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Voting to Support a Lesser Evil vs. Voting to Lessen Evil

Voting to Support a Lesser Evil vs. Voting to Lessen Evil May 13, 2016

As the Prolife Movement has morphed, in large measure, into the “Vote Trump or the Baby Gets It” movement, the rationalization hardens into dogma that Trump’s fake Opposition to Abortion Taketh Away the Sins of the GOP. And to defend that rationalization, prolifers then spend nearly all their actual energies defending, not the unborn, but him and his evil deeds and words.  Already, I have heard from “prolifers” ardent defenses of torture and the murder of innocent women and children.  We’ll hear a lot more of this as prolifer siphon more and more of their energies away from defending the unborn and toward defending Trump and the Right Wing Culture of Death.

This demonstrates clearly a point I made in 2011: The thing your vote in a national election changes is *you*, not the outcome of the election. The impact of your vote on election is vanishingly small, just as the widow’s two copper coins in the Temple treasury had no impact on the Judean or Roman economy. But they had an eternal impact on the Widow’s soul. In selling its soul to support Trump (and therefore, inevitably, to support his evil policies in the vain hope of a Place at the Table) the present leadership of the prolife movement will not succeed in moving the needle toward care for the unborn one millimeter. But it will, if we listen to that leadership, succeed in making the prolife movement a laughingstock and a byword as “prolife” Christians prostitute themselves to defend Trump’s many assaults on common decency. They will dance to his tune, not he to theirs.

“But we must support the lesser of two evils!” goes the cry from American consequentialist culture.

Wrong. You must never vote for the lesser of two evils–because supporting evil is evil. The Righty can never say, “Well, I oppose abortion, so that makes me a good person. And that gives me the right to support torture, despite what the Church says, because you have to do some evil to win!” Likewise, you guys on the Left can never argue “I uphold a lot of liberal values about health care for the poor and so forth, so when Obama kills civilians with drones, I favor that and hope he blows away some more innocents.” You can never will to do evil that good may come of it and then hide behind some other virtuous act to cover that up.

You can, however, use your vote to lessen evil. So when two candidates both support the same grave evils but one of them supports even more grave evils besides, you cancan, mark you, not must–support the one who advocates fewer evils, not to support their evils, but to lessen the evil the other candidate wishes to do.

That’s not me talking. That’s Pope Benedict XVI:

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

Obviously, then, the argument centers on the question: “In a contest between Trump and Hillary, is one candidate significantly worse than the other?” (I know of nobody who imagines either candidate is good.)

Answering this is, in my view, simple. Trump is vastly worse than Hillary because he advocates the same terrible policies she does on abortion and bellicosity and service of the 1% while also advocating still more terrible ideas besides. Hillary, for all her faults, does not advocate these or, when she does, it is in a much more muted form.

Of course, one of the many pathologies of the Right is that it has, in its intense loathing of Hillary (a loathing I share) lied itself into believing the fact-free mantra that “They’re both the same and besides she’s worse”. But this just is not so and there is no evidence beyond “I loathe Hillary” to support it. Some will say, “We know she’s a criminal and Trump isn’t”. But this only illustrates my point since we know no such thing. Proof? She’s not behind bars. Indeed, the endless Benghazi investigations by a Congress that would have *loved* to destroy turned up bupkis.  The email investigations fill her enemies with hope that she will be ruined, but hope is not evidence, much less proof, that she is a criminal.

She is, to be sure, a practiced liar like her husband (and, again, like Trump), and a shady personality (ditto for Trump). And that’s the thing: Trump matches all her worst qualities and ideas and goes far beyond them. It making him–obviously–massively worse than Hillary (a truly amazing feat of incompetence by the GOP that is not the least of its sins).

Here’s reality: Hillary, while a terrible candidate and a deeply dislikable human being, is simply not as bad as Trump, much less worse than him. She is a competent, functional, corrupt Nixonian moderate Republican who will surround herself with the same people her husband did. She will not change the abortion regime any more than Trump would. She will blow up aspirin factories and kill people with drones like Obama (and her husband) when some scandal (and there will be lots of these) threatens to embroil her. She will, I think, be vengeful to political enemies, like Nixon was. She will likely grow the economy as her husband did. And she will play race games at the expense of minorities, and support the stuff a moderate Republican supports without the messianic sense of World Salvation through War that animates neocons. She will be a dutiful servant of the 1%, continuing to use her power to enrich herself with people like her dear friends the Saudis (just as Trump would). Meanwhile, it is quite possible that abortion rates will drop (as they have to their lowest point since Roe under Obama) due to economic and social policies that ease pressure on the poor to abort.

