Don’t Choose the Lesser of Two Evils

by Jonah Goldberg
This is the odious logic of the ‘Flight 93 Election’ taken to the sewer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (Including lesbians, gays, bisexuals, socialists, and, presumably, the globalist cuck avocado-eaters who are trying to take down a good man like Roy Moore),

As Matt Lauer said while the string of nubile production assistants was brought before him, bound together at the neck by their collars, “I don’t know where to begin” (and then the door, as if by magic, locked behind them).

Much like everyone else who pecks letters on a keyboard for a living, I’ve written a bunch about the sexual-harassment stuff lately, and I don’t want to dwell — like Lauer’s eyes on the backside of a Bryn Mawr intern as she picks up a pencil — overly long on it here. But I think I need to for just a bit in order to make the point I want to make.

We have been drenched in “whataboutism” and hypocrisy-policing for a while now. But it’s mutating into something different. People are just inventing standards on the fly. Watching people slap together rationalizations to explain why their pervert or cad shouldn’t be held to the same standard as our pervert or cad is exhausting. At times, it’s like listening John Candy explain why he should get the top bunk or Captain Kirk teaching the mob how to play Fizzbin.

For instance, I’ve particularly enjoyed listening to members of the Congressional Black Caucus grab at every branch as they collectively fall down the jackass tree.

Representative James Clyburn apparently tried to suggest this was all a white, racist conspiracy:

Of course, this isn’t true. At least one of John Conyers’s accusers is black. It’s not clear whether Clyburn was just cynically lying to distract from his friend’s obvious guilt. But what would be more fascinating is if Clyburn really believed what he was saying. I can only presume that Conyers — a very left-wing fellow — is not a famous employer of white racists. I don’t know if Stormfront is hiring, but I just have to think that having “Legislative Aide, Office of John Conyers” is not what you would want on your résumé.

It is intriguing, however, to think that Clyburn actually believes that white women — who were ideologically inclined to work for Conyers in the first place — are still so racist that they would falsely accuse a black icon, just to take him down.

Of course, Nancy Pelosi moved off her “Icons Not Included” argument pretty quickly, on account of the stupidity. But that’s never been a barrier for Sheila Jackson Lee, who insists Conyers is a “patriot” — “patriot” being the new “icon” — so it’s up to him to decide whether to resign, even though she believes the women are telling the truth.

Cruz Control

But the Congressional Black Caucus is hardly the only team in the National Hypocrisy League. Here’s Ted Cruz MacGuyvering a double standard out of invisible tooth picks, chewing gum, and a nine-volt battery in front of our eyes.

Now, I’d be more than happy to see Al Franken go, and it pains me to even backhandedly defend a guy I have detested for decades, but, again, squeezing the asses of grown women or making a pass at them isn’t the same thing as sexually assaulting teenagers.

Ass-Grabbery Versus Ephebophilic Assault

Still, I’m not a Cruz hater. Maybe he and all the other conservatives playing this game are serious. So, I have an idea. I don’t commission pieces for NRO anymore, but I know some of the top people there quite well (I saved Rich Lowry’s life in a Mexican prison, after all). I think I can get something good published by calling in a few favors. So, I’m just going to openly solicit an op-ed from Ted Cruz — or any other prominent conservative. Please make the case that what Franken is accused of having done is worse — or even morally equivalent to — what Moore is accused of. Here are the ground rules: You have to concede that the accusations against both are true. And, you can’t appeal to their public-policy positions. It has to be a straight-up comparison of alleged misdeed to alleged misdeed.

Because, you see, even as parody I have a hard time conceiving of how that argument would go. Maybe something like:

The buttocks of a grown woman are the sanctum sanctorum of the Temple of the Fairer Sex. And State Fairs are the locum sacrum of the patriotic spirit. To violate a citizen while posing for a picture like that violates all that once — and will again — made America great. Meanwhile, who among us hasn’t liquored up a 14-year-old girl, grabbed her crotch, and tried to make her grab theirs? As for the charges of sexual assault against a 16-year-old girl in a car, please. For starters, this was 1977. The Edicts of the Council of Nicaea weren’t even fully in effect yet in Alabama. Teen brides were not only common, but most Alabamian men of stature — such as Roy Moore, already a titan of the legal community at age 31 — had harems. If anything, we should salute Moore’s restraint and commitment to monogamy.

