A True Principled Voting Lesson for the GOP

The GOP is in a serious dilemma. It has two warring factions.

On one side are the traditional Republican voters. They will vote for any candidate with an R behind his name. They have one goal: Defeat Obama.

On the other side are the Ron Paul voters. A growing minority, they present both a threat and a promise to the GOP. A threat, because they won’t vote for the Republican establishment’s candidates no matter what. A promise, because they inject new blood in a party that has grown so old that its party rallies resemble the Soviet Politburo in the 1980s: a gerontocracy that doesn’t even remember what it is there after.

These young Ron Paul voters have one goal: Elect Ron Paul.

The GOP leadership knows that without these young voters they won’t be able to defeat Obama. The only serious candidate besides Ron Paul – Mitt Romney – has no appeal to them, no matter how deferential he is to Ron Paul on the stage. Senator DeMint – by far the most principled conservative in the Senate – already knows it and spoke about it. Even FOX News and its pundits know that there is no path to the White House without Ron Paul’s supporters. If FOX News got the news, then everyone else already knows it.

For some reason the two factions are in a war against each other. And that’s the GOP’s dilemma. Mitt Romney is unelectable in a general election. Ron Paul is opposed by the traditional GOP voters. Is there a solution?

There is, of course. The goals of the two factions are not mutually exclusive. Defeat Obama is not opposite to Elect Ron Paul. In fact, as the GOP and FOX News already know, there is no defeat of Obama without Ron Paul. So the solution is obvious:

Nominate Ron Paul.

It achieves the goals for both factions in the GOP. Ron Paul will bring with him the fresh blood of his supporters who will be happy to have their man nominated. And the unity in the Republican Party – plus the countless non-Republican votes for Ron Paul – will help defeat Obama. Any other attempt at a solution is hopelessly utopian given the reality of the political dynamics within the GOP. A simple solution given the fact that it is too late to change anything and make Romney appealing to those young voters. Apply the solution, and Obama is toast.

I want to see Obama defeated. I hope the GOP voters will listen to reason and vote on principle, and practical wisdom. It is the way the political system works. They will have to compromise in supporting the best candidate that can get elected, not who they believe is the best candidate. This means, in turn, that they must always account for how their fellow citizens will or are likely to vote – specifically the Ron Paul voters. This means, in plainer words, that no person is an island: we’re all in this thing together, and we can’t pretend that an individual or a comparatively small group can dictate who the candidate or President will be. We have a name for societies that can do that: dictatorships. In the United States, you have to win over a majority of votes (or, the electoral college, a majority of electors). If they think about it, this also means that in a general election, every principled non-vote for the best electable but not the best candidate in favor of the best non-electable candidate is a vote for the worst-but-very-electable candidate. Which means, that a vote for Romney – who can’t win without Ron Paul’s voters anyway, against Obama – is a vote for Obama. Well-intentioned GOP voters may have felt very pleased with themselves for their principled vote, but intentions aren’t counted at the ballot box. Only votes are. Perhaps GOP voters should consider adopting the principle that they will never help elect the worst candidate and abandon the principle that they will help elect the unelectable best candidate.

In making political decisions in a modern Western constitutional democracy like the United States, the first lesson you learn is that the best is often the enemy of the possible. As the pundits already know, it is only possible to defeat Obama with the votes of Ron Paul’s supporters. It is impossible at this stage of the game to transfer their votes to Romney (or to Gingrich, or to Santorum, for that matter).

This leads to a final point. Politics is the reflection of culture. Citizens get generally the candidates they deserve — or at least that they collectively want. This means that if you want to change politics, you should work to change culture. If Ron Paul is unacceptable, work hard so that in a few years, better candidates will survive the primary process. But as of now, look at what is possible. If it isn’t possible for a certain candidate to win without the support of a significant bloc of voters, drop him. Vote for the one that can bring all the voters in the party together.

The solution for the GOP is simple: Vote Ron Paul. It will solve all the problems, and will restore all unity in the Party. And if you don’t like Ron Paul, work for the next four years to convince those Ron Paul voters. It is too late at this point. Compromise, give them what they want, so that we see Obama defeated. In four years, when Obama is not running, work again for your preferred candidate.