What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Daniel Fardin
Individuals who cast their vote based on some predefined strategy weigh their options based on which candidate they think is the best option. This relative analysis compares the candidate not with any principle, but with their opponent. The ultimate deciding factor in this situation becomes which person is better than the other.
A common manifestation of this “strategic voting” is the oft-heard line that one candidate is the “lesser of two evils”. While at times people phrase this statement in a more positive manner, such as “candidate A is better than candidate B”, the widespread dissatisfaction of most people in the political process results in the far more common “candidate A isn’t as bad as candidate B”.
Not only is this method of casting one’s vote ineffective and chaotic, it’s also antithetical to divine command. After the Lord discusses the importance of Constitutional law and the negative impact an evil politician can have, He says the following:
Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil. (Doctrine and Covenants 98:10; emphasis added)
In this verse we note three qualifications the Lord gives for political office: individuals must be honest, wise, and good. The obvious lesson here is that in no way does the Lord sanction strategic voting. Rather, we are specifically instructed to support leaders whose actions demonstrate a proven commitment to basic principles: honesty, wisdom, and morality. Further, we are told that anything less than these traits is evil.
A common critique against the “lesser of two evils” mantra is that the lesser of two evils is still evil itself. The Lord appears to agree. This is nothing to be trifled with, as the Lord continues in the following verse by explicitly commanding us to shun all evil (including the “lesser”):
And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God. (Doctrine and Covenants 98:11; emphasis added)
Imagine if the Saints collectively upheld this rule, did their homework, and proactively supported the campaigns of those candidates that applied (after all, the Lord says to diligently seek for such people, not wait until the primaries and caucuses have decided the candidates for you). We alone would be a great force to be reckoned with, as would the worthy individuals we support.
But instead, the good candidates are largely passed over with an excuse that if a person voted for them, they’d basically be voting for “the other party” whose candidate would win. Herein lies the basic strategy: Saints cling tightly to the two-party system and fear that should they not vote for whoever the Republican candidate is, we’d be in for a tough time with a winning Democrat.
But imagine if everybody did proactively and enthusiastically support whichever person (whether in a “third party” or one of the main two parties) was right for the job. If all those who voted out of fear instead decided to pool their support behind the good, honest, and moral individual running for office, the “lesser of two evils” would fade from the spotlight and not have ascended so easily through the primaries.
It is to the Saints’ condemnation that we do not participate in the political process from its inception through its conclusion. Instead of seeking for the right people diligently, we sit by idly while the decisions are made for us, and then work ourselves into a frenzy as we approach the final election, throwing our support behind the lesser of two evils.
The Lord continues in verse 12:
For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith. (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12)
We are being tried and tested to see if we can shun all evil and refuse to support those who do not meet the basic standards the Lord has set. Sadly, we are horribly failing this test, as evidenced by the propensity of the “lesser of two evils” ideology and the caliber of candidates currently in and running for office.