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Voting Without Retching: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils

What to do if you can’t stand Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan

President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan shake hands

President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan shake hands before their debate in Cleveland, OH on October 28th, 1980.

©Bettmann/Corbis

When it comes down to it, Congressman Anderson, isn’t it true that a vote for you gives the election to Ronald Reagan?”

John Anderson groaned deeply. “Well, that is admittedly the most frustrating question I get. It’s a wonder I’m not bald, that I’ve not torn out great patches of hair as I constantly wrestle with how best to deal with this. I go to sleep at night thinking about it. I wake up in the morning thinking about it. I’ve tried all kinds of formulas. I’ve tried ‘One man with courage can make a majority.’ or, ‘A vote for the right man is never the wrong vote.’ But still there are doubting Thomases.”

It was mid-September. Anderson was rallying and had reached eighteen percent in one poll. The Federal Elections Commission had just made it possible for him to qualify for funds. The Liberal party in New York had endorsed him, giving him a line on the ballot. The League of Women Voters had invited him to their debates.

The congressman, closely guarded by the Secret Service in the corner of a terminal at Kennedy Airport, continued. “I can talk about the Roper poll, which last week showed that nationwide I take as much from Reagan as I do from Carter. And they come right back and say, ‘But you take two votes for every one in New York City, and you take four votes from Carter for every three from Reagan upstate.’ Everybody’s got a poll or survey. I don’t think I can lick the argument on the basis of polls. I think the campaign has just got to run its course.”

Anderson looks at his wife, Keke, who is intently reading the Wall Street Journal. Then he tries again.

“If people choose the leader of the country simply on the basis of the lesser of two evils, if they refuse to vote for me not because I am not worthy but because I’m not electable, yet in the same breath they say that neither of the other two should be elected, that they really can’t stand the sight or sound of either one of them, then I think we’ve arrived at a very cynical point in the political history of this country, a point where our politics are fundamentally rather frightening and hold out very little promise that in the future we will ever pick the right man.”

The Tyranny of Either/Or

Must it always come down to the lesser of two evils?

We are getting to the point where a significant slice of the citizenry is looking nervously to the future and deciding that although Jimmy Carter, if reelected, might well: 

– continue to wreck the economy,
– blunder into a war,
– and, as a shilly-shallying bumbler, continue to make the White House a thing of mock among the nations.

he is nonetheless preferable to Ronald Reagan, who, if elected, might:

– continue to wreck the economy,
– blunder into a war,
– and, as a shilly-shallying bumbler, continue to make the White House a thing of mock among the nations.

With these considerations in mind, such citizens may proceed to the polls November 4th, and, amid all due gagging and retching, pull the Carter lever in sufficient numbers to keep him in Washington for another four years.

Chalk up another triumph for the two-party system.

Maybe not. Carter’s strategists reckon that in 1976, Eugene McCarthy’s independent bid cost them four states and, though he only won one percent of the vote, nearly cost them the election too. By September this year, John Anderson was showing up in the polls at fifteen percent or above. Ed Clark, the Libertarian party candidate, has shown up in one national poll at three percent, and Barry Commoner, the Citizens party’s candidate, is inching his way out of the subsoil with somewhere around one percent.

These figures may seem like unimpressive flickers on the political screen, but it should not be forgotten – nor are Carter’s and Reagan’s advisers inclined to forget – that Jack Kennedy was elected president in 1960 by a popular margin of 34,221,344 over Nixon’s 34,106,671, and that his victory may have owed much to some resourceful last-minute doctoring of the vote in Cook County by the late Mayor Daley. Jerry Ford would be president today if 11,027 votes in Ohio and 7,373 votes in Hawaii had gone the other way in 1976.*

This year it’s not just Gene McCarthy the two major candidates have to worry about. Consider a couple of possibilities:

John Anderson’s independent campaign loses in every state but one – New York. Bolstered by Senator Jacob Javits’ presence on the Liberal party line, supported by a strong Jewish vote, Anderson scrapes out a bare victory and wins forty-one electoral-college votes. The rest of the country is split between Reagan and Carter. Neither of them has the 270 requisite electoral-college votes for a clear plurality. For the third time in the history of the Republic, the election goes to the House of Representatives.**

Anderson does not even have to win a state to change the course of the election. In any number of states – New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan – a combination of Anderson, Commoner and Clark could slice into Carter’s support and throw a state to Reagan. With slightly less probability, it could work the other way, too. In Illinois, to take one contingency, Anderson might help Carter by draining away normally Republican votes in the ring of suburban “collar counties” around Chicago, thus giving Carter twenty-six electoral-college votes.

