Advice from inside the guild: Let’s start by stating the obvious. Back in November 2000, people had every right to vote for Candidate Nader.
We didn’t vote for Candidate Nader, whose lifetime of work we admire. But other people have every right to vote for whoever they like.
That said, let’s return to a basic set of questions:
Was Candidate Gore really “the lesser of two evils” among that year’s major party nominees? To use the Nader campaign’s formulation, would we still have “ended up with evil” if Gore had reached the White House?
Under that formulation, Candidate Gore and Candidate Bush were both “evil.” We think that was a silly formulation in itself. But here’s the problem:
Bush, the greater of the evils, took us to a disastrous war. Gore, the lesser of the evils, argued against that ill-advised war, then won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change.
In short, the lesser “evil” can sometimes be a whole lot better than the greater! Unless you don’t care about all the people who died in that ill-advised war.
As our endless campaign unfolds, we’re already seeing a lot of talk about “evil” candidates. As a general matter, that kind of talk tends to strike us as silly, and perhaps drenched in self-involvement.
(No one’s good enough for us! If a candidate isn’t perfect, we’ll denounce him or her as evil!)
You may not agree with us on these points. But yesterday, we read a comment to Frank Bruni’s column which struck us as deeply unwise.
The commenter plans to vote for Bernie Sanders. We like Sanders’ politics too, but we think this comment is very poorly reasoned:
COMMENTER FROM NORTH CAROLINA (6/7/15): I'm a progressive, and I'll start with that. However, until we get over this unending “Vote for the least bad” funk we're, we're going nowhere but down. I am currently re-watching the PBS Ken Burns series The Roosevelts, and it drives home the reality of the dire straits the nation is now in. I have reached the point where I realize that the only way the nation is going to turn to more progressive policies, and develop the courage to truly deal with what ails us—the obscene degree of money-tainted politics and the DC-Wall Street revolving door—we must first hit rock bottom. What does it matter if the Supreme Court narrowly upholds personal rights if the rest of government is in the pocket of the wealthy? That's an exchange they are more than willing to make. The Great Depression was required to set the stage for FDR, and we're there again. I will not vote for Clinton, if she is in fact the nominee, but will either stay home or write in Sanders. This situation must change, and if we cannot summon the will to do so now, and once again acquiesce to vote for the least bad alternative, it may prove too late. The world is in the process of leaving my beloved nation in the dustbin of history, at least until climate change does the entire planet in. Wake up, America.Obviously, the commenter will be free to vote in whatever way he thinks best. That said, we think he’s following the “lesser of two evils” thinking to a point of absurdity, thanks to some magical thinking.
Would eight years of President Walker take us to a state of “rock bottom?” From that state, would that nation somehow rebound?
Plainly, that strikes us as magical thinking. But this is where an insistence on purity in voting will sometimes lead.
Here’s the worst thing about that comment:
Bruni latest hate-drenched column attracted 672 comments. The New York Times singled out only twelve as official “New York Times Picks.”
That “vote for Candidate Walker” comment was one of the twelve the Times selected! The comment wasn’t recommended by a huge number of readers. But someone inside the New York Times liked the conclusion it reached.
Vote for Walker, not for Clinton! Way back when, this is the way the New York Times helped us get eight years of Bush!