The Lesser of Two Evils
“I am voting for ‘the lesser of two evils.’” A most popular argument for many. These voters recognize, they claim, that the differences between our candidates, say a Bernie Sanders and a Hillary Clinton or even the latter and Ted Cruz, are not as stark as their similarities, that they are all “evil.” These voters might even recognize that this argument reveals the corrupt character of our political order. So it seems like a respectable argument, promoting respectable behavior.
But leaving aside, momentarily, this argument, what kind of experience is it, does it reveal? It is not an experience shared by our politicians themselves, who never say, “I am [the lesser] evil. Vote for me!” So perhaps it is not a political experience at all. That is, it is an experience that makes it possible, even legitimate, not to judge our politicians and their political choices, but merely to accept them. But we accept them not as evil at all but as realistic, acceptable, and even ultimately as legitimate or good. “The lesser of two evils” argument allows people to experience evil as good.
And this is why those who make this argument, who experience this choice, don’t speak of their choice as evil. Just like our politicians, these people don’t say: “I am choosing to vote for evil.” As if it were part of a magic show, a choice for evil becomes, with the wave of a wand, a choice to vote for good. And, thus, a most amazing transformation takes place: A political order that offers us only evils to choose between becomes a political order that promotes, allows us to choose only good. Hence, there is no need to re-arrange our political arrangements; there is no need to re-order our political order. As a common saying these days has it: “It is all good.”
Ah, but here’s the rub: What if our choices, our only options are evil? If so, then we are in “a jackpot.” But not only are we in a jackpot; we don’t even know, really know we are in it! Unlike Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned, we don’t know we are fiddling or even that “Rome” is burning. Such a situation will not, cannot end well.