Lesser Evils and Where to Find Them
By Doug Lawless
You may have seen this photograph before if you are the type of person who knows about things. If you haven’t seen it before, don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid.
It might mean you’re stupid, but don’t worry about it.
This is a photograph taken in February of 1945 at the Yalta Conference in the Crimea. The three, seated figures are Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin, surrounded by various members of their militaries and governments.
Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin. Important men. Consequential men.
Here in the West, we tend to celebrate the first two fellas on that list and look a little down our noses at the third guy; something about tens of millions of dead people and whatnot. In fact, relations with the third guy’s country got so bad later on that this photo and the conference have been considered controversial ever since.
A couple of months later the military power of these men’s countries would converge in a place called Germany and end the global domination and race-erasing hopes of another fella named Adolph who hadn’t been invited to be in any pictures for a while.
Yes, there was a time when the Soviet Union was on our side. We had the same goal, and it was a goal that absolutely had to be achieved. Nazi’s had stood up and needed to be smashed, as they do and should. To achieve that necessity, people with interests that mostly aligned (America and Great Britain) found that they needed to team up for a short time with people with whom they very much did not agree (the Soviet Union).
It was the right thing to do, and they did it. It had to be done.
Some people will point out that the Soviet Union was a monstrous evil that killed many millions of people. I do not disagree. My point is that it was still correct to work with them. They were the “lesser evil.”
Lesser evil. Many people have been using that concept incorrectly this election cycle. Perhaps you have heard people say that the lesser of two evils is still evil? While that may be true, it is also true in every case of comparison that a person can conceive of, and is therefore a moot point. Furthermore, it is a bastardization of the original concept. The Lesser Evil Principle states that when faced with selecting from two unpleasant options, the one which is least harmful should be chosen. The point is that one must be, one has to be, chosen. Not choosing is not part of the principle. It is simply allowing for the outcome chosen by others
Imagine for a moment a different outcome to the Second World War. Imagine that Nazi Germany had succeeded and defeated the armies allied against it. What would the final count of dead human beings have been in that case? The death camps never liberated, and new ones built instead. Why waste the effort schlepping people in rail cars all the way to Aushwitz when you can just drop them in Lyons? Or Paris?
That didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because people with conflicting agendas got together and stopped it. The United States allied with a lesser evil, as was proper. And yes, other bad things occurred after that. I’ll let you in on a little secret though: more bad is always coming. The idea that you don’t clean something because it will just get dirty again might work when it comes to your car or your room, but it’s a piss-poor way to maintain a planet.
You may have guessed by now that I’m bringing up this whole thing because of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. If so, you are correct.
In less than 24 hours from the posting of this article, people across the country will start going to the polls to cast the final votes for President of the United States. There are many candidates on the ballots all across the country, but the hard truth is that one of only two people is going to be selected tomorrow.
It will either be Hillary Clinton, or it will be Donald Trump.
And that’s it. Yes, there are other candidates, including Gary Johnson on the Libertarian ticket and Jill Stein for the Green party, but they will not win. They will not come close, or even come close to coming close. This is a certainty. This is a fact of reality.
In poker theory, people sometimes use computer programs that will run hypothetical poker hands hundreds of thousands or even millions of times in order to understand the odds. This gives a good idea of how often any particular hand can be expected to win in any given situation. If that could be done in this election, and the four top tickets could be calculated like poker hands given all of the known data for this specific contest, we would see a completely expected outcome. It would look like this:
The Democratic would win most of the time.
The Republican would win less of the time.
The Libertarian would not win even one time.
The Green would not win even one time.
I don’t care how you set it. Set it to one billion attempts. The numbers simply do not exist for any other outcomes to occur. If they did, we would know already. Unless you believe that magic will cause some sort of massive, last minute change of heart and mind in millions upon millions of people, that is what will happen.
My calculations don’t take magic into effect. None do.
If you disagree with me on this point, I’ll help you out. You should point out that I did not actually do any calculations beyond just creating an imaginary scenario in my brain and writing it down. Because that is what I did.
Not that it matters, though. I’m right. If you honestly believe that I’m wrong and that the Libertarians or Greens have a chance of winning tomorrow, there is something profoundly flawed with your ability to reason. It surprises me that there are people that can think that way, but it also surprises me whenever some cult commits mass suicide over some bullshit thing they believe. Some people are just wrong.
