In the midst of a relatively unpredictable and discouraging selection of Republican nominees, Ron Paul stands out. For some, he represents a shining beacon of true American values. For others, he’s merely a distraction from the true candidates. Either way, Paul has inspired a significant amount of debate about the nature of elections, the need for uncompromising truth in the midst of pandering candidates, and the Christian’s duty to vote with wisdom and discernment. Unfortunately, like most political arguments, this discussion has been plagued with hyperbolic and unfair rhetoric from both sides. We gave two of our writers a chance to plead their case with humility and integrity.

A Consistent, Uncompromising Voice by Luke Larsen
Whether or not Ron Paul is electable or philosophically viable as the President of the United States has been a prominent question for a while now and is a particularly important question to consider right now as GOP primaries linger just around the corner. My argument defending his worthiness boils down to two things: his unwavering political convictions and his refusal to use his religion for political gain. These two attributes make him not only an interesting political icon, but a viable candidate for the President of the United States.

The libertarian-oriented congressman has been around for over 30 years now and has been proclaiming the same message we hear at debates today. There are some astounding videos on YouTube from the early 1980s where you hear a younger Paul making the same arguments about the unconstitutional and immoral nature of undeclared war, the entitlement system, the Federal Reserve, and excessive government spending. This is the guy who refused to award both Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks the $30,000 and Congressional Medals of Honor based on the fact that he believed the prize money was unconstitutional as it was taken from taxpayers. Instead, Paul suggested instead that all the members of Congress donate $500 each to pay the award (of whom Paul was the only one who ever committed). Whether or not you agree with all his beliefs, in a sea of talking heads and politicians who’ve bounced between political parties and positions, Paul is remarkably faithful to his political beliefs. That alone makes him a viable candidate. You can know exactly what Paul will do or attempt to do when he gets into office.

Secondly, I would argue that for the Christian who has become jaded or apathetic toward the dogma of the polarizing political spectrum, Ron Paul’s treatment of religion in the public sphere alone makes him somebody worthy of consideration. Because of the extreme acts of pandering the Republican party enacted toward conservative Christians in the 1990s and early 2000s, many Christians have been left disenchanted by all things political. Many Christian voters are becoming increasingly skeptical of politicians’ use of religious imagery for political purposes. For those who claim Jesus is the Lord of all things, government and politics included, apathy seems like a rather strange position to take.

Many have argued that although Paul’s ideas might be philosophically interesting, due to their extreme nature they have no practical place in the real world of American politics. The truth is that very, very few governments have ever attempted to employ such ideas. As even Paul admits, the first one hundred and thirty or forty years of American history is really the only place to turn to see such ideas in practice. However, looking back through the bloodshed and tyranny of human history, I can’t say I have much of a problem with that. The struggle for power is at the core of almost every political debate, every human rights abuse, and every war. A government that is self-controlled or humble in its use of power is practically unseen and that is for a particularly good reason: lust for power is at the center of the broken human heart. After all, when is the last time you heard a Presidential contender say he promised to do less once he got into office?

Paul recently posted a video on his website that defended his non-interventionist foreign policy and why unnecessary and undeclared wars not only waste life and money needlessly, but also actually make us less safe as a country. The video summed up many of his familiar talking points, but also included one particularly relevant point of reference. In opposition to the foreign policy of “mutually assured destruction” that the US and the Soviet Union followed throughout the Cold War, Paul suggested a new one that he called “mutually assured respect”. Paul says this kind of a non-interventionist policy rejects the use of religion to prop up violent governments and ideological wars and follows The Golden Rule of treating others as we’d like to be treated. For a politician who has refused to use his personal Christian religion to win votes, this is a pretty provocative statement about faith and politics that should get Christians on all sides of the political spectrum thinking.

Lastly, I’d like to touch on the issue of Ron Paul’s electability. If you’ve seen Jon Stewart’s mention of the issue, you know that many supporters and observers find that the mainstream media has stacked him up unfairly in the race for the White House. In 2008, Paul was belittled as a “fringe” candidate, while this election season the media has turned to often ignoring him completely. However, it’s hard to argue with a second place finish at the Iowa Straw poll and Rasmussen polls pointing to him being the strongest Republican candidate against Barack Obama in a general election. Purely numbers-wise, he seems to be just as electable as Michelle Bachmann, Ricky Perry, or Mitt Romney.

