Is voting for someone because they're the lesser of two evils a good reason? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
It's not just "a good reason". It's the only reason.
If you're voting for a candidate you're absolutely 100% happy with, the system has failed.
Democracy isn't about easy choices. Democracy is about hard choices. If we had easy choices to make, we'd already have made them. Actual problems are always complex and multi-faceted, and there are thousands of different options to choose from. No two voters want the exact same thing. You can't possibly make more than one voter completely happy; the odds are effectively zero that that voter is you.
Problems that have really wide support don't get voted on. Nobody needs to go vote on not bombing Canada or preventing people from dumping nuclear waste in Central Park. We agree on those things. We don't vote on them.
Instead, we go find hard stuff, like how much money to spend on education, and what kinds of guns we're going to allow people to own. There are legitimate disagreements. There are lots of options, and your best hope is to find somebody whose legitimate disagreements with you are minor. And that means taking responsibility for things that weren't your first choice, but which you can live with.
For starters, that means carefully listening to your intended allies. If you think your allies are "evil", you've got two choices:
1. They really are that bad, and you really are the one and only smart person in the room.
2. People are under constant attack, much of it false, and maybe your allies have been maligned.
See, the problem is this: while I've been talking about the legitimate disagreements, there's an awful lot of illegitimate disagreement. The problems are so hard that most problems get phrased in terms of "the other guys are so awful and everything they want is bad". It's easier to vote against something than for it. And it's way easier to hear a bad thing about somebody and to stop thinking about the problem.
This particular election is baffling because there are some candidates that are agreed on by large majorities to simply be horrible people. That's not usually how this works. Don't be misled. It's a proper thing to reconsider who your allies are, and wondering if maybe it's time to re-jigger your alignments.
But in the end, you need help. If you want to be all "pure" and not vote for the "lesser evil", you're not helping, and other people have no interest in helping you. You do have to live with the result one way or the other. You can either take the trivial action of pulling a lever and making people's lives better, or you can stay home and make people's lives worse. Your choice. But there are consequences to not being a faithful ally to people who need your help.
Be on the inside, and you get a voice in making it better. Opt out, and you're out. If you want to pretend there's a choice that involves no thinking and no hard work of disagreeing with people who agree with you in part, then you get what other people give you, some of it very, very bad. It's that simple, and no simpler.