Republican primary voters today pick a conservative as their standard bearer for the November balloting for a gerrymandered U.S. House district that includes Chattanooga and runs all the way to the state’s northern border. The November balloting will give voters a choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama for president. Four in the district are on the GOP ballot today, and the victor will face a Democrat in the election.
The incumbent, Chuck Fleischmann, is being challenged by Weston Wamp, son of a former federal congressman, and Scottie Mayfield, a retired dairyman whose company employs more than a thousand people. Ron Bhalla also is competing for votes.
The candidates claim to be against the status quo in Washington, D.C., where the U.S. Congress meets regularly to alternately hasten and forestall a national bankruptcy, raise taxes for foreign intrigues and write into the U.S. Code more vaguely worded legal traps laid quietly before the path of America’s industrious and hard-working commoners.
➤ For Mr. Wamp, a student of public relations and a marketing professional, the answers to a weak national economy “lie in the private sector and real leaders in Washington who are willing to work across party lines to get the right policies in place,” Mr. Wamp’s website says. “We must deploy free market principles, increase competition, expand access to our private healthcare system and lower costs so that business owners know for certain the government will do no more harm.”
In selling his candidacy, Mr. Wamp rightly touches the public nerve by discussing the national government’s red ink, calling himself a young member of the “debt-paying generation.” His video about the government’s F$15 trillion debt, seen by 800 people on YouTube, accurately sums up the problem he wishes to be assigned to tackle as a representative.
➤ Scottie Mayfield has not been forthcoming on many of his views, but he has said national defense and overspending the most important issues. His website suggests a perspective that any lover of local economy and free markets would support, including repeal of Obamacare, slashing outlays and “defending traditional values when they are challenged.”
➤ Rep. Fleischmann also frames the issues to win votes of a conservative constituency. During the last week of the primary, an ad identified him as an ally of what we would call the Christian worldview. “As we watch the Olympics, we’re reminded the greatness of America rests in its people,” Rep. Fleischmann says. “We must always stand up and fight for conservative values to ensure that we remain that shining city on a hill. That’s why in Congress I voted to repeal ObamaCare, cut $1.6 trillion from the budget, and worked every day to stop Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda.”
Mr. Fleischmann, who makes his living handling legal disputes, hopes to return to the capital and have everyone in the home district confident that he represents them. “The adoption of policies that promote business investment, lower taxes and reduce the regulatory burdens on business will create the strong economic force needed to turn our economy around,” he says on his website.
Good men reaching for levers of compulsion
I exercised the voting franchise early, partly impelled to this duty because my mother had asked me to take her for early voting at Northgate mall. This involvement is part of a modern humanist sacrament. Mrs. Tulis wanted to know my views on Soddy-Daisy judge and the state senate. I made a recommendation. When she asked about the federal ticket, I gave a laconic reply. “Mom, I’m sure any of them would be good enough.”
Very little of what these candidates say is faulty. I don’t detect much of the sort of political overreach that federal candidates of either controlling party are known for. The campaign seems largely about what these men are against, what they would like to stop or to undo, than what positive program they would like to enact.
In the home district, the officeholder earnestly sees the mess in Washington as the people do and complains about it. But the victor, almost invariably, finds his perspective slowly shifting once he is in the federal district. From whichever party he comes, he becomes a conservative. Meaning, he finds his job as one conserving what the Washington government represents, preserving its power and its reputation as the solver of all evils and bandager of all skinned knees.
One might consider seeing today’s voting in one of two honorable ways for a Christian.
In one perspective, a Christian has a duty to exercise godly influence on the three branches of government at whichever level. He’s wise to vote for a godly, knowledgeable man as sessions court judge. He’d best select a moral man of character, learning and experience for the state senate and the U.S. house. By voting he lets God exercise dominion over the world by putting better and better men into office, assuming the nation is coming into God’s favor and blessing.