Let me be clear: if by “viable candidate”, we mean that he will more or less be doing many of the same things our government has been doing for quite some time now, I would say definitely no. However, its a great loss to our freedom and prosperity as a nation if we are unable to at least consider the policies of a politician who is offering alternatives to the status quo, especially when so many of those policies come from the Founders themselves.

The Trouble with Prophets by Ben Bartlett
Ron Paul is a good man and a good congressman.  By all accounts his life is consistent, his background clean, and his integrity unquestioned.  He has strong perspectives that present appealing alternatives to much of the frustrating bureaucratic silliness we see in Washington D.C.  And his following among certain conservatives is strong and aggressive.

So why would I even bother to take the side of the argument suggesting he shouldn’t be regarded as a serious candidate?  Simply put, I believe Ron Paul is a political prophet.  I believe that we as Americans do a poor job of understanding those who hold that role.  And I believe that we too often miss the great service these people do us, while supporters of these figures too often ignore the implications if their guy actually were propelled to higher office.

The political prophet is a public figure who uses their role to articulate a political vision that is a significant departure from the status quo.  They highlight the negative features of current governance and compare it to the more excellent government that exists in their minds.  And they proclaim hope for a world in which better administration of the government leads to better lives for all.

Ron Paul clearly displays the major strengths and weaknesses of the political prophet.  These include:

An Uncompromising Vision:  The political prophet tends to have an entirely new system of governance worked out in their minds.  One solution or change is dependent on other solutions or change, resulting in a need for wholesale governmental change if any of the solutions are to work.  Many of Paul’s ideas, from fiscal policy to defense policy, require other changes as well, such as changes in tax policy and international relations.

The Message is the Goal:  When the political prophet speaks, they don’t actually think you are going to buy their words wholesale.  They are trying to slowly alter the stream of your personal philosophy to be more like theirs.  Ron Paul does not think he has a shot at the presidency.  He can count votes and test the temperature of the voters as well as the next guy.  Instead, he runs because he has a long-term goal of altering the party conversation to lean more in his direction.  He doesn’t want victory… he wants you to think about the things he’s said long after the next president has been elected, even though he knows that won’t be him.

They Represent Increased Polarization:  Politics are rightly referred to as a spectrum, and the political prophet is one who stands a long ways to one edge or the other of that spectrum.  In the real world, this means someone gaining power from one edge would bring a powerful reaction from the other edge.  Any gains Ron Paul could make by being nominated by a major party would likely anger and energize his most extreme opponents, leading to significant defeat at election time.  Again, he knows this.

They Call for a Different View of the Individual:  All political philosophy, at its heart, asks the question, “What is the individual?”  In other words, your governmental theory flows from your belief about whether we are basically good or basically bad, whether government flows from a need for protection or for increased efficiency, and whether humans can share or whether humans must dominate.  Ron Paul and other political prophets try to convince us that the individual is something different than we’ve been assuming for quite some time.  Once that is in place, closer agreement on political policy will soon follow.  Paul’s view of the individual is a mishmash of conservative Christianity and Ayn Randian philosophy.  Most of his ideas relate to how he believes responsible individuals can and should interact with government.

The prophet doesn’t want to win.  The prophet wants to be heard.  He or she sees the world as they think it could be if everyone bought in, but it is extremely rare to gain that type of popular support before a diverse national audience.  And so the best case scenario for the political prophet is to use their position and their unique vision to highlight the problems we face as a nation, so that those who are in power are forced to respond.

There are some fascinating names, both for good and ill, that come to mind once you accept the concept of the political prophet.  These include Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Moore, and Ann Coulter.  Historical names include everyone from Father Coughlin to Martin Luther King Jr.  All of them powerful in their own way, all of them influential in the ebb and flow of American politics.  But none of them are serious candidates to be leaders for all the people.

That’s the trouble with prophets.  The political prophet is no shepherd, is no executive, and is no administrator.  They do not listen to all sides, they do not negotiate compromise, they do not give so that they may receive.  They are voices in the wilderness, and they are comfortable being voices in the wilderness.

Paul articulates a political philosophy steeped in an overly optimistic, self-reliant idea of the human individual.  His policy stances, if implemented, might be beneficial for the objectivists among us, but perhaps not for those struggling to overcome decades of systemic cultural poverty.  They get us excited about visions of freedom and self-determination, but they are untested in areas of justice and the general welfare.  They seem to solve the problems of overextending our military, but they do not address the possibilities of international instability that would likely result.

