James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Who is more evil–Obama or Romney?

Posted by James McPherson on August 17, 2012

It has long been a truism that people in presidential elections vote for “the lesser of two evils.” In fact, if you Google “2012 election ‘lesser of two evils'” you’ll get 384,000 hits, including a Rasmussen poll stating that’s how almost half of Americans will vote. Others using the term include writers for Time magazine, the Washington PostFox Business, NPR twice, Alternet, the Huffington PostRenew America, Politics365, the Arizona Republic, the Baltimore Sun and WorldNutsDaily. All that, despite the fact that folks such as union activist Shamus Cooke, magician Penn Jillette and late folk singer Utah Phillips have pointed out that the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Others from both the left and the right claim there is no meaningful difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. In fact, they are both neoconservative pro-business chickenhawks. Neither has been acting particularly presidential in this campaign, with both using record amounts of campaign money to sling mud and lie about their opponents. One important difference, though: Romney’s his Supreme Court choices would likely make the most conservative Supreme Court in history even worse.

The lack of a great choice is why I wouldn’t bother to vote for either the Democratic or the Republican ticket unless I lived in a swing state. Maybe I’ll vote for one of the candidates you’ve never heard of–though probably not birther radio host Laurie Roth, time traveler Warren Ashe, or repeat candidate Jack Fellure (against “the New World Order,” alcohol, homosexuality and gun control). Nor will I vote for anti-abortion loony Randall Terry or batcrap-crazy Terry Jones, though both are apparently running. Maybe Rosanne Barr, whose platform and vice presidential pick I like more than her singing (though the latter apparently has improved). After all, it’s not like my presidential vote will matter.

Still, most voters will cast ballots for Obama or Romney, and many will do so with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. So for those folks, the question becomes, which offers the “lesser evil”? Folks such as Michael Savage and nutty bloggers (also here) might argue that Obama is our “most evil president,” but I find that sort of hyperbole to be silly and simplistic. I’d rank Richard Nixon, Andrew Jackson, Harry Truman, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, among others, as much nastier, though I’m also willing to admit that most may have been acting with good intent–that their “evil” was more a factor of their being human than of any satanic infuence. After all, God was on their side (also see video above).

Regardless of your definitions of evil, there is much to dislike about both candidates in this race. Obama’s case may be the more complex simply because we know more about him (or at least we should, if we’ve been paying attention). It’s tougher to categorize Romney’s “accomplishments” because he is seemingly unwilling to claim credit for his success as a governor and doesn’t want to talk about his time as a businessman–though he will claim credit for something he didn’t do. In a probable act of desperation that doesn’t seem to be paying off, he has has now tied himself to Paul Ryan (making him at least the third consecutive GOP candidate whose VP pick was more interesting than the guy at the head of the ticket). For better or worse, other folks who come with Romney include John Bolton, Robert Bork and Sheldon Adelson.

Obama’s accomplishments are many and varied; the Washington Post came up with a top 50, and there are several other lists. PolitiFact keeps a running meter of Obama promises kept. But that’s where we get back to the idea of evil. As others have pointed out, half of a Democratic Hub list of the dishonest, super-secretive and vindictive Obama administration’s accomplishments is made up of people he has killed (though crazy Republicans who like killing people just as much now claim that Obama gets too much credit). Obama’s homicide-by-drone victims include American citizens and the 16-year-old son of one American.

So, to get back to the original question: Which is the greater evil? Should we re-elect a president who has decided he has the right to kill you now, or choose the one that will be happy to simply let you die while he pays less than 1 percent in income taxes and appoints Supreme Court justices that will guarantee corporate rule throughout your lifetime–which, especially with conservative views of climate change and the environment, may not be all that long, anyway? Swing-state voters, you get to decide. The rest of us just get to live (or not) with your decision.

21 Responses to “Who is more evil–Obama or Romney?”

  1. Thanks for the link to my work. A more comprehensive essay than the one in the final paragraph was published by Transition Voice a week ago.

  2. James McPherson said

    Great–thanks, Guy.

  3. Kudos for the song, pal Joey. You gave me the giggles with your choices of who you would vote for. I don’t agree with all of your choices for shi**y presidents….You left out a few, IMHO.

    Down to business now. I am voting for the lesser of two evils – Romney. I have had this argument with B. ad nauseum, and I will explain it here. We have another Carter in the WH, and we need to lose him. (Yes, Carter should’ve been on your list.) Since the retarded GOP has decided upon Romney, I will take this baby step. Choosing Ryan was a stroke of genius – their ideologies are polar opposites. Ryan is what the conservative craves,,,, That said, I’m quite sure that Obama and Romney are both nice fellas. La-di-da….who cares?

