The position of those on Reformed Inquisitor has been what we call “principled voting”. This is the view that we are to vote according to the admonitions of passages of Scripture like Exodus 18:21:
Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens, etc.
Our conclusion has also been that if there are no candidates who fulfill these qualifications, that to abstain from voting is more than advisable.
However, there has been some backlash against principled voters due the failure of the Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to gain the electoral college and thus fail to become our new President for 2012. Seeing as there were approximately 3 million voters who did not show up to vote on Election Day in the Republican Party, my guess is that those who are perturbed at Romney’s failure need someone else to blame and so, alas! principled voters (among others) get the fallout.
The General Argument Against Principled Voting:
1. Your non-vote obviously doesn’t put forward any outcome of success since no perfect people exist (straw-man)
2. By not voting, you rob the less bad guy (Mitt Romney) of your vote (false assumption)
3. Therefore, your non-vote was a vote for the evil guy (Barack Obama) and therefore evil (invalid inference)
If you simply replaced the information the abstaining from voting with information about voting for a third party, you can see that the argument is both against non-voters and third party voters.
There are at least three fronts that can combat this sort of argument,
Law of Identity:
First, a non-vote is a non-vote. Those who say a non-vote is a vote for someone else fail to recognize a fundamental law of logic, namely, the Law of Identity. The Law of Identity, simply put, says, “A is A”. Thus, a non-vote is a non-vote (which ought to be self-evident). To say a non-vote is a vote for Obama is to confuse matters. Does my name register on the ballot as a recorded vote for Obama? Clearly not.
Second, there is an assumption that those who vote for the third party guy (or who do not vote) are potential voters for the less evil guy (Mitt Romney). Of course, this assumption is unwarranted. My personal voting record does not indicate that I am a voter who would support someone with the ideologies and record of a man like Mitt Romney. Thus, I should not be viewed as a potential voter for the lesser of two evils. Further, one could argue that a vote for Obama is the pragmatically better choice. After all, if the religious life, and not just the economic life, of America is put in balance, is not the popularization of of the cult Mormonism a destructive thing? Why should economics take precedence? Also, have Republicans been known to stop the tide of big government or do they not rather perpetuate it? Therefore, the assumption that those who vote third party or not at all are “stealing votes” away from Romney is based on a false premise.
Argumentum Ad Hominem (Devil’s Advocate)
Third, suppose we grant, for the sake of argument, their conclusion. We voted for Obama by not voting at all or by voting third party. So what? If one is not going to adopt a principled approach, on what basis is evil inferred on our part? That Barack Obama is evil? Well, so is Mitt Romney. That Obama will cause more damage? How do we quantify the potential destruction both candidates might bring without being able to know the future? And on what principle do we say that we ought to vote for the guy that is less evil? There is none. These are the questions that the voter of Mitt Romney need to answer, but is actually ill equipped to do so. The reason – which is also the motivation of his criticism of the non-voter and third party voter- is that he has rejected a principled approach. While he rejects the principled approach, he needs it to justify his condemnation of the non-voters and third party voters. Instead, what the Romney voter does is appeal to vague and general terms like “moral choice”. We ought to vote for Romney because it’s the “right thing to do”. Of course, all this is begging the question.
Now, this is not to say that non-votes and third party votes are always the good moral choices. Some third party candidates (Gary Johnson at least and maybe even Virgil Goode of the Constitution party) are aptly put in the category of “evil men” and a vote for them is no better than a vote for the other evil men. Furthermore, non-voting is not always virtuous. If there was, hypothetically, a piece of legislation put forward that would outlaw abortion, it would be immoral not to vote. In this case, silence is sin since we are obligated to support righteousness. But these things are actually all apparent from the premises of our view: we are not advocating third party votes or non-votes per se, but a principled approach which may entail a non-vote or third party vote in many circumstances. But “not voting” or voting third party is not good ipso facto (in and of itself), but rather the following of the admonition of Scripture that is good.
More Objections: Let’s look at the Math!
