Since the Republican Presidential primaries I have heard many conservatives threatening to withhold their vote from Mitt Romney in the November election, either because he is not conservative enough or simply because he is not Ron Paul. Such sentiments are typically based upon principle alone, or else sending some sort of message to the “establishment.” I fear that this sentiment is, as the wise man once said, allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good.
Doug Wilson is among those not voting for President this November. His reasons appear to be entirely theological. I gather this has something to do with Wilson’s Theonomy, but I don’t fully understand his arguments, so I won’t attempt to respond here. One thing that stood out to me, though, was a comment Wilson made in a previous post that he would pray that Obama loses the election (for many reasons, which can all be found here). Then one commenter by the name of Eric Stampher echoed this sentiment, saying,
What’s wrong with a litmus test?
Abortion = dealbreaker #1, yes?
Where does Romney stand?
If he promises to protect abortion in any way, I’m out. I’ll write somebody else in.
Should God allow Romney in, I’ll thank Him at least He took Obama out so presumably fewer babies get whacked.
Now, if this doesn’t cause you some confusion, I’ll be surprised. On the one hand this fellow will not vote for Romney, but on the other he will thank God if Romney wins? I can see no sense in this. Yet, while every Romney “protestor” I have spoken to may not share Wilson’s theological conviction, or Eric’s concern for abortion, the logic of abstaining from the vote is the same. My response has been, and remains, simple: The only end that conservative voter abstinence will achieve is a second Obama term.
Short of a massive meteor strike in the Western hemisphere, the untimely death of one of the candidates, or (and we can only hope) the Congress suddenly deciding to return our national sovereignty to the Queen before November, one of these two men will in fact be President come 2013. It is as certain as anything can be in this life. There is no third outcome. A small minority writing in Ron Paul’s name at the voting booth will not make him an actual possibility. That said, which of the two viable candidates is more likely to benefit from such a third party write-in? That would be President Obama. A write-in vote is a de facto vote for The current President if ever there was one. This is simply the reality of the current election.
What I like about Eric’s comment is that it crystallizes this line of reasoning by focusing on the single issue of abortion. Eric’s goal, it seems, is to ensure the safety of the greatest possible number of unborn human lives. By his own admission, he believes President Obama’s reelection would result in a greater number of unborn deaths (due to the President’s aggressive pro-choice policies, the HHS contraceptive mandate, etc). Thus the outcome that Eric presumably wants in this election is a Romney win. Yet he will not act to make it happen because Romney might not be as stridently pro-life as Eric believes is ideal. If that does not capture what it means for the perfect to be the enemy of the good, nothing can.
There is another side to this, of course. I sympathize with those who are fed up with the current system, but the time to show Romney and those like him that Republicans are no longer willing to settle for the big-spending, moderate status quo was the primary season. In 2010, the Tea Party movement and the conservative base in general showed the status quo that its days of representing conservatism were numbered by ousting the moderate and incumbant Republican candidates in the primaries. Obviously that kind of strong, principled, grassroots conservatism can and does work, and the Ron Paul people (and others like them) should not give up, take their toys, and go home. They must keep at it, fighting the good fight where and when it counts. Giving the country back to President Obama for four more years, however, is simply the least effective and most damaging way to “stick it to the establishment.” One further thought on this: abstaining in protest from a system that you disagree with, whether for purely political or religious reasons, doesn’t make sense when the system is built precisely to give you the power to change it.
As for the title of this post, I have heard it said that a vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil. This may be true, but in light of what has been said I make two observations. First, would you pray for God to bring about evil? Would you thank God when evil occurs? If not, why would you pray against President’s Obama’s reelection, and be thankful if Romney defeats him? Second, I believe Eric once again helps to put this into perspective. Is it truly evil for the HHS mandate to be repealed and for Catholic and other institutions to remain free to act with their consciences on contraceptive matters? Clearly not, and yet Romney has vowed to repeal it. Thus a vote for Romney is not simply a “vote for evil.”
This is not a political argument against President Obama or for Mitt Romney. Rather, it is merely an appeal to those who believe strongly that President Obama must go, but are unhappy with the Republican nominee. Do not let that unattainable perfect become the enemy of the good.