Election 2012: The Fallacy of the Lesser of Two Evils Principle

“It is a paradox that far too few Americans participate in the wonderful ritual of democracy that we call Election Day.” ~Brad Henry

Often times during the presidential election there is a large number of people who are discouraged from voting because they don’t want to merely pick between the lesser of two evils. The problem with this mentality is it simplifies the difference between the candidates. Furthermore, it fails to give them the true credit they deserve as contenders for the highest office in this country. Not to mention the fact these sentiments carry from election to election, no matter who the candidates are. The upcoming election is not simply a choice between two evils, but a referendum on two very different visions for this country.

One on hand, you have Barack Obama who represents a political philosophy that sees government as a vessel for creating opportunity for all economic classes. Something that can be seen in the signature legislation of his first term as president, Obamacare. Despite what some on the Right will tell you, this law is not an attempt by the government to take over the entire healthcare system and use it to bring on an apocalyptic future where the government decides when you die. Rather it is meant as a safeguard for the millions of citizens who were barred from getting healthcare due to holes in our legal system that allowed health insurance providers to deny coverage to those who needed it the most. In addition, it expands affordable healthcare to many others thanks to a wide variety of other provisions.

The same can be seen in his economic and domestic philosophy. Rather than continue to fund tax cuts for a narrow subsection of society, Obama supports eliminating these unnecessary taxes and using that money to offer tax relief to the much larger middle class. In addition, he favors an economic policy that would spend government money on things like infrastructure and research. Areas that would not only stimulate the economy, but would also go a long way in improving the everyday lives of many Americans. Not to mention the massive amount of benefits the private sector experiences from investment in these key areas. In a nutshell, the philosophy of our current president and Democratic candidate for the office is one that believes government is central to the prosperity of American society.

On the other hand, we have Mitt Romney who believes the role of government is limited and that it should do everything it can to stay out of the economy. We see this most prevalent in his tax philosophy. Barring his etch-a-sketch performance at the first presidential debate, it has been clear throughout the campaign that Romney favors maintaining tax cuts for the richest Americans. This support is a direct result of his belief the government should do all it can to stay out-of-the-way of these “job producers.” Even if this comes at the expense of many social welfare programs.

Another definitive way Romney differs from Obama is his fixation on the deficit and how he thinks it should be dealt with. While Obama believes we should use a balanced combination of tax increases for the wealthiest Americans and responsible cuts, Romney believes in shrinking the size of government as much as possible, while simultaneously cutting taxes for the rich (and the middle class if you believe his pivot at the recent presidential debate). However, he focuses primarily on domestic programs like social security and medicare (see The Path to Prosperity), while simultaneously increasing military expenditures. Unfortunately, many people believe (your neighborhood political ninja included) the math simply does not add up when it comes to many of these proposals. However, if you want a smaller, limited government this discrepancy may not be a problem.

While President Barack Obama an Mitt Romney have starkly different views on the role of president, writing the two off as inadequate is a disservice to America. There is a stark choice being offered this election cycle. One candidate offers a view of government as a force for economic opportunity and a safeguard for society’s more vulnerable. While the other views government as something, that should be limited as much as possible in favor of allowing the market free rein and keeping taxes low. While most people may not agree with all the nuances of these candidates, it is likely if one takes the time to analyze the candidates positions on the many important issues facing the country they will be able to find good reasons for supporting one candidate over the other.


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