    As far as the SCOTUS, I find your comment amusing. How the hello do you think an unconstitutional tax passed? (Obamacare)

    By the by, is Guy your brother? You’re both very handsome……yes, I’m a perv.(So sue me; it is your right, after all.)

  4. James McPherson said

    “shi**y presidents….You left out a few”

    Indeed–I decided to just include the words “among others” when I realized how many there had been. Auggie should appreciate–though he’d probably never acknowledge–the fact that both Dems and Republicans make the list.

    Though I disagree with you about which candidate is the “lesser of two evils,” since you live in a swing state you should vote for one of the two main party candidates. And because Blackie would vote wrong, I’m glad he says he won’t vote for one of them. Not that I believe him.

    And yes, Guy is my younger and equally over-educated brother, though he works harder than I do and his blog has a lot more readers than mine. 🙂

  5. But you’re more handsome. 😉

    I believe Romney to be the lesser of two evils for the simple reason that the Executive branch has taken liberties that are unconstitutional (not that it hasn’t been done before.) Will Romney go there? Je ne sais pas.

  6. James McPherson said

    “you’re more handsome”

    Thanks. My wife might agree, though his probably wouldn’t. 🙂

    “Will Romney go there?”

    Every president goes as far as he can get away with. And with his unwillingness to discuss even the simple things that candidates tradionally have–his taxes, his work record, his political record–I can’t imagine that he’d be more open or less oppressive than Obama.

  7. jm said

    President Obama can only impact the conservative tilt of the Supreme Court by replacing Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas or Justice Alito.There is no indication that any of those Justices will be leaving the Court before the end of Obama’s term.

    In the event Governor Romney wins, he cannot afford to appoint a hard right consevative if a vacancy occurs. That would imperil his reelection, and the chances for any Republican to succeed him.

  8. James McPherson said

    Thanks, Jm, but you’re more optimistic than I am. The oldest and frailest member of the court is Ginsberg, probably the most liberal–so the court is bound to shift leftward when she leaves. Scalia is next oldest, and though he seems to be in good shape he’s pushing 80. And next oldest is Kennedy, the frequent swing vote–if he’s next to go, a hard left or hard right pick would definitely have the potential to change the court. All three, along with Breyer (another liberal) are well over 70.

    Many liberals think Ginsberg and Breyer should have retired already, to let Obama appoint their replacements. O’Connor quit at 75 and Souter at 69, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the next president appoint two or three justices. Besides, Romney has already said he’d like to appoint someone like Bork.

  9. jm said

    Thanks for your reply.

    I would have thought that the Obama Biden Campaign would have done more messaging about the likely radical direction of the Supreme Court under a Romney Ryan Administration on a number of policy and social justice issues particularly in view of Justice Scalia’s very public advocacy of his views about an originalist interpretation of the text of the Constitution.

    The addition of another conservative justice under Romeny Ryan could mean that the Court would have a solid block of votes to overturn the 5-4 decisions which have upheld abortion rights, affirmative action, voting rights, corporate personhood, privacy and environmental regulations. Those are matters of significant concern to the Democratic base.

    Having brought about some of the more innovative usages of the Internet and social media in politics, I am also surprised that the Obama Biden campaign does not seem to have a stronger bench of progressive content writers on social media, online media and the web, and hardly any weighty content producers for Internet TV or Internet radio.

    Both Campaigns seem to be defying political gravity by spending vast sums of campaign dollars on broadcast TV and cable TV advertising when the data suggests that many people in the 18-49 bracket are getting most of their information about policy making and politics online.

  10. James McPherson said

    I agree about the lack of a Supreme Court. Maybe they’re afraid that people won’t be thrilled with the idea of 3-5 Obama appointments. I also agree about the 5-4 decisions, though of course the spilts varied. Dems wouldmore likely oppose corporate personhood while favoring abortion rights. And depending on which side is in power, some of those former 5-4 decisions would likely become 6-3 ones.

    People keep pointing out that the GOP has a lot more money, but I don’t think the difference matters much (though I wish every political listserv I’m on, both liberal and conservative, would stop asking me for money). For one thing, relatively few states are in play, so the Obama folks can spend most of their money there. For another, Obama has a huge advantage in the fact that everything a president does is news–and he’s in a position to “do” quite a bit in terms of aid or punishment. And finally, while I think his campaign might be doing more via social media, they’re apparently doing much more than the other side: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2326/obama-outpaces-romney-on-social-media-election-2012-facebook-twitter-youtube. Thanks.

