September 14, 2010 by jamesessj
An interesting philosophical (and, I suppose, moral) debate: in the context of a primary election, ought a person to vote for the candidate with whom he or she most agrees, or for the candidate with the best chance of winning in the general election?
In light of the Tea Party’s ascendancy, the question gets asked all the time. Can Sharron Angle beat Harry Reid in Nevada? Can Rand Paul beat Jack Conway in Kentucky? Can Marco Rubio beat both Charlie Crist (I) and Kendrick Meek (D) in Florida? In each instance, the argument has been, the Tea Party (or Tea Party-ish) candidate cannot win the general election. In some cases this may prove to be so (Reid may, against all odds and thereby proving God does not exist, win in Nevada), but in others it’s proving not: Rubio has a massive lead over both Crist and Meek, and Paul has a sizable lead over Conway.
In Delaware, however, the question has reached a kind of boiling point, in the race between Mike Castle and Christine O’Donnell to stand for the Republicans in November’s senatorial election. The Republican establishment has rushed to the aid of Castle, on the theory that O’Donnell is unelectable in a general election, yet as of the most recent polls O’Donnell is ahead. We’ll find out later today who’s won — personally I’m rather hoping for O’Donnell, simply because when I’ve seen Mike Castle interviewed he’s struck me as a typically weaselly Washington insider. The way his campaign has treated O’Donnell hasn’t won him any points, either.
But Castle and the Republican establishment do have a solid argument: O’Donnell may well be too far right to win in a moderate Northeastern state like Delaware. And in the current environment, Castle would likely be a shoo-in, should he get the nomination. So ought conservative Republicans to vote for Castle, whatever their disagreements with him?
For me the answer is: alas, probably they should. But then almost every vote I’ve ever cast has been a compromise of one kind or another — it’s impossible to find a candidate who’s fiscally conservative and yet socially somewhat (but not entirely) liberal. My single-issue, insofar as I have a single issue, is smaller government — which is why I rarely vote Democrat, and often end up voting for Republicans with whom I strenuously disagree on certain social issues. Which is why I’m considered a traitor to my gay brethren; for whom gay issues matter far more than fiscal or national security or any other issues. (I’d comment here on the self-centeredness of gay men, but that would be a stereotype…and it’s not as if I myself am continually fending off accusations of not being self-centered.)
I can see (as usual) both sides. Vote your principles; vote pragmatically. Neither side has the moral high ground, because the vote that denies Republicans Delaware’s Senate seat may be the vote that denies them control of the Senate, which may deny them the opportunity to block further Democratic excesses…nothing’s ever as black and white as some folks would like us to believe. Everything’s gray. You get to pick your shade, that’s all.