Third Party & Independents Archives

Drifting ever rightward: The consequences of voting for the lesser of two evils

In today’s political climate, progressive politics has become heavily oriented toward a single short term goal - defeating the Republicans at any cost.

Unfortunately, this obsession of voting against one party, instead of voting for what we believe in, has prevented us from engaging in the important work of coalition building between Progressive Democrats, Independents and Greens that is essential for building a fair and just society.

A large part of our inability to challenge the political elite is that we have inherited a highly undemocratic winner-take-all voting system, which insures the political hegemony of the two party system. This traps the majority of us into voting defensively, instead of voting for candidates we believe in.

The irony of focusing so much attention on simply opposing the Republicans is that we end up hastening the very things we are against. This is because the more we focus on opposition the more likely we are to lose sight of our goals and compromise our values.

Voting for the lesser of two evils has become so internalize by our culture that it might be better described as a "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" voting strategy. Such thinking has caused progressives to steadily lose ground to the right-wing of this county to the point where many of us are now supporting Democratic candidates who are more conservative than Richard Nixon (who at least created the Environmental Protection Agency as a cabinet level department, supported a negative income tax, and proposed a health care plan that was better than Clintons).

In reality, the lesser of two evils voting strategy has allowed the Democratic Party to pull the country even more rightward because the Republicans (who are often aided by the Democrats in enacting their policies) are always a little worse.

The call to vote for the lesser evil is what makes the greater evil possible. By always fearing the negative impacts of the Republican administration we allow Democratic politicians to usurp the political movements. One only needs to look at the demise of the anti-war movement during the 2004 presidential campaign to see how capitulating to the lesser evil can devastate a social movement.

In general, voting for the lesser of two evils has turned progressives into short-term political thinkers who have a hard time visualizing the long-term consequences of their actions.

Given that many people in this country believe in social, economic and environmental justice, we should be working together to develop political strategies for building a state in which

  • Inequalities of wealth and income are limited
  • Poverty is almost non-existent
  • Health Care is universal
  • Taxation is progressive
  • Minorities, women and gays are full members of our society
  • Unions are powerful and democratic
  • University populations vastly out number the prison population
  • Foreign policy is humanitarian and Democratic
  • The defense budget is geared towards defense (and thus reduced)
  • The environment is strongly protected
  • Economic activities are based on sustaining the resource base
  • Political campaigns are publicly financed
  • The election system is full representation of all citizens
  • The media promotes open and wide ranging political debate

Our current thinking about electoral politics, however, seems hardly adequate to get us headed in this direction.

In order to implement meaningful political change, we must begin to differentiate between short-term and long-term political costs (something the right-wing figured out a long time ago).

It bears noting that no significant social change has ever occurred anywhere in human society by focusing only on trying to minimize short-term costs. Those who seek to democratize society must confront this basic dilemma head on.

Our fear that a rupture with the status quo may be too costly is understandable, but we must also understand that by exercising prudence we will contribute to the perpetuation of current conditions. By definition, breaking free from any vicious circle has short-term costs. The longer we wait, however, the more costly (and hence unlikely) our vision for change becomes.

Posted by Forrest Hill at August 28, 2006 11:24 PM
Comments
Comment #178017

Forrest:

First, let me say that this is one of the best articles I have ever read here at Watchblog. It echos much of my concerns and thoughts about the “lesser-of-the-two-evils” syndrome we have been witnessing for such a long time.

“A large part of our inability to challenge the political elite is that we have inherited a highly undemocratic winner-take-all voting system, which insures the political hegemony of the two party system. This traps the majority of us into voting defensively, instead of voting for candidates we believe in.”

The candidate selection process has never really been in the hands of the voters either. There are some excellent candidates that never see the ‘light of day’ because of party machinations—others, because of the enormous amounts of money needed to ‘grease the wheels’ of corporatist ‘democracy’.

“In general, voting for the lesser of two evils has turned progressives into short-term political thinkers who have a hard time visualizing the long-term consequences of their actions.”