Even if the polls end up being profoundly out of tune with what the electorate is thinking, there isn’t much doubt that the two-party system continues to decompose. Passionate arguments to the contrary, such decomposition may be the central political fact this year. So, in a way, the nub of the election has little to do with the “issues” drawn up in fine array in the party platforms ratified in Detroit and New York or articulated by the candidates through newspapers and television. The nub is whether the imperative of the “Lesser of Two Evils” really holds. Can the polarization continue, and, come November 4th, can the citizenry trail into the polling booths under the simple aegis of the old Either/Or?

The three main alternative candidates don’t see themselves in the “Lesser Evil” category. John Anderson’s bid is an effort to rebuild a centrist politics. Ed Clark and the Libertarian party have a coherent ideological stance: an end to American intervention abroad, the least government possible at home and tremendous paeans to the free market. Barry Commoner and the Citizens party have the beginnings of a left program, based on the political imperatives of the antiwar movement of the Sixties and the environmental, antinuclear, anticorporate crusades of the last decade.

There are, in short, perfectly valid reasons to vote November 4th for either Anderson, Clark or Commoner, reasons quite aside from a purely negative sense of affront at the prospect of either Reagan or Carter.

Anderson the Independent

After a year on the road, campaigning as much as any other politician this season, John Anderson looks somewhat healthier than he did when he started. We first saw him last November in the bleak circumstances of a Republican beauty contest in Maine. Ancient history now: John Connally was the pride of the box office, and the national press was duly assembled to see Howard Baker ratify his entry into the campaign with a stirring speech and a helpful vote of confidence from Maine Republicans. Ronald Reagan was not there at all, since those were the days when his then campaign manager, John Sears, was holding the old war horse in statesmanlike seclusion.

It could not be said then that John Anderson gave a particularly rousing account of himself. Hoarse to the point of inaudibility, long-winded and pious, he was all but ignored amid spirited oratory from Connally, Phil Crane and George Bush, who won the day with a rousing arm pumper in his old style. Only the most eccentric of connoisseurs paid much attention to Anderson.

The next time we saw him, the situation was different, and he was better. Anderson was becoming the candidate against the new cold war. Bush had won in Iowa, Kennedy was going down, the Russians had invaded Afghanistan, and war fever was mounting. Anderson still didn’t have much of an entourage apart from a handful of student volunteers scurrying around his Boston office suite. But there truly was, when it truly counted, an Anderson difference.

“Do you think,” we asked him then, “that the possibility of a nuclear war has come closer?”

“I do not believe,” Anderson replied, “that the Russians want a nuclear war. I do not believe that Afghanistan has really increased the danger of nuclear war.”

“Do you think that Carter’s reaction to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan is justified?”

“No. I think his description of that as the most serious crisis since the end of World War II was a deliberate political hype of the situation.”

“Do you think the Soviet Union has become substantially more aggressive over the last four or five years, that it is on the rampage?”

“I really believe that, by and large, the Soviet Union is still a very, very frightened and insecure country.”

This forthright talk – at a time when such was in very short supply – is somewhat forgotten now. The press portrays Anderson as a compromise clone of Carter and Reagan. Liberals, intent before on pushing Ted Kennedy and now dutifully falling in behind Jimmy Carter, instead rushed forward with Anderson’s Republican voting record over the last twenty years. Surprise: Anderson was a phony. He had an antilabor record. He had favored nuclear power. He’d taken some lusty swings at government regulation. And. lo and behold, he was the candidate of big business. He was taking advice from the Wall Street elites, symbolized by investment banker Felix Rohatyn. Worst of all, Anderson was a member of the Trilateral Commission, which made him a paid-up member of the international Rockefeller conspiracy.

Anderson held on. George Bush’s star slowly faded as the press pronounced him officially dead in New Hampshire, Massachusetts (which he won) and innumerable states thereafter. Kennedy continued his long slide downhill, and Anderson remained the Anderson difference. He went officially independent on April 24th, and he endured. He spent the summer fighting to get on the ballot, a cause the press said was a waste of time and would never succeed. He made a foolish excursion abroad and another foolish excursion into network commentary for NBC during the Republican convention.

And now here he was again, most appealing, perhaps because by all right and custom he should not have been sitting there at all.

Over the months he’d relaxed his style; his vocabulary was still somewhat indebted to the plummier regions of Roget’s Thesaurus but spirited all the same.

