Politics of Fear: Major Parties Turn Up Scare Tactics to Keep Voters from Defecting

Author: David Yee
Created: 08 August, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
3 min read
A lesser-of-two-evils election is the lowest form of democracy. Voters deserve a better alternative.David Yee, August 2015

The 'writing has been on the wall' for over a year at this point. The 2016 election season has become a national referendum on the lesser-of-two-evils choice between the two major party candidates.

This was driven home in June, when an ABC/Washington Post poll showed that this year's election is between the two worst-liked candidates since modern polling began.

Because of this, minor party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein have both made significant inroads, chipping away steadily at the support of the two major party candidates -- with it becoming more and more likely through polling numbers that Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, will be included in this year's presidential debates.

In response to this, trying to stop the defections and redirect the spotlight back to the major party races, we're seeing a slightly different twist on the campaigning and reporting of the major party candidates.

Almost acknowledging that they're part of the lesser-of-two-evils combination, this new spin is trying to vilify the other candidate as the 'greatest of evils,' an evil requiring unchecked and lockstep support in order to defeat the ominous threat.

Gallup polling began noticing this trend earlier this summer, culminating in a piece analyzing the historical results of the 'greatest evil' election strategy in August.

But it hasn't been just the mainstream media doing this.

Bernie Sanders' op-ed in the LA Times on August 5 played strongly to the exact same phenomenon, urging his supporters to vote against the greatest evil by supporting Hillary Clinton.

Sanders, from the beginning of the race, always stated that he'd support the eventual nominee -- that's nothing to be surprised about.

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But Sanders goes further:

Donald Trump would be a disaster and an embarrassment for our country if he were elected president. His campaign is not based on anything of substance — improving the economy, our education system, healthcare or the environment. It is based on bigotry. He is attempting to win this election by fomenting hatred against Mexicans and Muslims. He has crudely insulted women. And as a leader of the “birther movement,” he tried to undermine the legitimacy of our first African American president. - Bernie Sanders, 8/5/2016

Sanders continues by making the case that his supporters must back Hillary Clinton, or the worst case scenario would happen -- a Trump presidency.

Sanders closes with:

I understand that many of my supporters are disappointed by the final results of the nominating process, but being despondent and inactive is not going to improve anything. Going forward and continuing the struggle is what matters. And, in that struggle, the most immediate task we face is to defeat Donald Trump.

Johnson and Stein have their work cut out for them to find an effective strategy to deal with this subtle nuance shift in campaigning within the major parties.

While it's still a form of 'a vote for ____ is a vote for ____' ballot-wasting strategy, the urgency, onus, and responsibility is being placed directly on each voter to 'stop' the political equivalent to the 'Boogey Man.'

Employing 'Boogey Man' politics is as old as the Republic itself. Patrick Henry maintained that the Federalists had three great 'bug-bears,' foreign wars, civil wars, and Indian wars -- all brought out at timely moments to scare the population into supporting their cause.

But more precisely, Henry believed that politics that attempted to keep the population in fear only served to fuel tyranny and the growth of government.

In 2016, we're in no different of a position.

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Each side in the major-party struggle is engaged in fear-mongering, from painting the opponent as a loose-cannon with nuclear weapons, to implying that an opponent would welcome terrorists into our nation with open arms -- both sides are using fear of the unknown as their primary campaigning weapon.

For Johnson and Stein to have a national impact, they are going to have to step outside this 'Boogey Man' campaigning and create reasons for people to vote for them -- not just playing on the sympathies of voters being disgruntled by two bad choices.

Because a greatest-of-evils election isn't democracy at all -- it's fear-mongering and tyranny by a different name.

Photo Source: Chicago Tribune

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