If all God’s people voted on principle, the Grand Old Party could no longer co-opt them into supporting establishment candidates belonging to global and corporate interests, and the party would have to account for a Christian interest in a constitutionalist pro-family free market candidate such as Ron Paul.
Is lesser of 2 evils good?
In another perspective, the one I am slowly coming to espouse, a Christian comes to see that the day of reckoning for America and its government, the United States of America, is at hand. He divines that the last thing Americans need is more political solutions — more programs, more controls, more laws, more subsidies, more destruction of states’ rights and individuals’ rights.
If I vote for any of Messrs. Wamp, Mayfield, Bhalla or Fleischmann, I am participating in an instrument of conquest, because the voting process is a way to encourage me to feel that I give my consent. “Deeply embedded in people’s sense of fair play is the principle that those who play the game must accept the outcome,” writes an author in an intriguing volume, Dissenting Electorate. “Those who participate in politics are similarly committed, even if they are consistently on the losing side. Why do politicians plead with everyone to get out and vote? Because voting is the simplest and easiest form of participation by masses of people. Even though it is minimal participation, it is sufficient to commit all voters to being governed, regardless of who wins.” ‡
In the U.S. presidential race my dilemma is most clearly seen. My friends say if I don’t vote for the Mormon Republican, Mr. Obama will remain in office for more years of avarice, scheming and peril. I have a moral duty to oppose the Democrat as the lesser to two evils, they advise.
Is the nonvoter really apathetic?
It has been suggested that if I cast no ballot, I am apathetic, not fulfilling my civic responsibilities and denying myself the right to criticize. Let me sketch out answers to these objections.
Nonvoters are apathetic. My Ron Paul-oriented conservative friend will vote for the Mormon, the lesser of two evils, because if he doesn’t, then he will be blameable for giving a second term to President Obama. He won’t vote for a constitutionalist on the ballot because he can’t win. Only names from the political duopoly rise before him — Obama and Romney. This position is one of pragmatism. It exhibits a certain presciousity — an extreme meticulousness or overrefinement — about the importance of his decision. Rebuffing the suggestion I am filled with apathy, I wonder if he is apathetic. I abstain on principle. Or I vote for a constitutionalist, a certain loser. But my friend’s vote perpetuates the ruse of the establishment that the person you select will alter the country’s course or perhaps save the country.
By voting for Mr. Romney, he is throwing in the towel, acting in despair.
If you don’t vote you have no right to complain. This accusation is silly. Pretend I have a choice between the theft of my iMac or the stealing of four new tires on my van, which vandals intend to leave propped on cinderblocks. Do I have to choose? Does my refusal to make a selection condemn me to silence about the theft? Cannot I simply simply say “No” to either depradation? I have a natural right to say no. Nonvoting says no to evil on the left hand, and the right.
Not voting shows lack of guts. Abstaining from the election process might require more moral courage than to take part in it. It takes a sense of resignation to say, “I don’t believe either candidate. Neither will be good for the country.” It takes courage to insist, by not voting, that the solutions to the federal government’s crises — and those other crises its agents spawn — are not political and cannot be solved by new lines of code in the statutebook and new comb-bound editions of the Code of Federal Regulations.
When Mr. Romney’s website assures me, “Improving education in America is a priority for Mitt” or of any other good deed he wants to pass laws on, I want to cry, “No, Sir, please don’t make it a priority. Please ignore it! Please leave it alone! Please go away!”
I am a “conservative.” So is Mr. Romney. But I think it would be wise of me to exercise the alternative for which we hear little intellectual defense. And that is casting a vote of dissent, thus communicating to our betters my opposition to government monopoly parties and their candidates, neither of whose representation I want.
‡ Carl Watner with Wendy McElroy, eds., Dissenting Electorate[;] Those Who Refuse to Vote and the Legitimacy of Their Opposition (Jefferson, N.C., London: McFarland & Co. Inc., 2001). Quote is from Theodore Lowi, p. 131
If you are interest in voluntaryism, which describes the nonvoting position and makes an academic defense for it, go to http://www.voluntaryist.com/