The Lesser Evil: Yes, Hillary Clinton is more Hawk than Dove when it comes to US foreign and defence policy. And, yes, like so many “mainstream” Democrats, she is not above taking donations from her friends in Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. But what she is not, is a bloated, foul-mouthed racist and misogynist, who, facing imminent defeat, is preparing, like some narcissistic parody of Samson, to pull down the temple of American democracy upon the heads of its fractious citizens.
THE CLAIM that “voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil” raises as many difficulties as it resolves. If we accept that society’s most intractable problems are a reflection of its most serious imperfections, then, surely, we must also accept that imperfect solutions are the best we can hope for? If the only choice presented to us is between inflicting less – or more – harm upon the world, then, surely, the only way for us to do any good is by deciding to do the least evil?
Simply refusing to choose between the greater and the lesser evil does not get us off the hook – not if our desire is to do the most good we can, whenever we can. If that is not our desire, then fine – we can just shrug our shoulders and walk away.
But, presumably, the very fact that we find choosing between (in this case) Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton so frustrating is because we have a vision of the United States that neither candidate is willing to fulfil completely. Like progressive activists all around the world, we want a socially-just, ecologically-sustainable and peace-making America. How likely are we to see that America, however, if the best advice we can offer our American comrades is to simply throw up their hands in exasperation and cry “A plague on both your houses!”?
Yes, you could argue that given the evident corruption of the Republican and Democratic parties, the best way to do good is to encourage American progressives to build a new political party. And you might be right – but it doesn’t solve the problem of what to do now. A genuinely progressive and thoroughly organised third party is not going to be on the ballot-paper on 8 November!
Then, again, you might say that voting for one of the minor party candidates is the best way of doing good. Except that, as John Oliver’s latest Last Week Tonight show so brilliantly demonstrates, the Libertarian’s Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein are complete flakes, whose grasp of what the US President can and cannot do is as woefully inadequate as Trump’s.
Nor will it do to simply declare that since New Zealanders don’t get to vote in the 2016 US Presidential Election, the choice between Trump and Clinton is one we can, mercifully, avoid. But, if we take it upon ourselves to judge and condemn these candidates (and boy do left-wing Kiwis love to judge and condemn these candidates!) then it seems entirely gutless to refuse to make the imaginative leap into an American polling-booth and choose.
Not that the choice is all that difficult – not really.
Yes, Hillary Clinton is more Hawk than Dove when it comes to US foreign and defence policy. And, yes, like so many “mainstream” Democrats, she is not above taking donations from her friends in Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. But what she is not, is a bloated, foul-mouthed racist and misogynist, who, thwarted in his grandiose ambitions (quite possibly for the first time in his entire life) and facing imminent defeat, is preparing, like some narcissistic parody of Samson, to pull down the temple of American democracy upon the heads of its fractious citizens.
The socially-just, ecologically-sustainable and peace-making America we are all hoping for is unlikely to be fully realised under President Hillary Clinton, but a great deal more of it will be brought into existence under her leadership than under Donald Trump’s.
In an imperfect world, the imperfect solution is to vote for the least-worst presidential candidate. For the greater good, American progressives are morally obliged to choose the lesser evil – Hillary Clinton.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 19 October 2016.