Why I’m voting at all (and not for a 3rd party)

Warning: this post is about politics, so please skip it if that doesn’t interest you. I’ve got a few more political posts over the next couple weeks, but things will die down in that department after the election, I’m sure. Until then, thanks for bearing with me 🙂

As I wrote last week, I’ve decided to vote for Barack Obama. Many of my family members and friends who are conservative Republicans were dismayed to hear this, but the feedback I got overall from people on both sides was generally respectful and intellectual, with a few notable exceptions. One of the excellent questions that many people sent my way was this: if I disagree with Obama on many issues (which I do), why vote for him at all? Why not sit the election out or vote for a third-party candidate as a matter of principle? It’s a great question and I wanted to talk a bit about my reasoning here.

The option of not voting or voting for a third-party candidate was one that I wrestled with for some time before making my decision. I actually campaigned for Dr. Ron Paul during the primaries, which might surprise some of my readers, as Dr. Paul’s views and positions are drastically different from Obama’s. But the truth is that I have never met a politician that I agreed with on everything. So in some sense (though I disagree with the term), I’m always voting for the “lesser of evils”, even if I vote for a third-party candidate. In this case, I made the judgment to vote for Obama instead of a third-party candidate for two reasons:

1. I’m a pragmatist. Either Obama or McCain is going to be President, and I want the one that will do the better job. One of the valid points that someone has raised is that this position sounds like all I’m interested in is winning, rather than the defense and support of the truth, as I have accused many in the Republican party. I think the crucial difference is that the Republicans that I’m speaking about are so consumed with the attainment and retention of power that they are unwilling to admit any failings or shortcomings in their own party, or admit anything positive in the other. And as I talked about at length, they have turned a blind eye to lies and injustice if they believe it will help them win. On the other hand, I’ve tried to speak out against lies on both sides (and I will be doing so more). I certainly don’t agree with the Democrats or Obama on everything, and I’m willing to speak about those things when asked. But I still believe that Obama will make a much, much better president than McCain.

2. Positions and policy aren’t everything. Despite the “lesser of evils” theory and being practical, there is a tipping point at which both options are too evil to support. However, though that point has been reached with McCain for me, that point has not been reached with Obama. I truly believe that Obama’s motives and integrity are in the right place, though this is just my opinion and is very subjective. If I felt the way about Obama that I feel about McCain, I would vote for a third party or not vote.

Both of these points are very subjective and personal in nature, so some may be unsatisfied with this explanation. All I can tell you is that it was a tough decision and I only made it after significant research and reflection. I hope that everyone puts as much (or more) honest effort into making their decision in the coming weeks, and I deeply respect those who do, regardless of whether their conclusion agrees with mine.