Ron Paul is a prophet.  As Christians and as Americans, we can value him as such, and we can allow him to make us more thoughtful about the policies we support and the assumptions we hold.  But we are also people who appreciate the need for realistic solutions, compassionate governance, and a healthy appreciation for the human sin nature.  Those things should make us hesitant about giving him our vote.

I appreciate and honor Ron Paul the Political Prophet.  I listen to his ideas and I think about the ways in which I do or do not agree with them.  But I do not take him seriously as a candidate for President of the United States.  And neither should you.

Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne.


  1. Luke, it’s probably clear to our readers that you and I didn’t do much discussion of how we would approach this question beforehand, so we took pretty different stances.

    My question for you is this; if a candidate showed the same level of consistency and unwillingness to exploit religion for the sake of his career as Ron Paul, but was on the other end of the spectrum (say, a person pushing to establish a European-style welfare state), would you still find that person worthy of support? I certainly appreciate those qualities, but possessing them does not seem enough to be considered a presidential candidate.

    And what do you think about the idea that Ron Paul doesn’t actually believe he can win, but is more interested in using his run as a platform for expressing his philosophy and ideas?

  2. Ben, you’re selling Paul short by labeling him a mere prophet. By that logic, I could write an article that makes the case that Obama, Perry, and Romney are mere puppets. The logical perspective is to look at the overall dynamic. Paul is the only candidate that wants individuals to have more money, more freedoms, and more security. The reason it is debateable whether he will win or not is because big governement has conditioned us to believe we individuals don’t want or need those things.

  3. Ben,

    Yeah you’re right about that. Although what a politician believes is just as important as how they present those beliefs, it would at least mean to me that that person has authentic beliefs and convictions (i.e. Dennis Kucinich).

    As far as whether or not he actually thinks he can win, I would probably agree with you if he didn’t stay so many times that not only was actually winning the presidency his campaign’s goal, but also that he thought he had a good shot at winning.

    I do agree that Ron Paul is political prophet before he is a leader in that he provides more prophetic knowledge and long-term vision than charisma and eloquent speeches. However, lets not forget that he IS a leader currently. People like him and Dennis Kucinich who you list, who are certainly prophets, are also congressman. They already the represent people and deal with the real issues on a daily basis. Therefore I have a hard time discounting ‘prophets’ from leadership positions.

  4. Sector7,

    I would ask this; If Ron Paul is a serious candidate for executive leadership positions, why has he done nothing in his career to build his executive resume? Why has he never attempted to build political connections in Texas to make a run for governor? Why has he never tried to be a mayor or leader of a department? Why has he never tried to build a campaign for a Senate seat?

    The answer is that he likes being where he is. He won’t say it out loud, but he prefers the role of being the ideological outsider. He doesn’t gravitate toward executive power… he gravitates toward ideological purity. And that’s fine for a political prophet, but he knows as well as anyone that his approach will not lead to any opportunity for major executive office. It’s just a reality that he has accepted in exchange for the opportunity to communicate his ideas to the American public.

  5. @sector7 – call me crazy, but isn’t it a stretch to say Paul is the only candidate that wants individuals to have money, freedom and security? I think the debate is about how we get there, not those ends in and of themselves. It seems unfair and disingenuous to claim otherwise.

  6. Those are good thoughts, Luke.

    Regarding his statements, well… has there ever been a presidential candidate who said his intent was NOT to win? It’s pretty difficult to get people to donate to the “Ben Bartlett for President” campaign when I’m telling people my goal isn’t to win.

    Congressmen have an interesting role, but having worked in Congress I can tell you that many (most?) of them are NOT people you want in executive leadership positions. Legislative maneuvering is a far cry from executive decision making.

    One great comparison here is Mike Pence. Pence has a strong ideological stance and a lot of traction within the party for higher office. However, he knows as well as everyone else that it is simply too difficult to win the Presidency when your background is as a House Representative. Now he’s running for governor of Indiana. If he succeeds and has an excellent term there, I think you can safely say he’ll be looking for the opportunity to go after the presidency. In other words, Pence has strong views, but he is doing the things that are needed to become a viable candidate for executive office… things that Paul has clearly chosen not to do. That’s the separation I’m trying to highlight here.

