News Flash: If You Decline to Vote, You Can’t Complain
October 7, 2014
NRO’s Jim Geraghty says, “God Save Us from the Loud ‘I’m Staying Home This Year’ Conservatives”.
. . . who will announce they’ll stay home on Election Day as a demonstration of their power.
Because as we all know, you become more influential in politics and government and public life by staying home and doing less.
He goes on. I don’t completely agree with all of his points, but the main message is a good point, and an important one. Casting a “protest” or “gesture” vote for a third party, or refusing to participate at all, is half a vote for the greater evil.
In 1912, the Republican vote was split between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft; Woodrow Wilson won with only 41.8% of the popular vote. In 1992, some conservative voters stayed home, some voted for Ross Perot, and Bill Clinton won with only 43% of the popular vote.
Politics is inherently and necessarily about accomplishing what we can, where we are, with what we have. We have to be willing to take half a loaf rather than nothing at all. All gains and losses (however small) are cumulative, and “there is no such thing as a Lost Cause because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause.”
I know a number of people who disagree. (For whatever reason, they tend to be libertarians.) They talk about the importance of standing on principle, but/and the more I talk to them, the more I get the impression that they think of voting as a form of self-expression (as opposed to—not to put too fine a point on it—actually trying to accomplish anything). They want to vote for a “brand” that they can really identify with, someone they feel speaks for them—in short, someone they can feel really good about giving their full support to. Unsurprisingly, they find that most politicians leave something to be desired; they find most politicians distasteful.
Imagine if we applied that kind of thinking in areas outside of politics. What if I owned a store or a law firm or any other business where I had to make hiring decisions, and I refused to hire anyone who had ever done or said anything I disagreed with, or who had any moral vices? Would my store have any employees?
Or think of politics as something like a war. What if we said, Yeah, sure, winning the war is important and all, but the really important thing is to make sure we never recruit any soldiers or promote any officers who have ever done anything shady or done or said anything we disagree with. Would we have any chance of winning?
My friends say (as apparently Jim Geraghty’s friends say), If I refuse to vote this time around, the Republicans will be forced to move to the right to court my vote. I hate to burst your ego, but there will always be more potential voters to the Republican Party’s left to court than there will be to its right. (It’s inherent in being the party on the right.)
In other words, if you stay home, the Republican Party is most likely to respond by moving even further to the left, to find more moderate voters to replace you!
See also on this subject:
Ironically, the institution in which conservatives had their greatest success is the one most besieged by conservatives today: the Republican party. To listen to many grassroots conservatives, the GOP establishment is a cabal of weak-kneed sellouts who regularly light votive candles to a poster of liberal Republican icon Nelson Rockefeller.
This is not only not true, it’s a destructive myth. The Rockefeller Republicans were purged from the GOP decades ago. Their high-water mark was in 1960, when the Goldwater insurgency was temporarily crushed. Richard Nixon agreed to run on a platform all but dictated by Rockefeller and to tap Rockefeller’s minion Henry Cabot Lodge as his running mate. When the forebears of today’s tea partiers threatened to stay home or bolt the party in 1960, Senator Barry Goldwater proclaimed, “Let’s grow up, conservatives!”
. . . to believe  in terms of the presidency that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are roughly interchangeable is poppycock. To believe that, in terms of the Senate, it makes no difference whether we have Mitch McConnell or a fairly fruity Democrat is unsupportable.
My own belief is that such changes as we are likely to be able to achieve through winning elections and passing laws . . . is likely to be marginal, but that, over time, an accumulation of marginal changes can make a substantial difference. I do not see how those marginal changes can happen without electing Republicans and passing laws.
. . .
Organizations such as the Club for Growth and the various tea-party groups do important work keeping Republicans honest, and I am all for challenging incumbents in primaries. That’s why we have primaries. But when defeating conservatives becomes more important to you than moving conservative reforms forward, you become part of the problem. And don’t tell me that Mitch McConnell or John Boehner aren’t “real conservatives.” Either one would have been well on the right side of congressional leadership in the Reagan years. If you cannot figure out why you’d rather have Speaker Boehner than Speaker Pelosi, you need to take a deep breath.
I’ll leave you with another line from Jim Geraghty. (You can read them all here.)
I’m not Jesus. I’m not saying you’ve gotta love everybody. I’m just saying you’ve gotta prefer somebody.