indeed would not end up with a democracy at all.
James pointed out that this meant that Gandhi's position was not best characterized as the end does not justify the means, but instead was better understood as the view that the means inflect the nature of the end.
This exchange yielded an "aha" moment for me. I have sometimes couched my objection to the DNC's and the Democratic Party's approach to this year's presidential election as an objection to the view that the ends justify the means. But no, my point is better put in the terms that emerged in my exchange with James Taranto: a Democratic Party that achieves an electoral victory via the methods used to pick its nominee is not likely to be a Democratic Party that can bring the sort of changes to American politics that our country desperately needs. This year's Democratic Party has not been one of unity, hope, and transcendence of dirty politics. It has perpetuated division among Democrats, left millions in despair about the the credibility and honor of the party, and convinced many that the Democratic Party leadership expects blind loyalty rather than seeing itself as answerable to rank and file voters. A political party that does this does not seem likely to put into effect policies that will be radically different from politics as usual. Such a party seems likely to continue catering to special interests, reneging on commitments made to the electorate, and ignoring the divisions that have riven the party.
I anticipate writing additional posts as result of the Blogging the 2008 Election event at Baruch. For now, l would like to thank the organizers, my co-panelists, our moderator and all those who attended. To learn more go here. I encourage readers to check out the blogs of my co-panelists.
I have asked whether a video or other coverage of the event will be made available, and if and when it is I will let readers of this space know.