Note: this is the second post of a four-part series.
In our previous blog post, we mentioned how Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich recently reiterated their solemn pledge to support the eventual nominee of their party, even if the nominee were Donald Trump. In addition, we saw how Trump’s three remaining rivals offered radically different moral reasons in support of their promise. In this post, we will focus on Senator Rubio’s consequentialist or utilitarian reasoning in particular. To begin with, here is Rubio’s reasoning in his own words:
“I’ll support Donald if he’s the Republican nominee, and let me tell you why. Because the Democrats have two people left in the race. One of them is a socialist. America doesn’t want to be a socialist country. If you want to be a socialist country, then move to a socialist country. The other one is under FBI investigation, and not only is she under FBI investigation, she lied to the families of the victims of Benghazi, and anyone who lies to the families of victims who lost their lives in the service of our country can never be the commander-in-chief of the United States.”
In other words, Rubio’s promise to support Trump is a pragmatic one: however despicable Trump might actually be (a “con man” and a “liar” according to Rubio himself), once we consider and weigh the even worse Democratic alternatives to Trump, then we should support Trump because he is still preferable to Senator Sanders or Secretary Clinton. Okay, now that we have restated Rubio’s reasoning, we must ask, is it sound? Unfortunately for Rubio, we don’t think so.
In brief, there are two fundamental flaws with Rubio’s pragmatic and consequentialist reasoning. (1) One problem with pragmatism is that it is totally unprincipled, like most utilitarian reasoning generally. For instance, if one could somehow persuade Senator Rubio that either Sanders or Clinton were, in reality, preferable to Trump, Rubio would then be morally justified in breaking his solemn promise to support his party’s nominee. (2) The other problem with pragmatism or consequentialism is the problem of measurement. In this particular case, for example, how do we really know whether Sanders or Clinton would be worse than Trump? The relative merits of these candidates is not only a matter of subjective opinion; we will never really know who the “best” man (or woman!) for office is because only one of them can win come November!