“You’ve been trashed in a lot of ways by the liberal press, including ourselves – your labor voting record and so forth. You’ve withstood all that. Why do you think you’ve survived?”

“Because, I think, of the simple honesty and willingness to admit that, sure, I have changed. I’m not trying to crawfish out of the fact that on some issues my present views reflect a more open attitude than I had before. But I think you can argue convincingly that mine has been an evolutionary change that is evident in my attitudes and in my votes, and that it has not been out of a mere desire to simply win votes in the last four and a half months. I’m not a born-again hawk, which is what Jimmy Carter has become in the space of literally months. At least I think I’ve had the decency to spread the pattern of change in my career over twenty years. I don’t think Carter’s done that.”

“So you are saying that you are not an opportunist.”

“I don’t believe I am. I’m not going to throw myself at certain categories of voters and try to buy their votes with extravagant promises that I can’t fulfill. But I think Carter will do anything, literally anything, and that’s what makes me so suspicious of him. I do not have to be president of the United States. I can retire from the field of battle on the fifth of November – happy, serene, secure in what I have done – whether I win or lose.”

We circled back to the Lesser of Two Evils problem and asked Anderson if the possibility that his candidacy might put Ronald Reagan’s finger on the trigger in 1981 doesn’t bother him somewhat. Doesn’t he think that one finger might be more dangerous than another?

“I don’t think that anybody can really answer that question with the certitude that makes it a valid basis on which to pick a president. I think you can invent any scenario and support it with the necessary hypotheses that would make it appear that this man is totally unacceptable, the other man is less unacceptable, and therefore we should vote for him. I just don’t think you can elect a president on the basis of that kind of calculus. Some people will do that, and I will never be able to convince them, you know, that Reagan is not such a dangerous lunatic, that with him in the White House it won’t all go up in a puff of smoke.”

“Of course, it might have gone up in a puff of smoke with Carter earlier this year,” we said, referring to Carter’s winter and spring offensive over Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and the Iran raid.

“Precisely.” Anderson grew excited. “I sat there in my hotel room in Buffalo two nights ago and watched the latest, polished five-minute Jimmy Carter commercial in full living color: Jimmy Carter, a military man; Jimmy Carter, eleven years in the armed services of our country, Jimmy Carter, commander in chief. And then the missiles come spinning out of the water and he’s there saluting on the poop deck of the carrier Nimitz, and the bands are playing, and the troops are saluting. Well, my God you’d think it was Napoleon running for president. And yet here’s the great man of peace. I don’t know what’s come over this guy. Any guy who can put out commercials like that and sell himself to the country on the basis that he’s the greatest thing since Clausewitz…. Good God knows what he might do.

“So I can make just as strong a case that in an emergency, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable with Jimmy Carter’s hand on the rudder. Ronald Reagan makes an awful lot of preposterous remarks and mixes up his countries and everything else, but God, maybe when decision time comes, he would be taking his afternoon nap and somebody else would make the decision. Let’s hope so.”

Say what you will, relative to Carter or Reagan, Anderson is a peace candidate as much as he was last spring. He’s against the MX missile. He’s against the latest outburst of cold-war folly, as expressed this fall in Presidential Directive Fifty-nine, in which Carter endorses the notion of limited nuclear war.

On August 19th of this year, George Wald, emeritus professor of biology at Harvard and a recipient of the 1967 Nobel Prize for Medicine, wrote in a letter to the New York Times: “I have a suspicion approaching conviction that John Anderson’s try for the presidency was invented by, or with the connivance of, the Trilateral Commission, to cut into the Democratic vote and so secure the election of Ronald Reagan.” After much buttressing of this eccentric thesis, the professor concluded in the same terms: “I think John Anderson is the instrument designed by the Trilateral Commission to assure Reagan’s election.”

“Did you read that letter?” we asked Anderson.

Anderson rolled his eyes. “Oh my God! For a Nobel laureate! To write this preposterous….… I haven’t even gone to a meeting for two or three years.”

“But whatever you think of Wald’s letter, isn’t there some symbolism here, which, sensibly translated, means you are really a representative of the establishment that doesn’t want Carter because he’s incompetent and that fears Reagan and perceives you as their best man?”

