Analysis, Featured

Thinking of voting for the lesser of two evils in the US elections? Why not vote for someone not evil?

It’s finally reached the mainstream and satirical media, what people have been thinking and saying all along is now the media’s topic of discussion: voting for Hillary Clinton would be a vote for ‘the lesser of two evils’.

In previous months, the media cycle focused on the ‘we’re stuck with them,’ narrative; we want neither, but alas, we have no choice.  As a result, according to a Reuters poll, 56.5% of Hillary voters will cast their ballot for her just to keep Donald Trump out of the White House, while similarly, 52.4% of Republican’s said they are voting for Trump just to oppose Hillary. It’s less about policy or party loyalty these days, and more about utter disdain for the other candidate.  Trevor Noah, host of the The Daily Show, accurately summarised the general contempt for both candidates saying, “what’s now clear, is that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are running against the only person who they could possibly beat.”  

Having drilled this narrative into the electorate for the past few months, that there exists no other choice beyond these two maligned candidates, the media then shifted the discourse to the ‘Only Hillary can save us!’ dialogue; The Guardian lead with the headline, ‘Who can stop Trump? Republicans may have little choice but to vote Clinton.’ Senior Republican’s led the way joining the #NeverTrump movement with John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, former George W. Bush officials stating that, “if the Republicans had nominated anyone else, we’d be voting for them.  A Donald Trump presidency is just too big of a risk. What’s the alternative?” A question with apparently only one answer.

And then we inevitably arrived at the present debate. Last week, CNN published its article, ‘Clinton is not lesser of two evils,’ arguing that “there’s only one ‘evil’ in this race, and his name is Donald J. Trump,” going on to regurgitate the list of his maniacal statements, whilst claiming that Hillary was, after all, only a “less progressive candidate” to Bernie Sanders and a little “hawkish on international affairs,” attempting to minimalize the distance between them to the electorate.

Online independent media outlets adopted a different approach in their discussion. Kyle Kulinski, host of Secular Talk, posited that “they set up this choice where you have no choice and you’re forced to vote for somebody else who is arguably, a war criminal – Hillary Clinton, because she’s slightly less crazy than this buffoon.” Cenk Uyger of The Young Turks, an ardent opposer of Clinton, responded with, “if it’s Trump versus Clinton, that’s not a hard question for me.  I’ll vote for Clinton and then I’ll fight her every single day. I don’t think that’s even a tough question,” before proceeding to the issue of swing state demographics and the effect of a vote in a strong Democratic state like California.

It was however, Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show, that inspired, or rather I should say, demanded a response. In a recent clip he argued that “since many American’s can’t bring themselves to vote for a candidate, I say we should change the system, so on election day, you can vote against the candidate that you don’t want. Then the candidate with the lowest score becomes President. If on the outside chance, they do not institute my plan, no matter how you feel about the candidates, please, you still have to go to the polls on election day. Yes, you may have to vote for a person you don’t really want, but it’s better than getting the person you really don’t want,” with the quip “The Evil of Two Lessers” flashing upon the screen.   

The question is, do you?  Do you have to go to the polls on election day?  Do you have to vote for Clinton to keep out Trump?  Do you have to vote for the lesser of two evils? Are there no other options to save us from our impending apocalyptic future?

Many Muslims in London felt they faced a similar dilemma in May which eventually saw Sadiq Khan elected as Mayor. In a time of rampant Islamophobia, what better way to demonstrate ‘inclusion’ in mainstream society than a Muslim mayor? What better way to show our friends at the EDL that ‘some of us brown people actually know English!’ Moreover, the Conservative party with their singling out of Islam for counter-extremism policy through the Prevent strategy, punishing the poor and disabled with billions in unnecessary cuts, could not be allowed a major gain such as the London Mayor. The problem however, was Khan’s liberal tendencies. He appeared extremely secular; he was in open support for the illegal and apartheid Israeli regime, he called for pubs to be protected from closure and supported gay marriage. To many, he too was the lesser of two evils, and thus should be supported as the “pragmatic” vote.

