Aristotle on whether Black voters should vote for Bernie or Hill

Charles Blow breaks it down in his column Stop Bernie-Splaining to Black Voters. Just read it.

But here:

Tucked among all this Bernie-splaining by some supporters, it appears to me, is a not-so-subtle, not-so-innocuous savior syndrome and paternalistic patronage that I find so grossly offensive that it boggles the mind that such language should emanate from the mouths — or keyboards — of supposed progressives.

I wish I could write like that. Oh, and just shut your gobbyhole or keep your fingers quiet unless you are pointing out resources to read, ideas, data, or otherwise being useful. Deliberating a candidate’s position is quite different than telling somebody what their interests are or should be, particularly when a group of people, say, Black folks, have been telling us what their interests are for a long damn time and decidedly few mainstream political candidates have done much to listen or act on those interests. Some Black people continue to tell us about their interests with Black Lives Matter: how’s about we clean up the justice shitshow that are the innumerable police departments and practices that kill off Black people and let their killers go free?

That is an interest. And it’s being stated clear enough.

This kind of talking down happens frequently to voters; rural voters are dumb, and they don’t vote their interests, yada yada. It’s just exceptionally bad when Bernie supporters do it to Black voters because progressives should know better.

Lots of people seem to vote their values rather than their interests, or their pocketbook. And people’s interests and values change over time.

Even if you are voting your interests, Blow is also correct that many other judgements also influence how individuals evaluate leadership. It’s not just who has your interests in his or her heart: it’s also who might be able and willing to deliver. Good leadership is difficult, and thus evaluating good leadership is also difficult. And the future is a place and time we don’t know as much about as we’d like to.

There is so much good political theory on interests and representation that I don’t even know where to begin to list. One nice paper from Theodore Banditt (that I unfortunately can’t find a free pdf of) systematically lays out the various ways that political philosophers have described interest, and that one gets us a good reading list.

On to Aristotle and interests: In the Politics he notes that people are not good judges of interests when their own interests are in question, and it’s a good insight. I’m using the Rackham translation:

For instance, it is thought that justice is equality, and so it is, though not for everybody but only for those who are equals; and it is thought that inequality is just, for so indeed it is, though not for everybody, but for those who are unequal; but these partisans strip away the qualification of the persons concerned, and judge badly. And the cause of this is that they are themselves concerned in the decision, and perhaps most men are bad judges when their own interests are in question.

That last bit gets me–καὶ κρίνουσι κακῶς–“and judge badly.” Aristotle is a bit of a grind to read in Greek, at least for me, but this little addition makes me smile even in the original. You could also translate κακῶς as “wrongly”, but “badly” adds more punch to the English translation. κακῶς is a problem for me here, as it appears often in Greek, in both ancient text and New Testament, and like the English word “Bad”, it can mean quite a bit, ranging from evil to incompetence. Those, and just about everything in the range between them, are “bad” in English or get described as κακῶς in Greek. The context here suggests that κακῶς means incompetently.

He goes on to discuss what he has said in the EN before:

because men are bad judges where they themselves are concerned, but also, inasmuch as both parties put forward a plea that is just up to a certain point, they think that what they say is absolutely just.

People go wrong in their judgements of what just and what is equal because their interests blind them to other factors that matter in the adjudication of who is “equal” and what is “just.”

Bernie supporters want the Black vote, and thus the Black vote should vote with Bernie supporters.