“I think there has to be a little bit of the antiestablishment in any man who grows up in the Evangelical Church in Rockford, Illinois, who takes the oath of allegiance to the Republican party at an early age, who loyally runs under its banner for twenty-four years and then who suddenly wakes up one day and decides. ‘I’m going to put all that baggage behind me.’ I’m going to endure the obloquy and the opprobrium of my colleagues who look cross-eyed at me because I have fed with them at the serving table of the Republican party and now – Ingrate! – spurned the party and gone off and rejected their nominee. You know, I’ve suffered that. I’m not complaining. I’m not paranoid about it. but don’t think for one minute that I have not had plenty of people tell me that I’m a hypocrite, that I am worse things for declaring as an independent. So to suggest that I am therefore just a totally establishment creature ignores the fact that it took some defiance of the establishment to finally do what I did.”

One would certainly have to say that, as the vehicle of the big-business conspiracy. Anderson has been, in recent months, extremely short of what big business is presumably best able to supply: money. He was not saved by big business in his dismal time around Labor Day. He was saved by the Federal Election Commission, which ruled that he was eligible for government funding.

“But why should people vote for you?” we asked Anderson.

“Because, at the risk of sounding self-serving. I represent some hope, some freshness, some vitality that is not present in those two tired old dragons who are representative of the two traditional parties. We do have a world in crisis, we do have an economy in crisis, and we have to bestir ourselves, we have to be willing to break traditions, to break with the past, to be independent, and to celebrate it, not just on the Fourth of July but on the fourth of November. To do something different in an effort to really solve our problems.”

Anderson’s problem is that each time he lays low one of the shibboleths of Business as Usual, two more spring up in its place. Liberals who are now rushing in behind Trilateralist Carter attack Anderson as a Trilateralist. Many moderate Republicans see him – the only politician this year to carry their banner – as a traitor.

And at the end of the day. the moderates trundle forth the heaviest cannon of them all: a vote for Anderson will hand the election to Reagan, who may well have the honor and privilege of appointing as many as four justices to the Supreme Court, thereby engendering a reactionary body capable of lasting into the twenty first century.

There is, of course, the equal prospect that, if reelected, Jimmy Carter would appoint four reactionary jurists, starting with his old friend Griffin Bell. A man who selected Zbigniew Brzezinski as his main foreign policy adviser, not to mention James Schlesinger as his first secretary of energy, should not be regarded as unerring or liberal in judgment. The idea that the election of the president of the United States should turn on the prospective composition of the Supreme Court is the ultimate consummation of the theory of the Lesser of Two Evils. The end of this logic is to propose that every four years the national elections take the form of a ballot for the selection of the Supreme Court, which would in turn appoint a representative to the Oval Office.

What, in short, is the Anderson difference? First, Anderson is an antiwar candidate. Second, he is liberal on social issues: for right of choice in abortion, sexual preference, for the ERA and against handguns. In domestic policy he is a relatively restrained fiscal conservative. Anderson is the candidate of the center. He represents a perfectly reasonable choice for those liberal or moderate Democrats, Republicans and independents who have come to the perfectly reasonable decision that nothing will induce them to vote for Carter or for Reagan.

Commoner’s Citizens Party

For those on the left who bridle at the continued admonition that the best path to a golden future lies through the so-called left wing of the Democratic party, there is, this year, what promises to be a long-term departure from this gloomy option. It is to be found in the Citizens party and its presidential candidate, Barry Commoner.

Formally established at a convention in Cleveland last spring, the party is a repository of various skeins and constituencies of the Left. The party expects to be on the ballot in about thirty-five states. We talked to Commoner in Washington in mid-September and put to him forthwith the eternal “spoiler” question: wouldn’t a vote for Commoner be a vote for Reagan? Why should we throw away our votes?

“That’s exactly backwards,” Commoner said. “If you are interested in peace, let us say, and you vote for Carter because he is the lesser of two evils, you’re throwing your vote away. Carter will never know that he got a peace vote. It will have no influence on him.

“The point is,” Commoner went on, “people have forgotten that there are two elements in the election. One is who is elected and what he has got in his head. The other is the political environment he has to operate in. So I say the only way to record the existence of a progressive constituency after November, and therefore influence the political environment, is to vote for the Citizens party.”

Commoner, who has been stumping back and forth across the country, began to talk about his sense of the campaign so far.

“I think the campaign, as a whole, is convincing a hell of a lot of people that politics is dead in the United States.

“The process itself seems to suppress political discussion. I get the impression that one of the strong political positions that voters are going to lake in a positive way is not to vote. Of course, people haven’t voted for a long time, but they’ve done it out of a lack of interest. I have the impression that there are some people who will boycott the elections to show their disdain for what’s happened. The other thing is that confusion is common.”

“Confusion about what?”

