Choosing the lesser of two evils

Ann Coulter says she’d rather vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton than John McCain. Rush Limbaugh has suggested he’d rather see the Democrats take the White House than a McCain win. James Dobson said he’d stay home rather than cast a vote in a contest between McCain and any opponent.

Such threats aren’t confined to the GOP. Michelle Obama — Barack’s wife — said she would “have to think” about supporting the Democratic ticket if Clinton wins the party’s nomination.

What’s happening to party unity? Should voters stay home rather than support the lesser of two evils?

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, moderators of, weigh in.

Joel Mathis:

They say you can’t complain if you don’t vote. They’re wrong. You can complain — and withholding your vote is valid if you don’t like your political options. That doesn’t, however, make it a good choice. Better to vote for the lesser evil.

Voting the lesser evil has gotten a bad rap. There’s a really good reason to do it: Because it’s not the greater evil. Sometimes the best service a voter can render democracy is to deliberately limit the amount of damage that can be done by politicians.

The last 20 years of presidential politics have proven this, no matter your political persuasion. In 1992 and 1996, disaffected Republicans refused to vote for what they saw as the lesser evil — they migrated to Ross Perot, handing Bill Clinton the presidency. Think Republicans loved those years? In 2000, disaffected Democrats backed Ralph Nader and we got President Bush. Lots of people said then there was “no difference” between the parties. They know better now, much to their regret.

Staying home is not quite the same as voting for a third party, but the results are the same: Playing spoiler. The stakes are too high for such games.

So vote. Vote your conscience, if you can. And if you can’t — well, welcome to the Democratic Party, Ann Coulter.

Ben Boychuk:

Nobody likes choosing the lesser of two evils. But that’s politics. Nothing is ever pure. You vote for the candidates you have, not the candidates you want to have. Unfortunately for conservatives, Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan weren’t available this year.

Republicans are not enthusiastic about their options in 2008. I should say so. I’m a Republican, and I didn’t care for my choices when I voted in California on Tuesday. I opted for Mitt Romney, the best among several weak candidates. But many serious conservatives voted for McCain, too.

Republicans are divided. If McCain is the GOP nominee, as seems likely, then conservatives will once again be forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. For many conservatives, McCain is wrong about some of the vital issues of the day. He’s wrong about the First Amendment with campaign-finance reform. He’s wrong about American sovereignty with immigration reform. And he’s wrong about regulation of the U.S. economy and he’s wrong about global-warming solutions.

But as wrong as McCain may be, Republicans need to get past his failings.

Why? Because given the choice between a fair-weather Republican and an unabashed liberal Democrat, there is no choice. Conservatives are weaker today than they were eight years ago. But conservatives were weak in 1976. As it turned out, 1980 was a pretty good year.