Monday, October 22, 2012

Increasing The Impact Of A Romney Victory

What if you live in a state where Mitt Romney is well ahead of or well behind Barack Obama in the polls? Does it make sense to vote for a third party candidate or not vote in such a context?
I've said a lot over the years about the problems with third parties and voting for them. I won't go into that subject in much depth here. Those who are interested can search the Triablogue archives for terms like "third party" and "Ron Paul".
And I've said a lot about why people should vote for Romney, such as in the comments section of a recent thread here. What I want to do in this post is focus on a particular aspect of that case.
Let's say you live in Texas. Romney is ahead of Obama by a wide margin. It's extremely unlikely that Obama will win that state. Does it follow that Texas voters should go with a third party candidate or not vote?
One of the factors to take into consideration is the force behind a Romney victory. The larger the margin by which he wins, the more of a mandate he'll be perceived as having. His margin of victory in Texas will shape perceptions of what Texas voters want, and it will shape perceptions of what Americans in general want, since the Texas votes will be added to the votes from other states in some contexts.
Think of the 2000 presidential campaign. George Bush won by means of the electoral college, even though he lost the popular vote. And those were the rules agreed upon ahead of time. There's nothing wrong with that. But many people have used Bush's loss of the popular vote to try to taint his electoral college victory. If Bush had gotten more votes in states like Texas, where the race wasn't close, it would have given him a better overall number of votes, which would have strengthened his victory, given the Republicans some significant advantages, and avoided some disadvantages.
It's possible for some other factor to outweigh what I'm focusing on here. But what would that factor be this year? For reasons I addressed in the other thread mentioned above, I don't think that something like supporting a third party candidate has as much value as increasing Romney's numbers.
Voting for third parties increases their overall effect. It empowers them to keep operating in other states, including ones where the margin between the Democrats and Republicans is smaller. Supporting a Libertarian candidate in Texas in 2012 helps prepare the way for a Libertarian candidate in Ohio in 2016. If the Libertarians don't cost the Republicans Texas in 2012, there's still a better chance that they'll cost the Republicans Ohio in 2016.
Even if you're in a state where Romney is well ahead or well behind, there are good reasons to vote for him. It's not just that a Republican victory is so important this year, but also that the degree of victory is important and the alternatives so unimportant.


  1. I don't think it matters what state you are in or who is behind or ahead. Christians should vote on principal not based on fear or pragmatism.

    1. That's a false dichotomy. Taking the consequences of your actions into account when you make decisions is a principled consideration. It would be unprincipled never to take the consequences into account.

      Keep in mind that we're talking about a political process. A process is a means to an end, not an end in itself. So that's essentially pragmatic. A process is not a matter of principle. Rather, the principle is the goal, and the process is just a way of achieving the goal. What's the best method of achieving or furthering your objective? That's the issue.

      BTW, the Bible often appeals to fear as a legitimate disincentive. To be fearless is irrational.

    2. (to pile on to what steve has said) I suppose that LeeInd could reply that we cannot justify an illegitimate process by its legitimate incentives or legitimate goal. But that argument only has bite once LeeInd establishes that the process is illegitimate (and LeeInd hasn't done that yet).

    3. Leelnd

      "I don't think it matters what state you are in or who is behind or ahead. Christians should vote on principal not based on fear or pragmatism."

      So you vote for the sake of voting? What's the point of voting if your candidate never wins? In that case, what's the practical difference between voting and not voting? If it makes no difference, why bother?

    4. Steve,

      Just to clarify. I didn't mean two exclusive options by principle or pragmatism, no dichotomy intended. It's more of an observation of what motivates the way people vote. I also am not just saying the principles of the Christian, but the principles of the candidate as well.

      When I say, don't vote based on fear, I mean that in the sense of don't fear the world or man and that we should fear the Lord God.

    5. Leelnd

      "When I say, don't vote based on fear, I mean that in the sense of don't fear the world or man and that we should fear the Lord God."

      That sounds pious, but it's fatalistic. Trust in God and keep your powder dry.

    6. An atheist over on my site is wondering why Romney's Mormonism doesn't bother Christian political conservatives more than it does.

    7. That was a major consideration during the primaries. But even then, many Christian conservatives follow the Buckley rule: vote for the most electable conservative.

      But once Romney became the presumptive nominee, it was pointless to keep harping on his shortcomings. At that point the standard of comparison shifted: we were no longer comparing him to his Republican rivals, but to Obama.

      Why should Romney's religion bother us more than Obama's religion–or irreligion (as the case may be)?

      If Romney is elected, then that will be a good time to revisit the issue of Mormonism. That will be an opportunity for Christians to highlight the categorical difference between Christianity and Mormonism. And, yes, Mormonism is still a cult.

      But that's no longer relevant at this particular stage of the campaign.

  2. Aren't fear and pragmatism just competing principles with whatever alternative principle you have in mind, Leelnd?

    1. Without further explanation, yes. Clearly I need to flush out a clearer definition of my criticism.