  11. Reuel said

    It seems Kennedy has been replaced by Roberts on the Supreme Court, Swing Vote covered. So now to who is the most Evil, easy, anyone that currently has a position in Washington in the last 4 years and has not signed a budget in 4 years. Also anyone that could run up a 6 trillion dollar debt in four years, I know he likes to pass the 2009 Budget off on President Bush, but if you look at the debt for that year. He took the 350 Billion left over from the tarp, then pass a 867 billion dollar stimulus-less<<<(New word. So together that equals 1.2 Trillion debt given to others as a political favors, at which we the people still own part of Government Motors. Side bar, have you seen the sales lately for the car company you and I own now. Also the Government bought a bunch of these. So that is Stimulus plus cash for cars we already bought once. I still don't understand how President Bush gets blamed all alone for the whole crash. Did he warn the Democrats twice that Freddy and Fanny were in trouble? Yes. Did they work with him when they took back both houses of congress in 2007. No. The bottom line is the crash was going to happen and quite possibly sooner if it were not for the build up we had to make with our military after 911. Yeah President Clinton was using his post cold war savings thanks to the Pope, President Reagan and President Bush SR, oh and let not forget Margret Thatcher. But as it will always be and has always been thought out history. If you drop your guard, someone will take a swing at you. To bad, but we must keep a strong military or we become the target. I know the left loath that but it is a fact of life on this world. So what happen between 2007 and the crash of 2008? The answer is so simple that a first year economic major could figure that out. The party that was taking back power was and still is to this day friends of everyone but the "Evil" Corporations that provide most of the private sector jobs which employees made good enough money to pay income taxes, they bail to other countries because the next step would be to increase regulation and make it impossible to profit. That is a Evil word isn't? Profit. So lets think about this, corporations are cash heavy and not spending it for what reason? Uncertainty of what it will cost to build things here in the great USA. We also know several other FACTS, Large cities are filing bankruptcy at a record pace, States are close behind, at what point does the number in front of " trillion " matter, or is it already past the point of no return? So what exactly are you accusing Romney of being evil for? He has followed all the laws and regulations in place the whole time he was in the private sector, yes he has money in foreign countries, not a shelter, maybe considering the weakness of our economy and if I had that kind of money I would put some oversea too. He paid his taxes required by law or he would of be audited. He did write that law or vote for that law, but he followed it and has paid a lot of taxes. Oh that right he put a dog on top of his car for a vacation, He was the head of Bain "A legal company that went into companies and either turned them around or shut them down, Now was it his fault these companies were failing? NO. OK so why were these companies failing in the first place? Mismanagement and exactly what we have in Washington today. So let see should I vote for someone that has dealt with mismanagement or the one that places blame and continues to spend money he doesn't have? That is a no brainier. Then if he doesn't turn it around in 4 years Fire him too.

  12. Reuel said

    Something hit me yesterday about one of comments above “Republican like to kill people”. I don’t have the massive education in the use English language or writing skills as most that post here. But I found that comment a little disturbing. Although I am not a registered Republican or Democrat it still wander what the propose of this comment was. I don’t think President Bush, if you are suggesting, enjoyed sending troops to two countries to resolve a problem with a group that one had attacked us on our soil(Afghanistan) and the other at which we were in a conflict with from 1991 until just last year (Iraq). I was one that did not support the first war in Iraq and to be clear, President Clinton also left that situation fester like a blister and used it to wag the dog when distractions were needed. My point is that both of these actions had approval of both political parties, unlike the real unilateralist Barry whom only makes decisions with himself and the UN/Nato for his actions. Then the Democrats use words like Women’s Health Care is being refused, but this healthcare being refused and is apposed because the click words they use are really abortion of the unborn no matter how far long in the pregnancy they are in. So to clarify my remarks about the abortion issue, due to I could be misunderstood. I support it in cases of REAL Medical issues that may harm the mother, rape and insist.Plus if it does not involve my tax dollars to preform the ones that are just being killed because it is being used as a form of birth control. Yes a women has a right to her body and can do what ever she wishes to do but not with money funneled to Planned Parent”Hood”. So what the differences Republicans like to kill people whom wish to harm us and Democrats are having a war on the unborn. Ever see a late term abortion? Evil is all in the eyes of the beholder. Had to use “Evil” to stay on subject line.

