Dangerous Idealism

Author: Steven Neiland

Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I was on twitter recently and I observed someone make a comment that they related to the Greens most closely but as that was a wasted vote they voted Democrat as a second choice. I normally don't comment on American politics but I felt this time I had to say something. So I made this response.

ME: as an outsider can i make an observation. Dem & Rep basically the same with diff paint job. So why vote for either?

I was only a little surprised when a third party made this response.

Response: I think a lot of women would disagree with that sentiment.

Aside: Now before I go on I want to state that these are very smart people who I have tremendous respect for professionally and personally. I just happen to disagree with the logic on which they base their decision making process. They could and probably do feel the exact same about my logic. I just hope that maybe if they read this they might reconsider.

In any case to continue. While I agree that the anti female actions of the party he was referencing is indeed flat wrong, that was not the point I was making. The rest of the conversation that followed went like this. (Copied directly out of my twitter stream hence the twitter grammar).

Me: think uv missed my point. If A is in the wrong dont automatically vote for B. lesser of 2 evils still evil

Me: better to vote on conscience even if you are in minority than to vote with masses for lesser of 2 evils

Me: dont limit yourself to two choices because those are all u think u have. Look for a better alternative

Response: That's dangerous idealism. Do that in some elections and you'll end up with the greater of two evils!

I wish I could say I was surprised by this response, but in truth its this kind of attitude that normally steers me away from commenting on American politics.

Yes blindly voting based on ideals without questioning consequence is dangerous. However it is more dangerous to refuse to consider alternatives based on the fear that if you don't vote for the lesser of two evils the greater will get into power.

The Conclusion Of The Argument

This back and forth continued for awhile between me and several others others with analogies such as choosing your second favorite dog in a pound vs the worst one etc. etc. Until finally the comment was made (not by me) that no one argues that the 2 party system is not broken.

At this stage I just threw in the towel. I realized that when you are talking with someone who is able to acknowledge that a problem exists but would rather perpetuate it than take a risk to try fix the problem then there really is no logical argument you can make that will make a difference. Any argument for change I could make would not be considered because in reality it could not be considered.


The simple reason why the concept of change will not be considered is because change is scary. People in the world have grown afraid. Afraid of war, poverty, the economy, the climate, some imagined bogeyman half way around the world. People have become afraid to question, afraid to believe in ideals, afraid that if they try and fail to bring about positive change that things will actually get worse.

Of all the fears though which people have, the most limiting fear is the fear of re-evaluating their own assumptions and beliefs. To re-evaluate your own beliefs is to invite the possibility that they might be wrong!


This is really the scary bit, because if your beliefs and assumptions could be wrong then everything you have said, done or tried to do based on those beliefs might be also be wrong. This questions our very idea of self and that is truly scary.

You Cannot Force Others To Change Their Beliefs

So what do we do about this?

Honestly I do not know.

One thing I have learned over the years is that if someone is unwilling to reevaluate their own assumptions and beliefs (for what ever reason) then nothing you say or do can or will ever change their minds.

You cannot force people to agree with you. All you can do is present your thoughts and ideas and let them come to their own conclusions. We all as individuals must come to our own decisions and understanding in our own way and in our own time. Some may never listen, never question, while others may in time.

So instead for the benefit of those who may read this and be willing to consider what I am trying to say. Let me state my original argument again.

The Lesser Of Two Evils IS STILL EVIL

If you vote for someone because they are less incompetent, less dishonest, in short less evil then what you are really doing is saying you are willing to accept a level of incompetence/dishonesty/evil. By doing this you not only validate it and give it power over you, you sanction its actions even if you don't agree with it.

I might be an "idealist" but I don't believe it is ever *right* to accept any level of dishonesty or corruption or low morality, especially in the highest offices. If you accept a little bit today, then it becomes easier tomorrow for the dishonest to be a little more dishonest. It conjures up the idea of that science experiment where a frog dropped into boiling water will jump out, but if you put him in cold water and raise the temp slowly he will boil alive.

More than this, the idea that if you voted for a third option which you believed was the best choice but was not mainstream your vote would be wasted is just plain stupid.

Every Vote Counts Or No Votes Count

I don't know how people have managed to form this contradictory view that your vote only counts if you vote the same as everyone else. Either your vote always counts or it never counts, you can't have it both ways. If you believe in true democracy then you need to remember that every single vote counts, even if it is only to show that you don't agree with either of the two options presented.

If ever single person voted for third option then shock and horror a third option would come into power. But since people live in fear of letting the greater of two evils get to power they are willing to allow the lesser of two.

Not Just An American Mindset

Oh and please don't think I am just having a go at American politics, in truth this is a worldwide problem. Every western democracy seems to have formed this exact same belief that the only options are the two or three "main stream" parties of that country.

In Ireland we had Fianna Fail in power for years, finally Fianna Gael were voted in as they claimed to be the only real alternative. And do you know what changed. Absolutely nothing. The people let fear decide for them, let fear rule them and what we ended up was the same deal, just under a different name.

Change Can Only Come From The Individual

Until people are willing to question and think for themselves. To let reason and morality guide their decisions instead of group-think and fear, nothing will change. We will just keep running on this hamster wheel going nowhere.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

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