Recently, I’ve been part of a few discussions, and read a few others from Democrats, about the dilemma of supporting the ‘compromise candidate’ that ‘your’ political party puts forward, despite a lack of positive support for that candidate, versus supporting a third-party candidate doomed to fail, or not voting at all. The support-the-compromise candidate folks say that while ‘our guy’ – be it Romney or Obama – is imperfect, and not even someone the base really likes, he’s better than ‘the other guy.’ In the case of Romney, the argument is that while he’s going to spend a ton of money, and he’s the author of the pattern for the much-maligned Obamacare, and very few people really trust him, he is better than the other guy, so we have to vote for the lesser of two evils. For Obama, he promised to back off federal prosecution of state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries, shut down Gitmo, and reforming immigration law. Progressives who supported him on these issues are disappointed, but some feel they have no choice but to support their disappointing candidate, because ‘Romney is so bad.’
Those of us who refuse to vote for candidates we cannot support are often maligned as selfish or unrealistic by party loyalists. Allegedly, we are perfectionists who put unreasonable standards of ideological purity above the public good, saboteurs of justice who are unwilling to settle for any candidate less than St. Francis or Ron Paul. Not so! We don’t feel right supporting a ‘less bad’ candidate year after year, and watching our party drift away from our core beliefs. We don’t think it’s reasonable to view each election as a single do-or-die event, but as a series of endorsements that tend to control the ideological trajectory of a party. We want to send a message that a particularly unloveable candidate does not have our support.
To deal with these ‘purist’ arguments leveled against us, it may be advisable to come up with a list of deal-breakers, the inverted conjunction of which would qualify the absolute minimum to be acceptable in a candidate. I’ve come up with four of my own, and I think they are far from purist. Mitt Romney does not fit them, so I will not be voting for him.
- Pro-life: This issue is an absolute and uncompromisable deal-breaker. Protecting the right to life of all persons is the single most important duty of government.
- No more gun control: Personally, I’d love to see a Presidential candidate willing to repeal the National Firearms Act, but as long as a candidate is willing to keep the current federal status quo, and avoid assault weapons bans, standard-capacity magazine bans, ammunition purchase restrictions, I can live with him.
- A net cut to spending: We’re in trouble, and we need to reduce the burden of government spending. If a candidate will commit to a net decrease in spending, I can support him – even if that net cut in actual spending is paired with a tax increase. Spending cuts must come first, though.
- No more foreign wars: A big portion of our current deficit is caused by our war in Afghanistan, and our drone campaigns in several countries. In addition to needlessly killing random people, this costs us money, and we get little in return. If we’re attacked, we must of course respond, but we should eliminate the threat and go home, not try to ‘build a new ally’ in the region and keep them loyal with a steady flow of cash.
I can probably sacrifice either 3) or 4), but not both. I’ve got a long list of other issues I care about, and that a perfect candidate would support: ending the Drug War, ending federal forfeiture, reducing foreign aid, ending the drone war, disbanding the DHS, and the list goes one. But I can deal with this minimum. Just be pro-life, leave the gun laws alone (no problem in this political climate), make the budget smaller than last year, and don’t bomb random countries without provocation.
Coming soon: The New York Times seems to think the GOP platform took a radical turn to the right, when comparing with older GOP platforms. I’m betting it won’t look nearly so radical once we compare the DNC’s changes from past platforms…