Choosing Clinton is Like Pascal’s Wager

“For a progressive, how you reconcile conflicting truths about Clinton depends, to some extent, on how much you empathize with her. Supporting Clinton means justifying the thousands of concessions she’s made to the world as it is, rather than as we want it to be. Doing this is easier, I think, when you are older, and have made more concessions yourself. Indeed, sometimes it feels like to defend Clinton is to defend middle age itself, with all its attenuated expectations and reminders of the uselessness of hindsight.”

Source: Why one feminist woman is voting for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders

I’ve read so many Facebook posts from progressive friends who are backing Clinton despite their professed reservations.

It reads very much like someone taking Pascal up on his own wager in the PenséesFor sure, a game is being played and you must make a wager (though in this case, it’s not for the existence of an omnipotent deity but the future of the Democratic Party and our country).

  1. God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.
  2. A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.
  3. You must wager (it is not optional).
  4. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
  5. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
  6. But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves.

Sanders’ backers tend to the more “idealistic” or “swept up in an idealistic political movement” as the author of the article linked above writes when noting her sadness over young voters that aren’t backing Hillary. I feel caught in between these two, because my gray hair betrays my youthful idealism but I’m not ready to call myself “middle aged” just yet (I’ll wait until I’m 40 for that serious business).

However, age has made me more aware of the necessity of trading one’s ideals for practicalities of getting things done. How far we move up or down that scale determines everything from our politics to our (a)theologies to our choices (or not) in automobiles.

But I’m not ready to take the plunge and wage that Clinton is the more electable candidate and therefore I should vote for her, because if Sanders is nominated he will be “eviscerated in the general election” (again, using the words of the author linked above).

I’m not ready to trade off my own convictions about the need to disrupt the establishment that has led us to this point of polarization and play our citizens like punches in a card:

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

I’d rather not compute that wager.

Leave a Reply