James Kerian: The Phrase 'Lesser Of Two Evils' Needs To Disappear

There are a number of overused phrases that frequently contribute nothing to our political discourse except confusion and misunderstanding. The worst offender in this category may be the incessant claims made about voting for “the lesser of two evils.”

For some this phrase is merely repeated carelessly without any knowledge of or concern for the confusion that it conjures up for so many others. But to those who speak seriously about the moral dilemma of voting for “the lesser of two evils” let me offer a few words of clarification.

Political candidates are human beings made in the image and likeness of God like the rest of us. They’re fallen human beings, again like the rest of us, but they’re not demons. They’re not evil. They are flawed, and some are a lot more flawed than others, but they are not evil.

Like the rest of us political candidates sometimes do evil things and ascribe to evil ideologies. The man who got elected as Chancellor of Germany in the early 1930s is the most frequently cited example of this phenomenon.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]What so many Americans do instead is pretend that there are neat little categories where one category contains a handful of politicians who are pure and clean and perfect while the second category makes up a vast swath of lukewarm useless parasites.[/mks_pullquote]

It is important to understand, however, that out of the over seven billion people on this planet right now there is not one of them who has never done anything evil nor are there two of them who perfectly align with each other ideologically. If you are going to have a government (or any other human institution) you are going to have people leading it who have done evil things and who disagree with you on some level ideologically.

Certainly some people have done worse things than others. Obviously some will be further from you ideologically than others. But arbitrarily drawing a line for either actions or ideology and declaring everyone on the other side of the line anathema is, well, completely 100% arbitrary. And completely arbitrary distinctions are completely useless for both political discourse and political reasoning.

What makes sense is working in the political arena to advance the candidacy of those whose actions are better and whose ideology is more closely aligned with what you believe to be true. That’s an approach that actually accounts for reality.

What so many Americans do instead is pretend that there are neat little categories where one category contains a handful of politicians who are pure and clean and perfect while the second category makes up a vast swath of lukewarm useless parasites. The more historically conscious might also add in a category to hold the Joseph Stalin’s and the Adolph Hitler’s of the world.

Americans involved in this pretending insist that politicians in the first category “get it” and that they are the ones who understand how the world really is and have the courage to act on that understanding. This is a delusion that makes people feel less lonely because even if their hero politicians make up a tiny minority at least they feel like someone else out there shares their views ideologically.

But this is a comfort that can only be maintained through deliberate ignorance. A thorough enough examination into the thought of your favorite candidate will always reveal some area where the two of you disagree. Your ideology is as unique as your fingerprint. If you are going to cooperate with another human being it is going to be with someone who (however much similarity there may be) is going to disagree with you on something.

Of course, just as there are different degrees of evil actions so too there are different degrees of ideological disagreement. But those are differences of degree, not of kind. So let’s all quit pretending there is some deep ethical question about whether or not it is ok to vote for someone who has done evil things or who advocates an ideology that does not align with yours. That is the only type of vote that has ever been cast.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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