This isn’t a merely progressive problem, this is a societal one. Capitalism is geared towards the short-run, a profitable next quarter, the lining of investers’ pockets; the beauty pagents that presidential politics have become is only a symptom of the ‘dumbing down’ of the electorate. Consolidation of media outlets into a few powerful hands closes the circle—ignorance of political and social issues is a contagion, and most people seem to pride themselves on thier ignorance to reinforce their belief that the system is corrupt and not worthy of their attention.

You mention the demise of the anti-war contingent in 2004. I believe another example is the nation’s inertia in dealing with starting some movement towards energy independence with an eye on addressing global warming and the rapid deterioration of the environment. Capitalism is neither interested nor capable of dealing with a problem that is so overwhelming it threatens life as we know it. Only governments can do this, can muster the resources, rally the intellectual power and ingenuity needed to deal with these problems. While, ironically, corporate globalization has battered down the doors of protectionism and national identity in the name of an unquenchable thirst for profit,sending trillions of dollars around the globe in a twinkling of an eye, our government has been vilified and emasculated by a conservatism that not only has no heart or sense of community, but no vision to deal with the overwhelming problems it has in large part created. We have reached the pinnacle of conservatism, I believe, with almost all of the Bush administration being former CEOs and owners of business. The conservatives have convinced the American voter that businessmen know how to run government efficiently, and that government run by business is best for all concerned.

We’ve had 25 years of such thinking, and the chickens are coming home to roost: a $9 trillion debt, a rapid decline in the security and strength of the middle class, a costly and disasterous foreign policy that has alienated our friends and emboldened our enemies, a frightening assault on civil liberties, an increase in poverty for the least of us and obscene wealth beyond comprehension for the gated investment class.

Progress has never looked so ugly.

As Jim Hightower has said, “Politics in America isn’t about left versus right. It’s about top versus bottom.”

Posted by: Tim Crow at August 29, 2006 2:35 AM
Comment #178030

Forrest: These are very good articles for this subject, lesser evilism, please read them.

http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue37/Harrison37.htm
http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue38/harrison38.htm

And please if you want read my piece entitled “Why I am Green, John Kerry”, all of the parts.

The fact is that this lesser evilism has been understood yet, yet.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 29, 2006 4:13 AM
Comment #178031

I meant misunderstood not understood, sorry.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 29, 2006 4:15 AM
Comment #178042

In the short term, this 2 part system may have drifted rightward, but that simply balances out the drift the GOP has taken toward the left over the last 10-15 years in order to take back power.

You’ll remember pre-Clinton, the GOP even supported the abolishment of the Dept of Education as a staple of the national platform. They finally conceded and now the GOP tosses money at that governmental whore just as much as the Democrats. (That was my defining moment in realizing the 2 party system was hopelessly flawed)
Fast forward, Bush has supported tariffs, created an entitlement program giving free drugs to the elderly, has skirted around the immigration/border issue, etc.

You see, this 2 part system IS DEMOCRATIC and illustrates the inherent folly of democracy and the wisdom of those who created our REPUBLICstrong>.
Democracy is nothing more than MOB RULES.
Both parties have consistently altered/sacrificed their political values ijn order to appeal to the mob and bribe them into voting for them.

Overall, any attempt to portray American politics as shifting to the right is based on party name only. In terms of values, American culture is far more liberal than 50 years ago, GOP included.
We generally feel entitled to use government as a 3rd party thief to plunder the property of fellow citizens in order to get more and more things we didnt earn for ourselves.
We generally see government as master of us rather than servant to us.
We increasingly acknowledge freedom of religion, so long as it remains a private, rather than public proclamation.
We increasingly blur the distinctions between basic moral truths, while redefining basic concepts such as sex, marriage, dating, value of life.

The author tactfully demonizes the “right” while insinuating some “rightward” shift, while seemingly supporting “democratic” values which are precisely what ENABLES politicians to abuse their role by bribing the citizens into voting for them.

Kinda like complaining when birds poop all over your yard, refusing to acknowledge your role in feeding them for the last 5 years.