There are a few objections raised to the principled approach other than the above argument. There have been some attempts to do the business of quantifying the evil of one candidate versus the other. The idea is that we ought to vote for the person that we can mathematically quantify, based on statistics, the evil one candidate might do and pit it against the other really evil guy and what he might do, again, all based on the records of these men and statistics. If, for example, both candidates are pro-abortion, this view would suggest that we ought to vote for the guy where fewer pre-born babies will die even though the candidate is actually perpetuating abortion. Suppose that under Obama 10 million babies are killed and 8 million babies will be killed under Romney. The difference is 2 million babies that you will “save” by your vote for Romney. Some might say, “It’s just math!”
The objection against the principled voter, ironically, is that we are responsible for the death of the 2 million babies because in our “purest theology” (something our ideas keep getting labeled) we voted for the guy that “didn’t have a chance”, or perhaps didn’t vote at all and thus “allowed” 2 million pre-born babies to be murdered.
Let me suggest that this objection and conclusion is based two detrimental ideologies, namely, pragmatism and relativism.
What is Responsibility?
First, there is the notion of blame. Who is to be blamed for the death of 2 million babies? Or, since I am highly questioning the assumptions behind the allegation, we might ask, “Who is responsible for the death of 10 million babies?” What I am asking is for the person who is alleging that we are to blame to give an account for his theological concept of responsibility. Let me give a brief definition of what responsibility is. Responsibility is you being held to account by a higher power. Thus, responsibility implies a law and a Sovereign to hold you to account to that law. One is blame worthy, then, when one has violated a principle of the law. It is incumbent upon those who rail against the non-voter to show how they can be held accountable for the death of 2 million babies, when, in the first place, the motivation of not voting was rooted in the fact that both candidates are pro-abortion!
Math and Situation Ethics:
Let’s look back in history and place ourselves in a concentration camp in Germany under Hitler. You are standing in front of ten Jews who are being lined up for execution. You are standing next to a German officer who is giving you a gun. He tells you that unless you shoot one of them, he will shoot all of them. What do you do? The principled approach would say that you don’t shoot any of them since responsibility and morality are based on God’s absolutes. If you shoot that person, you are a murderer and will be held accountable before God for your action. So also, in our view, if the German officer shoots all of them, he is the murderer, not you. (without getting into too much detail that if you were in such a scenario, you would be obligated to defend said people with your own life since this is the positive implication of the sixth commandment, namely, defense of a third person). But what must the mathematical ethicist say? Well, surely if you shoot one and nine are spared, you should shoot the one! Actually, even if the math was that if you shot nine and only one would be spared, you should do it. Thus we have relativism and its offspring of situation ethics. Suffice it to say, the theory is antithetical to Christian morality. So let’s return to the “math” of the above objection. The person raising the allegation can only do so on the premises of pragmatism and relativism. Since both are theologically bankrupt and neither of them can supply a rule of morality that can withstand rigorous analysis nor even an imperative, we are better suited to follow the Wisdom of the Law-giver.
One minor note: we can only quantify what we know of the two candidates. Seeing as Romney was never president there is the difficulty of needing to quantify potential deaths. This is virtually impossible. All we know is that Romney was a status quo guy. He was and is pro-abortion.
Some Reasons To Vote Third Party (or not voting at all):
There are some tactical reasons for voting third party besides the moral reasons cited above. This is clearly seen in the 3 million who didn’t vote in this 2012 election and even the one percent that voted Libertarian. What does it tell to the establishment? What kind of message does it tell those who might run in the future? Often we think that compromise always means a compromise towards liberalism. Well, in the case of the 3 million who didn’t vote, the Republicans are going to need to start compromising towards the conservatives. The lack of turnout is a message to the establishment that says, “Hey! You can’t do this without us!” It means that those who run in the future are going to need to show some credentials of conservatism before they are going to be able to take those voters back. If no one ever voted third party and always voted for the moderate candidate that the Republican party puts forward, the message you send is that you are willing to eat whatever they feed you. However, once they are shown that there is a large body of people that they haven’t won over because the absentees are sick of the nonsense, there may very well be candidates who have conservative values who will run because they know they have a fighting chance.
So next time you’re confronted with the pottage of liberalism with the Republican front, vote third party or not at all! There are both moral and political reasons to do so.