The first question is, are there actually alternatives to Clinton and Trump? Though comparatively little attention has been given by the mainstream media, two serious contenders in Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are polling at a combined 18% of the electorate, the equivalent of 23 million votes at an election. Candidates need 15% in national polling to make the debate stage throwing them into the global spotlight. If you haven’t looked into their policy positions already, now is the time to become acquainted – especially for Bernie fans, who would find much resonance with Stein’s stances on education, climate, economy and war.

What exactly is the media’s gain in narrowly squeezing the candidates down to two choices, repeating this as a truism, despite admitting the contempt for the two mainstream candidates? It would make sense, that in such a prodigious campaign that’s awoken a generation to the importance of politics, light would be shed on alternative candidates to shift the discourse. Yet unsurprisingly, little time is spent on candidates like Stein and Johnson.

Often people argue a vote for the lesser known party is a wasted vote – a protest vote. Not in any election – but especially not in this election, it wouldn’t be. Kulinski poses the question, “who would you prefer, Hillary or Trump? It is not a response to say Stein. I get it, if I’m asking you ‘Trump, Hillary or Stein’, you want a third party candidate, but now – new question: just between Hillary and Trump, who do you prefer? So yes, Trump or Clinton will be President. But that question still exists: Who is the lesser of those two evils?” The only reason it may be a foregone conclusion, that the election would be Hillary or Trump, is because of such an attitude. Had independent media got behind Stein when she announced her campaign in June 2015, she certainly wouldn’t only have 5 million votes as she does at present. Would independent media, doing what they claim to be, put their weight behind Stein with full belief even now, we could still see her on the debate stage next month, and it wouldn’t be hard for Stein to make a strong case against either of her opponents.

A vote for a Stein would be a political earthquake, finally shifting the homogenous two-party system of American politics to a more open, voter empowered type of politics. It would demand that the country evolve its own electoral process, no longer discounting the outsider, as has been the narrative of this election cycle as it stands. This may be a rare chance to reshape the political landscape, for after the disaster of this campaign, will either of the major parties ever afford this opportunity again?

Another argument is that a vote for a Stein effectively hands Trump the White House. Why so? Because this would dilute the Democratic vote. Firstly, almost 60% of the combined Democratic and Republican base are voting just to keep the opposing candidate out. Why not find a candidate with integrity and positive ideas? If that combined 60% votes for a candidate they liked as opposed to against the one they disliked, there wouldn’t be an electability issue. In fact, learning to think outside out the media narrative on words like ‘electability’ would be a huge (in the Donald Trump sense of the word) step for the American electorate. Secondly, 32% of the country identify as Republican, while 29% identify as Independent; a shock swing isn’t impossible. Yet the people telling the country an independent candidate can’t win are those whose interests lie in electing an establishment candidate (and don’t be fooled into thinking Trump isn’t establishment – the Republican party know exactly what they’re doing) and incredibly, the leading independent media.

The next question would be, what if you didn’t vote at all?  Colbert pleaded that you must vote.  This is because within the window of there being ‘only’ two candidates, a higher voter turnout essentially hands the election to the Democrats, given the demographics. Isn’t it your right to abstain if you don’t find someone who represents your values? Why must you vote for anyone evil?  I didn’t see the American media telling the people of Turkey to choose the ‘less evil’ military coup over the ‘more evil’ Erdogan. It is more rational not to vote argues sustainability entrepreneur, Dylan Ratigan. He suggests that it may be that “‘millennials’ have caught onto the fact that those who control the nominating process control the power. Since the choices are so preordained, there’s a reason not to vote. The answer is to get organised at a local level, make change and stop wasting energy and getting sucked into a vaporous lie that we call national politics.”