Also, let’s not forget that the freedom of the automobile is baked into the American character, extending not just to the freedom to travel but the freedom to do what one wants in one’s own car. It is an extension of the sanctity of the home, which has been part of Anglo-American common law since Edward Coke wrote in 1628: “For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man’s home is his safest refuge].”

In 1763, William Pitt clarified the meaning of a “castle”: “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail — its roof may shake — the wind may blow through it — the storm may enter — the rain may enter — but the King of England cannot enter.” Surely, the ever-expanding conception of liberty must similarly extend to a man’s ride. What happens in a bro’s car, stays in the car.

When the Lesser of Two Evils = Evil

The “best” non-parodic attempt of doing something like this appeared Thursday over at The Federalist. And I put “best” in quotation marks because it was awful.

I really don’t want to linger on this, like Al Franken’s hand on the effulgent bottom of a milk-fed damsel of the Gopher State, because David French already went Godzilla versus Bambi on it yesterday. But, like Garrison Keillor at a Tijuana Donkey Show, I just can’t look away.

Tully Borland, a philosophy professor (!), writes, “Never voting for a lesser evil means never voting.” This is morally poisonous sophistry and casuistry. It is what de Tocqueville would call a clear but false idea. Borland concedes, more or less, that Roy Moore is guilty as charged. But because Moore’s opponent is pro-abortion, Moore is the superior choice — despite the fact he is the more evil man in his personal conduct. The upshot of this position is that there are essentially no minimal standards of personal conduct that justify not voting for a child molester and sexual predator, if it might lend aid and comfort to pro-abortion forces.

Now, I’m sure — or at least I presume — that Borland would object to this, saying that there’s something Moore could have done that would amount to disqualifying behavior. But his methodology leaves no foundation for establishing what that might be. He could just as easily say, “Sure, Moore shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, but what is one man’s life compared to the millions of unborn slaughtered in this country?”

This is the odious logic of the “Flight 93 Election” taken to the sewer. It’s fine to wave your hands and say, “Never voting for a lesser evil means never voting.” And, yes, it’s absolutely true that every choice between two humans is a choice of lesser evils to one extent or another, because we are all flawed and fallen.

But that is a warrant to say, “Vote for the rapist because he’s better than the murderer.” Of course, that’s not Borland’s argument. His argument isn’t that Doug Jones is an evil man per se, it’s that the Democrats are so evil and the Alabama Senate seat is so important, Republicans should abandon any standards of personal conduct that are inconvenient to victory. To Borland, even not voting for either of them equates to choosing the greater evil. That’s not only grotesque, it’s a kind of moral nihilism that cannot be neatly contained purely in the realm of politics. It’s soul corrupting.

The Way Out

I tried to make this argument earlier in the week, but I think it’s important enough to try again. Partisanship by its very nature will create double standards, and there is no way to get around that. I, for one, am done listening to most partisans, on the left and the right, talk about the perils of deficit spending. I’ve come to the conclusion that Democrats think deficits are bad when they’re created by tax cuts that send money back to the people who earn it. Republicans think deficits are bad when they’re created in order to fund more government programs or redistribute wealth. Obviously, I am more sympathetic to the Republican position. But the real argument is about the role of government. The dangers of deficits are just a useful cudgel to beat back policies you don’t like. When Paul Krugman thought Hillary would win, he favored more deficit spending. When Trump won, Krugman was scandalized by deficits.

This stuff can be maddening, but it’s all fair game in the zone of life that defines politics. The problem, as I’ve written and discussed quite a bit, is that the zone of life that defines politics is spreading like a cancer. Politics is a lifestyle choice, and lifestyle choices are political. “The personal is political” used to be a clichéd slogan on college campuses and among abortion activists. Now it’s a description of the way in which many people live. In the past, we had a broad moral consensus and sharp political disagreements. Our understanding of good character wasn’t a Republican or Democratic thing, it was just an American thing or a Judeo-Christian thing. This isn’t to say that we didn’t have perverts and pigs in olden days, but we at least had the good sense to understand that being one was shameful. There was a downside to that insofar as that public norms covered up a lot of terrible private misdeeds. The press corps’ hiding of the Caligulan behavior of the Kennedy brood being just the most obvious example.

