Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Waiting for the 'perfect' candidate

Several weeks ago, Jim in Klamath Falls posed a question about the upcoming election that touches on some thoughts I've been having (ellipses mine):
It is my opinion (as it is my blog) that the continual compromising on political candidates and political issues is what is to blame for the degradation of morals in our society. What concerns me most with Ron Saxton is his inability to convince me that he is going to do the right thing for Oregon . . . I further believe if the conservative citizens of Oregon elect Ron Saxton - they will be compromising on their core beliefs and further widening the gap between true conservativism and where our state and society are at today.

You can say that I supported Atkinson in the Primary and you would be true, you might even say that I am saddened that he lost his primary race and you would still be true, but you can't say that because Atkinson lost his primary race I am going to bitch and complain about Saxton because I'm unhappy with the choice of the Republican party - that simply isn't a true statement. As I stated above - I have deep concerns that Ron (and Ted for that matter) are going to do the right thing for Oregon. With Ted - he simply panders to the left and to the unions in this state, with Ron, he can't keep a consistent policy and doesn't seem to take a firm conservative stance on the major issues facing the state (Illegal Aliens, State Spending Limits, etc.).

The question I have for my fellow bloggers who are going to vote for Saxton is:
With Atkinson we all firmly believed in him and his views on the important issues, do you feel the same way about Saxton, or are you compromising your values in hopes that he will do the right thing and if you are compromising your values, is that a vote that you will be proud of?
So, to re-state Jim's question: if I vote for Ron Saxton, am I compromising my values? Honestly, the answer is Yes. Ron Saxton's values do not match perfectly with mine (though really, show me a candidate on the ballot who does). So then the question becomes: for what reasons would I would be willing to compromise those values?

I've been giving this further consideration since an exchange I had with someone I would define as an "idealist," someone who goes even farther than Jim by insisting that a vote for Saxton is, in essence, a willingness to cast my principles to the wind and support the devil.

In and of itself, being an idealist is not a bad thing. One definition is "a person who cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc." As a man trying to follow Jesus, it should be my goal to pursue high and noble principles. If, as Jim argues, the "continual compromising on political candidates and political issues is what is to blame for the degradation of morals in our society," then as a Christian, perhaps I should be unwilling to consider any compromise.

But how do I reconcile that with the fact that high and noble principles rarely make their way into the political arena? How many votes can I really say I'm proud of? Was I proud of supporting Bob Dole against Bill Clinton? Bill Sizemore against John Kitzhaber? Kevin Mannix against Ted Kulongoski? (In all three cases, the answer was No, but it was clear who I wanted to win.)

Some would argue that if I can't vote without compromise, it means I should not vote at all. They reason that because Jesus didn't vote, and because he spoke of his kingdom and followers not being part of this world, that we should separate ourselves from worldly establishments such as politics. I dismiss this because such a path would eliminate a significant method of having an impact on my community. I feel that becoming "all things to all men" includes trying to shape my community through whatever political choices are presented to me.

Other definitions of "idealist" use the word "impractical" and describe "a person who represents things as they might or should be rather than as they are." And that last definition is the crux of the matter for me. If I want to be "salt of the earth" in my daily life (and I admit that this may be completely unsound from a theological standpoint), I have to think pragmatically. I have to work with things as they are, not as they might or should be. An affliction of Idealism Syndrome would mean silencing any voice I might have against opposing political forces.

My idealist colleague argued that I should vote for Mary Starrett, because she more closely matches my values -- and on abortion, the idealist is right. One of my beefs with the pro-choice Saxton is that he seems to have embraced some pro-life positions -- partial-birth, parental notice, informed consent -- to get the pro-life community off his back.

But if you look at everything else on Starrett's platform, she suffers from the same Idealism Syndrome I spoke of earlier. She would:
  • Cut all programs not authorized by the state constitution (by Executive order?)
  • Eliminate "any state agency that competes with, or impedes the growth of private enterprise." (So the Department of Education, which competes with private schools, would be eliminated? Is that realistic or doable?)
  • Change the state's environmental restrictions, because "the Oregon farmer should not have to compete unfairly with countries like Mexico, which does not have to abide by the same environmental restrictions and safety laws that we do." (So we should reduce our environmental restrictions to match those of Mexico? Realistic? Doable, when many such restrictions are imposed by the federal government?)
She also employs some interesting rhetoric:
  • She supports the "God-given right of Oregonians to bear arms" (I didn't realize the Second Amendment came from God);
  • "Farmers and Fishermen have two mutual enemies: The government and environmental extremists." Enemies? Nice pandering, and not helpful.
And this doesn't even delve into the line she and her party borrow from Howard Dean to call the Iraq war an "ill-advised, immoral, unauthorized invasion" based on "false premises."

