In the last GOP primary the evangelicals had Huckabee–a jocular ex-Baptist pastor so likable that even The Liberal Media had to remind themselves they thought him insane. This year, the most obvious evangelical choices–Bachmann and Perry–limped along with little support until their candidacies died. Scrambling to anoint a candidate, a group of evangelical kingmakers met to choose one and picked the most evangelical of the non-evangelical GOP candidates: Rick Santorum.
At this point, Santorum should be the obvious choice for a family values voter. He has a perfect family, an impeccable record of not just opposing abortion but actively fighting it, and lets none of the Catholic Church’s teachings on social justice and compassion besmirch his staunch conservatism. He even has, as David Gibson and many evangelical leaders point out, an evangelical style.
So why, if Santorum is the perfect evangelical candidate (despite not actually being an evangelical), did South Carolina evangelicals go for Newt instead, a serial adulterer of the ilk they loathed in the 1990s? Why did they overwhelmingly favor someone who embodies the very disease they want to stop–the destruction of the heterosexual family?
Because electability matters to evangelicals. In South Carolina, nearly half of evangelical voters said the ability to beat Obama mattered most to them as they made their choice–and over half of them decided Gingrich was their guy–not Santorum, the “squeaky clean family man.” Electability matters a lot–more, it seems, than character (only 21 percent of evangelicals said it mattered most) and more than fighting for the candidate who actually perfectly represents and fights for their views in every way. This will carry over to the general election: if Romney wins the nomination, evangelicals will vote for him despite knowing he doesn’t give a damn about abortion or gay marriage and lacks any core of integrity. When it comes to Romney and Obama, they’ll choose the lesser evil.
But why? Why always vote for the lesser evil?
I’m becoming interested–as I look at the political field and see almost no one in either party who represents me–in treating my vote not as a choice between two evils but as an honest reflection of my own principles, my own values, and my own priorities. I’m tired of seeing my vote as an opportunity to carefully balance various interests and win the most amount of good while doing the least amount of harm. I would like to see my vote as a principled stand, even if casting my vote means “throwing it away” on someone who can’t win.
In a country where corporations get many, many more votes with their millions of dollars and where Super PACS hold the power to dictate debate, a vote is all we little ordinary citizens have left. It’s the one last reminder that we are supposed to live in a democracy where everyone holds the same amount of power–a single vote–to express their views. We should use it to protest the establishment.
And I’m tired of an establishment where we have two voting options. Particularly if you’re a left-leaning liberal or a center-leaning conservative, there is no fair option at all. As Ryan Lizza pointed out in his recent New Yorker article, analysis shows that House Republicans have moved six times as far to the right as House Democrats have moved to the left. Senate Republicans have moved twice as far to the right as Senate Democrats have moved to the left. This means we have a system that represents only the far right and the somewhat left leaning center. Our “assymetrically polarized” two party system gives no option for the rest of us–except to vote outside the two party system.
A record high 40% of Americans identify as Independents. We should vote independently.