I Get Emails: Republicans And Third Party Candidates

by John Hawkins | October 8, 2007 5:00 am

Late last Friday, after I’d answered all the Q&A Friday questions for the day, I received a good question that I thought merited a response. Rather than post an answer after 5 PM on Friday, when traffic drops like a paralyzed Egret, I decided to take on the question today,

Hello Mr. Hawkins,

I’ll certainly support the Republican candidate, whoever he is. But I was wondering, if we do support him instead of a third party candidate, would we then be supporting the leftward shift the Republican party has been experiencing in the last few years?

Thank you for your time.

Trevor Hilton

Answer: There’s always a degree of tension between holding the Republican Party’s feet to the fire and voting for anybody with an (R) beside of his name.

If the candidates don’t feel pressured by the base, they may wander too far off the ideological reservation, but if you stay home or vote for a third party, you’re helping to elect a Democrat, who disagrees with you on just about every subject and plain, old doesn’t care what you think.

Personally, I criticize Republicans, sometimes rather harshly — as I did in this Lindsey Graham video…

…and I have no qualms about supporting a Republican primary challenger over an incumbent. Moreover, I would encourage you not to give money to, or volunteer for, a Republican that you don’t support. However, with rare exceptions, my philosophy is to vote for the candidate with the “R” beside of his name in the end.


Because, like it or not, the fate of conservatism in this country is irrevocably intertwined with that of the Republican Party. Some people don’t want to accept that, but it’s absolutely true. The Constitution Party and the Libertarian Party are never going to amount to anything and so voting for either one of those parties isn’t any functionally different than not bothering to vote at all.

So, as a conservative, your choice is to support an imperfect Republican — and before I go on, it’s worth noting that they’re all imperfect. You know, Republicans talk about Reagan like he’s the patron saint of conservatism, but he raised taxes, he supported an amnesty, he picked Sandra Day O’Connor for the Supreme Court, and the deficit soared under his watch (although, in all fairness, the Democratic Congress was mostly responsible for that).

The point isn’t that Reagan is overrated by conservatives (He was the greatest President of the last century and in my opinion second only to Winston Churchill as the most important man of the last century), it’s that sometimes we expect too much of politicians. Even the best of them make mistakes and we need to keep in mind that there is a lot of middle ground, most of it favorable to the GOP, between a well liked senator like Jim DeMint and a complete disaster for conservatives like Lincoln Chafee.

Anyway, back to the point I was making: as a conservative, your choice is to support an imperfect Republican, vote for someone who disagrees with you on almost everything, a Democrat, or to waste your vote.

The first option is the best, even if it requires flogging these hardheaded Republicans in office until your arm gets tired, because at least you do have a chance to get through to them.

Take the last fight over the open borders and amnesty bill — yes, it was ridiculous that so many Republicans supported that bill. Yes, conservatives had to raise holy hell to get it stopped, but in the end, we got them to listen. Had there been 4-5 more Democratic senators in the Senate, the comprehensive immigration bill would have passed (The margin was bigger than that, but only because senators switched their votes to the winning side when they saw which way things were going).

The point is: the GOP is not perfect and it’s not ever going to be perfect, but if conservatives want to get our agenda enacted or to block the Democrats agenda, we need Republicans in office — and the more of them the better.

Does that mean we’re, “supporting the leftward shift of the Republican party?” No, it means that we’re acknowledging that the GOP is the imperfect instrument through which conservatives enact our agenda. It’s better to put Republicans in office and try to shape their behavior to our liking than to put Democrats into power and then pat ourselves on the back for our purity.

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