The Greater Evil Problem

I’ve been pondering the same political question for about a decade now, and since I can’t avoid political talk whatever I do these days, I may as well get it out of my system. Short version: How do we make third parties viable (and thus make candidates actually compete for votes from moderates like me) without electing a string of “Greater Evil” candidates?

Now perhaps I’m wrong about this, but taking a long-term view, I believe the best way to reform the American political system should be to make third-parties more powerful. At least in theory, if people had a choice beyond Democrat or Republican in major elections that was even semi-viable, the major parties would have to compete for these votes; they wouldn’t be able to get away with simply pandering to a slowly dwindling base of true believers, year-in and year-out, while everyone else stays home in apathy tinged with disgust. More parties, more choices, more competition, yaaaaaay USA.

The problem is, I see no way of getting there that doesn’t make everything much worse before it gets better– and “getting worse” includes the very real possibility of “ending the world as we know it.” Basically, the more moderates who choose to vote for the Naders, the Johnsons, etc. the more people like Dubya and Trump get elected; the millions of moderates who used to vote for the “lesser evil” candidates out of a sense of grim duty start directing their votes elsewhere, and Greater Evil wins the day. Arguably, this already happened in the 2000 election. Where America, and the world in general, finds itself now– with ISIS and all the other brands of apocalyptic, atavistic bullshit– is at least partially a consequence of American moderates neglecting their duty to vote for the “lesser evil.”*

Trying to think realistically, even if people start making the effort now to bolster third parties, it could take multiple elections– even decades– before we really started to make a change. There’s no guarantee that the devastating nuclear war that we’ve been doing our damndest to avoid for 70 years won’t happen while we’re trying to ride out the “bottoming out” phase of this reform process. There’s also no guarantee that when that process ends, if it ever does, that the country we have left will even be anything we want to save.

So what else can we do? Campaign finance reform is sometimes touted as a potential silver bullet, which it could be in theory, but it has it’s own Catch-22 problem: if we were in any danger of electing politicians who were legitimately interested in passing effective, powerful, paradigm-shifting reform measures, and at liberty to do so, we wouldn’t need those reforms in the first place. My personal experience is that the only politicians who talk about campaign finance reforms in good faith are local politicians who couldn’t attract big corporate donations if they wanted them; once you get above, say, the county level, any reference to campaign finance reform is a cynical rhetorical ploy and nothing more.

To speak more personally for a moment, I still don’t know what I’m going to do in November. I think Hillary is a terrible candidate, but she’s terrible in most of the same ways candidates for President are usually terrible, so she definitely counts as “lesser Evil” in my book. She will probably be bad, but I doubt she’ll be sufficiently bad that she could end Western Civilization, unless she decided to try to do that really hard. Trump to me sounds like a delusional orange man with less than a third-grade education, and I simply cannot understand how anyone can listen to him and think he’s qualified to be captain of an elementary school kickball team, let alone President. He also seems like the kind of person who would order a nuke because some world leader criticized his footwear, which makes him more likely to be a candidate who could end this whole American experiment we have going on.

But how can I vote for the Democratic Party, the party so inept that they are somehow managing to lose an election to a less articulate Oompa Loompa with delusions of grandeur? Do I vote for Gary Johnson in the interest of at least trying to bolster third parties; should I do that even if I don’t agree with a lot of his proposed policies? Do I step into the voting booth, close the curtain, and vote for no one, solely because for the sake of my conscience, that’s one minuscule step above not even dragging myself to vote at all?

Maybe I’m wrong for even thinking that third parties could be a way out; maybe the fundamental problem is that the people who are best suited to wielding political power on that scale, are the least likely to be attracted to the process of acquiring it. Maybe there really is no getting past that, and we get the leaders we deserve; they’re just getting worse because we’re getting worse, and everything else is irrelevant.

So yeah, this is what I’m thinking while pundits talk about poisoned Skittles or Pepe the frog being a secret Mossad Agent, or whatever the latest peak in stupid is. I could try to be cute and wrap up with how I’m voting for SMOD (Sweet Meteor O’ Death), but A)the idea of Earth being destroyed by a meteor absolutely scares the shit out of me and B) I’d rather just be honest and say I’m in despair right now, without any misplaced attempts at humor. When I try to think about politics, I’m in a place of complete despair.

