Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Lesser of Two Evils...not Really

I've seen more than a few folks announcing that this year's election is a direct result of voting for the lesser of two evils in the two party system.  I humbly and respectfully would like to tell you that you are completely wrong. These two candidates are something of an anomaly in the trustworthy and truthful polls, but they are not a result of voting for the lesser of two evils for generations. By the way, the Lesser of Two Evils argument is a classic logical fallacy. It is also used in virtually every election. It's not new.

The problem with this belief is a simple one. History. No president's legacy is clear, according to one historian. It is really not clear until at least 50 years after their presidency. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Gordon Wood, “It’s a fool’s errand you’re involved in. We live in a fog, and historians decades from now will tell their society what was happening in 2014. But we don’t know the future. No one in 1952, for example, could have predicted the reputation of Truman a half-century or so later.”  There have been elections where we have voted for the least, the most, and just the average. We voted for. We voted against. We voted. We did not know that Reagan would become a myth for Republicans or that Jimmy Carter would become far more influential after his presidency than when he was president. We did not know that John Kennedy would become a legend in his own right or that Texan and southerner Lyndon Johnson's legacy would include civil rights or that Nixon, who won by a landslide, would become "Crooked" or "Tricky" Dick Nixon and be forced from office.  We didn't know that Bill Clinton would oversee one of the most prosperous economic times in US history while dealing with his own scandal.  We did not know that George W. Bush would face 9-11 or would become president even though he lost the popular vote.

We vote for. We vote against. I've voted for Independent candidates, for Republicans, and for Democrats. I've voted against Republicans and Democrats. I've voted for candidates that have won and for candidates that have lost.  I have, however, never voted for a candidate simply because they belong to a particular party. That would be possibly the worst reason to vote for a candidate. To say, however, that this, the most acrimonious election in memory is a result of constantly having to choose the lesser of candidates is both logically and historically incorrect.

In my lifetime from birth to now there have been strong, weak, crooked, legendary, good, and bad presidents.  They have, in short, been human.  I was born during Eisenhower, who was followed by Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama.  I am sure you may have heard of a few of them.  But these men, are not a result of choosing the lowest common denominator.

Their elections were results of smart
campaigns, the presence of spoiler candidates, a dislike for the president they followed, or a host of other reasons. Some were elected twice, some were elected once, one was forced from office, one was never elected, one died, one chose not to run a second time. Some won the office by a lot, some won by a little. Some were hated while they were president and some were loved.  Some had congresses who were willing to work with them, some had congresses that wouldn't. Some were considered weak when they were in office and discovered to be right after they left office, and some were considered to be smart while in office and not so smart after.  Some were turned into mythical figures.  Very few of them got through the office without being surrounded by controversy and all of them who survived the office looked much more aged by the time they left the office.

Only one president was unanimously elected, George Washington.  He was also the only one who had no party affiliation. No, we did not always have Republicans and Democrats. No, Republicans were not always the Conservative party. No, Democrats were not always the Liberal party.  Harry Truman was supposed to lose. Few knew that Kennedy suffered from extraordinary back pain and Franklin Roosevelt took great pains not to be seen in his wheelchair, but it is also a myth that it was kept secret. He actually used his disability to his advantage.  Grover Clevland had surgery on a boat to prevent the press from learning of a cancerous growth that needed to be removed. In fact, presidents have gone to great lengths to avoid appearing ill or weak.  Even Ronald Reagan Junior says he believes that his father was beginning to show signs of his Alzheimer's disease while still in office. Lincoln, yes Lincoln, was a hated president while he was in office.

While we do not know what Obama's legacy will bring, certainly as the first African-American president, he will have a mark in history, just as Hillary Clinton will be remembered as the first woman to run for president for one of the major parties. While we have not always been Democrats and Republicans, we have always been pretty much a two-party system, but the Founders actually hated political parties, but I am sure they realized they were a necessary evil. The actual truth is, that with the exception of Washington who ran unopposed, presidential politics have always been pretty vicious. They did not include political parties in the Constitution. It wasn't because they didn't think about them. If they had truly only wanted a two-party system, do you think we would have Libertarians and Green and Socialists and a whole slew of other parties on the ballot? The Republicans would have never existed, nor the current Democratic party.  The Federalists and the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans would still be in vogue.

No, history just doesn't bear out why we have Trump and Hillary as our candidates. It is not from years of voting for the lesser of two evils. Logic and history, simply makes this argument truly false. You'll need a better argument.