“About what the hell is going on, and what one’s position ought to be. For example, there is confusion over whether Reagan is dangerous and an incipient step toward fascism, that even though we know Carter is unreliable and dangerous, we must reelect him. For instance, I have talked to labor leaders who find themselves unable to cope with or to understand the positions of the rank-and-file members – positions that range all the way from blue-collar workers who will vote for Reagan because they think he can do better than Carter, to Jewish workers who will vote for Reagan because he’s more likely to support Israel because of his anti-Soviet position.”

“What’s your view of Anderson?”

“I think Anderson is a moderately conservative Republican who managed by luck to exemplify someone other than a Democratic or Republican candidate. His big public attraction is that he is neither one of the two.”

“How are you different from Anderson?”

“Anderson is trying to get elected on the usual basis of persuading people that he is personally better or different than the others. My job is to explain a program developed by a party on the basis of a fundamental analysis of the country’s troubles.”

“Is the two-party system finished?”

“I think we will see total political reorganization. There are going to be very sweeping political realignments.

“The point is this,” Commoner said. “I think the most important political outcome of this campaign ought to be the creation of what I would call dynamic politics instead of static politics. The way most voters think now is: we’re going to elect somebody this year, and over the next four years, we’ll come begging as lobbyists to try to make that guy do the right thing. Four years later, we go through the whole thing all over again. But the Citizens party represents a departure, a political party that will continue, that will play a role in the election and that will put in place a constituency that will work in a positive, constructive way during the four-year interval.”

“But, Barry, come on. This is what they say: ‘If we vote for you and Reagan wins, he’ll appoint four members of the Supreme Court and…….'”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Commoner said. “Let’s take the extreme position. Let’s say that Reagan is an incipient fascist, and that the military-industrial complex and all the evangelicals who are convinced God is a reactionary are all going to come to Washington and start a march toward fascism. That march will not be instantaneous. We will then have to fight. What I say is, voting for the Citizens party and creating a substantial progressive constituency is the only protection we will have.”

“You’ll outlast Anderson?”

“Anderson has an automatic self-destruct built in. He doesn’t want a party. That destroys him. Incidentally, it will destroy him in the same way the antiwar movement destroyed itself by not becoming a party. The whole purpose of the Citizens party, the reason why I’m involved in it, is to rectify the mistakes made by the antiwar movement.”

Ed Clark, Libertarian

The most vigorous political debate in the United States this year has been on the Right, where arguments over social and economic policy have been at the forefront. One could see, even inside the Reagan camp, particularly at the start of this year, the contours of a struggle between traditional conservative Republicanism and the libertarian vein. In many respects, the most stimulating impulses – now rapidly being extinguished in the Reagan camp – have been those of the libertarians: insistence on the volunteer army, hosannas to the free market and a free life secure from government interdiction of every citizen’s right to bear arms, smoke dope, abort, consort with him or her. Business as Usual inevitably stifled this carefree spirit inside the Republican party, but it survives in its original nurturing ground – the Libertarian party, whose presidential candidate this year is Ed Clark, a lawyer from San Marino, California, who works for Arco, the oil company.

Clark ran for governor of California against Jerry Brown in 1978 and got 377,960 votes – 5.5 percent. His party is particularly strong in the West, and by election time, Clark will be on the ballot in just about every state. The Libertarians are articulate and somewhat rousing with their particular brand of anarcho-iconoclasm. They’re to the right of Reagan when it comes to limiting government, and well to the left of Carter on the issue of U.S. entanglements abroad. It’s always fun talking to Libertarians and indeed some of our warmest memories this year are of sitting with jovial party members, arguing the merits of child slavery, the origins of the Standard Oil Trust and whether the court system should be voluntary. Libertarians do not shirk the big issues and are always up for disputation over copious drafts of beer or bourbon or both.

We caught up with Clark in early September in Phoenix, and in due course received the usual brisk, clear replies to our questions.

“What do you say to the spoiler argument, that a vote for Clark is really a vote for Reagan, that a vote for Clark is just throwing one’s vote away?”

“If you think Libertarian politics are the right politics, you ought to do what is right, and doing what’s right in life is what good people are all about. If you think that voting for Carter or voting for Reagan is the lesser of two evils, you’re going to face that choice the rest of your life unless you build a mass, permanent institution. That applies to myself, maybe Commoner, but not to Anderson, who is not building an alternative institution.”

“What is the difference between your programs and others’?”