But there's another major difference between Mary Starrett and Ron Saxton, and this is the key: Ron Saxton has a chance to win. Mary Starrett has absolutely no hope. Zero. It's not gonna happen. Those who argue that she can win if enough people vote on principle instead of pragmatism fall under the "things as they might or should be" category.

That's at least part of why Oregon Right to Life gave Saxton its recommendation (not its endorsement) -- because it believes Starrett cannot win. ORTL is dealing in reality, not in what might be or should be.

I'm sympathetic to the argument that we need to maintain high standards in elections, which is why I voted for Jason Atkinson in the primary. But guess what? Jason Atkinson didn’t win. Ron Saxton did. And if I choose to cast my general election vote based only on idealist criteria, my vote will be meaningless and my political voice neutered.

Can you name any Republican you've voted into office who didn't require that you compromise something? Whoever it was, I'm willing to bet he or she fell short of the ideal, but it's likely that he or she was clearly better than the alternative. That's politics. We're not electing God. We're electing human beings.

So, I will choose to vote for Ron Saxton when my ballot arrives in about a month. I want to have an impact on my state, and a vote for Mary Starrett is nothing more than a protest vote against the establishment. I choose to work within the two-party system because I have yet to see that anything outside the two-party system can effect change. Until a third-party vote is more meaningful, I'm unwilling to throw my vote away in the hopes that an anti-establishment uprising will occur.

Am I thrilled with Saxton? No chance. But I'd rather see a marginal candidate win over a bad one, than sit out the election to protest the marginal and end up with the bad. And please, put down the Constitution Party press release that proclaims no difference between the major-party candidates. That is a big joke, and a farce. On taxes, on government regulation, on immigration, on land use and, yes, on abortion, there is a big difference between the Democrat and the Republican. Saxton's positions may not go as far as you like, but that's different than claiming the major-party candidates are carbon copies.

There's one other thing in Jim's argument I wish to address:
If the conservative citizens of Oregon elect Ron Saxton - they will be compromising on their core beliefs and further widening the gap between true conservativism and where our state and society are at today.
Can you tell me the last time a "true" conservative won a statewide election? How about the last time any type of conservative won? Gordon Smith is the only one to come to mind, and while I certainly don't agree with all of Sen. Smith's positions, he's always been preferable to the alternative. Bill Bradbury, anyone?

"True" conservatism hasn't gotten very far in Oregon in recent decades. Some of that is the candidate, but some of it is the electorate -- the Portland area's three counties are home to almost half the state's voters. I still plan to support the closest-to-ideal candidate at the primary level, but I'm prepared to support a general-election candidate who is better than the Democrat (even if he's not close to the ideal) because a third-party candidate will not win. And a Ted Kulongoski re-election victory is no guarantee that the ideal conservative is better positioned for the next election.

So, Jim, the answer is yes, I am compromising. I'm not proud of that decision ("feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or creditable to oneself") but I'm not embarrassed, either. If we wait for the perfect candidate, we will sit out every future election in our lifetime. And I'd rather see some good come out of politics, than sit it out and watch our state go deeper into the toilet.


  • At 9/27/2006 8:23 AM, Blogger Jim in KFalls said…

    It's interesting; because early on in the primary race, I was asked who I was going to vote for - and without hesitation I answered Jason Atkinson - that question was immediately followed with a "Why?"

    At the time - I didn't have a really solid concrete answer, but I felt that he had honorable intentions, and if he could succeed - would be a fresh new perspective for the State of Oregon.

    Now I am really new to politics - I can't say I remember much about the last election, nor am I proficient with all of the other major political candidates in the state - however this election cycle I became more inquisitive and started really investigating who the candidates were, what their stances were, what their voting records were, what their history is, etc...

    What stuck out to me, and has ultimately formed my opinion, was the number of issues that Saxton has changed his stance on or lied about. Add to that the innuendo that he was(is?) involved with the Goldschmidt machine and it just leaves a weird taste in my mouth.

    So here is the problem with the 06 governor’s race - IMO there really isn't an honest conservative choice. I think what is wrong with this race (and American politics) is that there isn't someone running that the people can get excited over - I think that is the #1 cause for low voter turnout and ultimately the cause for what I describe as "...the degradation of morals in our society..."

    Will that keep me from voting - no...

    I am saying it here first, but will make a post on this later...I will end up voting for Saxton...as much as I don't want to.

    Does that mean I support him, NO - does that mean I endorse him, NO - does that mean I believe he will do right for Oregon, NO...

    The only thing I have left to cling to is, Ron Saxton is not Ted Kulongoski. And to answer my own questions - I won't be proud of it, and I am compromising my morals...

    But anyway - thank you for taking the time to read my post and for taking the time to digest it and come up with the most detailed argument on why Saxton should be elected.


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