  13. melfamy said

    I have a friend who, when referring to the last generation or so’s presidential match-ups, prefers the term ‘The Evil of Two Lessers’.

  14. That was funny, G.

  15. Reuel said

    That is a exactly the correct wording for our opinions lately.

  16. James McPherson said

    Thanks, folks, for keeping the conversation going while I was gone. I just got back from four days of camping and fishing, and am exhausted, so won’t say much other than to address reuel’s concern about “Republicans like to kill people.” I think if you read the full phrase–“though crazy Republicans who like killing people just as much now claim that Obama gets too much credit”–you get a better perspective. I was criticizing folks in both parties who view war as something other than a last resort. Of course we do disagree about Bush’s actions in Iraq, and the fact is that the war killed more than 100,000 people. Like Obama, Bush also used drones, and approved Texas’ killing of several folks, including at least one of whom was mentally challenged.

  17. augger said

    I stated something over on CCF’s blog site, that I feel (though loosely) needs to be said concerning the Federal Government reach, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama …

    “That still doesn’t negate the need for something people can regularly depend upon in some circumstances and a more comprehensive safety net for places where there is no one like you to depend upon, and for services and times when you can’t help out.” — Crazycrawfish (on charity, and the need to care for fellow Americans)

    Ok, I hope this does not hit the wrong nerve, but I beg to differ … but only to a degree. You will need to quantify your meaning for me, as I will quantify my criticism of the point.

    There is nothing in the enumerated powers that gives the onus to the federal government to provide any “safety net” for it’s citizens in this context. The onus is on each state to oversee the citizens that live with in it. Part of part of the major problems we are facing today is the fact that each state accepts federal money … and thus federal control. I will gladly give an example:

    The cost of roads is an expensive one. Not only in their construction, but more importantly in their upkeep. If you remember far enough back, each state set their own speed limits … until that one the federal government offered states money for construction and maintenance of roads with a small stipulation …speed limit caps of 55 mph (mandated to each state by the federal government).

    Now this may sound like a trivial example, but let’s extend it a bit (though this should be a whole topic to it’s own … maybe I need to start my own blog site one day). One has to remember how the United States was set up to protect us from tyranny. The founding fathers knew that if one central government seized too much power, individual liberty was at risk. That is exactly why the states per-existed the federal government and together they granted the federal government with simple, but enumerated and limited powers.

    Many administrations later (both sides are at fault), we come to the wonderful benevolent, ever government extending Obamacare. What makes it so much worse than Romneycare the Democrats might ask … the answer is simple. Federal control vs State control, and that my friend is an enormous difference. Let’s examine Florida for a second if we may (I love to pick on my ex-state).

    Florida is considered a fairly rich state. Since Rick Scott took over, the recent negative budgeting under Christ has been turned, and the state is again banking reserves. Obamacare wants to buy in to healthcare in Florida with a 1billion payout of our taxpayer dollars over the next 10 years. Sounds like a tremendous offer until you look at the dynamics deeper. There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that that payout will even begin to cover all of the Medicare/Medicaid (the new Obamacare) reimbursements, and the deal isn’t very sweet for Florida. The sanctions imposed by accepting this payout will sink the state financially. Scott knows it, and so do the seniors who’ve been polled on it. No one wants those government regulations, and so Florida has opted out. And honestly, I cannot blame them.

    Romneycare would not be the answer for Florida either, but for some weird reason, it’s seems to be working well enough in Mass that they have yet to repeal it there (go figure).

    In the end, and to put it quite simplistically, it is much easier for a citizen to move to another state than it is for a citizen to move to another country. Let’s keep the federal government’s reach to a minimum, and let the states do what they are supposed to do … govern their people.

    It’s all I ask. 🙂

  18. […] Obama deserves to win (or whether either either of these two guys should be elected) is another question, but most of the people who use a statistical approach expect the same […]

  19. […] a couple of reasons. First, I’m not a loyalist of any party (I didn’t vote for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney). I want to see progress (and the end of pointess gridlock), regardless of who can claim […]

  20. […] not particularly brave, nor especially effective in accomplishing his goals. He has accomplished some good things while doing some bad ones. He seems to be more reflective than Bush, but who isn’t? The one thing that […]

  21. […] been talking politics since then, usually agreeing (we do split on presidential elections and a few other issues at times). We do more than talk, though; primarily because of […]

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