At the beginning of his essay, “Ron Paul’s Challenge to the Left,” John Walsh writes, “On the question of war and empire, the Republican presidential candidates from Romney to Bachmann are clones of Obama, just as surely as Obama is a clone of Bush.” Hence the contention of my title, there is little substantive difference between the Republicans and Democrats; they are both corporate dominated and controlled parties. As futile as lesser evilism is, it is also futile to talk about there being a lesser evilism between the two utterly dominant political parties in the United States.1
Walsh argues there is a difference: “Rep. Ron Paul (R, TX) the only contender who is a consistent, principled anti-interventionist, opposed to overseas Empire, and a staunch defender of our civil liberties so imperiled since 9/11.” His argument is that because Ron Paul is anti-war that the Left should embrace his candidature, and he views it as a challenge to the Left.2
Without a doubt, any president that would put an end to the imperialist wars being waged by the US would be light years better than a slew of corporate-backed warmongers that have long sat in the White House, including Obama. This means that a future president Paul, insofar as he would and could implement a policy of no wars, is far preferable to the irredeemable warmonger Barack Obama, who curries negligible favor among progressives.
Paul, however, carries a regressivist side with him that many progressives consider anathema. I consider Paul’s ideology as anti-human, basically every man and woman for his/her self.3 Under Paul, tough luck for those people that fall through the cracks.
Yet Walsh makes the case that Paul is the moral choice. However, based on Paul’s libertarian ideology (which he, arguably, does not always adhere to), the morality of a Paul presidency is open to criticism.
Walsh asks, “Is not the very first obligation of the Left above and beyond all else to stop the killing, done in our name and with our tax dollars? Is any other stance moral? And does not the Paul candidacy need to be seen in this light?”
The Paul candidacy needs to be seen in the light of all his stances and the morality of all those stances. Morality is not a unitary, single issue.
Thus, insofar as participating in rigged elections is a correct strategy, if there were a candidate who is anti-war and progressive on other issues, would not the moral choice be to vote for that candidate? For example, if Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney were to run again?
Nevertheless, should no progressivist candidate stand for the next presidential election, can one argue seriously that lesser evilism is a moral choice?
Obama is not a lesser evil. He is on par with any other Republican candidate — with one exception. Based on Paul’s anti-war stance, it appears that he is a lesser evil to Obama (or any other Republican candidate). Does that make Paul the best candidate to vote for?
Two quotations stand out well for me about the dangers of lesser evilism. Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Gracián warned: “Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other ones invariably slink in after it.”
Lesser evilism has pushed most parties to the Right. The lesson of lesson evilism is that if a party wants to grab a section of the Right, it appeals to with receptiveness to certain rightist issues, believing that it can hold onto whatever leftist base it has because there is no other viable alternative. The result worldwide has been a slide to the right among all prominent political parties. In the US, the Democrats have slid side-by-side with the Republicans; in Canada there is little to distinguish the Conservatives and the Liberals (and the so-called leftist New Democrats are hardly what I would call a part of the Left, at best right of center); in the United Kingdom, the Blairites shoved the Labour Party over toward the Conservatives (and the Liberal Democrats work hand-in-hand with the Conservatives to form a government); in Germany the Social Democratic Party slid to the Right under Gerhard Schröder; etc. What this rightward shift did is vanish, neuter, or marginalize a leftist electoral option. This phenomenon, occurring far and wide, has paved the way for neoliberalism — an extreme form of capitalism — that has caused the middle and lower socioeconomic classes to fall farther behind.
By sliding to the Right, only the corporatocracy wins. Lesser evilism in the form of a Ron Paul government might result in a roll back of the US military — admittedly a stupendous achievement. However, a rightward drift economically might fuel xenophobia, blaming outsiders for the problems caused by right-wing economic policy. This sentiment eases launching of wars against outsiders. Paul does appeal to a base that fears immigration. Moreover, the Tea Partiers, whose support Paul is courting, contradictorily call for reining in government but supporting militarism — a huge drain on the public purse.
Only by holding onto it principles and political goals will the Left, in the long-term, be able to realize its goals in government.
If lesser evilism opens the doors to other evils, then British preacher Charles Spurgeon opted correctly when he stated, “Of two evils, choose neither.”4
- See Kim Petersen, “The Utter Futility of Lesser Evilism,” Dissident Voice, 24 May 2007. [↩]
- Charles Davis earlier made the argument that Ron Paul is a lesser evil compared to Obama. “Ron Paul: A Lesser Evil?” Dissident Voice, 28 April 2011. [↩]
- See Pham Binh, “Don’t Fall for Ron Paul,” Dissident Voice, 16 May 2011. [↩]
- See Kim Petersen, “The Lesser-of-Two Evils,” Dissident Voice, 19 April 2004. [↩]