Op-Ed by Carey Wedler
As millions of Americans head to the polls today to “have their voices heard” and “make a difference,” many will likely carry out their voting rituals with the intent of electing the candidate they view as the lesser evil. They will vote for Hillary Clinton to stop Donald Trump or vote for Donald Trump to stop Hillary Clinton — at least, that’s what they tell themselves.
Every four years, Americans tacitly accept evil, morally content to accept authority from the candidate they subjectively designate the least harmful. They view this as the practical solution to America’s corruption and inevitable path to destruction. They often mock and chastise those who refuse to compromise their consciences for the sake of participating in a broken system.
Though these millions of voters fancy themselves strategic and savvy, their technique is failing. And, in fact, it has failed for over one hundred years, as demonstrated in an article published sixty years ago.
In October of 1956, black civil rights activist, sociologist, and historian W.E. DuBois penned an article for The Nation magazine explaining why he refused to vote in that year’s election between then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Democratic challenger, Adlai Stevenson.
His decades-old account is still uncomfortably accurate.
DuBois explained that since the year 1889, when he was 21 years of age, he had followed the lesser evil argument, especially with regard to how politicians approached the issue of black rights.
“In 1912 I wanted to support Theodore Roosevelt, but his Bull Moose convention dodged the Negro problem and I tried to help elect Wilson as a liberal Southerner,” he wrote.
But “[u]nder Wilson came the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that we had experienced since the Civil War.”
He detailed every presidential election from 1912 to 1956, pointing out his decision to choose a lesser evil every time — every time noting how each president disappointed him in their willingness to address racism in the United States.
But DuBois’ discontent did not focus only on racial injustice.
“I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say,” he lamented.
Sound familiar? It gets worse.
Two election years sixty years apart — 1956 and 2016 — have even deeper parallels, from perpetual war abroad to injustice and oligarchy at home:
The present Administration is carrying on the greatest preparation for war in the history of mankind. Stevenson promises to maintain or increase this effort. The weight of our taxation is unbearable and rests mainly and deliberately on the poor. This Administration is dominated and directed by wealth and for the accumulation of wealth. It runs smoothly like a well-organized industry and should do so because industry runs it for the benefit of industry. Corporate wealth profits as never before in history. We turn over the national resources to private profit and have few funds left for education, health or housing. Our crime, especially juvenile crime, is increasing. Its increase is perfectly logical; for a generation we have been teaching our youth to kill, destroy, steal and rape in war; what can we expect in peace?