Lesser Evilism

November 12, 2012

Apropos the US election, I’ve been discussing the ‘lesser evil’ argument for voting Dem with various folks. I’m not a US citizen, and can’t vote there. Still, had I been in the US I’d have voted for Obama, on the well-worn grounds that he is the ‘lesser evil’. A lot of folks in more ‘radical’ left spaces (whatever that means) are critical of this ‘lesser evil’ approach, though. On twitter yesterday (in conversation with @Avanworden) I listed a typology of critiques of ‘lesser evilism’ – I thought I’d post it here for archiving purposes.

Arguments against lesser evilism:

1) Both sides are the same in all important respects. [I think this is usually false – certainly it’s false re: the Dems and the GOP.]

2) Victory for the greater evil will foster discontent, and this will result in better outcomes in the longer term. [I think this is usually false, and also a pretty unethical strategy if true.]

3) Simple ethical objection – I can’t vote for these monsters. [This is reasonable.]

4) The more moderate party can implement reactionary policies which the far right party can’t, because the base will go along with them. [This is clearly sometimes true – e.g. the Australian Labour Party’s use of union connections to implement neoliberal policies.]

5) The base needs to be able to walk away if they’re not to be taken for granted – i.e. if they’re to have any impact at all. [True.]