Voting, Political Activism, and Taking a Stand

Earlier today I released an article titled, “Why I Will Vote for Any Democrat over Ted Cruz.” The upshot is that Cruz chummed around at an event and on stage with a man who openly calls for the death penalty for homosexuals, just not right now “because we need some time for homosexuals to repent.” Another speaker at that event distributed literature that calls for the death penalty for homosexuals.

Incidentally, the same man, Kevin Swanson has also said that the jihadist massacres in Paris were “a message from God” because the victims included “humanist devil-worshippers.” He has also said that “there might be a connection” between pro-gay policies in Colorado and wildfires and flooding, and that Colorado is arguably “more evil than Communist China, than North Korea” because of a newspaper photo in the state of two men kissing.

And, again, this is a man that Ted Cruz actively and chummily speaks with on stage and actively pursues as a political ally.

Predictably, I got some pushback on social media from Cruz’s supporters. Rather than try to respond to those remarks piecemeal via Social Media, I thought I’d take the opportunity to discuss political activism and other matters in greater detail here.

Before turning to the matter of activism, I want to address a couple of minor issues. (Skip to the header about activism if you wish.)

First, I’m surprised by the level of anger some people have expressed over my article. The worst comment came via email; the fellow writing said that, given my remarks, he’d “truly worry about standing beside [me] in battle.” He continued, “My inclination would be to shoot you myself for fear of you turning against me and killing me and fighting with the enemy.” Thankfully, other remarks were markedly less ridiculous. Still, some were equally angry.

My response to such anger is this: If you’re more angry about me criticizing Ted Cruz than you are about Cruz palling around with a man whose stance on homosexuality is practically indistinguishable from that of Saudi Arabia, there is something seriously wrong with your priorities and with the way you think about politics.

Second, one or two people complained that I cited Right Wing Watch in drawing out the facts about Swanson. Here my reply is two-fold. My remarks about Swanson come from video of Swanson himself. It doesn’t matter who filmed Swanson or published the results; what matters is what Swanson undeniably said.

And I agree it is a pity that I had to turn to Right Wing Watch and like sites as a source on Swanson. The fact is that conservative journalists and videographers should have immediately published the relevant material about Swanson, should have immediately condemned Swanson’s remarks, should have immediately insisted that Ted Cruz apologize for appearing with Swanson and condemn Swanson’s remarks. Yet they did not.

The fact that I had to turn to Right Wing Watch and like sites to find the relevant details about Swanson’s remarks, because I could not find such details on conservative sites, speaks to the moral depravity widespread in the modern conservative movement. It is indeed shameful that many conservatives observe Right Wing Watch publish the materials and make the moral pronouncements about Swanson that conservatives themselves should publish and pronounce.

I want to hasten to add that some conservatives (including a number of my social media contacts) have spoken out against Swanson and against Cruz’s association with him. Colorado writer Thomas Krannawitter, who I think considers himself a conservative, wrote an impassioned Facebook post on the matter. He writes, in part:

[I]s this what it means to be a “Republican” today, committing one’s self to Jesus in one breath and calling for the government-sponsored execution of homosexuals in the next? If not, why not? I am not sure whether to laugh or cry over what has become of the Party of Lincoln. Either way, I for one will not hesitate to call out, condemn, and reject the proposals of Mr. Kevin Swanson. . . . [If any Republican candidate is] not willing to call this out as the irrational, immoral cultish claptrap it is, then they certainly do not deserve my vote or support.

And Michael L. Brown writes, “I want to stand with [Rachel Maddow] in renouncing this kind of rhetoric in the strongest possible terms, especially since this was a Christian-based rally.” (However, Brown inexplicably excuses Cruz’s attendance at the event where he shared a stage with Swanson.)

Some other lines of criticism I don’t find worth discussing here. But I do want to talk about criticisms pertaining to political activism.

Voting Is Not Political Activism

Apparently this seemingly obvious fact comes as news to some people, but your vote, by itself, does not matter at all in terms of shifting the political landscape. In those terms, you’d be far better off sitting at home and doing any other activist-related activity, rather than voting. This follows straight-forwardly from the fact that your vote is almost certainly never going to affect the outcome of any major election.

Yet, surprisingly (to me), some people seem to interpret my previous piece on Cruz as if the important issue is how I’m going to vote. How I’m going to vote, by itself, is of absolutely no consequence. If my purpose were merely to pronounce how I intend to vote, my piece would have been a pointless waste of time. But, as you might by now surmise, that was not my purpose. So what was?

A common complaint I saw on social media is that, however bad Cruz might be on various issues, he would not be able to make much headway with his worst ideas, and he would be better than any Democrat, who likely would be able to make substantial headway in a harmful direction on various issues. But this sort of criticism completely misses the point of my piece and completely misunderstands the nature of political activism.

