A counterpart to the false dichotomy, the lesser of two evils usually follows directly in its wake, reinforcing and solidifying its rationally ‘narrowing’ work. Using the contemporary political situation again as our example, the false dichotomy presents the public with only two options, and then each party can present unsavory candidates and they only have to present the “lesser of two evils” argument in order to convince voters that, rather than insisting on voting for candidates or parties they actually like, they must settle for the one they dislike the least. This tells the electorate that they must not hold out for an acceptable option, but that they must choose the option that is least unacceptable.
The success of this argument comes to the forefront during every election, when our friends tell us (and perhaps we tell ourselves): “I don’t really care for X or Y. Ideally, I’d choose someone else entirely, but I’ve got to be realistic: this country is in trouble and we’ve got to make the best of it. I suppose this fellow here is the lesser of two evils.”
And so it happens that the quality of our candidates slowly deteriorates because the parties no longer have to offer anything of substance, anything desirable; they simply have to show that their man is “less evil” than the other, and since they’ve spent months constructing a reductio ad Hitlerum aimed at the opposing candidate, their task is easy.
The maxim of St. Paul, that we must never do evil that good may come of it, is to us quite naïve and unworkable. Today we reap the fruit of our moral compromising.