Lesser Evilism and the Psychopathology of Political Life

Lesser evilism is a primary component of the bipolar mentality that sustains the failed Republican-Democrat two-party state.  And like the duopoly itself, the lesser-evilist is two-faced.  On the one hand, partisans of the Republican and Democratic parties paint the choice in favor of the lesser evil as pragmatic and realistic.  "Like it or not, we have a two-party system," they are fond of saying.  In a rare moment of honesty, they will admit that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represent the interests of the American people, they might even state outright that the reigning two-party system is inimical to democracy and republicanism itself, but then in the very next breath they will go on to argue that one side of the duopoly divide is not as dangerous as the other, not as intolerable as the other, not as objectionable as the other.

Despite recognizing the failure of the two-party state, the subject is incapable of liberating him- or herself from the behaviors that reproduce it.  This mentality is akin to a form of political obsessional neurosis insofar as it reveals a "poor ability to adapt to one's environment, an inability to change one's life patterns, and the inability to develop a richer, more complex, more satisfying [political] personality."

On the other hand, we can distinguish this form of lesser evilism from its primary counterpart, which begins not from a more or less pragmatic and realistic appraisal of the two-party state, but rather from an hysterical and psychotic obsession with the party that represents the greater evil for the subject.  A key characteristic of this mentality is the condensation of personal and political anxieties, which are then  projected onto a single figure who comes to represent an existential threat for the subject.  The removal of this threat becomes the primary goal of all political activity, with the result that the subject perceives any alternative as incomparably preferable, thus leading to the embrace of the lesser evil.  We might liken this brand of lesser evilism to a form of obsessional psychosis.  Bush Derangement Syndrome and Obama Derangement Syndrome are common examples of the disorder.  At Salon, Glenn Greenwald provides us with a concise description of the phenomenon:
Every four years, The Other Side is turned into the evil spawn of Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden.  Each and every election cycle, each party claims that -- unlike in the past, when Responsible Moderates ruled and the "crazies" and radicals were relegated to the fringes (the Democrats were once the Party of Truman!; Ronald Reagan was a compromising moderate!) -- the other party has now been taken over by the extremists, making it More Dangerous Than Ever Before.  That the Other Side is now ruled by Supreme Evil-Doers means that anything other than full-scale fealty to their defeat is viewed as heresy.  Defeat of the Real Enemy is the only acceptable goal.  Election-time partisan loyalty becomes the ultimate Litmus Test of whether you're on the side of Good: it's the supreme With-Us-or-With-the-Terrorists test, and few are willing to endure the punishments for failing it.  It's an enforcement mechanism for Party loyalty that -- by design -- breeds slavish partisan fealty.
None of this has anything to do with reality.  For as long as I can remember, Republicans -- every election cycle -- have insisted that the Democratic Party has "now become more radical than ever," while Democrats insist that the GOP has now -- for the first time ever! -- been taken over by the extremists.
Together, the neurotic and psychotic lesser evilist form a binary totality not dissimilar from the relation between the masochist and the sadist, and constitute a threat to representative, democratic, republican government.  If you or anyone you know shows signs of neurotic or psychotic lesser evilism, it is most likely an indication of a deeper political imbalance.  Contact an independent political psychologist for consultation immediately. 


TiradeFaction said...

You should probably become a psychologist and pen your doctoral thesis on the societal psychosis of the two party state.

Just a suggestion ;)

Seriously though, very funny piece, I liked it. More people should read it.

Kevin Bliss said...

Absolutely spot on. I have thought about the system for years in psychological terms. M. Scott Peck talked about the importance of keeping our individual roadmaps up to date (conforming to reality). If we don't we face consequences, often emotional illness. Why would it not be the same for a country that has no coherent view of the realities that it faces and whose responses are rife with inherent conflict and ambiguity. Looks like a breakdown in the works to me.

I also offer a previous blog posting of mine on the dangers of voters over-identifying with political parties. I also explain the psychological analogy summarized above. Kevin Bliss, Washington DC - whatshouldbe.com

d.eris said...

heh, thanks TF and Kevin. If you're interested, I actually have a couple other posts on the psychopathology of two-party ideology. See:

Political Psychology and the Perversion of Political Representation

The 2010 Elections and Democratic-Republican Bipolar DIsorder

Samuel Wilson said...

Is it possible to define a third type by their habit of denigrating idealism and their constant carping against "making the perfect the enemy of the good?" In such cases, it seems that lesser-evilism is little more than excuse-making to cover a mulish resistance to radical action. It may also be true that, for some people of professedly liberal temperament, the "perfect" itself is the greater evil!