  7. @Ben

    Understandable, but I don’t think politics are always that neat and tidy. For example, Michelle Bachmann was once a senator, but has now moved to being a congresswoman and is now running for President. My impression is the “Tea Party” movement is one primarily of issues and ideological positions and that many Republicans are much less now concerned with the normal “leadership” skills and experiences (for example, take the Tea Party’s acceptance of a guy like Herman Cain).

    No doubt Paul is happy with how he has guided the conversation of debates toward issues that matter to him. Is run in 1988 as a Libertarian clearly would fit under this category to me, as a candidate not so worried about winning, but instead with shifting the countries’ political ideology. But after seeing how much success he has had in 2008 and so far in this campaign, I sincerely think he both has a chance of winning and is seeking a victory. The most clear indication of this is probably the fact that he announced that recently he would not run for reelection to Congress in 2012.

    Paul’s rhetoric has made some distinct changes from 2008 in that he now is talking much more about what he would do in office, which includes even things like putting the necessary funding into programs like FEMA and MediCare taken from his shrunken overseas budget, despite his lack of belief in the programs. Wouldn’t you call that kind of talk the talk of someone who actually desire to be President?

  8. A few thoughts: first, I am starting to loathe the point that we are looking for an executive, as if what we need is another corporatist CEO type as president. I submit that we need a statesman.

    Second, RP represents libertarianism, and so his limited stance toward governments powers should be taken as such. Asking RP what the president should do about x is not the same as asking what he as a consciencious individual should do about x. He is not apathetic about any issue, but limits his responses by the powers the constitution grants. He allows us the feeedom to do as we wish and take responsibility for ourselves.

    Lastly, the question for me is of a existential nature. Not can RP win, but what does it mean for us as a nation if we are not ready for him yet. He will continue as before educating the
    public about the real issues we face and we judge ourselves by our ability to listen.

  9. Wouldn’t I say Ron Paul is making a sincere effort to become president? Not really. I think that yes, he’s trying to gain as much popular support as he can. After all, a prophet has a louder voice when he has more people behind him.

    But if Paul were to take the lead for the nomination, the same thing would happen to him that is happening to Perry now… people would begin to dig more deeply into his philosophies and perspectives, and they would have problems with what they’d find. They wouldn’t agree with his fiscal policies, with his desire to eliminate large governmental departments, or with his Objectivisit-leaning ideals. They wouldn’t be impressed by his lack of executive chops. They would be bored by his unexciting speeches and lack of personal charisma. The hawks wouldn’t like his desire to reduce the military. Teachers wouldn’t like his desire to eliminate the Department of Education. Many Christians wouldn’t like his desire to eliminate welfare programs. The elderly wouldn’t like his desired changes to Social Security. People affected by natural disasters wouldn’t like his prior statements that we should get rid of FEMA. The list goes on and on.

    It’s easy to be an exciting candidate when people don’t know too much about you and your supporters are strongly committed. But it’s not to easy to gain trust of the general population when your positions alienate, in some way, almost every voting block that you would need to win the nomination and the presidency. And as a long-term political entity, Paul knows all this.

    I think your point about the qualifications required to be supported by the Tea Party is a really good one, and Michele Bachmann is a terrific example of that point. However, she is also going to lose and would have no chance against Obama. The Tea Party is a unique movement in American politics, and they have definitely made themselves heard, but they don’t have the power to pick the President. The United States is simply too ideologically diverse for a candidate as far to the right as Bachmann or Paul to have much of a chance.

  10. Caleb,

    Your thought that a person’s executive ability shouldn’t be a factor in choosing a president is an interesting one. And in fairness, President Obama had very little executive experience when he ran for President (although neither did his opponent, John McCain). A still better example might be Kennedy beating out Nixon. But in both those cases, charisma was a huge part of convincing the country that executive experience was of secondary importance, and Paul doesn’t really have that on his side.

    Part of the difficulty is that the United States combines the Head of State role with the Executor of Law role and with the Administrator in Chief role. It seems very difficult to convince the country that a person who has never represented more than a few thousand people and never had executive authority over more than a few dozen would have an easy time exercising those roles over millions. I don’t say this to necessarily disagree with you… after all, Presidents are so busy that really their cabinet heads and the chief of staff do most of the administration. But still, it’s a difficult argument to make.

