Monday, October 8, 2012

Thoughts on Third Party Voting

There is no such thing as throwing a vote away in the literal sense. The value of one vote is the value of one vote, no matter how one would like to spin the logic. Catholics should not have blind loyalties to any political party. If we derive our identity this way, we will give that group unquestioned loyalty because the sense of belonging will give us feelings of security, pleasure and power. Our cultural and emotional conditioning to a political party can become like a mask covering our true face.

Many Catholics reject the Democratic Party and understandably so. Abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage are now part of the platform. Additionally, new developments like the HHS mandate clearly show us the intolerance of relativism. If you have your truth and I have mine, there is no point in trying to use reason to argue. Relativism creates a stale-mate. All that is left is “might-makes-right” if there is going to be any movement. Agree to violate your beliefs or be fined by the government. Hard to believe it has come to this.

Many Catholics see the Republican Party as better, but still unacceptable. They are not exactly a collection of saints either. Abortion is commonly accepted by many Republicans to one degree or another. Catholics may feel that Republicans are much less likely to be concerned about the poor & disadvantaged, and perhaps more likely to start unjust wars.
Given all this, a fair question comes to mind. Is supporting a third party candidate the best way to go? We all want to be good stewards of our citizenship, but what can we compare third party voting to in this current presidential election?

What about a food analogy? We are starving and must vote on what food we can receive. Food A is mostly rotten (say 75%), food B is about half rotten (50%), and food C is pure. Food A and B can be quickly & easily delivered by local suppliers. Food C has no supplier. Although food C is real and can be obtained if enough people can be persuaded to help, there is no way to build a consensus & a supply-chain in time. We need food now. Where will your vote go? Should you vote at all? The best choice may be to take what is best about food B for now, and continue to push for food C or an equivalent afterwards.

How about a runaway train headed toward a fork in the track? Taking the left track will kill two children playing on the tracks; taking the right track will kill one child also playing on the tracks. There is a third track that you can see that is perfectly safe for everyone, but it is not connected to the track you are currently on. The third track is real and is a perfect solution if there was only enough time to convince enough people to help construct a connection, but you need to decide what to do right now.

Jiminy Cricket!
I also remember hearing about the Baptist Disney boycott on Catholic radio years ago.They argued against the boycott for the following reason. The point of boycotting is to non-violently persuade an organization to do things your way, but it can back fire. If Christians reject Disney entirely, the company may focus more on the secular portion of their market to make up for lost business. For example, how about a new animated movie about two princes or two princesses falling in love and getting “married” and living happily ever after. Instead of boycotting, the case made was that Christians should support Disney entrainment that is consistent with Christian values and reject anything that is not.

The same kind of logic can apply if Catholics or Christians completely reject the Republican Party. Republicans would still want to win, so they could try to appeal to the more secular portion of society as a “business decision”. Perhaps adopt a pro-choice and same-sex marriage platform similar to the Democrats. After all, one rule of success is to emulate the winners. They could still differentiate themselves from Democrats by focusing on smaller government, fiscal responsibility, strong military, etc. Any help protecting conscience rights/religious freedom would obviously be forgotten about. Instead of “boycotting” the Republican Party, perhaps the wisest choice is to take what is better, but continue to lobby for what is best.

There is also the logic that says one single vote doesn’t matter anyway, but what if every Catholic reasoned liked this? The reality is we can affect many votes if we include our sphere of influence among family, friends, co-works, church, blogosphere, etc. A voting block is made from individual votes, just like a building is made of individual bricks. Just consider the voting power in following Q&A*…..

Q: How many Catholics are in the U.S.?
A: About 77.7 million (I like how it’s #7 three times; very symbolic).

Q: How many people does it take to elect an American President?
A: Less than 70 million.
*source: Wikipedia

All in all, a vote is another brick in the wall.

In the end, debates about candidates and political parties are endless. Beyond any discussion about voting, it should be made clear that if we can evangelize the culture around us, the rest will take care of itself. The election will soon be over, and regardless of who wins, our work is still cut out for us because too many will still not see the reality of our faith or how to act in accordance with it.


  1. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

    This logic of "changing" the GOP by holding our nose and pushing for better from within has gone on for about 30 years now. What have we got to show for it? Progressively worse candidates. The trajectory of Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush II, McCain and now Romney is NOT in a more Catholic direction, but less. In essence, what they have done is exactly what you anticipate would happen if you vote third party - they have consistently become more progressive (if not in rhetoric, certainly in action). Are they better than the Dems - absolutely. Are they a good choice in and of themselves? Not at all. It's like choosing between Stalin and Al Capone. I choose neither.

    1. Hi c matt,
      It’s your choice; I just don’t agree that 3rd party is the best choice given this particular election and given 4 weeks to go. The realty is the reality whether it’s been 30 years or 300. How long did it take for the Israelites to stop worshiping other Gods? A long time.

  2. I used to think this way myself, but then I came to think differently.

    One thing the Church teaches is that the end does not justify the means. A good end (no second term for Obama) does not justify the means (anyone but Obama, as long as he can beat him). In practice that can result in progressively worse "lesser evils". I believe that Virgil Goode is not the best, but the only good candidate in the Presidential election right now, if you can vote for him--but if you combine the electoral votes of the States where he's on the ballot with those of the States with a write-in option, I believe it is not outside the realm of possibility that he could win. Unlikely, perhaps, but not impossible.

    If my vote for Goode results in President Obama getting a second term, my conscience is clean because I voted for the best candidate on the ticket, I did not vote for Mitt Romney just to get rid of Obama. If nothing else, if we all vote for Goode, it will show there is a large demographic that wants the agenda Goode promises. I see voting for Mitt Romney as giving in, as compromising with evil--and I don't believe now is the time for compromise. This election is too important. You can't defeat evil with less evil, only with good.

    1. Virgil Goode being our next president may be physically possible, but I think it would be considered statistically impossible; sort of like winning the lottery 10 times in a row. Thanks for you comment.

  3. You're welcome. ^_^ I just fear that a big part of the reason such candidates don't win is self-fulfilling prophecy, at least in situations (like now) where it isn't 100% impossible for them to win--that is, people presume that candidate cannot and will not win, so they don't bother even if they think that candidate is the best, and they fulfill their own predictions.

    Bless you for wanting to reform the Republican Party from within, though--I have more faith in that being at least a possibility than with the Democratic Party. But I see that as being more likely with joining the Republican Party and consistently voting the Catholic doctrine on all issues, as well as supporting Republican candidates who support said doctrines, than saying "We support this platform but we'll take this if that's more likely".

  4. Thank you guys for this article.

    I have considered voting Constitution party since I became a Christian, but went with the reasoning which you demonstrated through your analogies, and have voted Republican. The other way - voting third party - would definitely be more long-term.

    If we consider the unborn and the fact that every day they are being killed - well, what does love require? The soonest possible prevention and remedy, even if the remedy isn't perfect. What can I do through my voting in this election to prevent as many unborn as possible from dying? The ship is sinking - time for the quickest patch-job possible. No time to wait for the rescue ship which is miles out.

    That being said: Other than voting for the Constitution Party, what way is there to build them up and give them a better chance in years to come?

    1. I’m not really sure to be honest, but no doubt that the key is to evangelize the culture around us. Do this and all political parties will begin to fall in-line. For example, all parties would say that racial segregation is wrong and should be illegal. If they didn’t they would be run out of town on a rail. The same would happen with abortion if that moral blind spot could be removed. Thank you for your comment.