“Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.”
That’s the weighty moral principle currently persuading many Americans they cannot in good conscience vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, and must therefore support a third-party spoiler candidate with no chance of winning, or write in the name of someone they really like (Mitt Romney says he might write in his wife), or else refrain from voting for president altogether.
Many seek to explain this stance by citing Scripture, or influential theologians like 19th century British preacher Charles Spurgeon, who said, “Of two evils, choose neither.”
Yet, this moral prohibition of voting for a “lesser evil” (because it’s “still evil”) could well end up being the decisive factor in what promises to be a close election, that determines not only who becomes president – Trump or Clinton – but America’s trajectory and destiny for the rest of our lives, and perhaps our children’s.
So, maybe we should just stop for a minute and take a much closer look at this “lesser evil” mantra.
Let’s start by being completely honest.
In this broken world populated exclusively by deeply flawed people, including you and me, the plain truth is that we are required to choose between the lesser of two evils all the time.
Every time you swallow a medication that causes harmful side effects, you are embracing the lesser of two evils to prevent a greater one. If you attend Harvard or Yale, you choose to endure a nonstop gauntlet of far-left indoctrination, stifling political correctness and insane sexual anarchy, all to obtain an Ivy League education. If you’re a severe diabetic and your doctor says your foot has to be amputated to give you a better chance at survival, you choose the lesser of two evils. It’s tough, but you do it. The examples are endless and everywhere.
Even our country’s revered Constitution was created and successfully ratified only because the Founding Fathers, from Madison to Washington, strategically embraced a “lesser evil” – slavery – the greater evil being the imminent dissolution of the newly born republic.
Remember your history? By 1787, under the flawed Articles of Confederation, the recently liberated union was already unraveling. States were growing increasingly hostile toward one another, engaging in tariff wars that paralyzed interstate commerce. The national government was too weak to have a usable currency or raise a decent army or navy, leaving the nation vulnerable. Escalating national and international problems threatened to destroy everything for which so many patriots had just sacrificed their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.
So what did our nation’s founders do in Philadelphia almost 230 years ago?
They deliberately chose to accommodate slavery, something most of them detested even more than today’s NeverTrump voters detest Trump. Yet they constitutionally protected it for the next two decades – in the newly independent United States of America. Why?
Slavery is evil. Yet, to obtain the needed unanimous state ratifications, our nation’s founders chose to allow and preserve this evil (temporarily) in the Constitution, which provided for the continued “importation” of slaves until 1808 and prohibited citizens from helping escaped slaves, requiring they be returned to their owners.
Listen up, NeverTrumpers. The founders did not have to do this. They could have proclaimed with righteous indignation, “Slavery is evil, and we refuse to enshrine it in our new Constitution. It doesn’t matter if the republic dissolves, God will not hold us blameless if we elect to support slavery!” That would have been the end of the convention – and the country – as the Southern states would have bolted immediately, and the young nation’s slide into chaos would have continued unabated. Though America would have collapsed, at least the righteous NeverSlavers would have been able to tell each other they didn’t violate their principles.
Fortunately, our nation’s founders were much wiser than that. They accommodated the lesser of two evils – because they knew it would result in a far greater good. For them, the greater evil, even worse than allowing slavery (which they realized would come to an end before too many decades) would have been to allow the disintegration of the United States of America to continue, to permit history’s greatest birth of liberty to be smothered in the cradle.
Let’s fast-forward now to the modern era and see whether “refusing to choose the lesser evil” is somehow a morally superior worldview – or foolishness.
An act of war
As in most every other area of life, during wartime we are constantly forced to choose between the lesser of two evils – for the greater good.
During World War II, the U.S. strategically allied with Stalin, one of history’s worst mass murderers. Why? Because at that particular time, cooperating with Stalin was the lesser of two evils: We simply had to defeat Hitler and the aggressive Nazi cancer rapidly metastasizing across Europe.
Likewise, Truman, in dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 men, women and children, chose the lesser of two evils. Had imperial Japan’s maniacal obsession with waging never-ending war not been crushed by such a shockingly devastating show of force, the planned Allied invasion of Japan would have resulted in far more death on both sides – orders of magnitude more – an estimated 1.7 to 4 million American casualties, including up to 800,000 American fatalities and up to 10 million Japanese deaths. That is why the bombing of these two Japanese cities is regarded by most historians as having been tactically and morally justified.
Hit the pause button. Stop and think for a moment about all those American voters out there right now, tormented over which presidential candidate to support: “Oh gosh, I just can’t vote for Trump – he’s rude, crude and egotistical, he used to build casinos and donate to Democrats, I’m not sure if he’s really a deep-down conservative, and he dissed Ted Cruz’s wife. But I also can’t vote for Hillary – she’s a far-left maniac like Obama, as well as a pathological liar and career criminal, and so is her serial sex-predator husband. She would definitely destroy the country. Maybe I could vote for the pro-marijuana Libertarian candidate, or that Evan guy nobody’s heard of, or perhaps the Constitution Party has a principled candidate I could really get behind. Or maybe I should just write in ‘Jesus’ and make a bold statement that way.”
God help us. Can you imagine a battlefield general thinking this way? Remember, we’re at war, and there are limited battle options, all of them with real costs. Whichever tactical choices our general makes, his decisions will likely lead to the deaths of U.S. soldiers, whose wives will then become widows and their children fatherless. Realizing this, would a good and moral commander conclude, “I refuse to choose any of these battle options, as they will all bring about evil – casualties, suffering and death to some of our people”? Can our commander just “stand on principle” and refuse to act in a way necessary to win the battle at hand and defeat a maniacal enemy bent on enslaving us? Would it not be grossly immature, cowardly and a dereliction of duty for him to refuse to choose the “lesser of two evils” – you know, because it’s “still evil”?
Since I was never in the military, I asked my friend Maj. Gen. Patrick Henry Brady, considered by many to be the most decorated living U.S. military veteran, to weigh in here and set me straight.
Not only does Gen. Brady wholeheartedly agree with me that choosing the lesser of two evils is often a vital part of a genuinely moral and responsible life, he told me, “In my work in combat, we made that choice every day.”
For example, he said, “Should we risk a helicopter and the possible death of four men and the loss of an expensive machine to rescue dying soldiers?” (Brady, who flew more than 2,500 helicopter combat missions in Vietnam and is credited with saving approximately 5,000 wounded, was awarded the Medal of Honor for the day he piloted multiple helicopters onto the battlefield under close-range enemy fire to rescue dozens of wounded soldiers, abandoning one aircraft after another as each became too shot-up by enemy fire to fly anymore and then piloting the next chopper back onto the hellish battlefield, until all the wounded were safely extracted.)
Noting that “evil can be moral, physical or intellectual,” Brady explained to me, “it would be a moral evil not to try the rescue – as it would be not to go to war, assuming we met the rules of a just war.” Adding that “the rules of probability apply in all cases,” he said nevertheless, “we would go even if the probability of success was less than 50 percent.”
So how does this apply to the looming presidential election and to those many voters reluctant to vote for Donald Trump, a candidate they dislike for whatever reasons, even though in comparison to the outright villainous Hillary Clinton, they regard him as the “lesser of two evils” (but in their eyes, “still evil”)?
“It would be a grave moral evil not to do everything possible to defeat Clinton,” Brady told me. “What she would do is morally, physically and intellectually evil for our country.”
“In this case,” Brady added – referring to Trump, whom the honored general and war hero sees as a far more worthy choice for president and commander in chief – “I see no ‘lesser evil.'”
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