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Tuesday
Aug282012

A Third Way: Saying "No" to Obama AND Romney on November 6

As opposed to an elephant (GOP) or a donkey (Dems), the owl is the symbol of the Modern Whig Party.In the early days of this blog, in posts that aren't currently online but hopefully will return soon, I used to write a lot more about politics. I've moved away from that in recent years because I don't know if we've ever been so divided politically. And in recent years, I see those who call themselves Christian reflect values that belong more to a political ideology than a biblical worldview. 

Nevertheless, it's an election year; and as I have usually done in the past, I'll write at least one political post as well as make a few predictions for the November presidential election.

As with the previous election in 2008, I'm not overly thrilled with either of the two "primary" choices this time around. But at least in the last election, I was able to make a choice and cast my vote. This time around, though, I don't believe that I can vote for either of them in good conscience. I won't go into all the details of that sentiment, but many people I talk to seem to have it, too, for various reasons. 

As I've stated before, I'm neither a Democrat or Republican. In the late nineties, after the fallout of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, I decided I didn't want to belong to either party. I became an independent. I did that in spite of the fact that my college political science professor stated in class that independent voters tend to know least about the issues. After taking his class, I think he knew least about the issues. 

Plus, I had biblical reasons for not belonging to any party: there were political parties of a sort in Jesus' day (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Herodians, etc.), and he did not choose to affiliate with any of them. What party would Jesus join? Well, probably none of them!

But I think I've actually found a party that I like: the Modern Whig Party. Although they are not yet overly organized or influential, I like what they stand for--from what I've read so far. There is no Whig ideology that they feel they have to keep to. They're willing to listen to voices from all sides and make pragmatic decisions. Both Democrats and Republicans have become extremists it seems, refusing to compromise with each other on important issues and ultimately becoming caricatures of themselves. The Whigs are willing to implement solutions to our country's problems regardless of who came up with the idea. If there's any veracity to the idea that "the truth is usually in the middle," the Modern Whig Party is willing to be politically more moderate than either the Democrats or the Republicans who continue to grow further and further apart, while accomplishing very little. 

Oh, I know what some of you are going to say: third parties are for those on the fringe; don't vote for candidates, vote for judges; voting for a third party is throwing away your vote. Well, those defenses usually come from deep within the two major parties who are trying to maintain the status quo. Much of politics these days has become a means to manipulate the average person, and the above rhetoric goes a long way to doing that. 

Here's my answer to those ideas: (1) I see a lot of fringe elements in both of the major parties these days. (2) I can't in good conscience vote for a candidate with whom I've got fundamental disagreements because these individuals will ultimately appoint judges with whom I've got fundamental disagreements. (3) A vote of conscience is never a vote thrown away.

Plus, since Kentucky is a "red state," the electoral college (which I believe is a system no longer necessary in a modern technological world) determines that unless I vote for Romney, my vote doesn't matter anyway. 

I promised you some predictions. Both are pretty obvious at this point, but here they are: (1) Romney will win Kentucky where I live, but ultimately (2) Obama will be re-elected, although with less enthusiasm than the first time around. Barring some major last minute scandal, that's where things stand, like it or not.

Thus, I feel even greater freedom than ever to vote my conscience. Therefore, I am currently planning to write in T. J. O'Hara as my choice for president. O'Hara has the endorsement of the Modern Whig Party and seems to have some really practical, and outside the [Washington] box, ideas. And more than likely, when I go to vote, I will also change my affiliation from independent to Modern Whig Party.

I like their ideas, I like their historical ties, and I even like that owl.

If you're uncomfortable voting for either Obama or Romney this year, I hope that you will also consider voting for a third-party candidate. I recommend O'Hara, but if not him, vote for one of the others. I would really love to see a higher than normal vote for candidates outside the major two parties this time around. Within my lifetime, I'd like to see our nation have more choices when it comes to solutions to the problems we have, rather than limiting ourselves to two extremes that refuse to work together. 

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Reader Comments (5)

I like the idea of voting a third party, and plan to myself. I'll have to investigate the modern Whig party.

I think it is interesting that you characterize democrats and republicans as being at the extreme. In my view, as more time passes they each have become of the same ideology, in essence corporatist fascism. The only discernible difference as far as I'm concerned is which particular industries they favor; republicans - military/industrial, democrats - social services (even this isn't very clear cut, i.e., the Bush Medicare Part D coverage and Obama's continued prosecution of the war in Afghanistan). They both have no real path out of annual deficit spending much less a path to pay down our existing accumulated national debt. They are the same when it comes to government being the ultimate answer for everything and spending us into insolvency.

As for the electoral college thing, I won't try to argue its merits in a comment, but the basics are that if it was dismantled, then we will have become a 100% democracy, not a representative republic. The main problem with this that the founders tried to avoid was tyranny by majority. This is the reason the Senate was originally chosen by state legislatures until the seventeenth amendment changed it to popular election in 1913. The original design was for the senators to represent the will of the states as another check and balance in power and as a way to avoid the populism we see today.

As for your vote not counting, unless the vote comes down to a single vote tie breaker, it statistically doesn't matter anyway, electoral college or not. Heck, the entire state of Michigan hasn't mattered in a presidential race since the '20's.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Very interesting post, Rick. A lot of this really resonates with me. I too decry the polarization in our culture, especially when Christians are too often part of the problem. I also became an independent many years ago. (This has been a big help in pastoring a politically-diverse church.) And I get frustrated with leaders who try to turn everything to their political advantage rather than sitting down with the other party leaders and seeking a mutually acceptable consensus that addresses the real problems. I like the idea of more political parties to challenge the stranglehold the two major parties now have on the process, and this Modern Whig party is intriguing. But . . .

