This post has actually been in the works for a long time, I just didn’t get around to writing it. But I wanted to get it written before the primaries were all over, just so it wouldn’t seem TOO embarrassingly late.
Some people are reticent about how they cast their votes, but I’m choosing to lay my cards on the table and be public about where I stand. Whether or not you agree with my decision, hopefully my case will still appear reasonable.
I want to begin by telling a little story about some friends of mine. Like me, they come from a homeschooling family. Recently, they were at a Santorum rally, and I was struck by their description of the atmosphere. They said that Santorum had strong, no-punches-pulled things to say about God, freedom, and the Christian moral values our country desperately needs to return to. When the audience cheered loudly in response, my girlfriends said it was such a strange, yet wonderful feeling. “We just couldn’t believe that we were surrounded by so many people in the same place who believed the same things we did.” And it was hard to believe they were all listening to a candidate who really believed the same things they did.
In a nutshell, that’s why I’m supporting Rick Santorum. Is he perfect? No, I have my disagreements with him. And yet, when it comes to the foundations of conservatism, the values we have fought for so hard and hold so dear, he is there with us. He is willing to take flak for standing on the word of God when it comes to the sanctity of life and the moral evil of homosexuality. Moreover, he doesn’t just pay lip service to these principles, he lives them. He’s a man of honesty and personal integrity.
It seems like so little to ask, yet the other candidates left in the running fall short one way or another. Newt Gingrich is probably more intelligent than Santorum and may be more skilled as a leader, and he has a way of striking back at the left that’s fetching to conservatives who are tired of playing defense for so long. But to hear him go on and on about how wonderful his third wife is, when not so long ago he was waxing eloquent about how wonderful his second wife was… quite frankly I am left cold. This is not an honorable man. To be honest, I haven’t actually paid all that close attention to exactly what his policy positions are on various issues, because voting for him has never been an option as far as I’m concerned anyway.
As for Romney, although I concede that some of the things other people have against him are completely ridiculous (he’s Mormon, he’s white, he’s rich… puh-leeze), I don’t think he’s deeply committed to the social issues. One clue of this is his outright endorsement of the three exceptions to abortion. There’s an important distinction between voting for an anti-abortion bill which happens to contain the exceptions if that’s the best that can be done at the moment… and refusing to vote for such a bill unless it contains those exceptions. Which Romney has done. Granted, he is following in an unfortunate Republican tradition, but Republicans have been known to change their mind on these issues (Rick Perry being a notable recent case). I suggest we withhold our vote from any Republican who has not yet seen the light on this issue until they get the memo that we care about it. And honestly, Romney isn’t in this game as a culture warrior.
And as for Ron Paul… well, do we really need to go there?
Now let’s face it, Santorum winning the primary would be an upset. Romney is the favorite. And some would argue (though I’m actually not so sure), that Romney is “more electable” in the general, therefore we should put all our support behind him as the one with the best shot of ousting Obama. I disagree with this argument. I believe you should vote according to your conscience. Ask yourself simple questions, questions like, “Would I be proud to have a yard sign for this candidate?” If your answer is, “Well, not really,” then follow your conscience and don’t give your endorsement to that person. That’s what a vote is—a gesture of endorsement. I was shocked in 2008 when I was chatting with another homeschooled friend who said, in a moment of candor, “Yeah, McCain sorta stinks, but he’s better than Obama.”
Why? Why would you give your vote to somebody who, in your own words, “sorta stinks?” If Hitler and Satan were running against each other, would you vote for Hitler because he’s “the lesser of two evils?” I hope not.
And if you should stay home, this is not equivalent to a vote for the other side. It doesn’t take mad math skillz to see this. Yet you’ll hear the sound bite tossed around quite a bit as an argument for voting no matter what.
So, yes, I’m voting for Santorum in the primary. Not because I think he’s “electable” (though maybe I do, but in any case that’s irrelevant), but because I believe in him. He stands for what I stand for. He is actively seeking the support of people like me, people on the far right who are sick and tired of being neglected by Republicans for mushy middle and left-leaning voters. The strategists can hem and haw all they want about how this or that comment was “overly rash” or “likely to appeal only to the far right” or “ill-judged due to its controversial nature,” but I say good for him. Good for him.
I want to close with another story. This is a story from a summer I spent campaigning for a friend who was running for U. S. Senate against the more liberal Republican incumbent. It was a long summer. Others worked even harder than I did, but I put in many hours of volunteer labor. Data entry, folding T-shirts, licking envelopes, phone calls, phone calls, phone calls… and did I mention phone calls? But I vividly remember one phone call in particular. I was working alone in a room, with one laptop full of names and numbers and one cellphone. I dialed one number and waited for the next person on the list to pick up. It was an elderly lady—I don’t even remember her name. But she picked up, and I trotted off my little half-scripted, half-improvised introduction. We had been told to focus mainly on economic issues in our initial spin, so that was essentially what I gave her.
I still remember the pause. At this point one of several things might happen. She might say something polite and hang up. She might say something rude and hang up. She might say nothing and hang up. Or maybe, just maybe, she might ask for more information. I waited with the cellphone pressed to my ear in anticipation. Then, she cleared her throat and asked, “What’s he like on the abortion issue?”
My heart leaped. Honestly, the economic stuff all made sense to me, but deep down I knew those weren’t the real reasons I was working for this man. And suddenly she was asking a question I could answer from the heart. Fortunately I had been given some information I could provide on the topic if people requested it. So I told her all about the candidate’s commitment to life. I told her how he had personally helped found our local Crisis Pregnancy Center. And then I began to tell her that I knew him personally, and that he was a good man, an honorable man. I told her he lived what he believed. Finally, I stopped and waited, again. There was another pause, and again she responded, “Oh my, that is so good to know.” Then she told me that she was a Christian, and that the abortion issue in particular was very close to her heart. She was moved by what I had told her about the candidate’s personal integrity. She was so glad to know that he was a man of God. We chatted a little more. She said she would like to have even more info, and I got her physical address down so we could mail a packet to her. Then it was time to move on in the list. She thanked me repeatedly for calling her. And I thanked her.
It was a sweet moment. A sweet moment. And somehow, after I got off the phone with her, the other names on the list mattered less to me. I had reached one person about this man, one person who didn’t know his name and was now very, very glad to know it.
It brightened my day. It brightened the next day too, and the next, and the next. It kept me going for the rest of the campaign. And even though we lost, I wasn’t sorry.
So I pass this on to you, my dear readers: Vote without regret. Don’t be sorry.