The Fallacy of Two Evils

This is a polemical political rant.

A little failure of logic and foresight plagues American politics. Right now, it is a huge topic and a subject of much hatred among good friends.

My problem here is the “lesser of two evils” fallacy. It’s very simple, very simply explained, and somehow completely lost on some otherwise intelligent people. Very simply, it goes like this:

Of two candidates you see as problematic — evil —  vote for the less problematic candidate — the least evil of the two. 

The problem here is twofold. First, you have more than two choices. You always have and hopefully always will, no matter how hard you may wish you really had only two. You do not. You simply do not have only two choices. Half of the notion of the problem of two evils is thrown out the window at the very start, before its first utterance. 

Second, and most important, every time you vote for the lesser of two evils you lower the bar. You lower the standard, you lower expectations. You give in. You give up. Some part of your effort becomes a failure ever more with every decision to choose the lesser of two evils. Each choice is increasingly more evil and you’ve desensitized yourself to perceiving that evil for what it is.

In America today, this is shown by the the Hillary crowd attempting to shame the Bernie or Bust crowd by pointing fingers at Trump and saying, “You want him to become president? Because if  you don’t vote Democrat, if you don’t vote for Hillary if she is nominated Democratic candidate, you will have voted that monster into office.”

This is, of course, absurd. First, most directly, the only people who could put Trump into office are the people who voted for him. My vote in this hypothetical was for Jill Stein. 

I would rather turn this around to everyone who thought they were voting strategically without any sort of foresight whatsoever. Suppose you do put Hillary in office and she is perfectly moderate as anyone expects of her, with another scandal every six months or whatever. When her time is up another Trump will be waiting for us, and then yet another, each worse than the last, as has ever been the case, as the bar is lowered and especially as the Democratic party grows comfortable, as they already are, with the fact that they can choose your candidate for you and set everything up so that, completely contrary to the very purpose and the whole spirit of the election process, contrary to the very nature of democracy, you maintain a prison made of your own lies about a dilemma that simply doesn’t exist, continuing to choose the second of evils exactly like an addiction.

“I know it’s bad and I’ll stop, but not this time. The withdrawal is just too hard.” 

It’ll be worse later if you don’t stop now. Trump has his support only because our expectations are so low. He will contribute to further lowering expectations and setting up a situation in which someone much worse could be placed into office. Continually lowering the bar by voting always for evil no matter what, regardless of the options, will not make anything better. At best, it may, ever so slightly, slow the decline.

“My candidate must be evil, but always ranked second in evil. My candidate must be Magneto, Baron Mordo, or The Green Goblin, but never, ever Dr. Doom,” they say, as though that final omission makes them somehow superior to people actually trying to make a difference.

I’d like to say that if Trump is elected it’s because Hillary supporters didn’t vote for Bernie in the primaries. But that’s wrong, too. If Trump is elected it would be because very angry, very stupid, and very hateful people did vote for him.

Ignoring that last part, though, and overlooking the fallacy for a moment, consider this. Bernie had for a very long time been polling better than Hillary against Trump. She was clearly, unmistakably the weaker candidate. Yet these self-proclaimed strategic voters still voted for her! By using their reasoning, if Trump is elected, it is their fault. Clinton supporters will have dug their own grave by voting for the weaker candidate. More, they will have dug a grave for all of us.

I’m told that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Trump by Clinton supporters. I am also told that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Clinton by Trump supporters. What I want to know is how I can vote for neither Trump nor Clinton without giving up my right to vote altogether. Answer me that one.

Third party candidates would be electable if you voted for them. That’s how this works. If no Democrat voted for Hillary and every Democrat voted for Jill Stein, guess what would happen? Would it be a close race between Hillary and Trump? No. It most certainly would not. It would, rather, be a close race between Stein and Trump — because in this hypothetical Stein is the one we voted for. Do you see how that works? But turning to Stein is apparently not going to happen because people leaning left have it drummed into their heads that it is only permissible to vote for the Democrat who gets all of the media coverage and no one else. Ever.

We’re told endlessly that a third party candidate simply can’t win, as though votes for that candidate are no part of the equation. And so we hear Hillary’s supporters, so intent on shaming us into submission, say they like Stein’s positions, that they generally like Stein better, but still refuse to vote for her in the general election simply because she “can’t” win, that we have to beat Trump now and try for something better later — also known as never. If ever there were a time to vote third party, it is now, when so many have already pledged to do it. A seed has already sprouted. Pretending it hasn’t helps no one.

When you erect a false dilemma and call upon the “lesser of two evils” principle, you just make an ass of yourself. you perform a disservice to your country and a disservice to your friends and to your family, weakening the fabric of our society through willful ignorance, utter refusal to acknowledge the existence of better options, the arrogant attempt to treat this as a game and vote — gamble- “strategically”, and choosing, by the very nature of your method of choice, to pull the nation down ever further to the point just above the absolute worst it can currently be pulled, and then again all the way down to the depths of the next second-worst evil, and then again. And again.

Voting for the lesser of two evils is what got us into this mess. It will not get us out of it.

We have to stop this nonsense before it gets worse, before the next Trump who comes along, who won’t be a hemmorage in his party’s side. And all this time we assumed the Republicans weren’t thinking exactly the same thing about their candidate as the Democrats feel about their own! No one noticed, I’m sure, because the fact that Republicans who don’t support Trump are at least as repulsed by him as us — more, perhaps, because he would supposedly represent them — is completely glossed over, completely overlooked, completely ignored. 

Otherwise what would shallow-sighted Clinton supporters have to shame us about?

Throwing your vote away on a gamble and treating it as a game piece is irresponsible. Shame on you, “strategic” voters. Your intentions are not only disgusting but poorly conceived and poorly executed.

And I am sorry that you know no better. It is what we have been told all of our lives. “Only two!” Only two. “You must choose one and stick with it no matter what garbage we throw at you.”

Only two.

Only two is a lie. You do have a choice. Will you or will you not exercise it?

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