Most elections come down to a choice between the lesser of two evils, or sometimes the evil of two lessers. The trick is to identifying which is which, and perhaps this presidential election may make that an even tougher trick than usual. Two well-known conservatives have differing opinions on that distinction, and their arguments mirror the state of play on the Right at the moment.
Humorist and longtime conservo-libertarian P.J. O’Rourke told NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! that he’s going to vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s “the second-worst thing that could happen to this country. Hillary’s wrong, O’Rourke argues, but she’s wrong “within normal parameters” (via Reason):
On this weekend’s episode of the NPR game show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, humorist P.J. O’Rourke—usually classified as either a conservative-leaning libertarian or a libertarian-leaning conservative—announced that he’s voting for Hillary Clinton. Clinton, he declared, was “the second worst thing that could happen to this country. But she’s way behind in second place, you know? She’s wrong about absolutely everything. But she’s wrong within normal parameters!”
Bobby Jindal rises to disagree with his essay in the Wall Street Journal. Jindal uses his platform to urge fellow Republicans to recognize that Donald Trump — a man Jindal castigated on the campaign trail — is actually the second-worst thing that could happen to this country in November:
I think electing Donald Trump would be the second-worst thing we could do this November, better only than electing Hillary Clinton to serve as the third term for the Obama administration’s radical policies. I am not pretending that Mr. Trump has suddenly become a conservative champion or even a reliable Republican: He is completely unpredictable. The problem is that Hillary is predictably liberal.
There will be none of her husband’s triangulation. Republicans are fooling themselves if they think this President Clinton would sign into law policies like Nafta, the crime bill, welfare reform, or the deficit reduction packages that marked Bill’s tenure. While Bill felt compelled to confront Sister Souljah—and less directly Jesse Jackson—to appeal to moderate voters, Hillary is more responsive to pressure from Black Lives Matter and the far left. I have no idea what Mr. Trump might do, while Mrs. Clinton is predictable. Both are scary, the former less so.
This passage sounds prescient after listening to the applause given O’Rourke with the NPR audience:
I do not pretend Donald Trump is the Reaganesque leader we so desperately need, but he is certainly the better of two bad choices. Hardly an inspiring slogan, I know. It would be better to vote for a candidate rather than simply against one. If current trends hold, I will be among the many complaining this fall about my choices.
I understand why so many of my Republican friends are in denial, while many of my Democratic friends gleefully anticipate and applaud defections. The media is poised to reward those “courageous” Republicans ready to do the “right thing” and endorse Hillary. Count me out.
To some extent, the heat of this debate relates directly to the proximity of Trump’s apparent victory. Less than a week has gone by since Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the race, giving Trump the nomination. Some people are still struggling to accept that our only practical choice in November really comes down to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the two most unlikable people running for major-party nominations this cycle or maybe any cycle. It’s basically the South Park election choice writ large.
By the time the conventions roll around, expect to see a lot less handwringing on the Right and a lot more strategizing — on how to defeat Hillary, if possible, but also on directing efforts at the House and Senate races. The South Park choice is already inevitable, but perhaps those who can’t support Trump can instead direct their energies to ensuring the next president has to deal with a Republican-controlled Congress no matter who that president turns out to be.