The Best There Is

Seeing the imperfection of things, it is always tempting, at least to those steeped in centuries of progressive thought in all its forms, to allow disappointment with the imperfect to transmogrify into an assumption that things could have been better. But from a non-progressive point of view, it does not follow from the fact that something is disappointingly inadequate that there must have been a better option available.

Americans have every right to be disappointed with Joe Biden’s presidency, which is as decrepit and mentally disheveled as the man himself. But perhaps he was the best option available within the Democratic Party primary process; and certainly the Republicans in 2020 could not possibly have offered a worse alternative to the Democrats’ corruption and leftist radicalism.

Kamala Harris, it is plain to see, is a moron, arguably the dumbest person ever to serve as U.S. vice president, and likely the dumbest ever to run on any presidential ticket, winning or losing. It is therefore very common, and even understandable, for Americans to lament this VP choice on the grounds that “Surely, the Democratic Party could have chosen better than this.” But how sure are they about that? What if Harris was the best option available, all things being equal? That is at least possible, though horrifying, given what the Democrats have become.

By no means am I suggesting that everything that is, is best. On the contrary, the best is rarely if ever possible at all. And there are many situations in which even the real (and very imperfect) alternatives could have sorted themselves out better. (Hence Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Madison Cawthorn, Donald Trump etc.) Nevertheless, just as one must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, so one must not let it become the enemy even of the dreadful-but-not-worst. In practical terms, the perfect is rarely if ever possible — in fact, the practically possible, in our time, is almost always the substantially and profoundly imperfect. With that in mind, a certain resignation becomes unavoidable. Everyone who criticizes Joe Biden from today’s tribal Republican point of view, according to which the world would have been so beautiful, just, and “great” if only Trump had been elected — or, as per the usual Trumpist dogma, if only Trump’s victory had not been stolen — is falling for that progressive logical fallacy of inferring the existence of a better option from a disappointing result. Biden is a disaster, and has responded weakly to the greatest immediate challenge of his presidency, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Trump was a disaster that enabled Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Falling for the logical fallacy of better options, as partisan voters are wont to do, is actually a convenient way of refusing to come to terms with the full harshness of modern deterioration, for it allows one to comfort oneself with the falsehood that the deterioration has a ready-to-hand solution (“our side”), if only enough people would embrace it.

Great imperfections abound. Such is the nature, or rather the denatured reality, of our time. Nothing will reverse this decline until men stop responding to every political frustration with the comforting delusion that “there was a better option.” More accurate today, in most situations, to say there ought to have been a better option.

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