Voting on principle
By Lewis J. Goldberg
Even at this juncture of the 2000 election cycle, Conservative factions are still rending their garments over the apparent nomination of G.W. Bush. Despite the reality of the situation, Alan Keyes still campaigns, ostensibly for himself, not Bush. Buchanan can't seem to get his own party behind him, yet he thinks he'll have better results nationally. Howard Phillips' Constitution Party is a noble entity, but Americans are not ready to handle real freedom at this point, so they remain in the shadows. Lastly, the Libertarians find no audience but themselves, having almost zero appeal with the brainwashed masses who think that personal freedoms can only be guaranteed by the parties foisting bigger and bigger government on the people. What is a man (in the general sense) of principle to do?
In the original sense of the word, to vote means to vow, or swear to an allegiance or concept. Those voting strictly on principle are taking this view of the process. Their vote carries weight in their consciences long after the voting is done. In the modern sense, the definition is not so narrow. We vote to achieve a result, and after the voting is over, we may ideologically abandon those we voted for without penalty. In our political system, we may vow to one candidate ideologically, while casting our vote for another, in the hopes of achieving some lasting result providing benefit to our cause. We must evaluate our voting choices on their long-term impact, not only the immediate personal gratification of adherence to one's principles. Indeed, we can be true to our principles when we vote for a more popular candidate when our real choice, realistically, has no chance, if the election of the former creates a more favorable political climate for the latter.
The most successful 'third party' campaign in recent memory is that of Ross Perot in 1992. The difference between Perot then and, say, Buchanan now, is that Perot had captured the attention of, not only the media, but the people as well. People were talking about the Reform party as if it had a real chance, and most importantly, they were talking early. Perot's withdrawal from the race, and subsequent reentry, was largely regarded as a mistake and his challenge had, for the most part, fizzled. Yet, he still managed an impressive 19 per cent of the popular vote. It is not unreasonable to presume that had Perot stuck it through, he might be looking at his own presidential legacy right now, instead of Clinton. Perot's message struck a chord with the people, and it continued to resonate during his absence from the campaign.
Buchanan captured large amounts of attention early in the process. He also has a message that resonates, but only within a narrow group of conservatives. Buchanan tried to build a labor/conservative coalition, but this alliance has probably turned off more people than it has attracted. Pat Buchanan is inarguably 'presidential material,' despite his mistakes in the campaign - the most significant being his assumption that if no one would listen to him as a Republican, that he would gain a wider audience in Reform. This move has had the opposite effect.
Other conservative-types like Keyes, Harry Browne, and Phillips serve only as a distraction, like a bunch of short guys at the back of a crowd of six-footers watching a parade - jumping up and down shouting "I can't see, I can't see!" We're all focused on the parade, and every once in a while we turn our heads to tell the short guys to shut up. You have to line up early to get in the parade, and these guys have missed, though Keyes is getting a lot of mileage out of the talk shows lately.
If we think this election is like King Arthur's Knights gathered about the Round Table, and we are to take a sacred vow to swear allegiance to our King, then we must vote not only with political conviction, but with moral and Godly dedication. Our vote must come from the heart, and it matters not what chance our candidate has. The so-called 'one issue voter' approaches elections in this manner. These people would vote a liberal in office if only they were, for example, pro-life...admirable on the surface but ignorant of the life and liberty taken in other less obvious ways. Such voting may advance the conservative cause on one front but lose on six others.
If we vote to produce an outcome favorable to our beliefs and values, then we may have a little more latitude in our choices. The pro-life voter may vote for a candidate who is not as outspoken about the abortion issue as they'd like, but he may be outspoken on ancillary topics that contribute to a political climate more receptive to pro-life voters. This may be accomplished by outspoken means, such as appointments and endorsement of legislation, or by discrete means, such as the veto pen.
A point well-made in other venues is that the next president can be expected to make as many as four Supreme Court appointments. Supreme Court Justices serve for life, so it cannot be adequately emphasized how important these appointments are. Very simply put, if Al Gore makes those four appointments, we will have strictly liberal interpretation of law for decades to come. Our 'living, breathing' constitution will 'live and breathe' as never before. This Frankenstein of the court will ensure that Christianity will be practiced behind locked doors and shuttered windows [if it is allowed at all,] that our children will be subject to 'alternate' lifestyles at a time when we're teaching their vulnerable minds to operate properly within our own lifestyle, and that the rights secured by amendments one through ten are 'outdated, unnecessary, and quaint, associated with a time in history wholly unlike our own.' Make no mistake: Al Gore in the White House is the death of the Constitution. His 'manifesto,' "Earth in the Balance," may as well have been written by the Unabomber. He is a sick, sick man...and his defeat in November is a fight, not only for our country, but our lives as well.
As bad as it sounds, this election in particular is not the time to exercise principle. Liberals are spilt into hundreds of factions, but come election time all the pieces of the amoeba slither together to form one amorphous collective to pull one lever. Conservatives need to do one thing this year before they fall out into their doctrinal camps for the duration: elect George W. Bush, 'country club conservative,' 'back-stabber of the Confederacy,' and whatever else you wish to call him. Four years is all Al Gore needs to destroy this country and ensure you don't have a voice in the next election. Your brand of conservatism may be classified as hate speech, your faith derided as discriminatory and illegal, your freedom-preserving collection of rifles and shotguns codified felonious.
Hold your nose, do whatever you must, but the goal for 2000 is to send Gore home to tend his stamp collection. The numbers are against the third-party guys by a lot. The only distracter Gore has is Ralph Nader, but Conservatives have a few good alternatives. This makes any third-party vote, once again, a vote for the Democrat. Put your pride away...we can't afford it this time.
Lewis J. Goldberg is the web master of PlanetGoldberg.
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