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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

The Lesser of Two Evils
Column for the week of October 31-November 20, 2004

It’s no secret that the majority of people in the U.S. do not vote come election time. In the 2000 election only one third of the population made it to the polls. We are a disillusioned nation especially where politics are concerned. To some, voting simply means choosing the lesser of two evils.

Some would say voting supports a system dirtied by corruption and greed, a system that doesn’t have a person’s best interests at heart, a system ruled by lobbyists and corporate money. That may be true. Politicians are no longer represent the common man. How could they? Wealthy people lose perspective when it comes to money and you have to have access to big bucks to campaign for office nowadays. USA Today says lobbyists spent nearly $2 billion last year on campaign-finance. In addition, the Republican Party raised $292 million for presidential and congressional campaigns and Republicans, $272 million. All of this money is just to get someone elected so they can spend more money so we as a nation can have more national debt.

Some would say that an individual vote doesn’t really count because of the Electoral College system. That may be true. The EC was originally set up by our founding fathers. They didn’t want to leave it totally up the popular vote to elect a president nor up to a congressional vote. Therefore, a controversial compromise was instituted in the Electoral College. The number of electors varies from state to state. Two electors are chosen because each state has 2 U.S. senators plus more equal to the number of U.S. representatives they have which depends on the state’s population. These electors generally cast their votes for the candidate with the most popular votes in their state but are not required to do so. In fact these electors can pretty much vote for whom they want. The system is not without flaws. In fact it didn’t take long for the founding fathers to figure that out when Thomas Jefferson tied with Aaron Burr in 1801. Historically, four times the candidate with the most popular votes did not win (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000). There have even been over 800 proposals in Congress to alter or eliminate the process but so far to no avail.

Some would say you can’t believe what candidates say. That may be true. The Republicans call the Democrats liars and the Democrats call the Republicans liars. I’m not sure if liar is the appropriate word but certainly both are adept at bending the truth. What can appear to be righteousness in our own eyes can be interpreted as lying in the eyes of others. It’s all in our perspective. The ends don’t always justify the means, unless, of course, you’re in politics.

Some say you can’t even understand the ballots or what you’re voting for. That may be true. When you get the sample ballot in the mail it takes a degree in legalese to interpret it. That’s why I so appreciate these “cheat sheets” they are sending through the mail now. My favorites are the Election 2004 Voter’s Checklist from our Republican governor and the Independent Voters’ Guide (probably from the Independents but I’m a little suspicious since they say to vote for Kerry). These little Reader’s Digest versions of measures have taken 2 and 3 pages of explanations from the sample ballots and condensed them into one or two sentences. You still don’t know what you are voting for but at least you can read it!

Some would say political campaigns are a media circus. That may be true. The swing states are being so blitzed with political commercials, phone calls, and mail they are begging for relief. We have Roger Moore’s movie and interviews on the Daily Show. Then we have Green Day, Bruce Springsteen, Ben Afflick, Sammy Kershaw, Don King, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Bon Jovi, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Selleck, and Team America, just to mention a few, doing their part. There is power in the media and in star endorsements. Nixon’s appearance on Laugh-In upped his poll rating in the 60s and some say Dan Quayle’s tiff with Murphy Brown contributed to his demise in the 90s.

So why vote? I do not fault those who choose not to vote. It is disillusioning. But I won’t listen to their complaints, either. If people don’t like the system, they can work to change it. They have that right because of where they live. And if voting is just a matter of picking the lesser of two evils I choose to be a part of that process. I have that choice because I live in a country that allows me to choose. I’d rather have the lesser of two evils than the greater. Our nation is not perfect but it has certain freedoms not available to most. It is the best man-made government on the face of the earth. Just ask any immigrant who has sacrificed beyond our wildest imagination to come here. The worst of what we have to offer is better than the best of most other countries where there are no choices. I bet those who have immigrated here and become citizens do not toss aside the privilege of voting so casually. They know what the greater evils can really do.


Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at



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