In the early 15th Century, a Dutch priest in the Holy Roman Empire named Thomas à Kempis wrote a book called The Imitation of Christ. The book, which was immediately almost as popular as the Bible itself, was a guide on a daily devotion to Christ while living in the here and now of everyday life. To convince readers to master their passions, despite any of life’s sufferings, he wrote, “If you say that you cannot suffer much, how will you endure the fire of purgatory? Of two evils, the lesser is always to be chosen.”
That was the first documented use of the principle of “The lesser of two evils”, which has since been used often to describe any given situation where there’s a choice between two extremely horrible options, one of which being slightly more tolerable than the other, but both are undeniably bad. This is a common thought in modern American politics, in particular electoral politics where a Two-Party system is often dominant giving voters a binary choice of candidates they perceive as equally poor choices.
The 2016 Presidential Election features such a perceived choice. The two major parties have nominated Republican, Donald Trump and Democrat, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, who is as morally and politically insensitive of a Presidential candidate the country has ever seen and Hillary Clinton, who has had a trail of investigations follow her over the last five years, both have unfavorability ratings well above 50%. Many feel the temperament of Donald Trump and untrustworthiness of Hillary Clinton makes both equally bad or as often suggested evil. Some suggest that choosing either will net the same result for America or at best, the damage done by one is slightly more bearable than the damage caused by the other. But of course both will be damaging.
This sentiment, while it often causes voter apathy, this year is causing many voters to strongly consider voting for third-party candidates, like former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson or Massachusetts activist, Jill Stein. Now, despite the fact that such a decision in of itself would show that the choice this election actually isn’t a binary choice, but if voters paused and thought about what they valued and why they were voting they would realize this also isn’t a choice between two evils. Nor is it much of a choice at all.
Much has been said about Hillary Clinton throughout her public life. Some true. Some self-inflicted. A lot of just a bunch of smoke. But I want to clear up a few things about her candidacy. When this Presidential election season started, I did not support Hillary Clinton. And this was effectively due to the EXACT same reasons why I did not support her in 2008. For one, I found it quite unconscionable that for the entirety of my life, there was someone named “Bush” or Clinton” on the ballot in every election. It was just a recycle of the same experiences and knowledge and I strongly felt we needed new ideas and a new perspective. I still do. Additionally, I realized then as I do now, even more so now, that Republicans have fermented so much angst and detraction of Hillary Clinton for years, it will be extremely difficult for her to govern functionally. Over the last eight years, we’ve seen how paralyzed our government can be with leadership and congress unwilling to work with each other. It will be just as bad or worse with Hillary Clinton as President than those before her.
However, with that said, I am a progressive and my goal in voting in this election, in any election, is to vote for the candidates who will progress what I believe to be right and just. I believe our government should do all it can to help the least among us. I believe in a higher minimum wage. I believe women should be paid equally. I believe my gay and lesbian friends should have the same rights and dignities that I do and I believe we all should be able to freely express those rights and receive just and constitutional treatment by the authorities. I believe healthcare should be expanded to those who do not have access to it. I believe educational pursuits should not be limited to those who can afford it only. I believe immigrant families should not be separated and being able to live in America should be easier. I STRONGLY believe that firearms should not only be made safer but also restricted from certain individuals who have abused their right. Hillary Clinton supports ALL of that. Is she in lock-step with every single tenant of my beliefs? Absolutely not. We have differing priorities. But if anyone searches for ideological purity from any candidate then you will always come up empty. That said, if you believe as I believe, feel as I feel, then you too will do what you can to see Hillary Clinton elected President.
Meanwhile, if I were to begin writing about all the objectionable behavior from Donald Trump, you would be reading this well into the next morning. He has literally insulted, mocked or spoken with unfiltered ignorance of practically every sort of American that make this country possible. His proposals are an antithesis of what made America the nation we are today. The language and psychological profile dispersed by this man should set off every alarm bell of authoritarianism, despotism and sociopathy with nearly every American that has had to watch this act over the last 16 months.
To be clear, anyone who sees fit to compare Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump on an equality of evils should be embarrassed to make such a comparison. Make no mistake about it, Hillary Clinton definitely has her flaws, like all candidates do. But Donald Trump, in actual comparison, is in a class of his own. To simply say that he lies would be an insult to the art of deception. To even lie, one would have to actually know what is true in order to engage in the act of deceiving. Donald Trump’s lies rarely have a basis in truth, mostly due to the fact that he doesn’t possess the wherewithal to know what truth or facts are. It’s not that Donald Trump doesn’t what to know what is truth, he simply doesn’t care.
Sadly, if his blatant and flagrant dishonesty wasn’t bad enough, it barely begins to scratch the surface of all he has done. If Donald Trump isn’t fat-shaming immigrants he’s calling them rapist and murderers. He stigmatizes veterans as being weak or “losers” for standing up and fighting for a country he couldn’t bring himself to fight for himself. He has spent years trying to delegitimize the education and nationality of America’s first Black president, all the while retweeting commentary and imagery of white nationalist and racist the whole time. He has mocked people with disabilities, spoken with ignorant vulgarities about women and suggested banning an entire religion from living freely in America.
And what has Hillary Clinton done? She didn’t flag a couple of emails the right way.
Seriously though, if you really believe one of these persons is the “lesser of two evils” then you probably should reclibrate your definition of the word evil.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned during this election cycle is that there is no depth of which some will rationalize the wretchedness of humanity. However, if there’s one thing you’ve learned from reading this you should fully realize there is no real comparison between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There are valid reasons to support Hillary Clinton. There is no rational or believable reason to vote for or support Donald Trump. He doesn’t deserve your vote. He has not earned your vote. He has shown absolutely NO capacity of understanding what the Office of the Presidency entails. All he has shown is the capacity for ruin, humiliation, pettiness and distasteful behavior. If you are a progressive and like progressive things, there is plenty to like about Hillary Clinton. To deny that is to deny what makes you progressive. However, if you are conservative, you actually do have a binary choice in this election. You can rather quietly endorse and continue to enable ignorance, hate and spite by voting for Donald Trump. Or you can fully reject him, his campaign, his rhetoric, his antics and behavior.
This isn’t choosing the lesser of two evils. It’s a lesson to reject the only evil in this election.