You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.The lesser of two evils argument is typically invoked immediately before listing a parade of horribles grossly mischaracterizing the effect of voting for the other candidate. (The argument is, of course, subject to the poetic license of apocalyptic hyperbole.)
Having framed the issue as a choice between evils, between catastrophe and something less than catastrophic, it is of course necessary to limit the choice to two evils in presidential elections, because there are invariably those pesky third-party candidates. So one corollary to the choice of evils argument is that "you must vote for someone who has a chance of winning or your vote will be wasted." Both parties use special interest organizations aimed at voters who might vote for third party candidates to draw independent voters into their election day fold with themes like:
We are conservatives in primaries and Republican in general elections and we aim to win.
Given that we all had to suffer through the Bush administration even though Gore and Nader voters combined for a majority of the electorate, two de facto rules were laid down: 1. Keep progressive challenges to center-right Democrats confined to Democratic primaries, not general elections; 2. Keep those primary challenges confined to blue and swing districts, not red districts.
So yes, for liberals, there is only one option in an election year, and that is to elect, at whatever cost, whichever Democrat is running.I've been consistently amazed by how many very bright and influential independent voters --- like Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg --- have fallen into what I regard as a mentally crippled mindset provoked by blind acceptance of the proclaimed catastrophe's existence. For example, Ellsberg argued that it was essential to elect Barack Obama in 2012 else the nation be plagued by foreign wars. He got his wish on who would take the office, but how well has that worked to end U.S. foreign wars?
Consider: Afghanistan is still afire; Libya is now a failed state because of our military; overt war against Syria was only averted because Russian diplomats took full advantage of the foot that John Kerry inserted in his mouth; Obama has initiated full-blown proxy wars in Syria and Ukraine; he has just committed our military to fighting yet another war in Iraq; Obama set central Africa ablaze; and we now have Special Forces conducting combat operations in over 100 nations. Have I missed any of Obama's many wars?
For those who view Peace as their political litmus test, their votes for Obama in 2012 were wasted votes. The military/industrial complex is even more vibrant after that election than it was before.
During my nearly 68-year lifetime, 12 different men have held the office of President of the United States of America. 6 each of the Republican and Democratic varieties. The U.S. has been at war either overtly or via proxies nearly my entire life. Many in the U.S. Peace Movement — myself included — with justification aplenty view the Republican and Democratic parties as two wings of the same War Party.
How then might the Peace Movement accomplish the revolutionary change of ending U.S. foreign wars by falling for the choice of two evils gambit at election time? So long as we can be counted on to vote for either of the two major parties' candidates, the War Party wins and neither the Republican nor Democratic party movers and shakers have any reason to accommodate peace voters.
What causes change in the two major political parties is losing elections. They either adapt to include the views of those identifiable segments of the population that cost them an election or they continue to lose elections.
So in my view if the Peace vote does not cost a major party an election as many times as it takes, we cannot cause our desired fundamental change in government. The choice of evils mindset at best trades a short-term not-so-evil "win" for yet another postponement of the fundamental change we seek: to make of the U.S.A. a peaceful nation.
Exhibit 1 to the futility of the Peace Movement falling for the choice of two evils argument in the 2008 and 2012 elections is Barack Obama's presidency. Obama waged multiple wars of aggression, what was branded by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg as the "supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." (It warrants reminding that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq did not cease being criminal wars of aggression merely because 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue acquired new residents in January of 2009.)
What it will take for the Peace Movement to succeed in the U.S. is a sufficient number of voters to cost elections who steadfastly refuse to vote for war criminals and war criminal wannabes, ignoring all blather about the fallacy of the choice between two evils. A vote for a peace candidate is a vote for peace; a vote for a War Party candidate is a vote for war. When War Party candidates cannot win elections, peace will finally gain a chance.
Other People's Thoughts on the Topic:
- George Carlin, I Don't Vote (video).
- James Petras, Democratic Party Primaries: U.S. “Progressives” as Political Contraceptives
- Ellen Finnigan, The Lesser of Two Evils.
- M.G. Piety, The Predictable Consequence of Lesser Evilism: On Wasting Your Vote
- Wilton Alston, Was I Wrong About Voting?
- David Swanson, Which Is Worse, a Libertarian or a Humanitarian-Warrior?
- Carmen Yarrusso, Lesser of Two Evils Vote is Counterproductive and Morally Corrupt
- Robert Koehler, The Politics of Fear
- Jonathan Cook, No, Hillary Clinton is not less evil than Trump
- Kevin Gosztola, Your Vote for Jill Stein Is Not a Wasted Vote
- AFL-CIO calls for a break with “lesser of two evils” politics
- John Halle and Noam Chomsky, An Eight Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting)
- David Saslav, Left Out
- Shaun King, Atlanta Mayoral Race Shows What Happens When Progressives Don’t Compromise