Posted by: Matt Goldseth at August 29, 2006 8:22 AM
Comment #178051

OUR COUNTRY NEEDS A CHANGE!!!

This statement does not mean what so many Democrats are standing behind. We do not need a change in the Senate or the House, we need a change in the outlook that Americans have in this country.

The Democrats have based their platform on opposing anything the Republicans put forward or anything the Republicans stand for. This will not be able to live the long run because intelligent Americans will realize that the Democrats do not have any outlook to the future, their only goal is to oppose the Republicans, this has a short term success rate but in the long run it is a dismal failure.

Our country needs more than a political party that has become a opposition party. A opposition party that does not put forth any legitimate proposals on what the country should do in the future.

Voting for the lesser of two evils will cause many Americans to believe that the Democrats are the ones they should choose. Picking the lesser of two evils should not be an option in a true democracy. We should be able to choose the candidate and/or party that we truly believe in. That is why the two party system we have today cannot be sustainable in a country as diverse as ours. We need a system that will allow for everyone to choose a party and/or candidate that they feel strongly about. When a country is forced to choose between the LESSER of two EVILs than we are not a democracy, we are everything that a democracy opposes.

Posted by: Matt Quirin at August 29, 2006 9:11 AM
Comment #178077

Isn’t it interesting that posters like Tim Crow see the politics of this country as swinging to the Right, while to ones like Matt Goldseth sees us swinging to the Left? My knee-jerk reaction is to agree with Tim and write Matt off as another example of the Right’s need to demonize their opponents in order to galvanize their voting base, but is that really true? Perhaps the better, truer interpretation is that this country is actually polarizing, with the extreme elements of both sides of the isle becoming increasingly strident. Our much-beloved Blogosphere is a big contributer to this, methinks. Sadly, we extremists are much more ardent voters than the average, which only makes this “lesser of two evils” situation that much worse.

Posted by: leatherankh at August 29, 2006 11:21 AM
Comment #178137

leatherankh: My knee-jerk reaction is to agree with Tim and write Matt off as another example of the Right’s need to demonize their opponents in order to galvanize their voting base, but is that really true?

Knee jerk raction is right.
Read my post again and you’ll see that I specified a SHORT_TERM swing a back to the right, but overall, yes…America is more liberal.

I dont think there’s any doubt about that.
The GOP is far more liberal than they were 50 years ago and its apparent through GOP sponsored entitlement programs, excessive spending, the decline of traditional values such as abstinence, monogomoy, marriage, tolerance of abortion, etc.

Additionally, it seems a bit ridiculous to label me a member of the “Right” demonizing the “Left”, when my post was specifically critical of the GOP itself!!

I am a libertarian…generally, we are fiscal conaservatives and social liberals. We promote liberty, self-reliance and freedom from the coercive force of government…even when that coercive force is tempered with good intentions.

Both the Democrats AND Republicans have a hard time coping with political ideology which limits their power to nanny us or their ability to bribe the populace and/or business with entitlements.

Posted by: Matt Goldseth at August 29, 2006 3:44 PM
Comment #178148

Nice list.

  • Inequalities of wealth and income are limited
    [Well sort of, in the sense that concentrated wealth should not be allowed to acquire concentrated power, as now, in which 83% of all federal campaign funds come from a mere 1% of the U.S. population.]

  • Poverty is almost non-existent
    [That is a worthy goal, but it can not be made into a law.]

  • Health Care is universal
    [That is a worthy goal, but it should not be Government operated; Insurance and Government (middlemen) must be eliminated. Also, it is not a human right. Someone has to pay for it. If society is successful in other ways, all will have healthcare. We don’t now because our society is dysfunctional in many ways. 1% of the U.S. population has 40% (and growing) of all wealth (in many cases because they abuse their vast wealth and power).]

  • Taxation is progressive
    [Yes, but only in the sense of a Flat 17% Income tax. 17% of $100K is twice as much as 17% of $50K. That is progressive enough.]

  • Minorities, women and gays are full members of our society [absolutely]

  • Unions are powerful and democratic
    [Hmmmm…not too sure about that. Unions have the right to form. Unions have their place, but too much power corrupts. In a global economy, corporations will merely flee to cheaper labor markets.]

