I’m not going to belabor this one, because in truth were I still also microblogging here, this might be a short, untitled post, and I’m not yet ready to revisit that idea. That said, I didn’t want to let Dave Karpf’s thoughts on what elections are for pass by without highlighting the most important idea.

Politics extends beyond elections. If you put your faith in a President — any President — to fix the world for you, then you are bound to be disappointed. But elections are constituitive, shaping moments. They determine broadly whether you will operate under the politics of opposition or the politics of articulation.

Periods of opposition are good for movement-building and solidarity. But they don’t result in a lot of wins. Periods of articulation are where the wins happen, but also where we are reminded that political systems are complicated and exceptionally hard to move.

This is Karpf’s counter-argument to the idea that when you’re a progressive voter your choices often get framed as “the lesser of two evils”, a phrase and an idea which came up in a different context on this week’s episode of Lessons in Chemistry when Elizabeth Zott added “is still evil”.


All I can say to them […] is that politics is a constant struggle, and elections are inflection points. The choice is not between the lesser of two evils. The choice is whether you would rather spend the next four years fighting to improve the status quo, or spend them fighting to preserve it.

The framing Karpf provides here is one that I’ve somehow managed to miss out on over the decades, and I think it’s the correct one. Either a Democrat wins and and “you fight to articulate and pass new proposals the make the world better” or a Republican does and “you fight like hell just to keep the world from getting worse”.