So yeah, mass suicide. That too. Add it to genocide and we’ve got a real list going.
The main reason that a significant number of people will be voting for a third (or fourth) party candidate tomorrow is to protest the two choices at the top. Yes, some of those numbers will be voting with the idea of moving their party forward for better future results, but I agree with The Stranger’s Dan Savage on that issue:
The protest voters who would otherwise be supporting the Democratic Party candidate, but who have such negative feelings about Hillary Clinton that they feel they cannot, are the people this whole piece is for. If that’s you, then I’m talking to you. And here’s what I want to ask you:
Ever see the movie PATTON?
1970. George C. Scott. Won the best picture Oscar in 1971. That one.
There’s a scene at the end where some reporters are talking to Patton while he rides around on a horse. I’ll paraphrase:
“Did you say that if your army was between the Germans and the Russians, you’d attack in both directions?”
“No, but I wish that I had.”
It’s a fun scene, and plays for a smile, but it’s bullshit. Patton fought the war he had to fight in order to defeat the enemy that needed to be defeated. The Russians were a key part of that offensive, and Patton fought the battle with their help, despite the fact that he could see the problem they would become later.
There’s another great scene in the movie, after the fall of Berlin, where Patton is asked to share a drink with a Russian general. He makes an interpreter tell the general that he does not wish to share a drink with any Russian son-of-a-bitch. After the general in question insults Patton back, he laughs and says he’ll drink to that.
Here’s that scene:
Take a look at Patton’s eyes while he’s drinking. He never takes them off the Russian. Total suspicion. He’d rather be trading actual shots with this man in some bombed out street than pretending like this for the sake of politics, but he does it anyway.
That’s what I hope every person on the left who opposes the racist and insane rhetoric of Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters does tomorrow at the polls. Vote for the one candidate in this race who can beat him.
I’m not asking this because I want Hillary to win. Hillary Clinton winning and becoming the President is entirely beside the point. Like the Russians in the Patton example above, you may feel that she is an enemy that must also be addressed, and you may well be correct. I am not asking you to support President Clinton, I am asking you to support candidate Clinton so that she becomes the President. This is an important distinction, and I have reasons for it.
First off, whichever candidate wins, the United States will still be a wildly flawed country full of inequality, greed, and corporate domination. Nobody is going to fix that any time soon. Probably not in our lifetimes. Key gains in the struggle to a better and fairer society have been made in our lifetimes, however. Specifically, the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and women’s rights have been advanced. The election of Clinton will not threaten those rights. The election of Donald Trump will. That is not my opinion; it is the position of his political party. They must be opposed, and they must lose, in order to protect the advances that have been made.
Secondly, actual Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen are supporting Donald Trump out loud and in full view. He is the highest and most obvious example of the evil intolerance that infects the festering wounds of our country. Never before in your life have you had an opportunity to cast a vote that repudiates racist ignorance like you have in this election. That vote is not cast by simply not voting for him. That vote is cast by voting for the person who can actually beat him. You don’t beat Nazi Germany by attacking one of the armies that is attacking with you. You ally with that army and destroy Nazi Germany.
Donald Trump might as well be Hitler. His followers might as well be Brownshirts. I don’t care about Godwin’s stupid law. I don’t think it applies when the person in question is an actual Nazi rather than a figurative one. And actual Nazis like the familiar sounds coming from Trump’s mouth and rallies.
I don’t want you to vote so that Clinton will win.
I want you to vote for Clinton so that Donald Trump will lose.
I want him to lose in a landslide. I want there to be no doubt that he was opposed and defeated.
You have one shot in your rifle. Just one. It won’t win the war on its own, but when combined with the shots of millions of others, it can help. Fire your shot at the enemy. Voting third party is the same as firing your shot in the air. Don’t throw away your shot. Use it on Trump by voting for Clinton. That’s the way.
Afterwards, we may need to find some figurative Marshall Plan for the millions of people in this country who were duped into believing that hate and fear and intolerance were the proper way to use their shots, both figurative and literal. That will be a challenge, but far less than the challenge we will face if we allow those people and those ideas to win.
You have a rare chance tomorrow to oppose the worst parts of our society. Do it.
I won’t ask you to share a drink afterwards.
For the protest voters who would otherwise be voting for the Republican Party candidate but know that Donald Trump is a nightmare who must be resisted, I say thank you for doing what so many people on the left have said they are unwilling to do.
The right thing.