Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jim Woods

Opinion: Why I am not voting for the “lesser evil”

First Published: Unity, Vol. 3, No. 20, October 24-November 6, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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I am not voting for Carter or Reagan in the current election. I would like to reply to one opinion expressed on Carter’s behalf (UNITY, October 10-23, 1980).

For many years Americans have been told to vote for a “lesser evil.” I was just a kid when my parents voted for Harry Truman in 1945. The arguments in support of Truman were similar to those we hear today on behalf of Carter. Truman’s opponent, Governor Dewey, was an open representative of big business. Truman ran as the “little guy,” and “anti-rightist,” and a man of peace. Like millions of Americans, my parents voted for Truman – not because they believed all his rhetoric – but because they were intimidated by the spectre of “rightism.” My parents hoped to use the lesser evil (Truman) against the greater danger (Dewey).

However, what my parents hoped to avoid in Dewey, they received from Truman – with a vengeance. The Truman administration ushered in the Cold War and McCarthyism. Labor leaders were hunted down and jailed. Loyalty oaths were imposed in schools. Truman invaded Greece, then Korea. He prepared the CIA to impose the hated Shah on the Iranian people. How many great evils of today were spawned by the “lesser evils” of yesterday.

The “lesser evils” invade Cuba and Viet Nam

The monopoly capitalists used the Truman election as a “mandate” to accelerate U.S. aggression. It took me many years to realize that voting for one imperialist to stop another backfires on the working class and its allies.

In the early sixties I got involved in progressive movements. I supported Cuban independence. But I also undercut that support when I mistakenly voted for John Kennedy for President. Kennedy claimed to be a “dove,” a friend of the third world. I did not trust Kennedy, but Nixon the “hawk” had to be stopped. There was nothing to do but vote for the “lesser evil.” So I believed at the time.

Immediately after Kennedy took office, he used his “mandate” to invade Cuba. Wiretapping, covert CIA operations, anti-labor bills, Green Beret infiltration into Viet Nam – these were some Kennedy actions. I was disillusioned. But I still did not realize that only the revolutionary movement could stop a Nixon and Kennedy.

In the next elections, Lyndon Johnson ran against Goldwater. The LBJ contest resembled the present Carter campaign. Johnson was supposed to be the moderate, a “friend of the Negro,” a man of peace. Goldwater was trigger-happy, the man who “shot from the hip.” The lesser-evil argument was rampant in those days too. You were blackmailed into voting for a smiling imperialist because the grisly imperialist menaced the world with atomic war. I still did not realize that this intimidation, this electoral blackmail, was integral to the functioning of imperialism.

When LBJ became President, Kennedy’s “lesser evil” flowed into Johnson’s “lesser evil” – wholesale bombing and genocide in Indochina. At home, Johnson invoked the draft and called out the National Guard to mow down Black freedom fighters – always citing his electoral “mandate” from the people.

I realized that your vote does count in national elections. It counts for imperialism. It becomes one mandate for the crimes of the next four years.

That is why I am not voting for Carter or Reagan today. The lesser evil has proven wrong in practice. And I am tired of being blackmailed into voting for enemies of the world’s people.

Pro-Carter letter presents inaccurate picture

I am not against voting in principle. However, the pro-Carter letter paints a inaccurate picture of the Carter administration, both in domestic and international affairs.

In domestic affairs the letter portrays Carter as a man who sets a “mild tone” for national politics. Yet when Carter took office, he launched a series of attacks on national minorities and laboring people. He supported the racist Bakke decision, creating a climate for the growth of the Ku Klux Klan (no real surprise when you remember Carter’s calls for “ethnic purity”). Carter re-imposed the draft. He waged a racist campaign against Iranians in the U.S. Wage-freezing, antiabortion moves (the Hyde Amendment), cutbacks in social services, huge price-hikes in gas – none of these reactionary moves under Carter were mentioned in the pro-Carter letter. The letter wrongly appraises Carter and Reagan on the basis of what candidates say about themselves, not by their actual practice and real class role.

Carter’s foreign policy

Internationally, the pro-Carter opinion wrongly portrays Carter as a benefactor of the third world. To do this, the writer forgets the U.S. occupation troops in Korea, Carter’s backing for the fascist junta in El Salvador, U.S. business props for South Africa. The letter does not even mention the international crisis precipitated by Carter when he brought the hated Shah to the U.S. Just a few months ago, Carter attempted to invade Iran in a fiasco that resembled Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs. Voting for Carter requires an incredible loss of memory!

Carter has not – as the opinion suggests – achieved genuine unity with progressive movements in opposition to Soviet aggression. Carter slandered China for its brave counterattack on the Vietnamese-China border. Carter still claims that SALT II will hold back Soviet militarism. Carter even said he preferred Cuban occupation troops in Angola to Angolan independence. In essence the U.S. still hopes to play the Soviet Union and the third world against each other. This policy is not genuine support for national sovereignty and independence.

It is true that democratic advances were made during the Carter years. However, it is basically wrong to credit Carter and monopoly capitalism for anti-imperialist victories so dearly earned by the peoples and countries in the world. Normalization of relations with China began when Nixon was forced to recognize China. (Would we vote for Nixon?) The U.S. was forced to accept elections in Zimbabwe when the U.S.-backed Rhodesian regime faced defeat on the battlefield. Carter was forced to sign the Panama Canal Treaty or face a shutdown of the canal.

Of course, we do support certain U.S. actions when they objectively coincide with the peoples’ interests. But we should not naively conclude that these actions make the U.S. a friend of the world’s people.

The U.S. is a declining superpower. Confronted with the rise of Soviet aggression, faced with growing strength and independence of the third world (which Carter fears), the U.S. does make some concessions to the third world. But it makes concessions to serve its own vested interests, and it consistently tries to turn these concessions back onto a reactionary path. In negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty, Carter tried to impose treaty limits to Panamanian sovereignty. In short, Carter is not the Buddha which pro-Carter people make him out to be.

I am glad UNITY opposes voting for Carter and Reagan. I am also glad UNITY printed the pro-Carter letter for discussion.

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Jim Woods is a regular contributor to UNITY.