  11. I think the key to electability is the word “change” and how it’s used.
    Obama successfully used the word because so many people hated Bush, they wanted a change in the tone of Washington. This change was basically anything but Bush.
    Ron Paul’s message of change is do wipe out the unconstitutional things the federal government has created in the past 100 years or so; and a generation of people have a real problem with that. I blame it on the baby boomers. Look at religion up until the early 1990’s. Non-denominational churches were still small, Catholic churches’ numbers were high, and only a small few, deemed as crazy, ever questioned the government programs. Recycling wasn’t even a big issue, nor was gay-marriage. Not until Generations X and Y came into voting age did change start to be a necessary platform for running for office. People, especially the older ones, are afraid of fundamental change.
    Look at Social Security. It is the biggest joke in government right now (besides the Obama Administration). Everyone knows it is broke, even old liberals. But when your mom is living off those checks, you do not want SS to be tampered with. My Father is turning sixty next year, he has seven more years to qualify for SS and by then, having paid into it his whole life, he probably won’t see a dime.

  12. @Ben, I totally understand your point about his alienating of variety of people groups. Let’s not forget though, Ron Paul is not just a political commentator who writes books, he was actually elected. In his congressional district that includes large rural farming areas and large coastal areas, he continues to be elected despite the fact that he opposes both federally funded flood insurance and farm subsidies. And even though this is in Texas, that is still saying something.

    Although I agree that no single party or group of people have the power to dicate the President, to me its quite clear that the Tea Party has complete control of the Republican Party. If you take the Tea Party away from the Republican Party right now, the GOP party that you’re left with has absolutely no chance at legitimately returning to the political sphere again.

  13. Luke,

    I can’t speak for why Paul’s district keeps returning him to Congress, but let’s not forget that a) He’s by all reports a very good man, b) it’s not like he can do much damage to them anyways, and c) it’s Texas. So, not really the same as appealing to the country as a whole.

    It’s perhaps true today that the moderate Republicans can’t win an election if all the Tea Partiers decided not to vote. But over time, the two groups will come together again… groups like the Tea Party, or the Bull Moose Party, or the other fringe groups that have emerged tend to come back to the fold eventually. American political structure just doesn’t have much room for third parties.

    Besides, even if the Tea Party had that level of control, my gut feel is that they would choose a conservative Republican (such as Bachmann or Perry) before a Libertarian.

  14. Two more things:
    First, a question: Would RP even be able to do what he wants to do as president if he does not have the support of Congress?
    Second, an analogy: Imagine a spoiled brat. I mean really spoiled, his parents never made him do anything, everything was handed to him, nothing was ever his fault. On his 18th birthday, his parents kick him out and lock their doors. He is now on his own and mommy and daddy are not there to care for him. Now imagine a nation of these kids.
    We as a nation are way too dependant on the government for everything: taking care of the poor, clean food, banning ilegal drugs, now health care. It is a necessary suffering we as a nation must go through to be men and not spoiled babies. We have to learn to take care of ourselves and others and not rely on the government for any of it except justice and national defense. Remember when Bush 2 was president and the left kept talking about how other nations loathed us…and how now Obama has mended those relationships? The world still thinks we are idiots. We were too proud to change to the metric system, we are obese and our schools are only 25th or so among 1st world countries. One of the main attributes of strength and honor is the fundamental ability to take care of yourself and others…and it’s biblical.

  15. I think the question “Could Ron Paul win?” is profoundly telling. First, that it is asked both by people who would answer in the positive and the negative betrays an underwritten commendation of him as the presidential ideal. That he should be president is everywhere assumed in the question. The question, then, is hardly about Ron Paul, the man, or even the candidate. The question is a cynical reflection on the nature of the American politick. Is our government such that it could, on account of its structure and function, allow for someone such as Paul to preside over the American people? What in the democratic machine might even open up the possibility of an ideal president – a philosopher king of sorts – actually serving in that office? That the question is asked begs the pornographic premise that it seems unlikely that it could.

    The question “Could Ron Paul win?” isn’t leagues different from the semantic function of “Is there even such a thing as political hope?” More innocent questions, questions such as “Is it right to ‘throw one’s vote away’?” are more sad meditations on an already capitalized entity over against an actual theoretical consideration. Even allowing the expression “throw one’s vote away” implies that it is actually intelligible to speak of votes as a sort of capital – something I simply don’t take for granted.

    “Could Ron Paul win?” is a lament of the impossibility of an ethical democracy.

