Archive for April, 2012

My Voting Philosophy & Thoughts on the GOP

This is a follow-up to my last post, entitled “What should my political role be?“. That post got similar responses from all who weighed in, which basically boils down to “please keep doing what you’re doing, except please please vote for the GOP nominee for President in the general election – pretty please!”

Before I get to what weighs on my decision of who to actually vote for in November, let me just say that I don’t see the GOP improving in the foreseeable future. Now would have been the time for me to be proven wrong, and I most certainly wasn’t. Had I been asked to put money on which presidential candidate would get the nomination a year ago, I would have put that money on Romney. The GOP is just too predictable.

How is that? I think in the end it boils down to this: given a handful of candidates, there always seems to be a strong “moderate”. Then there are a bunch of Conservatives, some good and some bad. All the Conservative grassroots pick a candidate to get behind and push their guy (or gal). Even if 80% of the grassroots are Conservative, there are always enough Conservative candidates to split that 80% into small enough groups that the strong “moderate” has little trouble winning with the votes from the remaining 20%.

There are ways to change things, but they all seem to be unpalatable to the rank-and-file in the GOP. The first would be to take a strategy that smaller parties are much more willing to do: hold their nominees to their party’s platform and ideals. If a particular candidate is 51% Conservative and 49% Liberal, the GOP is all too willing to crown him with a political nomination. The rank-and-file will fight for hours on end over exactly what words to use in the platform, getting very passionate about the most minute details in semantics – yet when it comes time to nominate a candidate, they are all too quick to throw the whole thing out and vote for the guy who can abandon that platform the quickest and go after the Democratic vote (and they’ll point out all day long how Reagan won because he got a lot of votes from Democrats). But if the GOP can’t hold their candidates to the very platform they fight so hard to craft “just perfectly”, what’s the point of having a platform at all?

Another way to go about getting a more Conservative candidate would require that Conservatives all line up behind the same guy. It sure is nice to have eight or ten people to choose from when lining up behind a candidate a year before the general election, but it tends to split the votes that will hand the nomination to the best candidate seven or nine ways, leaving an easy path for arguably the worst candidate every time. There almost needs to be sub-conventions before conventions (and actually the Ron Paul campaign has been good at this*). Get everyone who is like-minded behind the same guy so the vote doesn’t get split up and diluted too much.

As long as that continues to be the case that the Conservative vote is split and the “moderate” gets the nomination, my own voting philosophy will continue to be employed when I go to vote. It’s quite simple actually: I always vote for the guy who best matches my own values. In smaller, more local races, that’s usually the Republican, since there are often only two choices and the other is the Democrat. In larger races like that for Senate or Governor, there may be a few more choices, but the Republican may still be the best match for me. In 2008 that wasn’t the case in Minnesota’s Senate race. Norm Coleman was the Republican, and proved himself over the preceding 6 years to be a guy I often couldn’t stomach. He was too willing to get in bed with the Democrats on issues like the environment or national sovereignty. I voted for the Constitution party candidate that year because there was such a candidate.

Actually, if you look at it the right way, we’re at a better place now than we were in January when the Primary/Caucus process began. All but two candidates have dropped out. We have Mitt Romney, who has won over the squishy-middle as should have been expected, and we have Ron Paul, the candidate that personifies the GOP platform and historical Conservatism. If those who have yet to have a primary in their state would stop and consider both candidates, and vote for the guy who really is closer to their own position on the most issues, I think they’d vote Ron Paul if they were really honest with themselves and the process. Likewise, if those delegates to the national convention that are pledged to candidates that have dropped out did the same, I believe there is still time to vote for a Conservative candidate (one with an actual track record of Conservative votes in office). Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen, and the “moderate” is headed toward getting the nomination. In fact, he’s already campaigning as though he has the nomination sewn up.

My Voting Philosophy

As a Ron Paul supporter, and a guy who (Ron Paul or no Ron Paul) has voted Constitution Party for the last three Presidential elections, I get a lot of heat from Republicans who want me to vote their guy. That was what my whole last post was about, and I won’t go into it all again. One of the points of criticism that is often offered for Ron Paul supporters who won’t swear allegiance to the GOP in November even if Mitt Romney is the candidate is that the top candidate often brings people to the polls to vote for candidates further down the line. Maybe, but I’m not the guy to criticize in that regard. I’m much more likely to vote Republican for local office than most voters, and I always go to the polls. If you’re worried about the candidate for my state legislative district winning, beating me up over the head about my vote isn’t going to help, he probably already has it. Same goes for the US Congressional race, and several other races on my ballot.

I just don’t see myself voting GOP for that top spot. I also don’t see that it matters much. Minnesota hasn’t sent GOP electors to the Electoral College since 1972, and probably won’t in 2012. In fact, most of the time if everyone who votes Libertarian or Constitution were to vote GOP instead, Minnesota’s electors would still likely be Democrats.

So those who are worried about how my vote affects other candidates running for office need to either rest easy or find another argument for why I should hold my nose and vote for a terrible candidate just because he has the Republican nomination.

*Those involved in organizing the Paul campaign often hold gatherings ahead of conventions to all pick good candidates to run for party positions. That way, even if they don’t have a strong majority at the convention, they can capitalize on the fact that everyone else is too disorganized to capture more votes. The “slates” with the candidates chosen in advanced is handed out to all of their delegates at the convention, and their people often end up winning in the end.

What should my political role be?

