by Tim Baldwin, Attorney, Republican candidate for House District 4
Many people in the “liberty movement” express their dissatisfaction with the candidates running for Montana governor and other public offices. They claim there is no one worth voting for, or if there is such a worthy candidate, they know he has little to no chance of winning.
These people express, I will vote for no one or for the one who has no chance of winning because I like him. Their decision rests purely on personal preference, not on what is better for the State of Montana. Their logic goes as deep as, “I will not vote for the lesser of two evils”.
This approach to politics does nothing for liberty; it must be rejected. Natural law requires it.
Not Voting For Any Candidate
Not voting for any candidates because you consider even the best candidate to be “evil” shirks a fundamental civic responsibility. In truth, not voting for any candidate is a vote for them all. The difference is only this: those who choose not to vote for any candidate wash their hands of the outcome and say, “don’t blame me; I didn’t vote for any of them”. This self-praised view ignores reality.
What actually happened is, they voted for each candidate because their non-vote put each candidate on the same footing as the other candidate. The non-voter sees his action as “comporting to his conscience”, but the political reality proves that the non-voter declared by his non-vote that each candidate was worthy of equal vote.
In addition, not voting shirks the citizen’s duty to positively influence the direction of the State. “Positive” does not mean moving 100% in your preferred direction. It means perhaps only a 5% move. If I add 5 to negative 3, I get a positive gain of 2. This is a good thing. Every citizen who is concerned about our State’s direction has a duty to put their paddle in the water and help give it positive direction.
Personal preferences are not the determining factor relative to political decisions, just as one’s personal views are not what determine what laws are in Montana’s general best interest. In fact, laws reject personal ideology as having any bearing on both their enactment and enforcement. If we do not address the enactment and enforcement of law in such a narrow and subjective manner, how can we address political elections any differently?
The ship will sail regardless of who helps move it in a positive direction. Doing nothing only adds weight to the ship unnecessarily while everyone else pulls the weight you choose to ignore. If you care about Montana, then put your paddle in the water and vote for a candidate. This leads me to the next point of Natural law: which candidate should you vote for.
Voting for “Lesser Evils”
“Lesser of Two Evils”: this is a phrase many people throw around, as if it holds any substance or adds any value to political discussion. It does not; rather, in most cases, it serves to inflame the prejudices and emotional responses of people frustrated with politics.
It also offers an excuse as to why people ignore objectivism, realities, and pragmatics. What people fail to acknowledge is this philosophy does not comport to Natural Law. Ironically, the Law that many of them claim is the foundation of our society and is being ignored by politicians is the Law that condemns their approach to politics.
Let’s define the stage of the discussion. Citizens claim they are being forced to choose “evil”. So, they decide that inaction is their duty. They rationalize their inaction this way: by voting for a “lesser evil”, I am committing evil myself; I am aiding evil by voting for “lesser evil”. This is flawed reasoning given the nature of the choice itself—one that is presented to the citizen regardless and in spite of preferences or choice.
This issue has already been addressed by one of the most premier political philosophers of Western civilization, Samuel Pufendorf (1632-1694). His works are so influential that the United States Supreme Court has cited and still cites his works.
Pufendorf described Natural Law relative to when “evil” is imposed upon individuals who have not invited the “evil”. Pufendorf says,
“Of two evils the less is to be chosen, if it be necessary to undergo one or the other…Now judgement is to be passed upon actions, not so much upon the basis of the object, considered alone, but also upon the basis of the end and the circumstances which are here and now present; forasmuch as many of them enter into the very essence of the action” Samuel Pufendorf, Two Books on the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence, Book 2, Observation 2 (1660).
There is perhaps no greater illustration of this truth than this: obeying the law is choosing “lesser evils”. There are many laws we find inconvenient or even reprehensible. Yet, we obey them every day. Why? Because we feel it is a greater evil to be punished for violating the law than to follow the law.
In fact, many in the “liberty movement” decry the unconstitutionality and unlawfulness of certain laws. Yet, they follow those laws, and they do not treat their relationship to laws the same as they treat political elections.
Do we always like choosing a “lesser evil”? No. Do we find it personally inviting? No. Would it be our first choice? No. But those considerations are not the deciding factor when dealing with a presented “evil”. Ron and Rand Paul realize this reality too and act accordingly.
Natural Law requires us to act appropriately and prudently in response to “evils” presented to us. We cannot ignore them and then act as if we are a part of the solution and everyone else is the problem.
–Tim Baldwin is the Republican candidate for House District 4