The ‘Lesser’ of Two Evils is Still Evil

Daniel Luntzel

Assuming an uncontested result is in by now, roughly half of the country believes that a morally, ethically, and constitutionally unfit president has been elected. Now what?

Hopefully this will be a time of reflection for many, a chance to understand how we ended up with these two ‘viable’ candidates out of roughly 330 million citizens. How it is that, given the unprecedented unfavorability ratings of both major candidates, we collectively lent massive support to both. Perhaps we’ll even consider the moral hazard of ‘defensive’ voting.

If you’re unfamiliar with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s work, “The Dictator’s Handbook” take a 20 minute study-break and watch CGP_Grey’s Youtube video Rules for Rulers.  The upshot is this: the kind of behavior we see in politics that seems illogical or inconsistent (breaking campaign promises, never-ending support for special interests, etc.) are not a perversion or failing of the system.  This type of behavior is the natural and inevitable result of the system.  Any scheme for centralizing power into the hands of an individual depends on key underlings that execute the leader’s will.  The real exercise of power is not improving people’s lives or serving the citizenry – it is the currying of favor with these key underlings: the generals, bureaucrats, and other unelected functionaries of power.

We live in a world where expediency is king.  Realpolitik rules decision-making in our social institutions. It also drives our voting decisions. I wonder how many Germans were uncomfortable with the NSDAP, but saw it as the lesser evil in 1932.  How many white South Africans under apartheid didn’t necessarily think that their black compatriots were lesser, but supported the National Party as a vote against communism? Defensive voting leads us to support those who we otherwise wouldn’t. It allows us to rationalize supporting an evil outcome.

Guess what, the lesser of two evils is by definition, evil. Did you vote for the lesser evil? Congratulations, you’ve made the same prisoner’s dilemma choice that has allowed the worst governments to take power ‘legitimately’ through popular votes.  Where is the virtue in participating in what amounts to mjority rule? By what mechanism does a vote sanctify the actions of those voted into office? Democratic fervor is nothing more religious dogma. Try asking a ‘get out the vote’ enthusiast why someone should vote, especially if none of the options are acceptable. Be prepared for stunned silence, realpolitik rationalizations, or accusations of heresy.

Think of all the mantra-like catechisms of democracy: “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain;” “Every vote matters;” “You must vote;” “If you don’t vote, you have no voice.” It makes me wonder why, exactly, there is such a driving need to get everyone to participate.