I have a serious question for my Republican friends. Before I set up the question, let me give a little background about me and my political views.

I am 34 years old, and I grew up in a staunchly Democratic household. Both of my parents grew up in staunchly Democratic households. I was first old enough to vote in the 1996 election (actually 1995, and I did turn out that year for a school referendum). I voted for Bill Clinton’s re-election, though don’t fault me given the background I just laid out.

In 1998 I first decided to start considering my vote a little more carefully than “who would my parents vote for?” and voted for Jesse Ventura for governor. It turns out that even though I sought to vote independently of my parents, they both voted Ventura too. I was not aligned with the Democrats, but hadn’t come to the point of being comfortable with the Republicans yet either.

In 1999 I was soundly saved by the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the first prayers I prayed after my conversion was for the Lord to show me how He views the world and to bring me into alignment with it. That prayer is still being answered to this day, though one of the first things to change in me was my understanding of politics. Far be it from me to say that Jesus is a Republican, I’ll never go that far, but I could see everything detestable about what Democrats stand for (abortion, the legalized theft that is the social program system, etc.) By the time the next election came around, I was not only firmly Conservative, I was substantially to the Right of most Republicans, where I remain to this day.

Since my conversion, I have voted Republican most of the time in non-Presidential races, and I voted Constitution Party for President in 2000, 2004, and 2008.

Also since my conversion, I have been given the riot act from countless Republicans about my views on Presidential candidates. I’ve been told that I MUST vote Republican for a whole host of reasons. I may not like the candidate, but the Democrat will always be worse. I’ve never been much of a pragmatist in elections, and these conversations drive me as crazy as my vote drives these Republicans crazy, if not more.

I’ve been told numerous times by many Republicans that if I don’t like the candidates that are nominated, I need to get involved in the process early and do what I can to get candidates nominated that I can feel comfortable voting for. Had I heeded such advice from the beginning, I likely would have been caucusing for Alan Keyes in 2000 and 2004.

In 2008, I did what all those Republican friends had been begging me to do, I identified the candidate I liked and I got involved in the caucus process to lend him my support. I had been aware of, and to some degree familiar with Ron Paul for many years, and it was natural that I would support him. I went to precinct caucuses, got elected to my BPOU, where I got elected as a Delegate to my Congressional District and to the State.

Despite the way my fellow Ron Paul supporters were treated in 2008, I repeated the process in 2010 in order to be a part of selecting a candidate for Governor. I didn’t know the candidates well, as I tend not to follow state politics nearly as closely as I follow national politics. However, I had made a lot of connections two years prior in the process and befriended a lot of people who were out in 2008 to support Ron Paul. I knew that their political views were more in line with my own, and believed I could trust their judgment on a Gubernatorial candidate. To a man, they were all behind Tom Emmer, and I threw my support behind Emmer. Despite the fact that he lost, I have no regrets.

2012 rolled around and I got into the mix again. I was unhappy with my experience four years prior, and was tempted to forget the whole thing, but ultimately decided to give my fellow Republicans another shot. I had made many connections in 2008, and met a lot of people. Most of which were friendly toward me and seemed happy to have me in the process. However, when my support for Ron Paul would come up in conversation, defensive walls would immediately go up. There were, and are, strong stereotypes of Ron Paul supporters, many of which are unfair – based on a very small minority of fellow Paul supporters. In addition, I left Rochester and the state GOP convention with a very nasty taste in my mouth. The way Paul supporters, and even Ron Paul himself, were treated it was clear that we were not wanted in the party, that the tent was big but not big enough for us. The fact that Ron Paul came to the convention and wasn’t even allowed past the lobby was incredibly disrespectful, and I didn’t think any Presidential candidate should have been treated that way. Had Mitt Romney, Tom Toncredo, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Rudy Giuliani, or Fred Thompson stayed in the race until that point and showed up at the convention, I would have expected them to be able to speak. The fact that Ron Paul had to go around to the back of the building and speak in the park was disgusting. The fact that Barb Davis White, candidate for US House in my own 5th District was completely thrown under the bus by the MN GOP after speaking along with Ron Paul in the park was disgusting as well.

Nevertheless, I got over my anger and came back two more times to participate in the process.

Now we’re at a pivot point. Last weekend, three Congressional Districts held their conventions and Ron Paul supporters got their people elected to all of the National Delegate and Alternate positions in all three of the CDs. A lot of Non-Ron Paul Republicans are upset. So my question is this: Do you want my participation in the GOP? I was told I should get involved and do what I could to get my guy nominated. I did that. Now that my guy is winning Delegates, which is what gets people nominated, I’m hearing a lot of Republicans saying that I should get out of the party. A lot of Republicans are saying that Ron Paul is “a Libertarian, not a Republican” and that Libertarians aren’t welcome in the GOP. A lot of Republicans don’t feel my contribution to the process is good enough because I’m not spending 20 hours a week knocking on doors, cold-calling potential voters, or passing out campaign literature. (Sorry, I have a growing family of small children – all 5 and younger – and don’t really even have time to be doing what I am doing.)

If you, GOPer, want me to go back to staying out of your way, and voting Constitution Party for President, I will be happy to do so. If you want me to stay involved in the process, and put in the work to make my voice heard in 2014 when we’re looking for a candidate to unseat Mark Dayton, I will be happy to do so. What I am not happy to do is to get involved, but echo your voice. If my role in the GOP is to be a yes-man, check in with you on which candidates to support and what work to do for your precious party, count me out!