It is common to condemn the voting strategy of voting for the lesser of two evils, but is this common “wisdom” correct? I think not. Let’s look at actual reality to understand why voting the lesser evil is a reasonable choice in the American context.
To be clear, as both alternatives are evil, obviously both will commit evil acts while in power; however, on net, who is more dangerous to the country the greater or lesser evil candidate for President.
I have been voting since 1988, so I will step through those choices as we now have the benefit of history to test the hypothesis.
In 1988, George H. W. Bush was the lesser evil opposing Michael Dukakis. Later, the loser Dukakis failed in his effort to run Amtrak, which is just a small part of the U.S. government. Bush in contrast immediately faced the problems of the Savings & Loan crisis and cleanup of federal nuclear facilities. After managing the end of the Cold War, Bush significantly cut the military and attempted to establish a post-Cold War order in foreign policy.
In 1992 and 1996, the greater evil of Bill Clinton defeated the lesser evils of George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole. Both Bush and Dole have long careers in public office to demonstrate competence in governance. In contrast, Clinton, who would later be impeached by the House, lost his party control of the Congress for the first time in 40 years because he was so incompetent. Further, Clinton opposed the capital gains tax cuts that eventually became law with a result of eliminating the federal budget deficit and freeing the economy. Meanwhile, both Republicans and Democrats agree that the current economy problems have their roots in regulatory policy from the Clinton Administration.
In 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush was the lesser evil who defeated the greater evils of Al Gore and John Kerry. Al Gore has gone on to promote the pseudo-science of anthropomorphic global warming and destroying capital in Silicon Valley by diverting it to worthless green investments. Meanwhile, John Kerry has been a zero in the Senate with his largest distinction being his leading the Obama Administration’s policy failures in Afghanistan. In contrast, George W Bush caused the surrender of four state sponsors of terrorism after 9/11. He attempted, and failed, to reform immigration, Social Security, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before their failure brought down the American economy.
In 2008, two greater evils opposed each other: Barack Obama and John McCain. John McCain was dangerously unfit for command based upon his time as a POW and the impact it had upon him; for a historical parallel, see General Charles Lee at the Battle of Monmouth. Regarding Obama, see the consequences of his failed administration.
While I can strongly fault policies of the lesser evils who were elected, I find that the greater evils accomplished much less of benefit to Americans comparatively.
To have a non-evil candidate on your ballot, there are two options: (1) participate in the primary process so that the parties select better candidates, or (2) write-in a non-evil candidate of your own choice on your ballot.
In summary, given the choice between a lesser and greater evil, voting the lesser evil has demonstrated historical benefits.