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Voting Third Party

October 6, 2008

If you had asked me four years ago, I would have told you that voting third party was foolish.  Throwing away your vote.  Wrong for the country.  Not the way it works.  But then, I’ve done some thinking since then.  And I want to share some thoughts with you.  This month, I’ll let the pundits do the high class opinionating.  I’d just like to think out loud.

John McCain is the very first presidential candidate to ever get me to think about voting third party.  A couple of months ago, as I was driving my wife home from school, I mentioned this to her.  I cannot stand the thought of John McCain being our next president.  The only thought that makes me shudder more than a McCain presidency is an Obama presidency.  And that is what leaves me in a quandary.

In the political season Before Palin (B.P.), I had decided that I was not voting for McCain.  But, when McCain nominated Sarah Palin, I gave it another look.  Am I one of those deplorable “undecided” voters, the kind I used to revile?  To be honest, yes.  I am.  Here is why.  If I could bypass McCain and vote directly for Sarah Palin, I would do so.  We can discuss the whole voting for a woman president issue in the comments section if you like, but for right now I will only say that I would have voted for Margaret Thatcher, and I would have voted for Deborah as well.

My quandary is in voting for a Presidential ticket because I support the Vice Presidential nominee.  If I did vote for McCain, I would be doing so in the hopes that the Vice President would become President.  I’ve never voted for a guy hoping that something would happen to remove him from office.  Nor am I persuaded that I should.

No doubt our commenters will have plenty to say on this issue, some giving good reasons for voting McCain anyway, and others giving good reasons not to.  I’ll let the comments section carry on that debate.  I meanwhile intend to throw out some thoughts on voting third party, which is what I will do if I don’t vote for McCain.

First, these elections are not in the voters hands.  God controls the nations.  There is no power but of God.  God removes kings and sets up kings (Daniel 2:21).  The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men (Daniel 4:17).  By Him, kings reign and princes decree justice.  By Him princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.  Elections are not in our hands.  Our vote counts, but when the votes are counted, God’s will is always done.

This is not a fatalistic view of the election process.  It is a simple acknowledgement of the Sovereign rule of God.  It is not up to us to vote or to “ensure” that we get the best man in there.  God will take care of putting the man in office that He intends.

This also reminds me of a conceit that voters often have — the conceit that says that my vote, especially in a Presidential election, makes a difference.  We have been told this and told this, and yet we all have the vague notion that the argument and reality have nothing whatsoever in common.  Neil Postman called voting “the next to last refuge of the politically impotent.”  He went on to say that “the last refuge is, of course, giving your opinion to a pollster…”

Here is my point.  I have had the privilege of voting in four presidential elections.  In two of those elections, William Jefferson Clinton was elected President.  In both of those elections, my vote was overwhelmed by those in favor of Clinton.  In the other two of those elections, George W. Bush was elected President.  In both of those elections, my state voted nearly 70% for Bush.  As much as I would like it to be the case that my vote mattered, it really didn’t.

But thinking out loud, I’m not sure anymore that this is a reason for me to vote.  In other words, I’m not convinced that “your vote matters” is a moral argument for voting, or that it is a moral argument for voting for the candidate that has been forced on me by the two parties.

Rather, I consider my vote and my right to vote to be a gift from God, a sacred trust.  Understanding that the outcome is according to His decree, I view my vote to be more of a responsibility on my part — a responsibility to use that vote to make a statement (however impotent that statement may be) about who should be leading this country.

When I think about it that way, the old “hold your nose and vote” idea goes away.  Obviously, I cannot give my approval, no matter how inconsequential my approval might be, to an unqualified candidate.  Not even if that unqualified candidate is the overwhelming choice of The Party.  In matters of conscience, The Party should never be granted authority to dictate who will be voted for.

Some will no doubt argue against this, that voting Third Party is like voting for Obama.  But I would invite those who argue this way to take a fresh look at the history of Presidential politics.  There has been a time or two when one or the other of the two major parties split.  The Bull Moose Party comes to mind, when Teddy Roosevelt prevented the Republican candidate from being elected.  Whenever the split has been severe, the result to the party has been reform – sometimes for good, other times for bad.

The Republican Party really does not represent our values, not even the way it did in the 1980’s.  Clearly not in the way it once did.  Until we as Christians stand up and say, “enough is enough,” the Republican Party will continue its slide right behind the Democratic Party.  A split in the party might put a bad guy in the White House for four years.  But the good accomplished could also straighten up the mess in short order, if the Republican Party got the message.  And that could be a good thing.