  • University populations vastly out number the prison population
    [That’s a worthy goal. Did you know 29% of all imprisoned are illegal aliens?]

  • Foreign policy is humanitarian and Democratic
    [Who can argue with that?]

  • The defense budget is geared towards defense (and thus reduced)
    [It should only be as big as needed; $500 billion per year seems way too large]

  • The environment is strongly protected
    [Agreed.]

  • Economic activities are based on sustaining the resource base
    [Hmmmm…not sure about that. You have to be careful how you monkey around with free markets; more importantly, the laws need to be enforced to stop predatory practices]

  • Political campaigns are publicly financed
    [Hmmmm…maybe, but government is FOR SALE, and it does not only revolve around election time. We need to stop influence peddling too. It should be illegal.]

  • The election system is full representation of all citizens
    [Agreed.]

  • The media promotes open and wide ranging political debate
    [If they want to, but we can’t force them. However, that does not exclude publicly funded media for debates and other such things.]
  • This is all pie-in-the-sky until voters are motivated enough to do the one simple, common-sense thing they were supposed to be doing all along:

    • Stop Repeat Offenders.

    • Don’t Re-Elect Irresponsible Incubment Politicians !

    Posted by: d.a.n at August 29, 2006 4:36 PM
    Comment #178229

    WhoawhoawhoawhoaWHOA!! Slow down there Matt. I apologise for getting your dander up. To be honest, I just picked you at random out of all the concervative posters. I was actually just showing MY OWN propensity to assume the worst of the Right. Sorry again.

    Posted by: leatherankh at August 30, 2006 12:32 AM
    Comment #178247

    Dont be sorry…
    Just dont let it happen again. :-)
    Lib-er-tar-i-an…say it with me.

    Posted by: Matt Goldseth at August 30, 2006 8:10 AM
    Comment #178267

    A quick comment on Libertarians. I think they are hurt just as much by our voting system as Greens, Independents, the Reform Party, now defunct New Party, etc. All of these groups are essentially shut out from government (with a rare exceptional occasion). Many of these parties probably have enough support in the population (especially Independents, who represent the majority of registered voters in many states) that under a fair election system they would has many more elected officials in Congress and in our state legislatures.

    A quick comment on “the rightward drift”. By rightward drift I am referring to the ever increasing accumulation of wealth at the very pinnacle of the economic ladder and the demise of separation between global corporation and the government. Today less than 1% of the pop. owns 50% of this countries wealth - top 5% own almost 70% of the wealth. This distribution of wealth is medieval in proportion and does not bode well for the future as it will lead to ever increasing polarization. The upward redistribution of wealth to the few individuals is due to the tax policies implemented by the Democrats and Republicans over the past 50 years (read Robert K Johnson’s [Republican] perfectly legal to find out more about how both parties are sticking it to the middle and working classes).

    The collusion of government and global capital robs our treasury of trillions of dollars, through subsidies and tax breaks (i.e. read socialism for the rich), and thus hurts small businesses who are finding it increasingly impossible to complete in the local economy. Whether you are Libertarian or a Green (or whatever) all are likely opposed to this corrupt robber baron mentality that currently prevails our government.

    Posted by: Forrst Hill at August 30, 2006 9:38 AM
    Comment #178284
    By rightward drift I am referring to the ever increasing accumulation of wealth at the very pinnacle of the economic ladder and the demise of separation between global corporation and the government.
    I’d have to think about this more carefully, but my intitial reaction is to look at the world around me and disagree slightly.

    I believe that all classes are accumulating wealth…the “poor” in America have color TVs, air-conditioning, cars, and never go hungry.
    What I DO notice is an increasing divide between the upper and lower classes as the middle class is slowly wiped out.
    While you correctly point out the corrupting relationship of corporate welfare…and admirably hold both parties accountable as they should be… you curiously ignore the equally corrupting force of public welfare.

    While the politicians pander to corporations for CAMPAIGN MONEY and therefore, power…the same politicians also pander to the lower and middle classes for their VOTES.