If I were so stupid as to believe that one political party is consistently the Party of the Angels, while the other party is consistently the Party of the Devils (and, for the Swanson acolytes out there, I’m speaking metaphorically!), then I would consistently promise my unconditional support to the Party of the Angels. I would have no need to strategize politically or to try to influence the parties.

But, here in the real world, both major political parties threaten people’s rights in extreme ways and threaten to do so even more severely into the future. So, as a politically aware and involved person, I do need to strategize politically and to make some attempt to influence the direction of the parties.

To lay some additional context: It is pure fantasy to claim that the major parties are substantially different on most practical matters of domestic or even foreign policy. Today, both Republicans and Democrats advocate a massive welfare and regulatory state; usually they differ only on a few relatively minor details. Anyone who doubts this is welcome to (for example) ask any Republican politician, on the record, if he or she is in favor of phasing out Social Security or of repealing the national minimum wage. Although the parties are more noticeably different on matters of foreign policy, their positions are essentially variations on the theme of pragmatic “diplomacy” plus piecemeal military actions.

So let’s try to look at political strategy as grownups with our wits about us, rather than as cheerleaders for some political team. If you want to be a cheerleader, I suggest you go back to high school or join the Broncos cheer squad, because you just don’t have the mentality to be serious about politics.

What is my goal as an activist, insofar as I seek to influence electoral politics? This depends in part on where we are in the political process and what timeline I think is most relevant.

Where are we now? We are in the primaries! The candidates have not yet been selected. So my goal as a political activist (within the narrow electoral sphere) is to try to get the best candidates possible and to try to get the winning candidates to commit to the most reasonable policies possible (which, granted, is a pretty low bar these days).

Put bluntly, you are a complete idiot, strategically speaking, if you promise your unconditional support for a given candidate or party at this point.

If you effectively communicate, “I will support any Republican nominee over any Democratic nominee, no matter what,” you tell Republican candidates that they don’t need to give any consideration, at all, to what you think about things. Instead, what candidates are going to do is what they always do: Pander to the worst Republican theocrats, largely because the theocrats actually threaten to stay home if they don’t get their way.

In short, if you guarantee your unconditional support for the Republican party’s nominees, whoever they are and whatever dreadful things they do and say, you (and all your strategically foolish friends who do the same) virtually guarantee that the Republican Party will get more and more crazy over time. And, if you’re not insane (or a theocrat, but I repeat myself), that’s a bad outcome.

One main political strategy is necessary to help the Republican party become the party of individual rights rather than the party of theocratic fascism, and that is to loudly and proudly declare: “I will not vote for the theocrats or for any candidate who panders to them. Either I will stay home, or, because I really want to emphasize the point, I will go to the voting booth, hold my nose, and vote for the Democrat.”

I can put up with a lot of nonsense from candidates that I ultimately end up voting for. But some things we simply have to declare to be unacceptable, and we have to mean it—for example a candidate cannot chum it up with a man who proclaims it might someday be a good idea to kill all the gays.

If you (as a Republican supporter) don’t have the good sense and moral fortitude to openly and loudly declare that you will not vote for Ted Cruz unless he apologizes for appearing with Swanson and condemns Swanson’s remarks, then you are part of the problem, you are part of the ongoing intellectual and moral corruption of the Republican Party, you are part of what threatens American liberty.

So, no, the point of my previous essay on Cruz was not merely to pronounce how I might vote—that would be a stupid and vain exercise. Instead, my purpose was to try to shake other Republican voters out of their cheerleading fantasies and actually do something to influence the direction of the Republican Party, and to communicate to Republican leaders that, well, I’m sick and tired of their theocratic panderings, and I’m not going to take it, anymore.

April 27 Update: Following is my entire “Ted Cruz and Religion” cycle. Please note that my views about Cruz evolved considerably over time. Although I’m still very concerned about Cruz’s positions on abortion (and related matters) and his alliances with theocratic-leaning conservatives, I’ve also come to appreciate more deeply his many virtues, including his partial endorsement of the principle of separation of church and state. I became active in Republican politics toward the end of 2015, and I came to support Cruz over Donald Trump for the nomination.
· Why I Will Vote for Any Democrat over Ted Cruz
· Voting, Political Activism, and Taking a Stand
· Ted Cruz’s Dangerous Pandering to Theocrats
· Yes, Ted Cruz’s Policies Would Outlaw Some Forms of Birth Control
· Ted Cruz Would Ban Abortion Even for Rape Victims
· Ted Cruz Touts Support of Anti-Gay Bigot Phil Robertson
· Republican Religion Undermines Capitalism
· Ted Cruz’s Remarkable Nod to the Separation of Church and State

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