In the eyes of Colbert, a vote for Hillary is consequential only as far as this realm.  Politics and God are separable. In Islam however, a vote for any candidate requires not only justification before Allah (swt), but a belief the candidate is right for the job. That is because “he who has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it, and he who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.” (Holy Qur’an 99:7-8) God does not close his eyes to your political choices. The vote to elect Hillary, “pragmatically” or otherwise, places her conceivable actions upon the shoulders of the one casting that vote. And what do we know of them?  Arguing his point further, Ratigan goes on to say that “Voting is forcing my energy into a lie. One hundred and ninety-six people provided 80% of the money for all of the nominations so basically, I can choose one poison hamburger or another poison hamburger. The banking is identical [between the two party nominees], the energy is identical, the military is identical. The rate of decline may not be as fast [between one nominee to the other]. In other words, one person is killing me with a fork, the other would shoot me, but they’re both killing me.”

Whilst the media discredit Trump for name dropping Putin, Kim Jong Un and, inexcusably praising Saddam al-Tikriti, they concealed Hillary’s lengthy history of alliances with the worst of the worlds’ oppressors: from calling former Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, a family friend, to supporting the bloody Sisi coup, to selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia – which incidentally are currently being used in a genocide in Yemen which, indirectly at least, is helping to establish ISIS. This also goes without mentioning her recent speech grovelling for the AIPAC Israeli lobby vote. The list is almost literally endless. Knowing the incredible amount of blood on Hillary’s hands and voting for her bears little contrast to voting in any other oppressor – the difference is, the others don’t have such good marketing companies or such good speech writers. In Colbert’s worldview, she may indeed be the lesser of two evils, but in an Islamic one, she’s still evil, and voting for evil associates you with evil; this definitely is not a position one wants to be defending on the Day of Judgement, especially when describing the night of the Me’raj ascension, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) stated that he “saw the following inscription on the doors of hell: do not be a helper of the oppressors.”

So ultimately, what does a vote for evil (Trump) and ‘lesser’ evil (Clinton) mean?  

Trump would surely herald a generational cycle of demagoguery, racism and new levels of shallow politics – in fact just by his very presence, that door has irreversibly been opened – something that was the Republican idea all along, cementing its base for the next twenty years. His election would be disastrous for two reasons. Firstly, he is so brazenly ignorant that he would be entirely reliant on others to tell him what to do, making him the ultimate puppet for the warmongers, donors and party hacks. Secondly, in his effort to push business in this ailing economy, he will deregulate so extensively that the planet itself will be put at risk through environmental destruction.   

To vote for Hillary means another four, if not eight years of the status quo, the same deluded responses to the world’s challenges – empire politics, supporting of tyrants, conflict in the Middle East, selling weapons, migration and the poverty crisis.  Granted, you would get the first woman President, a slightly more aggressive stance on global warming, a minimum wage increase and some ‘progressive’ ideas. But wouldn’t you get all that from Jill Stein too, but without all the evil?

In the year 2000, 71% of Muslims voted for George W. Bush to become President. In Florida, this rose to 91%. Why? Because Bush opposed Gore’s use of ‘secret evidence’ targeting Muslims. It makes me wonder how many Muslims voted for Obama. This time the narrative has again changed; the ‘reason’ to vote in another person set to perpetuate the mendacity of the cycle. And again people are falling for it.

Ultimately a vote for a lesser evil, is still a vote for evil. And how has that worked out so far?

Sheikh Jaffer was born and raised in Milton Keynes, UK. After two years in medical recruitment, he opened his own agency in 2005 and subsequently appointed director of the DRC Group, the second largest agency supplying locum doctors to the NHS in the UK, leaving in 2011. After returning from Hajj in 2005, he began his Islamic studies, speaking in centres around the world, leading Ziyaarat and Hajj groups. He has studied at Jaami'a Imam as-Sadiq (a) of Ayatollah al-Qazwini, Hawza Imam al-Jawad (a) of Grand Ayatollah Syed Taqi al-Modarresi in holy Kerbala and Al Mahdi Institute, Birmingham. He has authored two books, The Hidden Treasure (2011) and The Ways of The Righteous (2015) with various other written works in the pipeline. He is currently the Resident 'Alim of Hyderi Islamic Centre, London and completing his Masters Degree in Islamic Law at the Islamic College, London.

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