    This pandering comes, as Bastiat said, in the form of legal plunder…stealing income/property from your fellow citizens in order to bribe someone else with something they didnt earn.

    As the citizens become more addicted to this stolen bounty, they display less ingenuity, less productivity, less character but MORE envy, more greed, and more reliance on government.

    This phenomenon drives the self-fulfilling downward cycle of socialist economics….its been played out numerous times already in history.

    As for the rich controlling most of the worlds wealth….that’s just how it always will be:
    If you redistributed the world’s wealth equally among each person, it would be back in the same hands within 10-20 years.
    Contrary to the fashionable lie of silver spoon, dishonest millionaires, most of the rich people in America EARNED it with hard work, creativity, risk and talent.
    A certain select few display a great deal of ingenuity, hard-work, dedication, delayed gratification, foresight, etc…while a certain number of us are content to just get by with basic necessities.
    Much of humanity continues to buy Lotto tickets, Marlboro cigarettes, and Natural Light while putting their savings into depreciating Chevy Camaros rather than stocks or real estate.

    Capitalism at least offers the OPPORTUNITY to achieve wealth…maybe not as fast as those who inherit it, but there is no RIGHT TO WEALTH.

    Socialism, and its various deformed bastard children, can only succeed at equalizing wealth by confiscating it through force from those who earned it….thereby ruining incentives, productivity and liberty.
    And in the end, the STATE becomes the monopoly controlling all the wealth…and while you can refuse to shop at Wal-Mart or do without Windows XP…you cant shut down the state with the power of choice.

    Sadly, America IS a socialist state…and increasingly fascist when it comes to utility, health care, pharaceutical and energy industries.
    Sit back and watch the fall…


    Posted by: Matt Goldseth at August 30, 2006 11:45 AM
    Comment #178905

    Ok Matt, I actually AM going to pick on you now. Emotionally prepared? Good :-)

    I think you were so busy cracking your knuckles and preparing yourself for a li-ber-tar-i-an tirade about the evils of not letting the poor pull themselves up by those ever so famous bootstraps that you missed Forrst’s point. The key to a strong and growing economy is a strong and growing middle class, and real wages for the typical American have been stagnant or falling since 1973. The average CEO’s pay as compared to the average worker in his company has quadrupled at least during that same time period. The rate at which corporations have actually paid taxes has been falling steadily since the Eisenhower administration. Basically, those bootstraps are getting sawed through, and that is what we should be worried about, not the mythology that welfare turns people lazy. The vast majority of people that go on welfare remain on it for less than 6 months, and Reagan’s “welfare queen” was a hoax.

    One thing I cannot understand is how those to the Right of the isle see taxation as a “burden” and tax cuts as “relief”. They see the government as wasteful, but instead of trying to change the waste, they throw the baby out with the bathwater and instead want to change the system. I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that both parties are to blame, but I must disagree with the idea that we must “starve the beast” in order to change things. All that will do is make those who fatten themselves up on corruption a little more careful. The “legal plunder”, I hate to say, is not the poor leeching from the rich, but the corporations leeching from everyone else. Until that stops, until corporations become business in the eyes of the IRS and not people, until we can find a way to disconnect our officials’ voting records from their pocketbooks, and until the Right can actually say what they mean and not cloak their ideas in terms like death tax, Islamofascism, and tax burden, this country will not improve.

    L

    PS, Matt, please don’t tell me that, after your schpeal about how
    “Contrary to the fashionable lie of silver spoon, dishonest millionaires, most of the rich people in America EARNED it with hard work, creativity, risk and talent.”
    that you support the repeal of the Estate Tax. Just curious.

    Posted by: leatherankh at September 2, 2006 9:17 AM
    Comment #179417

    Hi there leather! Would have responded sooner, but on vacation!

