Friday, October 5, 2007

The perfect and the good

Dr. James Dobson and some of his allies recently announced that, should only pro-choice or squishy pro-life people (Mitt Romney, call your office) become the Democratic and Republican candidates for President in 2008, they will support a third party candidate who is consistently pro-life. A few thoughts on this:

Thought One: If what they are looking for is a consistently pro-life candidate, why isn't Gov. Mike Huckabee positively rolling in campaign cash? He only has c. $600 k on hand even though he is solidly pro-life and a committed evangelical Christian. Could it be that perceived "electability" is more of a factor than Dr. Dobson and friends wish to admit?

Thought Two: What would happen if Dobson and company actually made good on their threat? Any of the following scenarios could play out, though none would be a healthy social development in my view-
  1. The least harmful scenario is that Dr. Dobson and friends aren't able to convince the majority of the evangelical voting population to support a 3rd party bid. If that occurs, the "evangelical" candidate "succeeds" in occupying the same electoral space as Ralph Nader-enough voters to swing a tight election, but not enough for more impact than that. The other bad effect of this scenario would be that it would convince many people that evangelicals are a fringe group (like voters for Nader or Lyndon LaRouche), who can be safely ignored without electoral consequences, thereby freeing politicians from both parties from paying even lip service to the sanctity of life.
  2. A slightly worse scenario would be signficant numbers of evangelicals defecting to a 3rd party. That would ensure a win by the solidly pro-choice Democratic candidate and have the additional "benefit" of tempting the Republican Party (evangelicals' natural home) to throw them overboard as unnecessary baggage since, after all, evangelicals would be the reason why there is now a Democratic president instead of a Republican one.
  3. As I see it, the worst scenario is that evangelicals do all defect to a third party. Since they currently make up only 30% of the Republican base and considerably less of the Democratic base, there are clearly not enough voters there to actually elect the 3rd party candidate. Which means effectively contributing to the election of a committed pro-choice president, who would then have a "mandate" for enacting his (or her!) policies, of which one would undoubtedly be the confirmation of additional justices in the mold of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (former pro-abortion attorney and current very liberal Supreme Court justice). This would effectively enshrine Roe v. Wade and Casey as the law of the land for another generation.
Some might read the analysis above and conclude that I am simply offering a "lesser of two evils" argument in support of whomever the Republicans nominate. And to an extent that is true. But my larger point is that it should be our goal to actually reduce the amount of real evil in the world, and I wonder if we are danger of letting our principled opposition to voting for even a squishy pro-lifer stand in the way of saving babies. After all, it is almost a certainty that a liberal president = more liberal justices on the Supreme Court = more abortion for the forseeable future. On the other hand, it is far more likely that a conservative president (even a pro-choice conservative) would do less in real terms to advance the abortion agenda because of the constraints placed on him by his electoral base. In other words, while a pro-choice conservative is unopposed to abortion in theory, the number of abortions would likely be less than under a pro-choice liberal in reality. And reality is what we need to focus on, for babies die in reality and not in the realm of principles and philosophy.

All of which is to say, in sum, "Dr. Dobson, please be careful what you wish for. You might get it and that would be a disaster."


Alissa said...

Good thoughts.
I think you should mail this to Dobson.

Garden Girl said...

Let me say this, I'm not a huge Dobson supporter but I thought that I would post this link to his own words as written in The New York Times.

The issue is also more than just abortion - it also encompasses homosexual marriage.

I do think "electability" will play a very large role, and more than in Dobson and company's minds but in the minds of all conservative Christians. Maybe the Republican party would staunchly remain a conservative party on social issues if they saw no hope of getting elected (and let's face it, they need social Conservatives to vote for them in order to carry a majority of electoral votes). A certain candidate (I'll say it - Giuliani - is probably banking on your lesser of two evils argument).

Now, I pose this - are we being salt and light if we vote for someone who it pro-choice and pro-homosexual marriage rights? I'm all for squishy pro-lifers and solid pro-lifers but candidates that thumb their nose and say, I'm pro-choice and that's it, they would not act (in this aspect) as my voice in Government and I could not in good conscience vote for them.

Horn herd mom said...