“I’ve come out with a $180-billion tax-cut program and a $200-billion spending-cut program to balance the budget at $414 billion. We’d cut everybody’s income tax at least in half, and we would raise the zero bracket amount of untaxed income to $7,500. We would take the 25 million Americans who make less than $10,000 or $11,000, depending on their marital status, completely off the tax rolls.”

Clark warmed to his theme: “We would abolish all subsidies to industry and agriculture, of which there are tens of billions of dollars in the budget. We would tighten up on eligibility for food stamps. New jobs would come from the incentive of lower tax rates, particularly for people who are right at the margin of welfare or working; we would eliminate all taxes for them to make it much easier for them to raise their income by leaving welfare. We believe this would produce 5.5 million additional full-time jobs; we’ve run that program through an econometric model of the economy. We think our program is the only one that really expands the number of jobs, and it would also create $170 billion in additional investment in the economy. That’s the major difference.

“We would reorient foreign policy toward a defense of this country and adopt a traditional American foreign policy of no entanglement through foreign military alliances. We would phase out of NATO, and we would phase out of our alliance with the Japanese, giving them time to build up their own defenses. We would not continue to have military ties to them. We’d do this on two bases: one, we think the present policy is terribly dangerous to the United States and that any conflict overseas can lead up to nuclear escalation. Specifically, American military doctrine holds that if conventional war goes against us in western Europe and in the Persian Gulf, then we will use tactical nuclear weapons…. The treaty system is designed to spread conflict and expose the U.S. to nuclear destruction. And that’s why we are opposed to it. You should only fight to defend your own society. Two, there is the massive expense – $100 billion transferred to western Europe and Japan – built into our military budget.”

“The differences between the Libertarians and Reagan in foreign policy are clear enough. But in terms of economic and social policy, what are the differences?”

“Reagan has come out for a two percent cut in Jimmy Carter’s 1981 budget. We are for a thirty percent cut, so we are for massive tax cuts and spending cuts. Reagan is opposed to ERA and supports a constitutional amendment to oppose abortion. And, of course, on those social questions, we always take the liberal position. When we take the liberal position, we support the ERA. We’re in favor of choice on abortion. We support legalization of drugs.”

“What do you think the election is about?”

“The election is a question: do you want to ratify the existing policies of high taxes, deficit spending, inflation, declining living standards and the present militaristic foreign policy, or do you want a change in direction?

“I think Commoner and myself both stand for a change in direction. Commoner is for more governmental intervention; I am for less, with respect to the economy, and I am for complete reorientation of foreign policy. Just as I don’t think people in Washington can control 220 million lives in the United States, I don’t think we can control 3 billion other people in the world.”

“Why should we vote for the Libertarians?”

“If you think adults ought to be free in their private lives to do anything that’s peaceful, we are the only party that articulates that point of view. If you think working people are entitled to fair wages and there should be substantially less taxes imposed, that we should abolish taxes on low-income people, we’re the only party to vote for. If you think a reorientation of our foreign policy toward defense of the United States and disengagement from foreign military alliances is the right thing in order to reduce the risk of war, we’re the only party that proposes such a change in foreign policy.”

The Responsible Choice

Why, an Indian philosopher once remarked, does Western logic so often force one to decide between two totally unacceptable alternatives? It need not. It will take a steady nerve, no doubt, over the next few weeks to survive the onslaught of the powers that be, led by the networks and the press, all combining to narrow your decision to the old Either/Or: Reagan or Carter. If you decide to break out of the mold and vote for someone you would like to see president, or for someone representing a party or a cause with which you identify, you will be treated as an irresponsible, stupid, nearsighted mischief maker ushering in a constitutional crisis and, in all likelihood, submitting America to the fascist jackboot for the next generation.

Thus you will be denounced by the same people who have been lamenting, for most of this year, the lack of choice, the lack of debate, the decline of the parties, the failure of the primary system and the general collapse of the Republic.

Pay them no heed. After four years, Jimmy Carter does not deserve the benediction of being the lesser evil, nor now Ronald Reagan the accolade of being a rational choice.

*Had Ford won in Ohio and Hawaii, he would have taken twenty-nine electoral-college votes from Carter and thus gotten the 270 electoral-college votes needed for victory.

**If the election goes into the House, each of the fifty state congressional delegations will have one vote, and the president will be elected by a majority. Thus, theoretically. Carter could run third in the popular national vote and still be elected by the new House in January. The vice-president would be elected by the Senate. Thomas Jefferson, in 1801, and John Quincy Adams, in 1825, were both elected by the House.

In This Article: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan

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