    I think you were so busy cracking your knuckles and preparing yourself for a li-ber-tar-i-an tirade about the evils of not letting the poor pull themselves up by those ever so famous bootstraps that you missed Forrst’s point. The key to a strong and growing economy is a strong and growing middle class, and real wages for the typical American have been stagnant or falling since 1973. The average CEO’s pay as compared to the average worker in his company has quadrupled at least during that same time period. The rate at which corporations have actually paid taxes has been falling steadily since the Eisenhower administration. Basically, those bootstraps are getting sawed through, and that is what we should be worried about, not the mythology that welfare turns people lazy. The vast majority of people that go on welfare remain on it for less than 6 months, and Reagan’s “welfare queen” was a hoax.
    I didnt miss the point at all…in fact I AGREED with his point about a disappearing middle class.
    My disagreement was with the focus on the consolidation of wealth in the upper class, while refusing to acknowledge the role of the lower classes in this culture of political bribery.

    YES….the middle class IS disappearing.
    It is disappearing because the government increasingly confiscates our wealth in order to buy the campaign contributions of the rich…but also to buy the votes of a growing lower-middle class who fails to see that its own lust for things it did not earn is precisely what makes it more difficult for all of us to climb that economic ladder.
    While you focus on the outrageous salaries of CEOs, you ignore the irony of American “poverty” which is now defined by people who eat every day, own cars, color tvs and have internet access.

    You sound as if you’re repeating some populist talking points about corporate favoritism, but you’re focused on the wrong things.
    A CEO’s pay is the business of the CEO, the company and its shareholders. Each individual in a company pays taxes, each shareholder pays taxes on dividends and stock price appreciation, so I dont think a corporation SHOULD be taxed again…it only hurts us consumers as those taxes are passed on in higher prices.

    No…you should focus on the true corporate welfare of subsidies….of protectionist tariffs…of artificial price caps.

    And in fairness, we must also focus on individual welfare:
    Section 8 Housing
    Food Stamps
    College education grants
    Hybrid car subsidies
    Unemployment pay
    Free drugs for the elderly
    and on and on and on

    Sugarcoat it all you like…
    When it comes down to it, all of these are examples of a tyrannical confiscation of wealth justified in the name of providing for a select group of others that which they did not earn for themselves.
    If you or I had engaged in such behavior, we’d be jailed for theft and/or embezzlement, but so long as government dows the dirty work many are willing to forgive.

    The “legal plunder”, I hate to say, is not the poor leeching from the rich, but the corporations leeching from everyone else. Until that stops, until corporations become business in the eyes of the IRS and not people, until we can find a way to disconnect our officials’ voting records from their pocketbooks, and until the Right can actually say what they mean and not cloak their ideas in terms like death tax, Islamofascism, and tax burden, this country will not improve.

    You overlook a few key points.
    1-You’re ‘contribution’ to corporations is VOLUNTARY. You can cut off your contribution any time you like…try such a protest with the IRS.

    2-Corporations, no matter WHAT they charge, still provide a service or product which otherwise wasnt available. Government only plays as a 3rd party provider of an existing product/service, making it cheaper for those who receive it only by FORCING EVERYONE else to pay for it.

    3-Corporations employ people and provide income to shareholders with their profits. Government has no profits…it simpl plays a shell game with the money confiscated from taxpayers.

    I would also remind you that the vast MINORITY of businesses engage in corrupt activity, yet somehow become the anecdote. Meanwhile many like yourself dont seem to hold the same outrage for the billions stolen and wasted by the Pentagon, the Dept of Education, the Pentagon and virtually every other single government entity which has been audited.

    The end of your post alludes to possibly why you strangely overlook these points…your focus is on “THE RIGHT” rather than on WHAT’s RIGHT.
    When your political philosophy is based upon the idea of stealing from others to give others what they want and didnt earn, its only a matter of time before that system voilates your own best sensibilities.

    and yes, I do support the repeal of the estate tax. Americans pay a heavy tax burden all their lives and should be free to do whatever they like with what they’ve earned and saved…including GIVING it to anyone they wish before or after they die…be it $1000 or $1 billion.
    (besides, isnt that what government does? Give money to people who didn’t earn it? The difference is that government gives away STOLEN money!)

    Posted by: Matt Goldseth at September 6, 2006 3:32 PM
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