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The "Lesser of Two Evils" Argument

I'm an analyst. In general, we look at past data to assess potential trends. So as we prepare for the quadrennial chicanery that is the Presidential election cycle, I thought it might be a fun exercise to look at what the past few years have produced.

When Donald Trump was elected, a large portion of the electorate - those who did not vote for him, in particular - expressed their disbelief, some quite vehemently. Since then, many of the same voting citizens have continued in their disbelief while some of the President's initial supporters have become less ardent in their support. Only last year, a common expression that I had begun to hear (from both supporters and detractors) was "If we had just known about 'x' before he took office..." along with a number of suggestions on how to identify that 'x'-factor in future candidates. Here are the top three suggestions that I have heard most often:

(For the record, I question how those who asked the question could not have known. If memory serves, the evidence was there for any and all to see in the 18 months of the campaign leading to his election. In my opinion, those people either factored all of those items into their "lesser of two evils" arguments, or simply did not care enough at that time to think that those items might become the issue that it has apparently become.)

  • "Require all presidential candidates to release 10 years of tax returns for public view."

My question is "what purpose does that serve?" What "gotcha" information is contained within these documents from ten years ago that *should* prevent someone from seeking office? In point of fact, one candidate during the 2018 mid-term elections did release his tax documents, but was then asked by a reporter why he didn't report giving more money to charities.

  • "Release college transcripts for public view."

Again, what possible purpose can this serve? The only information contained in a college transcript is how well (or poorly) someone performed in that academic environment. What possible bearing does that have on the person's ability to perform the tasks required of the office? What about someone (like me) who didn't go to college? Or who went but didn't acquire a degree? Should we be barred from ever seeking office?

  • "Require a psychiatric evaluation before seeking office."

This is probably the most ridiculous of them that I have heard (as if we all aren't already rather certifiable simply because we are seeking office). Which (of the many) mental conditions out there contain factors that are so heinous that simply having the condition should prevent a seeker from attaining office? How many evaluations should be required? 2 out of 3 clinical psychiatrists say "Yes"? 3 of 5? Where is the threshold to be drawn?

I understand that we, as an electorate, want to have some level of confidence in the abilities of our governmental officers; that's why we have elections. But I encourage you to look first at what is important to YOU, then evaluate ALL of the candidates - regardless of which office is being sought - based on that measure. Because if you are looking at the candidates using a 'lesser-of-two-evils' type of filter, then you are simply setting yourself up for a buyer's remorse at a future date.


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