Michael Barbaro: You used the word “prudential.” And that caught me a little bit. Because you’re not using a word that conveys morality or faith. You’re saying “prudent,” if I’m hearing that word correctly.

Marjorie Dannenfelser: Yeah. I think actually religious people use that term quite a lot. Because it acknowledges a hierarchy of goods and evils involved in any decision. That decisions of great consequence often involved a blend of goods and bads.

And your job is to figure out where the highest good is found. Which choice leads to the highest good. And that’s the choice we had to make in that moment.


I had never heard of Marjorie Dannenfelser before this interview and though, obviously, her views are as opposed to mine as possible, I am very interested in her views and strategies in politics.

Democrats, Liberals, and Leftist have been at each other’s throats on social media these past months, or, really, these past years and elections cycles, over what is the best way forward to both keep our principles intact and win.

I’ve found myself torn between the warring factions of supporting perfect candidates only or choosing the lesser of two evils. I do not think either strategy is morally wrong per se, but I can see the possible harm both paths can lead to.

If you support less than perfect candidates and ideas progress move more slowly and you are complacent in the harms that candidate and their ideas inflict as well as the norms you reinforce by sending the signal that those harms are okay.

On the other hand, if you only support perfect candidates and ideas then change may never happen and, worse still, the other side wins again and again and greater harms can be inflicted in the short term on a greater swath of the population. Just look at how many have suffered and how much we have lost in just the last 4 years because the left could not unite behind Hillary Clinton.

The upside is that you can (in theory) claim immunity against those harms and, when the change does come there is a higher chance it will come faster, be of greater benefit, and benefit a greater swath of the population than you would get through any other imperfect candidate.

In listening to the above interview with Marjorie Dannenfelser I am struck by how simple, how easy, the choice is for her. She looks at the choices she has in front of her of her, not the choices she wishes she had, or the choices she may have four years, eight years, or a generation from now, the choices she has right now, and chooses what, in her mind, will lead to the greatest good.

I think this is the most realistic and the most effective way not just to vote, but to engage in politics on all levels.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, I’m sure, does not like Trump personally. I’m sure his actions disgust and outrage her, just like the rest of us. I’m sure she had to hold her nose when she cast her vote for him, but she is seeing her vision realized through this choice because she knows what she stands for and she saw how to get there. She is willing to make a hard choice for those she believes are vulnerable and need protecting.

Shouldn’t we be doing the same?

And what are we doing on this side of the political spectrum? We are floundering. We are in a constant state of reactionary politics and reshuffling our focus and principles. We blame each other. We ask too much of each other. We do the enemy’s work for them, and all this outrage, worrying, preaching and putting one another down for not engaging the way we want in politics as we wish it was played is not leading to the greatest good. It just feels good.

It’s also a privilege. To have the luxury step out of the ring and refuse to play or support anything that doesn’t perfectly align with your views means you know that in doing so your life will hardly change at all. There are a lot of people for whom the last four years have not been all that different from the four years before that, and for them the next four won’t be all that different either.

The Supreme Court granted me the right to marry. The Obama Administration gave me health care, a diagnosis, and affordable treatment for a condition I might have otherwise died from. My life is vastly different than I ever thought it would be because people voted and my life could vastly change again if people don’t.

I know Biden isn’t perfect and increasingly I doubt any politician ever will be. The thing we have to keep in mind is the wide-ranging changes to all levels of government, everyday life, and the country’s consciousness simply by him being elected, and that is the greatest good I have to focus on right now because who knows what turns the future will take and what we’ll be facing or what choices we’ll have in another four years.

This is what we can control.

This is what we can choose.

Choose.

My Mother, Political Crisis, and Me

The world right is a scary place right now. Every week there is some new crisis, violence inflicted, some new loss or terror to contend with. The world is a changing place and from day to day both my mother and I, in that vague state of anxiety passed down from her mother, to her,… Continue reading My Mother, Political Crisis, and Me

What it Will Take

This year’s Earth Day falls during a time of great global crises and shared isolation and provides an exceptional chance for reflection on the state of the environment, to accept our responsibility for that state, to face the very real possibility of change, and to seize the chance to save what we have so easily… Continue reading What it Will Take

Between the Self and the Subconscious

Every night each of us is transported to a place inside of ourselves to live out fantastic scenarios and storylines created within our own minds. We travel to a place where the rules of physics and even storytelling do not apply. The images may be in color, black and white, vivid and lively, or they… Continue reading Between the Self and the Subconscious

What a Birthday Is

Most people I know have very different ideas about birthdays than I do. Apparently, birthdays are occasions to be ignored, forgotten, unmentioned. You should hate your own birthday, refuse any question of celebrating it, and loath to accept any gifts. If someone insists on talking about it, offering you a gift, a card, or even… Continue reading What a Birthday Is

The Curve of Two Bodies

You turn one-half rotation away from me to face the darkI set my trajectory to follow you through the vacuumThe shortest distance between two bodies is also a curveEvery move we’ve made is recorded on a continuum I set my trajectory to follow you through the vacuumPart of every revolution is a retrogradeEvery move we’ve… Continue reading The Curve of Two Bodies

Hand-Washing in the Search for Absolution

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.” ― William Shakespeare, Macbeth One of the many things that set humans apart from the rest animal kingdom is the novel ways our minds have evolved to utilizing… Continue reading Hand-Washing in the Search for Absolution

My Life as Measured From Street to Street

My mother has always told the story of our lives in chapters named after the streets we’ve lived on, and now that is how I remember everything too. Holly, Garfield, Birch, Louisiana, Spruce, and more. Telling it this way sounds better. It organizes the chaos and gives the impression we were traversing whole countries and… Continue reading My Life as Measured From Street to Street

Life’s a Bitch

“Don’t always think you’re wrong when you’re rightThey’ll always try to change your mindDarling, just do whatever feels rightYour life is there to be designed” I’m struggling to make it out on my own. I left my mother’s house, the place of her anger and of my resentment, over a year ago, and she left… Continue reading Life’s a Bitch