Consider for a moment what the real differences are between the two major presidential candidates, ignoring for the moment their personalities and underlying character, and just what they represent politically. That can be difficult given that Trump is such a narcissistic sociopath and Biden lacking in any principle other than how to play political gamesmanship; in fact it’s not difficult, but useless as they both represent egregious authoritarianism.
By all accounts, this coming election is remarkable for a variety of reasons, perhaps the most compelling being the projected turnout. One of the highest turnouts in presidential elections was in 1860 at 81.2%, with Lincoln versus, well a host of others, the complexity of the ticket too much for this post to cover. The highest turn-out to date was in 1876 at 81.8% with Hayes versus Tilden; it was also the most contentious election so far resulting in the Compromise of 1877, with the Democrats conceding the election to Hayes in return for an end to Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South; it was a time when black lives truly didn’t matter, it was all about winning – sound familiar?
Given the huge turn-out so far for the 2020 election with the mail-in option, the likelihood that the count will be more difficult to execute is a given, which will substantially delay the results, and will only add to the contentiousness. Another factor will be Trump’s apparent refusal to unequivocally accept the results should he loose, posing an existential threat to the constitutional imperative regarding the civil transfer of power.
We also have issues with the contentious environment of a pandemic, rioting, vandalism, economic suppression, unemployment, runaway debt, trade wars, seemingly endless military interventionism, cultural tribalism, scandal and investigations, all adding to a polarization obviating civil discourse and creating violent conflicts, and all during an election year; yet all we are offered is the lesser of two evils.
However, the most telling issue, especially considering the turn-out projections, is the lack of belief in the candidates. True, there are zealots for both Trump and Biden, but the apparent environment is one of acceptance of a choice of the lesser of two evils. If belief means trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something, it is sorely lacking in this election. On the Democratic side, we have a sad lost soul who seems to be influenced by whomever he last spoke to, and on the Republican side a delusional snake oil salesman whose only principle is to do and get whatever he wants at any cost, and always with other people’s money.
The American voters should not look at this situation and believe they are obligated in any way to choose the lesser of two evils; they should vote for someone else or abstain. Either will provide them the dignity of avoiding giving their consent for one of these two clowns to disgrace the office of the President of the United States any further. Yes, one will win anyway, but we should show some level of self-esteem and respect for our right to vote by not supporting either.
Then we have all the noise about election meddling by Russia, but Russia has always meddled with foreign elections, and has been doing what they call “active measures” for centuries and are very good at it. Social media is just the current tool at their disposal, and what they grasp, even more than current democratic societies do, is that ideas, true or false, when disseminated among the intellectually weak are more powerful than guns; it does not matter to them who wins an election as the distrust of the process is more important than the results.
Neither should we be fooled by doctrinal claims, like Trump espousing capitalism. As Justin Amash observed “For a person who claims to oppose socialism, President Trump spent a lot of time in his SOTU address touting central planning, federal intervention in nonfederal matters, and a big-government spending spree—policies that threaten our rights and undermine our long-term prosperity.” Nor should we be fooled by Biden’s proposed policies as anything more than socialist tax and spend programs with almost heart felt pleads about equality mean he has our liberty in mind.
It is a certainty that one of these two pretenders will be elected, but the reality is that a choice between the lesser of two evils is still evil. True liberty does not mean equality but free will; while that can be chaotic, you either accept that or accept authoritarianism. Trump and Biden are simply two sides of the same counterfeit coin, just different personas. The situation of having to choose between the two reminds me of what F.A. Harper said in 1949 regarding liberty that “It is of little importance whether a dictator gained his power by accident of birth, by force, or by the vote of the people.”
As to which alternative is better, i.e. voting for someone else or abstaining, it depends on what your political convictions are. If you want to vote third party, there are fourteen such candidates on presidential ballots, one with access to all electoral votes, some with half, some with just a few, but you have a wide range to choose from; also consider what message a third party vote will send depending on which of the two major candidate suffers the most in lost votes that were cast for others.
If you want to express your displeasure with a process that provides for only two likely contenders as a choice of the lesser of two evils, then abstain; remember, voting is not an obligation but a right, and also a message, and abstaining is still a message that you reject the premise of choosing the lesser of two evils.
It’s also important to note that no third party was allowed to participate in the debates on the pretext of meaningless qualification requirements, and more likely out of concern that the debates could actually provide meaningful content. The Commission on Presidential Debates is jointly sponsored by the Democratic and Republican political parties since 1987 when they took over from the League of Women Voters in a contentious coup critically denounced for its secretive “memorandum of understanding” that would decide which candidates could participate in the debates, which individuals would be panelists and what questions could be asked. The League rejected these demands and released a statement saying that it was withdrawing support for the debates because “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.” That was such a prescient statement of the obvious corruption of the vital role of debates in the electoral process, a shameful suppression of free speech that even Russian meddling would be hard put to effect.
Then there is the question that if a third party candidate were elected, could they be an effective president? The answer to that is difficult as there’s little if any chance of that happening, but if it did, Congress would still be a majority of the corrupt duopoly of Republicans and Democrats who would be so adverse that such a president would be unable to get anything done; on the other hand, at least we would be better off without the government doing more harm.
As the Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen recently said “Some people say it’s too dangerous to vote for anyone but a Republican or Democrat this year, but I ask isn’t this of all years the time you don’t want to repeat the behavior that has gotten us to this dangerous place?” Yes, it is!