The Partisan Perspective: Your Choice in November is Between Sunscreen and Skin Cancer

I watched a TikTok video recently that made an allegorical comparison that voters who choose not to vote for President Joe Biden because of ethical, moral, or philosophical reasons were like consumers choosing skin cancer because they didn’t like the sunscreen company. 

The analogy is problematic, but it also highlights a terrible reality about elections in the US. Why do we accept a system where the choice presented by partisans is between sunscreen and cancer? 

In a system that was designed to perpetuate a zero-sum contest between two sides, the stakes get higher each election cycle to convince people they have to cast their ballot a certain way “or else.”

One side says voters have to vote for Trump to save America. The other side says voters have to vote for Biden to save democracy. At a certain point, infinite stakes lead to extreme analogies over the choice before voters -- like the sunscreen analogy. 

The creator of the TikTok video specifically addressed people who said they felt supporters of Biden on social media were relying too much on scare tactics to get them to vote for someone who has not earned their vote.

And the argument he lays out is that voters should be scared. 

He discussed Project 2025, a far-right mandate for a conservative administration that includes a 180-day playbook for the next president that is nothing short of an extreme ideological wish list. 

Former President Donald Trump has tried to distance himself from it, asserting that he knows nothing about Project 2025. 

“I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal,” he posted on his social media website, Truth Social. 

Biden and his team have increased their focus on Project 2025. Biden said in a statement that Trump can’t wash his hands of something that “was written for him, by those closest to him.” He added that what’s in its pages should “scare every single American.”

There is plenty of scary rhetoric floating around. Kevin Roberts, president of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation said on Steve Bannon’s podcast that the country is in the midst of the second American revolution.

He added that it will “remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

Meanwhile, American economist Paul Krugman wrote in a New York Times op-ed that if Trump wins a second term “it’ll be the last real national election America holds for a very long time.” He added that anyone who thinks this is hyperbole hasn’t been paying attention.

Democratic US Rep. Jared Golden rejects the commonly heard premise that voters could see an end to the democratic process. 

He wrote in a Bangor Daily News op-ed that in America’s 248 years, the country’s democracy “has withstood civil war, world wars, acts of terrorism, and technological and societal changes that would make the Founders’ head spin.”

He added:


“Pearl-clutching about a Trump victory ignores the strength of our democracy. Jan. 6, 2021, was a dark day. But Americans stood strong. Hundreds of police officers protected the democratic process against thousands who tried to use violence to upend it. Judges and state election officials upheld our election laws. Members of Congress, including leaders from both parties, certified the election results.

They all are joined in the defense of democracy by the millions of us who, like me, made an oath of allegiance to the United States and to the Constitution when we began our military service, plus hundreds of millions of freedom-loving Americans who won’t let anyone take away our constitutional rights as citizens of the greatest democracy in history.”


Unfortunately, calmer voices are often drowned out in the mainstream political narrative by the people who choose fear over reason.

This brings us back to the sunscreen analogy. 

On the surface, the analogy is flawed because in the real world if someone doesn’t like a sunscreen company they can simply purchase just as good or better sunscreen from another company.

There is a plethora of options in the sunscreen market. 

The same, however, cannot be said for the US political industry – which is where the messy reality of the sunscreen analogy comes in. As long as the US election system denies voters choice, the sunscreen company will always be able to say:

“You can go with us or get cancer.” The choice before voters will always be prosperity or destruction, regardless of how hyperbolic such claims may be. 

This is not the first election cycle that voters have been told the country cannot afford them voting for a third party or independent candidate because the “lesser of the two evils” didn’t “earn” the votes.

"The stakes are too high," they're told.  

This type of rhetoric has also not solely come from one side. Both parties have used it in an attempt to get voters to fall in line. It didn’t start with Donald Trump, and it won’t end when he is out of the political picture. 

Voters will always be told by one or both parties that candidate X or candidate Y has to be stopped “or else.” The sunscreen company never needs to be accountable to customers as long as the only other choice is cancer. 

Who holds the sunscreen company accountable when customers think it is not acting in their best interest or has not earned their patronage, but there is no competition to incentivize the company to do better by customers?

The harsh reality is there is no accountability, and the company will continue business as usual under the belief that it is entitled to the business it receives.

As long as people accept a market devoid of choice, this will never change. 

When we look at the current state of elections in the US, more and more voters are beginning to reject this paradigm, which is without a doubt a big reason why 51% of Americans now self-identify as independent.

So, what’s the solution? Voters want more choice – on the ballot, the debate stage, and in the marketplace of political ideas. The only way to give them more choice is to reform the way we elect public officials.

There is not a silver bullet to what ails the US political process. It requires changing the way we think about primary elections, voting methods, biased ballot access and campaign finance rules, exclusionary debates, political redistricting, and more. 

A network of nonpartisan reformers that spans across the country and grows in number every day is working to give voters more choice and competition from the earliest stages of the taxpayer-funded elections process to incentivize accountability in the political ecosystem. 

Everyday citizens have led successful reforms from one coast to the other to bolster hope in voters that the political process does not have to prey on what divides us or what we fear most – but can offer meaningful representation and healthier dialogue. 

In 2024, 6 states plus the District of Columbia could change the way voters elect their representatives by enfranchising all voters, regardless of political affiliation, and empowering voters to have a greater say in who represents them.

Anger and fear should not be what drives voters – nor should that be the expectation. The “vote for us or doom” mentality has succeeded in only fostering a political environment that solely benefits those in power and their allies. 

Voters deserve a system in which they are encouraged to vote for who and what gives them hope for the future. 

electoral college
Image reference
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash