US Politics

Lesser-Evil Voting Produces a Different Colour of Evil

By Joel S. Hirschhorn
Published November 08, 2006

Forget political correctness. The revolution has not arrived! Bush is still president. The corporate state is safe. The upper class has little to fear. Lobbyists will be writing different names on checks. Winning Democrats will entertain more than they will produce historic restorative reforms.

Did Republicans deserve to lose? Of course! However, Americans who thought their votes would bring much needed change to our political system also lost. They just don't know or admit it yet. As usual, the third-party movement lost, because the two-party duopoly maintained its stranglehold on our political system.

Populists and true progressives lost. Who or what was the biggest winner? The short-term and delusional tactic of lesser-evil voting won big.

On the liberal left, millions of anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war voters held their noses and repressed the truth about cowardly and compromised Democrats. They rationalized why beating Republicans was the most important goal. Fake, neo-progressives, little more than embarrassed Democrats, finally showed their true blue commitment.

On the right, millions of fiscal conservative, pro-life, and evangelical voters blocked out many facts, disappointments and scandals, and rationalized why keeping Republicans in power was the most important goal. They wanted to stay the course.

Many spiritual libertarians given no Libertarian Party candidates went red. Spiritual greens went blue. Many independents, centrists and moderates unable to vote for None of the Above, went lesser-evil. Self-delusion ran rampant as placebo voting ruled the day.

Mainstream media and Internet sites whipped up sports-like-beat-the-other-team enthusiasm masquerading as civic responsibility and patriotism. Political pundits, negative ads, and bloggers kept us entertained. The recipients of some $2 billion spent on campaigning made out like bandits. The postal system benefited. Landfills filled up faster from all the political junk mail.

Despite all the hoopla, however, the majority of eligible voters were not motivated to vote. Do not ignore this sobering fact: It is estimated that national voter turnout was slightly over 40 percent, compared to 39.7 percent in the 2002 midterm. Two-party dominance does not bring out voters, and many Americans reject lesser-evil voting. Low voter turnout defines the opportunity for renewed new third-party efforts.

This much is clear: Voting has become more of a distraction from dealing with real problems confronting ordinary Americans than a means to solving them. Voting should mean more than helping your side win. When it only comes down to defeating one party so that the other one wins, lesser-evil voting produces a different colour of evil.

Two-party partisan change is not about attacking the status quo; it is about preserving the worst status quo of all: two-party control. Transferring power between the two major parties creates the dangerous illusion that our democracy works. The winner gets more money from corporate interests and their turn at pork spending, easier corrupt behavior and self-serving legislation.

Visualize this: Over decades our democracy has been sliding down a cheese grater. Stopping the slide and putting the pieces back together will require a mighty effort. Our wicked, unjust economy now uses consumer spending to destroy working- and middle-class Americans, increase economic inequality, and turn us into a two-class society with upper and lower classes.

Our government is an embarrassment, justifying global hatred of the USA. With so many voters unsure that their votes on electronic devices would be accurately counted, our electoral process is a joke. Hypocrisy trumps democracy.

This year, lesser-evil voting vented considerable anger, frustration and despair over the worst presidency in our history. In their hearts, however, the majority of Americans, no matter who they voted for, know that our nation will most likely remain on the wrong track. If political dissent becomes muted, then this election has cost us dearly. If anything, we still have dissent deficit.

In a Jeffersonian sense, we the people lost this election. Our delusional democracy with its delusional prosperity has survived. Our culture of lying and corruption has prevailed. Campaign promises will now be either forgotten or converted into deception and lies. We just heard a disgraced evangelical leader admit he was a “deceiver and a liar.” Our winning and losing politicians, especially President Bush, will not make that same confession, though they should.

We should not be surprised that we have a delusional president; he suits a delusional democracy. Some do get the government they deserve, but most of us do not.

Power to the people remains a distant political goal. We now move on to the next cycle of lies and lesser-evil voting - the 2008 presidential campaign, that the Republicans are now more motivated than ever to win. Worse than not admitting the emperor has no clothes is not seeing a whole democracy without trustworthiness, accountability and credibility.

You are thinking, “What a cynic he is.” But I see it as reality based, anti-delusional thinking. I take small comfort in knowing that I am not alone. Despite being anti-Bush, I could not become an enthusiastic supporter of Democrats. After decades of lesser-evil voting I found my inner conscience and commitment to political dissent, to what I call progressive civil disobedience.

Decades of empirical evidence had shown me that neither Democrats nor Republicans would ever deliver quality to our democracy and justice to our economy. Yes, I went and voted, for third-party candidates that were uniformly more qualified than the major party candidates, and on ballot measures. I asked for a paper ballot, but was told it was not an option.

Long live delusion. May it protect the millions of Americans without good paying jobs or job security, without health insurance, without confidence that they will be able to keep paying their mortgages and credit card debt, without hope that global warming will be effectively addressed, without confidence that social security will be there when they need it; and without hope that their children will have a better, higher quality of life than theirs. And surely few believe that political corruption and scandals are now gone. If all politics are local, so is all corruption.

Lesser-evil voting has brought us here, to a lesser-quality democracy with a lesser-quality government, lesser-quality economy, lesser-quality health care system, and lesser-quality education system.

Under two-party rule, we have arrived at the sorry state where nearly 75 percent of Americans believe the nation faces a leadership crisis, according to a new survey. It also found evidence of an epidemic of self-delusion. People think that among the top 32 industrialized nations the U.S. ranks 10th for citizens' life expectancy, when it really ranks 24th; that is ranks 15th for economic equality and mathematics literacy, when it actually ranks 30th and 25th, respectively. Being the only superpower is one thing. Being the best democracy is something else entirely.

Despite widespread delusion, pain seeps through. So the pharmaceutical industry will make bigger profits from even greater demand for anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and new anti-obesity drugs. Shopping, eating, Internet surfing, pornography and gambling will keep feeding distraction.

The rich and super-rich will keep finding ways to spend their super-sized wealth, and avoid taxes. American soldiers will keep dying in senseless wars. Globalization, pushed by sycophants like Tom Friedman (who lives in a $9 million house), will keep sucking the lifeblood out of our nation, as will hoards of illegal immigrants. Americans have no nearby richer country to flee to, so we must numb our pain.

Long live delusion. Our new congress will surely keep us entertained. Behind the scenes lobbyists will create new, less visible ways to corrupt our elected mis-representatives. There will be much talk about our lame duck president, but not about our lame duck democracy.

Tell me, to begin a Second American Revolution, when will millions of clear-minded dissenters unite behind a new centrist or populist party and take back our nation?

You will decide, through attention or distraction, through truth or delusion, through action or passivity.

Let us not forget that a majority of Americans did not speak with their votes. They rejected both Democrats and Republicans. That only 40 percent bothered to vote, especially this year, shames our nation and confirms that we have a delusional democracy.

And remember this wisdom: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Our behind-the-scenes Ruling Class remains; they will now speed dial more Democrats.

Joel S. Hirschhorn, Ph.D., is the author of Sprawl Kills - How Blandburbs Steal Your Time, Health, and Money. He can be reached through his website: Check out Joel's new book at


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