Ever since the end of the Republican primaries, a dialogue from an alternate version of “The Lord of the Rings” has been running through my mind.

In it, the Elf Lord Elrond meets Galadriel, Queen of Lothlorien.

“Well met, my lady Queen,” he greets her.

“Well met indeed, Lord of Rivendell,” replies Galadriel. “How fared your Council in the disposition of the One Ring of Power? Now that it is available again and Sauron has reached out her scaly claws to grasp it for her own aggrandizement, it has become a great concern.”

“Indeed it is, my lady. It was not until the final days that a Ringbearer was selected, and only then because he was the last available choice.”

“Oh, no! You have not chosen …?”

“Yes, fair Queen. We had to give the Ring to – Gollum.”

So for months I have been searching for suitable reasons to recommend a vote for Gollum, with only one answer coming to mind: Hillary Clinton.

Oh, once in a while he would say something worthwhile, and finally, last weekend at Gettysburg, he listed a double handful of reforms, pledging to rebuild the military, deal strongly with terrorists and control federal spending.

While he may or may not deliver on these vows, he also pledged to repeal and replace the failure called Obamacare, support term limits on Congress, appoint clones of Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court, freeze federal hiring, control illegal immigration and implement new ethical rules for elected and appointed officials.

One thinks, for example, about Clinton’s famous complaint that she and her husband were “dead broke” upon leaving the White House. Forbes reports that they have made nearly $250 million since then. One searches in vain to discover just what it was they produced or contributed that justifies that fat-cat status.

Indeed, far too many of our “public servants” of both parties hold public jobs paying the equivalent of mid-level corporate executives and somehow end up being worth millions – or tens of millions – upon returning to private life.

But still, Donald Trump is no conservative, and comparing his personality to Gollum’s is insulting to wizened, gnome-like creatures everywhere.

But we are not offered a choice in which his opponent typifies probity and accomplishment.

While critics rightly point out Trump’s multitudinous flaws, they are primarily ones of personal passion – flaws of the flesh. His boasts of conquests involve women and business rivals, and his ego seems boundless.

However, that’s only half the story. “None of the above” will not be elected Nov. 8, and Clinton’s moral (and legal) shortcomings appear far deadlier than his, because they are not of the flesh, but of the spirit.

Cold ambition and self-will, when combined with high office and immunity from accountability granted by influential allies, will affect huge numbers of people in many more destructive ways than physical passions.

Clinton is as hard and sharp as a field of broken glass, and her lust for conquest is laser-focused not on pleasure, but on power.

She exemplifies the “soft-totalitarian” ambitions of the administrative state, the progressive project to control people’s lives “for their own good,” following the ideological visions of those social and political elites whom political philosopher Thomas Sowell called “the Anointed.”

They are only self-anointed, of course, yet they remain convinced they were born, educated and groomed to rule over the “basket of deplorables” they regard the rest of us as being.

As Christian author Eric Metaxas wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 12, “Many say they won’t vote because choosing the lesser of two evils is still evil. But this is sophistry. Neither candidate is pure evil. They are human beings. We cannot escape the uncomfortable obligation to soberly choose between them. Not voting – or voting for a third-party candidate who can’t win – is a rationalization designed more than anything else to assuage our consciences.”

Those seeking greater power over us are happy to see us vote for people who can’t win, or forgo voting altogether, as that allows them to whoosh on by us to an easy victory. And we will all be stuck up to our necks in the resulting morass.

For example, many people in Venezuela didn’t vote for Hugo Chavez, but they still ended up fleeing to Colombia to buy a loaf of bread or giving birth in hospitals without antibiotics or even bedsheets.

The Clintons remind me most of Shakespeare’s iconic power couple, Lord and Lady Macbeth, devoured by ambition and heedless of its consequences.

Thus, I see a blasted heath, where three women chant incantations while stirring a boiling cauldron filled with horrific ingredients.

One of them spies a pant-suited figure striding through the mist. As it approaches, she utters the prophetic couplet that begins: “By the pricking of my thumbs …”

M.D. Harmon. a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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