Unfortunately I do not believe there is a simple answer to the question of how one should philosophically vote in the presidential election. Therefore I do believe we should have patience with those with whom we disagree on how one should cast their vote. Since no non-voter will want to read this article, as there is no reason to read this if you do not vote, I will not attempt to argue anyone into why they should vote. Rather, my hope is to provide the voter with some things to think about, things I have wrestled with myself, as we attempt to think through what really are the issues and really what is at stake. Before I begin let me also point out that I think there is a difference in how one should vote between the primary’s and the election itself, and I will explain that more further in, but lets just state that I am speaking about the election in this article unless otherwise stated.
Americans are very pragmatic. Because American’s created pragmatism as a philosophy, it has really taken over much of American, and even Christian thinking. A simple definition of this philosophy (forgive me as I am not a PhD in Philosophy), is “the view on how to use things to achieve the success you want; something is true when it works for your ends.” In other words anything, say Religion for example, is only worth pursuing if it can be a tool to your success in what you endeavor. If Religion makes you happy, and fills your life with meaning, then it is worth pursuing, according to the Pragmatic. There is no ultimate transcendent truth in Pragmatism, the truth, or value of something is simply based on its perceived success. Thus great evil could be done in its name, say, the murder of millions of Jews if the perceived effect is the bettering of a country’s economy and standing in the world! (I’m not saying that Hitler was a pragmatic per-say, but there is a sense in which Pragmatism can simply be called: The ends justify the means, and surely Hitler had some of that in him).
Politics in America, therefore, is very pragmatic. We see this effect the most in how people vote. More and more people are voting simply for who they think will win, and not who they think would be the best leader, because they seem to think that the winner probably would be the best leader (or why wouldn’t they win), which is a very pragmatic way to think (and circular and question begging, and a self-fulfilling prophecy all rolled into one). American’s are more concerned with being associated with a “winner”, then being ethical, principled, and moral.
We do not want to be pragmatic in how we vote. When we go into the voting booth on election day, we are not voting for who we best like (most likely), in fact we shouldn’t be voting for the person at all, but the party they most closely stand for as Dennis Prager argues in “Why I Now Vote Party, Not Individual” http://www.dennisprager.com/why-i-now-vote-party-not-individual/ This is one of the key points of reasoning that helped solidify my thinking on the subject.
Although we don’t like the “P” word pragmatic, we do like the other “P” word principled. While we shouldn’t be thinking, “I’m going to vote for who I think will win,” we should be voting based on good, well thought out principles. I believe that one of the principles we should adapt, thanks to David Bahnsen in his article on principled voting, http://www.davidbahnsen.com/index.php/2012/01/23/principled-voting-in-one-lesson-by-david-l-bahnsen/ is that we, over all, should be voting to keep the worst candidate, or as Prager would argue, the worst party out of office. This is not a strategy and principle based on fear, but on political wisdom.
My position is quite simple. Our final vote is always to hold back as much evil as possible, but our time spent before then is to promote the most good.
Let me tell you something personal, I have struggled long over how to vote, and have switched “sides” many times from thinking we should only vote our conscience, to thinking we should only vote for the lesser of two evils, and I have now thought of a third option.
I now believe that only applying our logic and voting strategy to the general election is the first mistake in our thinking and it forgets the long political process before it. Thus, I will finish my essay in explaining, in brief, how I think people should approach politics in America.
Politics start with your community, and your community starts with your neighbors, and it “ends” when everyone votes (politics never end, but you get my point). People vote according to their values, and thus the best way to influence how people vote, is to address their values. Thus, political change starts with your neighbor, and your influencing his values for the better. If you want a better political leader in your community, or your country, you must start with influencing your community’s values for the better. This means that when it comes down to primaries and preliminary elections and nominations etc. you should be voting for the person and party you think best shares your values, period. At the early stages you shouldn’t be voting for who you think could win, nor against who you don’t want to win, but who you think would be the best person to represent your values. This is where your conscience and convictions looking towards the best leader comes in, before the final, general election.
As the process moves towards picking the final few people who are actually electable, your strategy starts to move from voting for the very best candidate, to voting for the best candidate who could win, because you are trying to make sure the worst candidate who can win doesn’t get in. Another way to think about this is simply that you are trying to influence who “your” party puts forth and get’s behind way before they have picked that person. In other words, they see your vote early enough to know where you stand and that has influence upon who they ultimately get behind. If you are waiting until the general election to vote to make a political point, it is too late, the point will be missed.
When you reach the final election, most likely your favorite candidate will not be in the running, but depending on how well you did the months and years before the election influencing your community, you might not have too bad of an option. Either way, even if the option is not that good, clearly there will be a “better” option between the two, and even if character wise, and even direct policy wise, you see little difference, there will be enough difference between the two parties represented (of course I am mainly talking about Presidential elections, but this can be tweaked for all elections) to help you know where to cast your vote, because a vote for a candidate is a vote for their party.
The political water is muddy. Political reasoning is not easy. Our conclusions are not divine. We must be patient with those who think differently than us, but we also must have thought through our own convictions. Our responsibility to the politics of our land do not start and end in the primary’s or general elections of our presidents, but in our own communities and neighborhoods. How can you decry the state of our highest offices when you are not working for good in your own community? Start small, stand tall, and pray that God changes hearts and minds for the good of the Nation.
In the end, fellow party members, don’t ask me if I will still vote for (insert the candidate here whom I abhor) if they get the nomination, but ask me who I will be voting against, for I will never vote for someone bad, but I will vote against someone worse – and that makes all the difference.