US liberals and leftists who won’t vote for Clinton, even though that decision will help Trump, who is even worse, are an interesting case study. It reveals a deep difference, not between liberals and conservatives, but between “principlists” and “consequentialists”.
Consequentialists do what they have to do to get the best available outcome, even if the means – and the end – fall short of their ideal.
Principlists feel an inherent wrongness in doing anything against principle, even if the result is an outcome even further from their ideal.
They’re two totally opposed mindsets – ways of thinking about how to choose action – with little scope for persuasion between them.
My first reaction was ultra-cynical. The Conservatives are faced with the threat of another by-election against UKIP in a couple of weeks. Perhaps the whole thing had been orchestrated in cahoots with the EU as an elaborate charade. Here’s how it works in Cameron’s favour: the EU pretends to be owed £1.7bn, Cameron makes a big stand and refuses to pay, the EU backs down from its fictitious demand and Cameron struts around like he’s proved he can defeat them. Wobbly Eurosceptic voters decide he’s the real anti-EU statesman and stick with the Tories instead of haemorrhaging to UKIP.