The Lesser of Two Evils Fallacy

Written by Carl Peterson   
Tuesday, 25 August 2020 07:44

The plan now is to bring all focus to bear on winning this election, because, it is said, nothing is more important than getting rid of this presidential danger to the American democracy and to American lives--in fact, this American presidential danger to the planet.  Because, as we have discovered, American presidents, contrary to the hopes of many of the Framers of the Constitution, can be quite dangerous to the American democracy and to the American people, and to the planet, despite the protective so-called checks and balances built into the American political system.  

It turns out that the American political system requires some modicum of honor and good citizenship in its elected officials; in the individuals constituting the hierarchies of the two main political parties; in the justices on the Supreme Court, and in the individuals constituting our mainstream media, to prevent the American system from becoming unbalanced, from accruing too much unchecked power in its oligarchy and/or in any one or more of the three branches granted political power by the Constitution.  

Presently, we see a plutocracy unchecked by either major party (both underfunded in honor and good citizenship) in its longtime, patient and ever more effective efforts to destroy the American democracy.  We see a mainstream media purporting to tell the truth about reality, but that yet seems to prefer not to analyze and truthfully discuss the dominant political power of the .1%.  Bernie and Elizabeth have spoken publicly about the destructive political power of the politically active and well-organized superwealthy (Bernie has even mentioned Koch by name at least several times.) But the corporate media prefers not to treat that issue seriously, prominently and in depth.  The corporate media seems to have acknowledged to itself that it cannot, as it would prefer to do, completely ignore the political activities of, for example, the Koch network, but it has agreed within itself that it will not investigate or report these activities in a way that will raise the issue to the surface of American political consciousness and give it a prominence appropriate to the danger it poses to American democracy.

Presently we see a crudely transactional president directed by the plutocracy in most of his substantive political policy endeavors, to which his sole contribution appears to be signing where he is told to sign.  The president is unchecked by the Senate, which, if its Senators had even that modicum of honor and good citizenship that allowed America’s democracy to more or less survive for 240 years, would have three years ago at the latest sent signals of credible, serious warning to the president.  But, none to date.  

The guardrails laid down by the Constitution and maintained for over 240 years continue to hold in many cases, but every new test warps and twists them more.  No one is coming out to repair, let alone reinforce the guardrails.  Many guardrails are still there but they need more human guardians to keep them there, to keep what is left of the American democracy from going right over the edge.  

The plan of the Democratic Party (DP) is to pull out all the stops to win this presidential election, characterized now as the most important election of our lifetimes, because, it is said, the fate of the nation depends on it.  For once, there is not much exaggeration in that claim.  

Nevertheless the DP has placed Democratic and progressive voters once again in the position of having to choose between voting for the worst president in history (George W. Bush in 2004) and now, an even worse worst president in history, the RP candidate Trump in 2020,) and a Democratic candidate only marginally less committed than the RP to the interests of the plutocratic oligarchy.  This is now a perennial situation.  It is in part the work of a profoundly duplicitous DP, deceiving and betraying its own voters, and no longer even attempting to engage with Republican voters.  There are a lot of reasons why Americans are so polarized, but one of those reasons is that neither party even attempts to engage voters (deplorables?) in the other party.  In fact, neither party ever speaks candidly to its own voters, because both parties are committed to their superwealthy political masters (with whom they must have candid interactions) who in turn have a long-term, implacable and relentless commitment to policies harmful to American democracy and to the human beings living in the United States.  If you are still counting on the DP to do the right thing and save you from the bad guys on the other side, you have not yet had your moment, like the one in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where among the milling crowd of pod people you at last find someone you love and know you can trust, only to realize then the worst betrayal of all.  

The DP knows how to chop off the heads of its most feared enemies, progressives.  Yes, it does play hardball against progressives, because there have been no ground rules established by an enforcing power to constrain it from taking the most efficient means available to dispatch these mortal enemies, who seem to trigger genuine fear and hatred in the individuals constituting the DP hierarchy.  Progressives after all come from outside the establishment con game and therefore present a bona fide threat to everything the individuals in the DP hierarchy hold dearest: career, money, power, prestige, and the gratifying self-identity these factors make possible, that is, everything they have lived their adult lives for.  If you had lived your life as an operative in the DP hierarchy you too would loathe progressives, and you would not be so concerned about your twins, individuals constituting the RP hierarchy, like yourself an integral part of the historically duplicitous con game both party hierarchies are playing against the American people on behalf of the American oligarchy of superwealth.  

It is completely understandable why James Carville squalled like a red-faced baby in a stroller when the early primary results seemed to be saying that Bernie’s moment was finally at hand.  Poor baby James must have been seeing his own life pass before his eyes, not suffering, as progessive-minded Americans have been for decades, from watching the American democracy die from a thousand cuts administered by the likes of the Koch network, the Supreme Court, and the two major parties.  You could hear the disconnect in Carville’s brain: elections are about winning, because winning elections is about getting power (It’s about power, stupid.)...then a click and silence.  Although the rest of the saying used to go, “Because getting power is about enacting policy to benefit the American people,” truthfully discussing DP policy achievements of the last half century could only lead to an inquiry deeply embarrassing to James Carville and the DP hierarchy.  