  1. Pastor Bobby Mitchell
    October 6, 2008 at 7:46 am

    In light of God’s sovereignty and setting up kings, etc. isn’t Hosea 8:4 interesting: “They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.”

    Another case to consider would be Saul. God, in His sovereignty determined to let Israel choose Saul. We could say that God made Him king, but He did so because He allowed the people to choose Him.

    Something to think about.

    As far as the election goes, I am going to do all I legally can to keep Barack Hussein Obama from becoming president. So, I’m voting for the candidate most likely to defeat BHO. That would be John McCain. Again, my priority is to defeat BHO. So, no, I won’t be considering a third party vote since Maine is in play.

  2. reglerjoe
    October 6, 2008 at 7:57 am

    For the first time in my life, I am an undecided voter. I really have ceased to be impressed with Sarah Palin. She had a stirring acceptance speech…but after her Couric interview, I’m wondering if she has the ability to think on her feet. Besides, she’s only the Veep. Why would conservatives who were so vociferously anti-McCain suddenly change their mind when he throws us the Veep bone? McCain is still McCain no matter who his running mate is.

    Here’s a prediction: whether or not McCain or Obama is president, in the next 4 years we’ll still have massive national debt, abortion will still be legal, the borders will still be leaky, and the government will still be big and getting bigger.

  3. Matt Conrad
    October 6, 2008 at 9:07 am

    The Constitution Party is probably the best third party ticket to vote for in reflecting our values as Christians. Yet if all ‘evangelicals’ would do that Obama would be president. However its better to vote for principle and conscience rather than ‘the lesser of two evils’ in my opinion. Evil is still evil, and both parties represent two sides of the same coin.

  4. October 6, 2008 at 11:18 am

    There are so many important issues with this vote! Check Out The Truth About… for expert opinions on Your Vote — http://www.thetruthabout.com

  5. October 6, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Well, voters taught the GOP a lesson in 1932…and we’re still paying for it today. It wasn’t four years either, it was 20. This notion that we’re in a 1976-80 cycle where four years of a bad president will usher in the next age of Reagan has a serious flaw (well more than one, but…)–there isn’t another Reagan around.

    What is your particular objection to McCain? Knowing that would make it easier to answer the question of whether you should vote for a third party candidate or not.

  6. Dave Mallinak
    October 7, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Andrea’s comment is an advertisement for a subscription service — opinions for sale, just in case anyone thougth she might have something for you to READ.

  7. Dave Mallinak
    October 7, 2008 at 2:45 pm


    I’m with you on the issue of Sovereignty, and am in no wise saying that our choices are without consequence. What you said about voting against Obama is something I have heard throughout my life. My question would be, when we vote our conscience and vote for someone other than Obama, are we not also voting against Obama? And if we say that the only way to vote against Obama is to vote for McCain, are we not then acknowledging that we are slaves to the political system? And if we are willingly slaves, are we not then choosing to give up our freedom? And if we willingly give up our freedom, are not then guilty of putting someone in office who, as Hosea said, setting up kings, but not by God?

    I understand the dangers of “many” political parties (i.e. “more than two”) in power. What I don’t understand is our willingness to violate our own conscience in voting for a middle of the road “maverick” moderate who almost switched to the Democratic party a few years ago.

  8. Bobby Mitchell
    October 7, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Brother Dave,

    I didn’t say that the only way to vote against Obama is to vote for McCain. What I did write was that the candidate most likely to defeat BHO is John McCain. I think your questions are good ones and ones that I grapple with too.

  9. October 8, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Dear Pastor Mallinak,

    Since you are in one of the most conservative states in the USA, not a swing state, you are correct; your vote does not matter. If Obama wins Utah, he will already have won in a landslide. However, since I live in Wisconsin, one of the closest states in the USA and a major swing state, I am going to vote for McCain, because, unlike in Utah, here my vote DOES matter. We can thank radical leftists who voted Green party instead of for Gore for allowing Bush to win his first term based on a few hundred votes in Florida. So I would highly encourage all readers, if you live in swing states, to please vote for McCain, since we are one supreme court justice away from either overturning Roe v. Wade (one more conservative) or a national “right” to sodomite marriage (one more leftist). If one lives in Utah, or a radical left state that is not in play, then your vote really doesn’t matter–go ahead and vote third party.

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