R. Lee Wrights: Voting for the lesser of two evils


Op Ed: Voting for the lesser of two evils

If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain our object; but if we break into squads, everyone pursuing the path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those who can now barely hold us in check.” – Thomas Jefferson

by R. Lee Wrights

BURNET, Texas (Aug. 3) – It never ceases to amaze me how many citizens can vote for a candidate who doesn’t represent their views merely because he’s not as bad as the other guy, and then complain about the results. This phenomenon reminds me of a joke that circulated after the 1964 presidential election. That campaign was particularly vicious and decisive, especially the debate over the increasing American involvement in a far-off country called Vietnam and the fight against the “Communist Menace.” While President Lyndon Johnson pledged, “We are not going to send American boys nine or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves,” Sen. Barry Goldwater countered by saying he’d make “a damned swamp out of North Vietnam” if they didn’t quit their aggression.

The joke goes like this: “You know, they told me that if I voted for Goldwater, there would be riots in our big cities and a massive war in Vietnam. Well, I voted for Goldwater, and, by golly, they were right.”

However you want to justify or rationalize it, when you vote for the “lesser of two evils” you’re not just betraying your principles but also abandoning all hope of ever having a government that respects and defends liberty and freedom. When you vote for a candidate who doesn’t represent your views in order to stop another candidate who doesn’t represent your views, you end up with a government that not only doesn’t represent you views, but is run by people who have no incentive or motivation to even consider what you might think. If you maintain you’re choosing to support one evil in order to avoid a greater evil, you’re basically admitting there is no evil you would not support in the interest of a “greater” good.

Consider any other aspect of your life. If there were only two plumbers, electricians or car repair shops in your city, and both overcharged you, provided shoddy service, used substandard parts, and didn’t guarantee their work, would you still hire the one that was least bad? Or would you find a serviceman in a nearby town to hire, even if you had to wait several days for service? Some of you probably would do what I’ve done and learn to do the work yourselves.

In either case, you reject the idea of choosing from the “lesser of two evils” and find or make your own, third choice. Why then do we tolerate lousy performance, broken promises, and shoddy service from the two parties whose only reason for existence is to expand the power of government and reduce the rights of individuals? As Pat Buchanan observed, “The Democrats and Republicans are two wings on the same bird of prey.”

The men who framed the Constitution did so with a profound understanding that government was “a necessary evil.” They knew that just by the very act of drafting a document to establish a federal government they were actually choosing the “lesser of two evils.” Therefore, they took great care in what they wrote and the government they established, setting it on the firm foundation of natural and unalienable individual rights, while granting it only limited, specific and enumerated powers. The writing of the document was a compromise and the document itself was full of compromises. Nevertheless, the framers believed that the “blessings of self-government” could be secured for posterity through this “lesser evil.”

It’s easy to claim that voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil, but that’s not the worst outcome. It’s not always possible to vote for someone you agree with on every issue. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate – even a Libertarian candidate. It may be pragmatic to vote for a candidate you agree with on most issues, some issues, or at least on key issues.

The key word here is “for;” you want to vote for a candidate, not against a candidate. This doesn’t mean voting for someone who has no principles you agree with, or who is unquestionably willing to compromise any of their principles at the drop of a hat in order to get elected. This is the underlying misconception about voting for the “lesser evil.”

To begin with, it’s habit-forming. The winning “less evil” candidate you voted for could turn out to be just as bad, or worse, than the candidate you voted “against.” Remember that once in office, a politician has to “get along” in order to “get things done.” Your vote contributes to his false sense that he’s won a “mandate from the people.” He has no reason to pay any attention to any views that don’t match his own. So we shrug our shoulders, say “Oh well,” and in the next election do it all again in the hope things will turn out differently. After a while, you become desensitized to the constant disappointment of the lesser evil we choose being no better than the greater evil we feared.

The most pernicious consequence of voting for the “lesser of two evils” is that it adds credence to the dishonest assertion by establishment party apparatchiks that the Libertarian Party is not “viable.” The reality is that if all the people who reluctantly voted for the “lesser of two evils” voted for their principles instead, not only would several third parties be viable, the cumulative effect would build like a tsunami that would eventually sweep away the calcified political establishment.

In summary, here are The Top Ten Reasons Not to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils:

10. Change doesn’t come from the top, nor does it happen right away. Change comes from the bottom, from the grassroots, from the masses of people expressing their voice through their vote, over time.

9. The lesser of two evils usually isn’t.

8. It won’t change the mind or actions of the “lesser evil” candidate.

7. It’s interpreted by the candidate you select as an endorsement of all their views.

6. It helps winning a candidate falsely claim a “mandate from the people.”

5. It encourages the practice of the “politics of fear” rather than the politics of freedom.

4. It reinforces the false claim that third party (Libertarian) candidates are not “viable.”

3. They don’t deserve it.

2. It is in your self-interest and best for your own self-defense to vote for principle, regardless of the possible outcome; in the end, it is the only thing that matters.

1. You’ll sleep better.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” – Thomas Sowell


R. Lee Wrights, 53, a libertarian writer and political activist, is seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.

Brian Irving, Press Secretary