The Lesser of Two Evils Trap

Allegedly there is controversy about whether progressives ought to vote for Biden on November 3, 2020, but it seems that this controversy might have been largely fabricated by the DNC and promoted by the corporate media to maintain the onus on progressives of proving that they are mature, not treacherous, and worthy of their assignment to the least-preferred corner of the DP.  Progressives did not cost Hillary Clinton the election in 2016, and are unlikely this November to abstain or vote in a way that will harm Biden’s chances.  Once again, it will be the DNC and the DNC’s candidate who will determine whether the DP can defeat a worst president in history in his reelection bid.  

With any luck, this will be the last time the DNC will milk the Lesser of Two Evils ploy, (also known as the Better of Two Bad Options ploy, or the Good Cop/Bad Cop ploy) for all it is worth.  The logic of the Lesser of Two Evils rationale is sound only in the short run--in the long run it is fallacious, and a trap that has led Democratic voters to unwittingly validate a political system that year by year is closing in on them.  Ideally, the Lesser of Two Evils rationale is for one-time use when an unforeseen predicament arises allowing for no completely satisfactory response, and just two possible responses, one of which appears to be less unsatisfactory than the other.  It does makes sense in the short run to choose the least bad of two bad options, but what should have been obvious all along, is that if over the decades Democratic and progressive voters are repeatedly confronted at the polls with the Lesser of Two Evils dilemma, then the system for selecting Democratic presidential candidates is systemically unlikely to produce results satisfactory to Democrats and progressives.  The presidential candidate selection process overseen by the DNC is not answering the needs of Democratic and progressive voters.  

If this year Joe Biden because of his mental liabilities and his attachment to the values of the plutocratic oligarchy is not a satisfactory Democratic presidential candidate, he is nevertheless from the points of view of Democratic and progressive voters the Lesser of Two Evils and they will vote for him in 2020.  Biden is an unsatisfactory candidate, but he does meet the minimal standard of being not as bad as the other candidate, who in his first term has already proved to be the worst president in American history.  In 2020, Biden meets the requirements necessary to win the title of The Lesser of two Evils.

But why, if the Lesser of Two Evils rationale makes sense on an emergency one-off basis, does its logic become more and more fallacious from the point of view of progressivism as it is applied over and over again to the quadrennial results of the DNC presidential candidate selection processes?  It is because there are actually three “evils” in play, not just the acknowledged dual evils of two lousy major party candidates vying for the highest office in the land.  The third evil from the progressive perspective is the DNC presidential candidate selection process that every four years produces a candidate reliably more or less satisfactory to the American oligarchy of superwealth, but on the other hand reliably highly unsatisfactory to progressives, and to a somewhat lesser degree, Democratic voters.  As long as the two major parties consistently produce presidential candidates who will cater to the desires of the oligarchy at the expense of the great mass of Americans, progressive voters will be faced with what has been identified as the Lesser of Two Evils dilemma.  But let’s be clear.  When progressives vote for Joe Biden this November, that vote will tend to support, validate and perpetuate the third evil–the DNC’s selection process for Democratic presidential candidates.  Progressives will be paying a double price: voting for a candidate who is unlikely to seriously pursue progressive goals once in office, and rewarding, reinforcing and perpetuating the DNC by once again supporting its lame candidate--while getting little in return.  At this point the calculus is not of the lesser of two evils, but of the combined evil of two evils--the lame Democratic presidential candidate plus the DNC’s (in combination with the corporate media) rigged and undemocratic presidential candidate selection process--compared to the evil of the Republican presidential candidate.  Given that the DNC is likely to continue to quadrennially produce Democratic presidential candidates acceptable to the anti-democratic American oligarchy of wealth but unacceptable to progressives, while the Republican presidential candidate selection process is not unlikely to produce a Republican candidate in the not-so-distant future who is even more dangerous to the American democracy than Donald Trump, the evil inherent in reinforcing and rewarding the DNC as an institution is very great.  

Yet who would argue that the evil of Trump’s reelection would not be still greater than the combined evil of four years of a lame Democratic presidency (Biden/Harris or Biden or Harris)  during this dangerous and crucial period in American and world history, plus the evil of a DNC continuing unchallenged in its opposition to the welfare of its own voters?  Progressives are still left sorting out the evils, not openly pursuing the good.

The DNC loathes progressives.  This is unlikely to change unless and until progressives are well-represented on the DNC.  Bernie Sanders is the leader of the progressive movement, he has earned that leadership.  He says to vote for Biden, probably as part of a continuing plan to change the Democratic party without destroying what little capacity it has for doing good.  The evils are everywhere in the current landscape, but it is not a simple matter of determining that Joe Biden represents a lesser evil than Donald Trump.  Voting once again to support the DNC’s candidate and by extension the DNC itself is very dangerous because it could have repercussions that echo far into the future.  America has let its problems fester for so long that time might be running out.

Not voting for Joe Biden is an incalculable risk.  Progressives seem to have a plan now.  The first part is to support the Democratic candidate in every way they can.  The second part, to be executed immediately after the election no matter who wins, should be to really take the gloves off and aggressively, relentlessly and implacably push the DNC toward progressivism.  There has to be a power struggle within the Democratic party to begin to make things right.  If and when there is, that is a good sign.  You can safely ignore those Democratic heroes of the past who talk about “circular firing squads” and whose reputations are staked on Americans not understanding how badly the Democratic party has failed America. your social media marketing partner
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