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.

What Churches Can Learn from Sanders’ Campaign

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND DEC. 7-10 ** Susan Valadez, left, and her husband, Michael, use one of the "giving kiosks" in the atrium at the Stevens Creek Community Church in Augusta, Ga., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006. The kiosks allow parishioners to give money using their credit or debit card. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Don’t get me started on “giving kiosks” in churches.

Merianna made an interesting connection between Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and the need for churches to also be aware of the the zeitgeist in the air (particularly among younger Americans):

“Bernie’s average donation is just $27. He hasn’t concentrated his efforts and energies in the megadonor, but has touted the power of every person explaining that every gift and every donation makes a difference. His message against Wall Street and giving power to the average person has made him popular among college-aged people as well as young professionals struggling to make ends meet.

Bernie’s financial message and his young followers is something churches need to pay attention to. For years churches have touted and even catered to the megadonors in their congregations who have formed the foundation of the church’s budget, but megadonors are a dying people group, and unfortunately they are leading churches to death’s door.”

Source: Why Churches Should Pay Attention to Bernie’s Win in NH – Merianna Neely Harrelson

Compare that to the way forward for Hillary’s campaign outlined in a memo today. I work with numerous churches, and I hear this sort of speak quite often (especially when it comes to fundraising and adding more donors to the rolls):

The way to win the nomination is to maximize the number of delegates we secure from each primary and caucus. Thus, the campaign is building the type of modern, data-driven operation that it will take to turn voters out and win the most possible delegates. That strategy includes:

(1) An analytics-based approach to determine which geographic portion within March states are likely to yield the highest number of net delegates for the campaign. Each congressional district will have its own data-driven plan.

(2) Paid organizers on the ground in all of the March states, running large-scale voter contact operations in areas where GOTV efforts will be most impactful towards increasing delegate margins.

(3) Targeted use of the right campaign surrogates in key communities in March states.

(4) An advertising campaign that will use a range of optimization tools to ensure that messages are reaching the right voters in the key media markets in the most cost-efficient way to the campaign.

Source: Hillary Clinton’s no-need-to-panic-everything-is-going-to-be-just-fine campaign memo, annotated – Washington Post

Of course, such marketing speak is not a bad thing in itself (it’s how I pay the bills!). It does feel cold and calculating though, doesn’t it? Perhaps that’s the reason I’m “turned off” by the approach outlined in Clinton’s memo despite it’s practicality.

But Sam, campaigns should be run like businesses. But Sam, churches should be run like businesses. Maybe. I just can’t buy into them if that’s the leading strategy.

I’m not alone in that regard. Churches too often turn their backs on young people who may not be able to write checks with multiple 0’s in favor of one or two mega-donors in areas of leadership, discipleship, and even messaging (sermons on Matthew 19:16-21 are often allegorized as a result of the Pastor recognizing the beauty of having a job).

It’s not a clear equivocation, but Merianna gave me something to think about.

Our next president will be a Republican…


“If any of those three is the nominee then — so long as the Democrats keep Hillary in the race — the Republican will win the presidency. Clinton’s flaws are simply too heavy a lift for a majority of the American people to carry.”

Source: Judd Gregg: The finish line | TheHill

A few months ago, I would have laughed at that thought. “Haha, Sam… of course a Democrat will win in 2016. Trump? Pssh. Cruz? No thanks, Jesus. Rubio who? Jeb! is a flop.”

As much fun as Democrats (and I) have had with the “crazy” Republican debates and shouting matches and outrages-of-the-week, I’m beginning to realize the Republicans have something that the Democrats don’t have in this process… choices and diversity.

For Democrats, it’s over. There was no choice. We got what we deserved by playing the game that was always rigged.

Hillary will win the nomination. No doubt. But that’s great, right? She’s female and it’s about time we had a female nominee and a female president! Sure. Let’s send up Elizabeth Warren or any of the millions of talented female leaders we have in the United States who could be ready to lead our country into the third decade of the 21st Century tomorrow.