Their desire for "an undivided electorate" is commendable, and I would definitely welcome such a thing. But---no matter how committed we are to a common sense approach---is this even possible? We have never had an undivided electorate in the history of our nation. No matter how moderate you seek to be, as soon as you have any clear position, you'll immediately have those in favor and those who oppose. Just a quick perusal of the comments in response to their position statements on their web site bear this out. While I would love to get Republicans and Democrats to sit down together and work out realistic solutions, should we try to establish such a meeting of the minds as a political party?

This leads me to a deeper concern with this party. They're apparently based on the idea that pragmatism and rational solutions "trump ideology." But should we be willing to sacrifice fundamental principles on the altar of pragmatism? Should we set aside deeply held beliefs simply for the sake of what will "work"? I don't want Democrats and Republicans to give up their convictions; I want them to really listen to each other, to give the other side's views fair consideration, and to try to work together as best they can without playing political one-upmanship. Some issues lend themselves well to pragmatic compromise, but others do not, and I think we also need to acknowledge this.

Their approach to abortion will be seriously troubling to many. First, it will prove to be unworkable IMO. They'll quickly find themselves with a Pro-Life Caucus and a Pro-Choice Caucus within their party. And, as recent struggles within the two major parties attest, one view will inevitably be marginalized within the party. But I would ask: Should this work? I don't feel we should be one-issue voters or rabid, obnoxious crusaders . . . but should we sacrifice this "ideology" for the sake of a pragmatic "unity"? Should we really treat the issue of the sanctity of human life "like any other public heath issue that revolves around medical procedures"? Is this really a question of government not getting involved in or regulating "our private lives"? This seems to be an acceptance of the legal status quo because of a current, perceived inability to find common ground and a fear that the issue is just "too divisive for the Republic to stand." But does the standing of the Republic trump the sanctity of human life? While we must work with our political opponents and seek to gain incremental change instead of demanding immediate, total victory, aren't there at least some issues that are so basic that we cannot compromise our convictions? What would have happened if Wilberforce and his associates had this kind of pragmatic approach to the slave trade rather than a persistent refusal to relent on this issue?

I don't support a group-think kind of polarization as we now have, and we must work together despite our differing convictions. But a political philosophy of pragmatism trumping ideology seems to me to be a dangerous, ends-justifies-the-means kind of precedent. Or am I perceiving their views incorrectly?

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCurt Parton

Good thoughts, Curt.

In regard to your last question, I think it's ultimately too early to say. A philosophy of pragmatism could easily become its own ideology, which would not be a good thing either. There's a "spirit" to the MWP's position of respect for opposing positions and being willing to work together that I don't see in the Democrats or Republicans these days. Yet no one in the MWP has had a chance to put those ideals into practice at a significant level of governmental action yet.

From what I understand (and I could always be mistaken), the MWP does not believe that they have to have a position on every issue; and some issues, including abortion, should probably be left to state governments to decide. I certainly resonate with that kind of idea because I do believe that if abortion laws were left up to individual states, there'd be much fewer abortions as a convenient form of after-the-fact birth control in our country today.

I'll admit that some of what I read on the MWP's website sounds idealistic, but to me there are two very different kinds of idealism. One is a naive idealism that gets caught by surprise in the end when reality doesn't meet expectations. But there's another kind of idealism in which expectations are simply kept very high in spite of reality. I'd like to think the latter is in play here, but we will see.

Maybe it's best to simply be an independent, and I can appreciate your position as a pastor. Politics can be so polarizing that I cringe when I hear pastors take hard political positions that I know have just put a wall between any presentation of the gospel they might want to give and a certain segment of the population. I feel it's insane for a pastor of the gospel to endorse a political candidate--even if on a personal level. When that happens, those pastors has just created a guarantee that some people will no longer listen to them.

And it may be that I make my final decision on Nov. 6, but I strongly feel right now that neither of the primary candidates represent me in any significant way. I don't honestly expect a third party to win (none of the naive kind of idealism here), but I do wish that third parties would be represented in the results in a more significant way than they have been in the past.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

Thanks, Rick. It will be interesting to see how they develop from here.

I know exactly what you mean by pastors building political walls. I hate to see that too.

I don't particularly care for our choices (from the major parties) this year either. Of course, it's academic for me. I serve an English-speaking church in Puerto Rico and, as a Puerto Rican resident, I can't vote for president. (I don't pay federal income tax either.) But I do think that if more of us voted for the candidate that we truly supported---even if they were third-party candidates---it could eventually force the system to change. I'll check out TJ O'Hara.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCurt Parton

In order to strike a blow against the domination of politics by the two major parties and in order to further empower my own political party, the Modern Whigs, I intend to vote for O'Hara.
O'Hara has zero chance of winning this election, so it doesn't much matter whether I agree with his policies- I admire his overall philosophy but am ambivalent about some details. However a vote for him would mean greater recognition for the Modern Whigs.
Polarization is not the problem in American politics. As I see it, the problem is one of intransigence. This system will only work if politicians are willing to compromise in order to get things done. I lose patience with people who think that mutual back-scratching is dishonorable or detrimental to the system. American politics is the politics of the half loaf. In the absence of compromise, which is really the American genius, we are left with a system of intransigence, whose ultimate endgame is total domination by one party or the other.

September 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Milne

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