As Rousseau once observed somewhere, censorship is useful for preserving morals, but it’s useless for restoring them.

That moral consensus, for good and ill, started to break down in the 1960s. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton shattered it among liberal elites, who scrambled to find reasons to celebrate the president’s European sophistication as evidenced by his willingness to diddle the interns.

We never fully recovered. Right now, we’re trying to put the pieces back together. That’s what the new “zero tolerance” wave is really all about. But it’s hard because so many institutions have been weakened or delegitimized. As Rousseau once observed somewhere, censorship is useful for preserving morals, but it’s useless for restoring them. And because politics is no longer contained to arguments about the growth of government, taxes, etc., our definitions of good character and basic morality are now yoked to political expediency.

What we need — again — are universal standards of moral conduct. When politicians, journalists, and philosophers can, in the same breath, say they are deeply troubled by the behavior of pigs and predators when they have a D next to their name but are blasé about pigs and predators who have Rs next to theirs, you know that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Various & Sundry

The new Remnant podcast is up. I ventured into hardcore wonkery this week with trade guru Scott Lincicome (I completely forgot to ask him about his controversial views on nachos, my apologies). I fear it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Scott is a brilliant expert on trade and I’m . . . not. But writing my book has made me much more interested in the subject, and I wanted to explore some of those themes. I’m extremely grateful to all the listeners and subscribers, and I hope you’ll at least give this week’s episode a try. To compensate for the eggheadery, I may have to do a whole episode on women’s prison movies just to even things out. Meanwhile, last week’s conservative dork-out with Matthew Continetti drove our numbers on iTunes to as high as 38th among news and politics podcasts, beating, at least for a while, podcasts by Rush Limbaugh, Rachel Maddow, and the like. And I’m still getting rave emails about Andy Ferguson’s appearance.

Canine Update: The beasts are doing well. Though we had a brief scare the other morning when Pippa was limping around the house. My wife inspected her paw and discovered that Pippa had a piece of kibble stuck between the paw pads. Kibble is something of a hazard in our house. You see, Zoë has this instinctive habit of getting a mouthful of dry dog food out of her bowl and carrying it elsewhere in the house, usually the living-room carpet, and spitting it out. It would be fine if she then ate it all. But she often doesn’t. I know this isn’t behavior unique to Carolina dogs, but it is mystifying and annoying nonetheless, particularly when you’re walking in the dark.

We discovered something else weird recently. We haven’t had the SUV lately because we’re getting it ready for resale. We’ve decided it’s too nice a car to get destroyed by dogs, and we’re looking for a Honda Element, which we’ve concluded is the ideal dog car. In the meantime, I haven’t been able to take the dogs to the park in the mornings, so I walk them around the neighborhood. The thing is that Zoë can’t be off leash, because she’s a wild child. Pippa can be. She follows orders when cars are coming, and, besides, she needs to chase tennis balls or she will explode, leaving nothing but a smoldering crater for miles around. Anyway, my wife noticed that when she has to put Pippa on a leash to cross busy streets for the big walks on weekends (she treks to the Potomac on foot), Zoë gets furious about Pippa being on a leash. Somehow Zoë has concluded that leashes are for beta dogs. Anyway, they still get at least one big off-leash adventure per day, thanks to our indispensable dog whisperer/walker Kirsten. They had a particularly good time since the last G-File, so much so they were too tired to wrestle the other night. Behold the Crocadingo! They also continue to get the attention they demand on the homefront.

And now, some other stuff

The most recent new G-File

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Sexual misconduct and double standards

Matt Lauer, Fox News, and sexual harassment

What did Project Veritas prove about the Washington Post?

Al Franken is bad.

Trump has not changed.

The New York Times Citizens United hypocrisy

My latest appearance on Special Report

And now, the weird stuff

Debby’s Thursday links

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Dog that served in Afghanistan gets highest honor

How to terraform Mars?

The last of the iron lungs

A cigar-shaped asteroid?

Meatballs spill in Sweden

Harvard’s hair collection

Dog vs. tennis ball

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Dog saves woman from attempted robbery

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New York City rats display genetic variation

The G-File

By Jonah Goldberg