So: lousy, but not an unstable narcissist, racist, misogynist swine with no clue what the Constitution says and liable to do anything in the reckless misuse of lawless power he barely understands. For all her flaws and repellent personality she does not

  • boast her ignorance of the Constitution,
  • bawl for a policy of torture and murder of women and children civilians and pledge to order our troops to commit war crimes (though she has little trouble with her boss doing it) ,
  • advocate destruction of the first amendment so she can ban and spy on Muslim citizens and sue critics,
  • suggest war with Mexico over a fantasy of a wall,
  • make racism, misogyny, mockery of the disabled, and contempt for POWs applause lines for a base of Neanderthals who see that as a feature and not a bug,
  • cultivate a habit of speaking of nuclear war as political Viagra.

She will, in short, be a terrible President, but not “the same as Trump”. That Tu Quoque lie is, by force of habit, now the only thing an empty-headed GOP has left to relieve itself of the burning shame and guilt it bears for creating the disaster for which they and they alone are responsible.

Given, therefore, that Trump really is–to any prudent and sensible person–the documentably worse choice of two terrible choices, I will not sit in judgment of any Catholic who, using his or her prudence, feels bound in conscience to take Pope Benedict’s permission to heart and vote for Hillary in order to hand this dangerous fascist and his followers the crushing defeat they richly deserve. Indeed, if I lived in a swing state, I would not only feel free to vote for Hillary with a clear conscience in order to stop Trump, I would actually feel bound by my conscience to do so, precisely *because* of my Catholic–prolife–faith.

Happily, I do not live in a swing state. Here in Violet Blue Washington, a Hillary win is a foregone conclusion and does not need my help to defeat Trump. So I have liberty to register a protest vote for Joe Schriner against both parties.

When you make an argument like this, it is not uncommon for people to be feel judged and lash out in judgment, particularly when you tie your argument to the Church’s teaching.  It is not my intent to either judge nor provoke judgment.  Rather, I am telling you my reasoning and what my conscience bids, not enjoining a duty on anybody else (except the duty to not support Donald Trump for the sake of not staining the prolife movement and the Church’s witness to the world).  Many people feel that they cannot, in conscience, vote for Hillary under any circumstance–even to stop Trump.  I would never I urge anybody to support Hillary if their conscience forbids it. I merely note that Trump is even more at odds with Church teaching than she is and there is no logical way around that fact–and that Holy Church says it’s okay to lessen evil by voting for less terrible candidate in such circumstance. But let your conscience be your guide as long as you don’t vote for Trump.

If you do vote for Trump, face the fact that you are committing yourself to support every evil thing he supports (including abortion) and choosing to make war on the Church.

Someone will ask, “Why wouldn’t somebody who votes Hillary to stop Trump be doing the exact same thing?”

Those who seek to stop Trump can vote for the less terrible candidate in complete obedience to the Church’s teaching per Benedict’s permission–because they do so not to support evil, but to lessen it.

But those who seek to support Trump can only do so by committing to a multi-front defiance of the Church’s teaching, not merely on abortion, but on is advocacy of torture, war crimes, unjust war, contempt for the poor, a living wage, racism, misogyny, mockery of the disabled and a whole lot more. And the proof is that they already are doing so–all while lying to themselves and the world that Trump’s views on abortion are different than Hillary’s.

This will be the permanent effect of every prolife attempt to rationalize support for Trump. As somebody who opposes Trump, I do not need to lie to myself that Hillary’s views on abortion are not evil. They are. But the Trumpkin has to lie to himself that Trump’s views are not identical to Hillary’s. And then he has to go on to lie to himself that Trump’s calls for war crimes, his worship of mammon, his contempt for the poor, his racism, misogyny, contempt for the disabled and POW’s, his threats of war with Mexico, his reckless encouragement of talk about using nukes, and a host of other things are actually compatible with Catholic teaching.  And then he has to divert his energies from his putative “non-negotiable” of defending the unborn to his real world, actual, practical non-negotiable of defending Donald Trump’s evil words and deeds–constantly.

When I listen to Benedict’s counsel on lessening evil, I don’t have to fight the Church.  Similarly, when I listen to the Church on all the other issues that Trump and the GOP Culture of Death oppose, I don’t have to waste time fighting the Church.  I can simply get back to the task of, among other things, fighting to save the unborn. I can say, “Be more prolife, not less.” I can urge people to fight Hillary’s evil policies tooth and nail because I never supported them: I merely opposed Trump.

The Trump supporter must actively support lies and evil from start to finish and spend all his time fighting, not for the unborn, but against the Church on a host of fronts from war crimes, to the death penalty, to murder of civilians to contempt for the poor, all while lying to himself that Trump’s approach to abortion is any different than Hillary’s.

Just listen to the Church and stop fighting it.

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