And that’s my problem with this year’s Democratic Party candidates (RIP O’Malley Campaign). We are supposed to choose between a non-Democrat socialist long time senator from Vermont (God bless you folks, Stowe and Burlington are cool) and … Clinton.

“But she has the experience to lead, Sam!” Sure. I agree with that in some aspects (definitely not all of her record, but this is politics). But 50.1% of the voting American public won’t, and Clinton will not win in a contest with Rubio or Bush (or Kasich, but … yeah). And nor should she.

It’s time for a change in the Democratic Party. Our bench is weak and the down ballot votes in favor of increasingly conservative Republican local and state candidates will harm our country for decades and do real danger to everything from our public education system (see North Carolina) to our water supply (see Michigan) to our infrastructure (see South Carolina) to our very real issue of food insecurity and poverty we continue to ignore.

Bill, the email scandal, Benghazi, her handling of Libya’s collapse, her flippant regard for the press, her demeaning candor towards new technologies that are transforming our cultures and will continue to do so into the 2020’s (Virtual / Augmented Reality is going to arrive quickly and shake things up), her paid speeches and perceptions that she’s wrapped around Wall St’s finger… $21 million in paid speeches to corporations representing interests she’s now suddenly campaigning against… all of these things and more from her past and present will cost Democrats the White House and the very real Supreme Court nominations that will impact / haunt our Republic for decades (along with the down ballot votes).

I’m not a #BernieBro (anymore than I was an Obama Boy in 2008). I very much welcome female leadership and opportunities to provide decision making whether it’s in our home, in our church, in our family budgets, or my posts on social media. So let’s stop with this repeated rhetoric from 2008 regarding why “my” demographic is uneasy with Clinton:

“That does not mean that all privileged white male Democrats are sexist, anymore than it would be true to suggest that all working-class white Democrats (the segment of the party that is breaking for Clinton) are racist. But a lightly disguised uneasiness with female power, as well as the “we love women, just not that woman” rhetoric will be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to the reception of the feminist movement. It’s the movement of which Clinton has become emblematic -– not because it was her bailiwick, but because she has been exactly the kind of woman that feminism made room for: ambitious, ball-busting, high-earning, untrained in the finer arts of hair care, and unwilling to play dumber (or nicer) than she is.”

I am fortunate enough to be a partner to a female leader. She would make a great President if she weren’t led by a different calling that I am lucky to glimpse. The same is true for millions of females who are fantastic leaders in commerce, business, politics, law etc.

To pretend that Clinton should be upheld as a paragon of female leadership because she “worked her way to the top” sells short the very hard work that my wife and other women have done and continue to do (on a minute-by-minute basis) to help us recover from our national sin of protestant white male heterosexual homogeneous leadership across our churches, government, businesses, and homes. Am I to tell my daughters that if they really want to be strong females like Rey, they need to marry wisely and lie / cheat / steal their way to the top? No, I’ll point them to Merianna. Or Lisa. Or Cassandra. Or Nikki. Or Anna. Or, again, any of the millions of American women who “could make this country great again” if the system wasn’t rigged to favor the elite oligarchy that tries to sell us carefully packaged notions of femininity, female leadership, and feminism so that they can make more money.

The great JJ Abrams style plot twist is that a vote for Clinton isn’t just a vote for “the establishment.” It’s a vote for the privileged white male establishment.

We deserve a Republican President if we think Clinton represents the best and brightest that female leadership can offer our country. If we don’t think that’s the case… why are we in this situation?

Clinton will win the nomination easily. Rubio (or Bush) will win the Republican nomination. This time next year, we’ll have President Rubio in the White House.

unless the Democratic Party elites decide that Clinton is too much of a liability over her law breaking activity and jettisons her just before Super Tuesday in favor of VP Biden who will promise to serve one term and then hand off to his VP Elizabeth Warren or Deval Patrick or Nina Turner.