Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Extent of Voting Pragmatism

After following a long series of links, I got to this article about Rep. Ron Paul as the winner of the Republican debates, and it got me thinking. Why do Republicans continually vote against their beliefs? This is the same as the age-old question of should you vote for a third party candidate or not. It seems clear that this is exactly what the Republicans are doing, voting against the one they believe is the best candidate. The only possible reason is because they think they need to vote for someone who has a chance to win in ‘08.

Look at the facts. First, the Neo-Conservative Outlets are going out of their way to bash Rep. Ron Paul and ignore the candidates that are actually conservative like Rep. Tancredo, Paul, and Hunter. Not only that but the Neo-Conservative News Outlet hid their own poll because it was not to their liking.

Second, MSNBC has Rep. Paul as the winner of the first debate by a landslide. They also have him winning the second debate by a landslide. Just in case you think these results skewed by the viewership of MSNBC, Fox News had Rep. Paul a close second behind only Romney. Rep. Paul was a full 6% ahead of Mayor Giuliani, and 21% ahead of McCain. Independent sources seem to back up this view of Paul being the winner.

Third, Giuliani and McCain are still the leading candidates to win the nomination. Paul trails Giuliani by 23% and McCain by 16%. Thus, the question: why do Republican think Rep. Paul a top tier debater, but have no support for him when it comes to the election? I do not think it is simply because he is that much better on stage. I think it has to be the ‘winning before principle’ idea that cripples third parties every year.

I know a lot of people get excised over third party voting, so let us switch up the scenario for a minute. Say there is a candidate running for office in a liberal section of California. He agrees with Christianity, believes it true, thinks Christian principles would make the world a better place, but knows that if he runs as a Christian then he will lose because his constituents think Christianity a backwater religion. He really wants to defeat the openly Secular Humanist opponent because he fears the agenda of said Secular Humanist, so our candidate runs as a sometimes practicing Jew. That way, he is not laughed out of the voting booth for being a Christian, is able to carry over some of the Christian principles to his office like believing a God exists, and he has a chance to defeat the Humanist agenda. Would we laud this man as doing what he could? Would thank him for not letting the Humanist win even though he is not able to be faithful to his true beliefs? Would anyone think he had done the right thing? I think the answer is obvious.

So why do we do it? The polls show that it is clearly happening. A better question for Christians is, do we confine the ‘winning over principle’ pragmatist-ideology to the voting booth? Or is it possible that this ideology that sacrifices our principles is really pervading our entire lives? I am not accusing loyal Republican voters or Democrat ones of being inconsistent sinner by any means. I have just been struck recently by how deep the roots of Pragmatism run in all of our lives. The attitude of claiming a little extra on our taxes because it is our money anyway. Or the telling of a little white lie because everyone will feel better and it is easier. Or the cutting corners on the project because we can fix it later if someone complains. The list could go on and on and on. Maybe I am way off base here, but it was just a little thinking out loud, which is what a blog is for anyway.


Andrew Duggan said...

The question about pragmatism being more deeply routed is a good one. The trouble is many if not most would be so offended at the suggestion, that they unable to muster the wherewithal to make a serious inquiry of his own thinking. Many of the rest, would brush it off with a "not me, I would never do that." I think that explains a lot of what we see not only in the nation, but also in the Church.

James Frank SolĂ­s said...

If we must choose between either the most pragmatically electable candidate for president or the best (most properly conservative) candidate from some third party, what are we to do if there isn't a third party we find more acceptable than the "lesser of two evils"? Which "third pary" ought I to support in order to avoid pragmatism? The Libertarian? The Constitutional?

Perhaps we can come up with a method of scoring candidates based on a graphical solution. On the y-axis we grade the candidates' genuine conservatism. On the x-axis we grade them on the probability (however we might arrive at that figure) of defeating a (socialist) Democrat.

"More conservative than the Democratic contender" and "Most likely to be able to defeat the Democratic contender" beats "Most genuinely conservative" but "Not likely to beat the Democratic contender" to my way of thinking. Especially in the absence of some alternative party behind which I can get. So far that pary isn't there.

The reality at present is this: It's Democrats and Republicans. That makes the choice real simple: the most conservative Republican we can get while still having a probability of defeating the Democratic contender.

We are talking about candidates for political office. All other things being equal, I would prefer Winston Churchill to Jimmy Carter.

We didn't arrive at our present situation overnight. We are not going to fix it overnight. We could stand by our principles; and give it all up to the socialists. Or we can accept the best of all possible candidates and at least slow down the decay while other strategies are employed elsewhere.