Friday, November 16, 2007

Thoughts on Primary Voting

Ben Witherington's Voter's Guide for Thinking Evangelicals is a worthwhile read. A few salient points (these are mine, although they overlap with Dr. Witherington's and his post is my jumping-off point):
  1. Don't be a one-issue voter. It's my conviction that politicians have used certain wedge issues to secure the votes of people whose interests and priorities overall they have no intention of representing. Bluntly put, if Republicans have the votes of Evangelicals in their hip pockets because of the abortion issue, they don't actually have to do anything about abortion. In fact, it's against their own interests to do so--because it would rob them of the issue over which they gained a voting bloc in the first place. It's in their interests to keep the "struggle" going as long as possible, to keep that voting bloc faithful, while at the same time "reaching out" to those who differ on the abortion issue and growing that "big tent." Which is exactly what's been going on for years, perhaps decades, now.

  2. Vote based on issues that the office being run for actually has influence over. Once again, using abortion as a touchstone (and only one of many possible examples), the Presidency has practically no influence over this issue. The most that can be hoped for is that Supreme Court justices are elected who overturn Roe, which, if it happened, would relegate the issue to the states and remove the President and the Federal government from the issue entirely. On the other hand, there are many, many issues over which the Presidency does exert great influence: foreign policy, for example. We should vote based on what the duties of the office entail.

  3. In primaries, vote for the candidate you genuinely would like to see win. It is mind-boggling to me that long before a single primary or caucus vote has been cast, people are already advocating voting based on "electability." "I'm not happy about some of Candidate Y's positions, but he's our best hope of beating Candidate X."[1] What are we doing when we say that? Yes, in the general election, there may be times to hold our noses and vote for the lesser of two evils, but in the primaries, we need to give the candidate whom we can most truly support our support. The worst that can happen is that a party chooses a nominee that will get defeated in the general election, while a more "moderate" candidate could have won (e.g., the Republicans choosing Goldwater in 1964). However, that can be a bellwether for a political shift (e.g., the Republicans choosing Reagan in 1980).
Anyway, those are my thoughts.

[1] "Candidate Y" and "Candidate X" morph over time; two very plausible present contenders would be "Rudy" and "Hillary." Which is why the "Y" and the "X" were interposed. To be chromosomally correct.

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