I think you are being salt and light if you focus on the end goal. If the end goal is no/or less abortion or evil in general then I think you need to take the approach of recognizing the result of your vote. For example, if Huckabee was the 3rd party candidate (not even sure if that is who they would consider) and Giuliani and Clinton were the other two oppenents, my vote for Huckabee would help lock in a vote for Clinton--that is a basic fact. You have to be realistic--if I want less evil on those social issues I need to vote for what actually may help that cause. This is partly what makes the primaries so vital to be a part of. If we can get a say in early as to who the candidate will be for a major party, then maybe less evil could be accomplished without having to create a 3rd party. Why not throw support behind a pro-life candidate now and do everything within your power to get him elected? I think if more social conservatives stepped up now before the primaries then this wouldn't even be an issue later.

Garden Girl said...

HHM said - "If we can get a say in early as to who the candidate will be for a major party, then maybe less evil could be accomplished without having to create a 3rd party."


Not sure about your end-goal proposal. How many Supreme Court Justices will be replaced in the next Presidential term? - hmmmm - a gamble to be sure. ;)

Mike said...

If we compromise a little this election, do you think it will lead to further compromise next time? Maybe taking a stand will get the party's attention.

Would you vote for a 3rd party if the Democrat was so far ahead that they were guaranteed to win?

Mike R

Horn herd mom said...

How is having a goal of less abortions compromising my standards? Is our goal to get less abortions or to take a stand within the Republican party? Even Huckabee says at this point that he would not consider being the 3rd party candidate and it is not the route to take. Not that Huckabee is the only pro-life candidate but I do think he is a somewhat viable candidate especially on social issues (totally do not agree with his nanny state tendencies though). Why not as conservative Christian pour money into these conservative guys campaigns. The sad fact about elections at this point is that money plays a huge part. (BTW, just an interesting note--Rick Caldwell the campaign manager for Huckabee is the national director for Men's Fraternity)

Garden Girl said...

I am not a politico by any means. The thing I'm not sure of, is if a Republican pro-choice candidate gets elected that that man would then nominate a pro-life minded judge to the Supreme Court. If I could be assured that he would, I would consider voting for him if he was the Republican candidate.

I think Mike's question was very interesting. If the Democratic candidate was so far ahead in the polls that a success was almost guaranteed would we then vote for a 3rd party socially minded candidate? I would.

FYI - I voted for socially conservative McClintock and M voted for the "Govenator" ;)

HHM - I, too, am not impressed with Huckabee's platform - especially health care. Where's the next Ronald Reagan when we need him?

Greg said...

Here are my two bits.

First, I think the evangelical community needs to be very careful to not allow abortion and homosexual marriage define the Christian agenda in culture. The issue of redemption and the issue of caring for the poor (in that order) get the most ink in the New Testament. I think that first and foremost we need to make sure we have our priorities straight. Do we indeed care for the poor as much as we care about these other issues? Honestly?

We are not in a culture war. Homosexuals, women who have abortions, abortionists, politicians who who vote pro-choice and activist judges are all not the enemy. They are the hostages in a much bigger battle. And, homosexuality and abortion are not the biggest problems of our day. They are symptoms of the biggest problem of the ages.

We need to make sure that we are addressing the real problem and fighting the right battle. We need to ask ourselves if our political manuevering is truly advancing the cause of Christ and redemption of souls.

Many in the evangelical camp tend to take the admonition of being "salt and light" far beyond NT examples by Jesus or the apostles. We get upset over political battles that they simply did not engage in. (And surely the Roman government would have had a few things a good Christian would have disagreed with). Instead they took the message to individuals and saw the kingdom expand one soul at a time.

I fully expect for our culture to get worse. Does not our eschatology teach us that? Abortion rights will expand, and so will homosexual rights. I can pretty much guarantee that. And it doesn't much matter who the President is. And we need to speak out against it - but also not be surprised that a pagan culture does not follow our lead. Nor should we be detered from the real battle at hand. We are in a spiritual battle for the souls of men and women.

All that to say - I don't think it is wrong to consider how best to make our vote count in combating social ills. But to fret over such issues - or to make political manueverings a top priority in the Christian agenda - would be a wrong thing to do.

In my most humble opinion :)

Horn herd mom said...

Amen Greg!

Anna said...

Greg - well said. I think that all-too-often the evangelical politicals camp out on the abortion/homosexual issues, and though albeit important, they're not the only issues.