Cultural Psychology

Demolishing the ‘Lesser of Two Evils’ Excuse for Voting Democrat or Republican

with 2 comments


ELECTION time is near upon us, and American politics is worse than ever. But let’s at least accomplish this much: to retire once and for all the fallacy that says “I should vote for a useless Republican/Democrat candidate because he/she is a lesser evil than the useless Democrat/Republican candidate.”

This is both faulty and dangerous reasoning, and why is explained below.

At this point we all agree that the available Republican and Democrat candidates are deplorable. All pay allegiance to the same rotten status quo/System/Wall Street Establishment/power elite or whatever else you want to call it.

“But,” so Democrat voters have mistakenly reasoned for the last several elections, “if the choice is between a Democrat bandit who will support Obamacare and a Republican bandit who wants to take it away, clearly I should vote for the former as the lesser of two evils.” And vice versa for Republican voters.

The logical error is twofold:  (1) in supposing that there are only two choices; and (2) in failing to take a long-term perspective in the calculation of harms and benefits.

One has the option to vote for neither the Republican nor Democrat bandit.  If a third-party or independent candidate is offered, then at the very least voting for that candidate will serve to protest against the status quo. And if the candidate actually stands for something good (like no more wars!), so much the better.  Then you’ve made a positive statement of values to your fellow citizens.  They’ll see, and be more likely to vote their true preferences in future elections.  Important changes don’t happen all at once.

Look at it this way.  There are three possible scenarios for the future:

  1. People continue to vote slavishly for duopoly candidates, and Democrats win overall. Then our country faces 50 years of bad and worsening conditions due to a failing social, political and economic system.
  1. People continue to vote slavishly for duopoly candidates, and Republicans win overall. Then our country faces 50 years of bad and worsening conditions due to a failing social, political and economic system.
  1. People vote for third-party or independent candidates with good ideas. Then our country faces, say, from 4 to 8 years of bad conditions while the current bandits rule. BUT, positive change has begun. There’s hope that in 10 or 20 years third-party candidates can win seats in Congress and things will improve. Further, as voters flee the two big parties, pressure will be on Republican and Democrat politicians to come around and stop the insanity.

By considering all available options and taking a long-term perspective, the most ethical choice is to reject both mainstream candidates, and vote for a more reasonable third-party or independent candidate.

Get over the illusion that we’ll see positive change in Washington in the next few years.  It isn’t going to happen.  Use your vote, then, to produce positive change in the longer term.

And there is an immediate positive: voting on principle will make you feel much better.


Written by John Uebersax

September 22, 2014 at 9:54 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I never thought to think of the third option as an option at all. Do you really believe that the party strategists would take notice? Are their points in history or even current key person interviews that would support this claim?

    Sam Weirton

    October 11, 2014 at 3:34 pm

  2. There is another reason why voting third party actually has a substantial impact, rather than being a “wasted vote.” If an *existing* voter changes their vote from one of the two main parties to a third party, in a sense it counts as TWO votes. For example, if normally 40% vote Republican (and 60% Democrat), and 10% of people change their vote from Republican to a third party, not only is the vote for the third party increased by 10%, but the vote for Republicans would be REDUCED by 10%.

    Matthew Kaney

    November 7, 2014 at 8:09 pm

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