The Enemy of my Enemy might just be a “jerk”. Voting “against” vs. voting “for” in American politics

Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon

There is a very old saying dating back to Sanskrit writings in the 4th century BC: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. It appears in the occasional movie or book. And now it seems to be a description of politics in our country.

This message of this saying is that two parties should work together against a common enemy. A variation of this philosophy has taken hold in American politics where were vote against candidates instead of voting for a candidate. This has been a trend longer than it should be.


For some reason people believe that anyone who is not what they hate must be okay. I think it’s logical to consider the possibility that the person who is not what you hate could just as easily be worse than what you hate a surprising number of Americans never consider this and it would seem like something that anybody would want to consider. What is the phrase? Trust but verify. I guess we can chalk it up to desperation but we don’t deal with the least important aspects of our lives with that much carelessness.  If you were buying a house, you’d call an appraiser. Yet many people are far less critical about choosing a candidate. You might say that the implications of voting for president are far graver than the process of buying a house.

What we are seeing now is that anyone who doesn’t like, say, Hillary, or the GOP establishment will decide that Donald Trump is the man. And, conversely, anyone who doesn’t like Trump will look toward Hillary. I won’t mention what my politics are. My point is that NOT being who you don’t like (who seems to be the major appeal of Donald Trump) is far from being who do you do like.


Is it true that Hillary Clinton, an establishment candidate with an enormous war chest and incredibly powerful political connections, is good medicine for the failings of Donald Trump and is a valid  candidate for any “never trump” voter? Or can you say that Donald Trump makes up for the blindness of Mitch Mcconnell or Paul Ryan in terms of how they address the issues of working class and years of abuse of power in the Republican Party? Or does he necessarily make up for the establishment nature of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Much of Trump’s appeal has been that he’s not a politician. But do we risk our nation’s security if Trump is, in addition to being different to his predecessors, not a skilled politician in terms of foreign policy or domestic economic policy. He has done little to prove that he has those skills.

If we are voting “against” candidates then we are not going to get what we want because we have little reason to critically evaluate the people we vote for; it’s enough that they are NOT what we don’t want. That allows them to get away with murder and prevents them from having to prove themselves as viable candidates.


Voting “against” has been the trend in the U.S. for years. As Jamie Diamond, CEO of J.P Morgan said, we scapegoat and denigrate other people but we never take stock of the candidates we are “for”. As Americans we need to look at issues and not be swayed by emotional arguments. In a sense, we become suckers for slogans and glib speech from both sides of the aisle. Can I sell you a used carJ?

It seems clear that we all want someone to “make it all better for us” without any effort on our part. But in a country of 350 million people it seems clear that we can’t just listen to a few arguments. Are we so desperate to find a candidate who will give us what we want that we would spend less time vetting them than we would in evaluating a car to see if we want to buy it? It seems that we would. And that would destroy our country as easily as having a lemon of a car would destroy our lives.


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