Jared Kintz maintained that “voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil”, that in lacking a political candidate who speaks to us, we may as well pen “Lucifer” onto our ballots. And yes, ticking the box next to the name of a person whose views do not ring true with yours leaves a certain pit of dread in one’s stomach. One which, here in the UK, many Labour voters have recently felt themselves increasingly aware of, what with the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.
This can be navigated in the multi-party system of Westminster. Sure, it seems that the Tories and Labour have been on a rotating circuit between house and opposition for quite a while now, but ours is a system where third-parties genuinely have a voice. 91 of the seats in Parliament are currently held by parties which do not paint themselves red or blue, the majority lying with the SNP.
The fact remains that if you are disillusioned by the politics of the two primary parties within the UK electoral system, a number of different options lie open to you. But now we turn to the US, where a wrecking-ball swings between Democrat and Republican, without anything lying inbetween. Certainly, there are a handful of symbolic third parties – Libertarian, Green, Constitution – but none of them have anywhere near enough of a following to feel like anything more than an ideological gesture.
It is safe to say that, even among Democrats, Hillary Clinton could have been more popular. A mixture of dubious financial gains, notable self-interest, and a squeaky clean email inbox all conspired together to push her potential left-wing voters not just into suspicion, but total apathy. Many felt that they could not vote for Clinton with a clear conscience, seeing her as too scandal-plagued and out of touch to warrant their approval. Core Democrat demographics, black and Hispanic voters, did not turn out for Clinton like it w a s predicted they would. This is all understandable. If, here in the UK, you have felt too bemused by the great debate over whether or not Jeremy Corbyn sat down on a train once to consent to his potential leadership, you have a number of other viable options available. But in the US, you do not.
In a number of swing states, the percentage of votes for the Libertarian party were larger than the discrepancy between Clinton and Trump votes. And it is far from certain that, stripped of the choice, these third-party voters would have given Clinton their favour. They may instead have joined the 97 million eligible voters who chose not to bother.
However, this election was far too important to risk casting a third-party vote, or not turning out at all. This was not the right election to push the boundaries of one’s democratic rights. It was not the usual choice between left and right. The disparity between the candidates was immense: a man who has mocked the disabled, called for women who have abortions to be punished, with no prior political experience; or a woman who was far from perfect, but at least basically qualified for the job.
It was a choice between overt misogyny and racism, and somebody who happened to have had some cringeworthy appearances on Ellen. Donald Trump is the most dangerous right-wing world leader we’ve seen in years. Anyone would have been a better choice than him. Voters may not have loved Hillary. I’m just amazed they didn’t fear Trump more.
In a situation like this, one has to cast their principles aside and vote for the lesser of two evils. Both options may feel terrible. It may feel humiliating to be forced to choose between a candidate who will do nothing for you at all, and one who may deign to offer you a pile of scraps. But scraps are better than starving, and we now have a President-Elect who scapegoats Mexican and Muslim people the same way the Nazis scapegoated Eastern Europeans and the Jews. I thought that I was being really witty when, pre-election, I referred to Donald Trump as “Hitler 2: Reich Harder”. But it doesn’t feel funny anymore.