Compromise and Third Wheels in Presidential Politics

Reader John Divito writes:

Hello! I wanted to let you know that I ran across a couple of internet articles you might be interested in. It seems to me that there are two camps of conservative Christian voters–those that vote strictly based on their conscience (and hence for a third party–say, the Constitution Party), and those that vote for the best winnable choice (in this election, Bush). One group calls the other compromisers, while the other side calls the first group irrelevant. I have enjoyed reading both sides from the Reformed community, especially from the Theonomic Reconstructionists, who are really battling over this methodological issue. While I am no theonomist, I have found two articles VERY helpful. I thought you’d like to read them:

Why I’m Voting For George W. Bush…Again” by P. Andrew Sandlin

Third Party Myths” by Rod D. Martin

They are very helpful and convincing to me about the need to vote for Bush while pressing for conservative issues. Given your support of Bush, I thought you’d like these articles. Let me know what you think!

Because of His grace,
John Divito

Along with the two articles he suggests, Divito brings up a topic that has even the Republican Party strategists resorting to great lengths to hang on to its evangelical base. In politics, as in all of life, it’s hard to please everybody. And whether it’s warranted or not, many evangelical Christians feel they’ve been let down by Republicans. Too soft on the marriage amendment, some say—others say that Bush has been too soft on abortion and too liberal in making the government bigger.

What, then, do you do when you find fault with the political party that previously identified with you most closely? Do you compromise and vote for a Republican who has a strong chance of winning yet does not fully agree with you, or do you “throw away” your vote to a third party that hasn’t a chance of winning recognition, much less an election?

As a registered Republican, where I come down on such questions is little mystery. I don’t agree with every policy that the Bush administration has set forth, but by and large I think he is an excellent president. I think the mistake that some Christians make when turning to a third party is that they carry the rigidity of their theology into their politics.

Politics is, after all, a game of compromises. Theology, on the other hand, allows for little compromise—especially among confessional Christians. But even among the body of Christ there is need (and biblical warrant) for compromise. The church will function whether or not the carpet is green or red, and even whether or not the collection is passed through the aisles or taken up front. Likewise, our nation can move in a more biblical direction even as taxes increase and social programs grow.

There are certain issues Christians must not compromise—the rights of the unborn being one of the foremost. A third party that is aligned perfectly with my beliefs will not win the 2004 election. The Republicans have a good chance. The Democrats are in direct oppostion to the rights of the unborn. For this issue I’m willing to compromise much (although personally there is not a great deal to compromise) and vote for a party that can win.

Sandlin argues:

For Christians, our hope is not in politics but in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Politics does not change men fundamentally, though we do have a name for political systems that believe they can change men — totalitarianisms. Marxist regimes believed they could inculcate virtue, creating “the new man.” The aims of Christian democracies founded on Christian truths are more modest — chiefly protecting life, liberty, and property (in the view of the United States’ Founders). Because our ultimate hope is not in politics, we should lower our political expectations and heighten our cultural expectations. We should work for cultural change by means of preaching the Gospel and applying God’s truth in all areas of life; a Christianized political order will come incrementally, over time.

Like John Divito, I’m no theonomist, so I don’t expect (or even necessarily stive for) a Christianized political order to emerge short of Christ himself establishing it. Sandlin is right, however, in showing that political activity falls outside the realm of “first things” for Christians. We have a bigger purpose to fulfill in glorifying the King of Kings. Let us not stand against the values of his kingdom while promoting our own.

2 thoughts on “Compromise and Third Wheels in Presidential Politics”

  1. Wow, I’m famous! Regardless, you make some good points about Christians in politics (as usual). It doesn’t hurt that you agree with me, though! 🙂

  2. Do you compromise and vote for a Republican who has a strong chance of winning yet does not fully agree with you, or do you “throw away” your vote to a third party that hasn’t a chance of winning recognition, much less an election?

    My take on this is that if you vote at all, you are not throwing your vote away. If you make a conscious decision to vote for a third party candidate on principle, then you are doing the right thing. The TPC may be the right man for the job – who knows? Just because the majority of people disagreed with your opinion of who the best candidate was doesn’t mean that your vote was worthless.

    If Ralph Nader makes it onto the ballot this year, he’ll no doubt have many people – nay dozens 🙂 – vote for him. These people are voting for him because they honestly believe him to be the best man for the job, or they simply can’t see how Bush or Kerry would be a better choice. I wouldn’t say that they’re wasting time.

    I would like to think that people woild be informed when they go to the polls. I could, after all, say that a person who knows nothing about the candidates and simply goes in and pulls a random lever (per se) and casts a vote for Kerry is throwing *my* vote away, but that’s another story. 🙂

    Good post, Jared

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