*I’m certainly not saying that ISIS or something like it would never have existed were it not for the actions of the Bush administration; we’ll never know. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the actions of the American government in the early 2000s were a significant contributing factor to the current situation in the Middle East.


9 thoughts on “The Greater Evil Problem”

  1. I probably won’t vote in this coming election. I could go on a long rant explaining why I think that is justified, but I’ll give the short version instead. I find none of these people are worthy of representing me so I won’t vote for them.

    I’m not spiteful enough to vote against Trump or Hilary as much as I dislike both of them. I’m not wise enough to feel I can accurately predict which of them is a worse choice. I think the fact that people find Hilary less threatening than Trump is worrisome in its own right. If I were going to cast a vote as damage control out of a sense of duty I’d vote for the person I expect other politicians and or the media to be more critical of. I’m not voting for Trump. Can’t do it.

    Something I’ve wondered since I was a kid is why we can only vote for one person. I’d be much more inclined to find representatives I actually like if it were possible to convince folks to vote for new ideas without offending their sense of duty.

    1. I’d rather get in the voting booth and literally vote for no one than not vote at all. If I don’t vote, then the reason can be misconstrued as whatever’s convenient– “the problem wasn’t with our candidate, millennials are just too lazy to vote,” etc. If I specifically make the effort to vote but don’t pick a candidate, it’s an explicit rejection of the candidates: sending a message that I am doing my civic duty by taking part in the political process, and the only viable option left to me is to register my dissatisfaction with my choices.

      Either that, or they’ll think I just got in the booth and simply forgot to vote >__<, but I'm hoping they get the whole "registering my dissatisfaction for posterity" thing.

      1. You know, I hadn’t considered going into the booth and then not voting, but that does seem like a better idea than not showing up at all. The place where I vote uses machines that are twice my age with mechanical keyboards that make a ton of noise. I could try pressing the done button without picking anyone… I wonder if it would actually let me do that. I have a feeling that thing is idiot proof. I guess I could always write in something dumb like Hambre? I mean, that basically screams I’m a dissatisfied millennial…

        1. I’m not really sure how it works on the system we have either– I’d better figure it out before election day.

          Now, my Dad will probably disown me if I don’t vote for Hillary, but hey, we’ve had a good relationship for about 30 years, it’s been a good run.

          1. 🙁 I’m sorry to hear that. My dad is pretty passionate about politics too, but he hates all of our choices for this election even more than I do.

            My family is split on this election. Not on who they want to support, but who they hate more. I think Trump is currently winning the family vote with the logic that between a choice of Trump and Hilary we are all doomed and deserving of our terrible fate. Trump is more likely to light the world on fire and watch it burn and so the better candidate. That is how most of our not entirely serious(I hope) conversations about politics have played out lately at any rate.

            More seriously, I think my dad and siblings are trying to convince themselves to vote for Gary Johnson with mixed results. Most of my family leans toward libertarian values in general and have for as long as I can remember, but Gary is proving hard to get excited about even as a throw away vote.

  2. The idea that I kind of have been playing around with is what if we divide and mix up the Democrats and Republicans into different parties, based on their ideals. Example: liberal conservatives, conservative liberals, etc… Maybe even group them by what they are good at. This way we still have the political figures that people already follow, but under a different banner.

    Now this could very much be a “devil with a different name” situation but at the very least it would start to break the mentality that there are more than two views to politics, conservative or liberal.

    More simply put I would rather have more parties that are together by the things they DO agree on rather than what they don’t agree on.

    1. The current two party split really doesn’t make any sense; they’re seemingly random collections of positions on issues that have little to do with each other. So pro-2nd Ammendment Democrats and pro-choice Republicans (and other not-quite-standard configurations) are always pretty much screwed.

      1. Yea, it sucks that it becomes a “join us or die” (politically) situation for anyone who would want to leave and be represented differently.

        What’s worse is that the only things that matters in the end to them is who can be the election’s “ringer” and beat the other party’s candidate rather than who’s just better for our country.

  3. There was a nice Jay Foreman video along the lines of “there’s no such thing as a wasted vote”

    Also watch all of his other videos because they are super good and he is funny as shit.

    Also also has some interesting points. On the voting. Also.

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