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I’ve read and heard a number of conservatives (and I myself have struggled with this) who appear to be giving up on this year’s elections already. I’m disappointed. Ann Coulter certainly exuded an extreme version of the conservative angst (although she’s definitely on the wrong track by suggesting Hillary is a viable alternative to McCain). However just as effective as Coulter’s idea of supporting Clinton are the following ideas:

  1. Vote for any candidate on the ballot other than McCain
  2. Don’t vote for any candidate for President
  3. Skip the election altogether

A man named Rick Warren penned these words in the book The Purpose Driven Life:

It’s not about you.

I think this applies here, with a few more words: “It’s not about the President, either”.

Theory of voting 101: Although we all want to vote for a winner, the best use of your vote is to vote for the candidate that most closely aligns with your principles. This is pretty basic, ignores all of the intricacies of politics (such as, “politicians lie”), and for most of the population would be a better course than what they end up doing (which is truly a popularity contest).

The biggest problem with your basic “vote for the best candidate” idea, and the one that galls most conservatives today, is what amounts to a hypothetical question of “If your options for President were Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Ladan, and Saddam Hussein, who would you vote for?”. Such a question would cause most normal (Ron Paul’s supporters notwithstanding) people to run screaming from the room. Despite the obvious hyperbole, many conservatives believe they have already been left with a comparable scenario with the remaining candidates for President.

The bulk of the angst is this: the Republican Party appears to have been taken over by Centrists. This is frustrating, but has been going on for a while now. GW Bush is not a conservative. I believe he is a sincere and Godly man, but he leans moderately, and has frankly been in a position since 9/11 that has required compromise in order to achieve some level of security for the country. Many politicians within the party across the country struggle with the challenge an increasingly left leaning electorate.

So, we have a largely Centrist, somewhat moderate-conservative, and still a substantial conservative set of voices within our own party. If the party were made up only of conservatives, it would likely be less than half the size it is right now. I sincerely believe that those that lean toward a Centrist position are experiencing, to some degree, the siren song that beats through the Left. This is not an ignoble song, but a misguided one. It is a song that pulls deeply at the emotions and expresses itself in passionate love and kindness that has a tactical view… solve for the moment. Those that are Centrist may have been Conservatives but have grown a fear that they lack compassion and seek to solve that by looking for immediate answers to life’s problems. Centrists and Moderate-Conservatives need more education and mentoring, and need to be shown that while our emotions are valuable, and that love and kindness need to be at the core of our world-view, we need to work from the big picture. We need to be strategic. We need to help people find ways to help themselves instead of being dependent on others.

None of that will happen if we disengage, and stating that we won’t vote is going to communicate to everyone that we’re only interested in participating if we have our way.

Now, I do understand the idea proposed by some of stepping back and allowing events to transpire on the course that has essentially been set. We can all agree that there will NOT be a conservative player in the Oval Office from 2009-2012. Some would say this is an opportunity for people to see what happens when you allow the Left to run the country. We’re all pretty convinced it will be a disaster, or at least a miserable time for the country.

I’m not a big fan of co-dependent behavior, but I think our responsibility runs deeper. I don’t think we need to nor can we really prove the superiority of the conservative mindset by simply allowing what appears to be the “worst-case” scenario just play itself out. It should not be about whether we are right or not, it should be about doing our best to ensure the best happens, and doing our best to preserve in every way possible, this nation we so thoroughly call our own.

Getting back to what it’s about, we have become convinced that politics is about what happens in November. Nothing can be further from the truth. November is a blip, it’s a building of the landscape upon which the work of our government will be done for the next 2 years. Yes, I’m not even talking about the election of the President, but the election of the members of the US House Of Representatives and 1/3 of the US Senate. But it’s the other 24 months (minus the campaigning time) when Congress is in session, when our voices can be heard daily and conveyed to our representatives, it’s the grassroots party meetings that set the agenda for each election cycle, it’s the letters to the editors, the blogging, the public speaking, the assemblies to protest the wrongs in Darfur and the abortionist’s offices, the personal contact that each of us can have with those in different levels of power that make a difference.

However, when we treat any part of the process with contempt, and I would propose that declining to vote, and further persuading others to do the same, we trifle the entire political process. When we consider that the most precious right we hold (and yes, many would consider a duty) continues to set us apart from billions of others on our planet, we should consider it worth pursuing, promoting, and placing above our personal disappointments.

We also undermine our core effort (helping the party moving back to its conservative roots) when we treat the process in this manner. If we think the Party is important enough to participate in, we should also accept the voice of the party even when we disagree. There may be times (and for some, that time may be now) when the need to leave the party altogether and start anew is necessary, but if we believe the party can grow, change, and be led back to its conservative roots, then we should actively do everything possible to help make that happen. True, we lack the strength of influence that a leading conservative candidate would bring to our voices, but our voices can still be heard. If not at the national level, at least at the local level. Maybe this year, more voices around the country can start influencing those they have contact with in the party so that better ideas can be brought to the state and even national halls of legislation. If we work hard to show our respect to the party, more in the party will listen. And if they listen, we can influence.

This is a never ending effort. We, and those that follow us, will need to do the same work every year… we never “get there”, we must carry on the work generation after generation. The failings of our current generation are tied deeply in the same failings that have impacted our education system, our moral integrity as a society, and our entitlement mentality. If we give up and step back, we perpetuate this already destructive cycle. We need to make it stop.

I’m going to suggest that none of the options at the top are appropriate. Whomever is the Republican Nominee, we should support them. Be vocal about the issues… be vocal about the character flaws… be honest, but support the Republican Party. It’s the only place I can see where Conservatives have a serious voice and a chance to make a real difference, even this year.

Finally, encourage others to vote, and to vote as they think best. Encourage them to participate in the whole process. Everyone’s voice matters.

(Author’s note: Although reading the views and struggles of a number of different bloggers over the past few weeks has motivated me to write this, I prefer not to point any of them out in particular. I would prefer that none perceive this as a reaction to any specific comments, but rather to all of us that are struggling with the disappointment in the current state of the Republican Party and questioning ourselves about how best to react.)

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