  16. Nah, I disagree with that. When we put together this debate, we sought to limit the discussion to whether he should be taken seriously as a candidate. Whether he can actually win or not is crucial to that question – but it’s not the only question.

    After all, Ben raises prominent questions about Paul’s view of the nature of human beings.

    When people lament “the impossibility of an ethical democracy,” in my mind, they’re lamenting old news – like news as old as the fall. The question isn’t whether it’s worth chasing after the ideal – we know the ideal is impossible in this fallen world. The real question is what we can do within the failed system we have. This is something that applies to a lot more than politics, but especially to politics.

  17. Right, but there’s a lot you take for granted there that I don’t. For example, it’s simply not obvious to me that probability of winning an election is crucial to taking seriously someone’s candidacy. That someone fits the legal requirements for candidacy is absolutely sufficient for taking his candidacy seriously. The question I always ask is, “What does voting have to do with winning?” If vote exists simply for the sake of victory, then you have to admit that participation in democratic politics is participation fundamentally in a contest of wills, which is to say conflict, which is to say that politics, even democratic politics is fundamentally violent – in which case, Christians have no business touching the stuff. And if you’re right, then maybe they shouldn’t.

    I don’t share in your pessimism that “we know the ideal is impossible in this fallen world,” not least (but by no means only) because of the simple fact that the Incarnation occurred. Rather, I would say, “we hope for the ideal in this fallen world.” Your solution to the fall seems to be, “Yeh, it sucks, but let’s make the most of it.” If you’re saying more than that, help me see how you are, because implied in the expression “making the most of it” is that “it” is something that we can and ought to be a part of.

    I don’t mean to sidetrack your conversation by going all meta, but I couldn’t help but notice that both participants seem to be talking past each other, partly due to the fact this wasn’t an interactive debate, but also partly because neither party got to the heart of the debate. I also want to be clear that I’m not arguing that Ron Paul should be president, though I think that would be the right way to discuss a political candidate (should rather than could). It just seems obvious to me that there is a general consensus that he is a good candidate, if not an impossible one. That that duality exists is a problem for me.

  18. Hm, Scott.

    First, taking a candidate seriously DOES have a lot to do with whether they can win. What’s the value in sitting around saying, “Gee, this person would be a great president if only 55 million more people knew it”? Who has the time to “consider” every possible candidate who doesn’t have a chance of winning anyway?

    Second, the construction, “if votes are for winning->it’s a contest of wills->it’s violent->it’s unChristian” is silly and entirely incorrect. Caring about who your political leaders are and voting to try to influence that process is not a fundamentally violent act, nor is it out of step with Christian faith.

    Third, the occurrance of the Incarnation does not mean political perfection is achievable outside Christ’s return. Striving for God’s ideal while never fully reaching it is a pretty normal part of the Christian life. And that includes trying to be wise about our vote.

    Finally, sorry you didn’t think we got to the heart of the debate. Care to share what that heart might be?

  19. @Scott,

    I understand your problem with the question “Is RP electable?”. After all, based on all the bad decision and poor leaders we’ve put in office, who are we to say what kind of people can and can’t lead our country? I attempted to address that in the article, pointing out that RP is just as electable purely in numbers than plenty of other candidates. After all, you don’t hear many people talking about whether or not John Hunstman or Herman Cain is electable, they simply don’t have the support. I also can understand mourning over the duality of what should be and what could be, but that’s simply the world we live in. The Kingdom of God is at hand, not fully in place.

    However, I do think it’s quite appropriate to be discussing whether or not RP’s policies are appropriate for our nation at its current situation and whether or not he has what it takes to be President. Even still, we shouldn’t ignore doing the same with candidates just because they are more aligned with the status quo (Barack Obama, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, etc.). If we’re serious about turning out country around and not just playing political games, we need to be taking in a fuller spectrum of philosophical and political possibilities.

  20. @Ben –

    To your first point, I should be clear that I have no problem with the facilitative practices of nominations and a limited ballot. I, as well, have no qualms with political advertisements as such, media designed to disseminate relevant information about potential candidates. Could you clarify this point without the sarcasm?

    Secondly, I’m curious what you find so “silly and entirely incorrect” about my point that, if elective processes are inherently combative, then it would be prudent for those proclaiming the gospel of peace to keep a careful distance from such processes. Surely such a logical move is less inane than conflating my point with the idea that it is unchristian to care and to act in such away that expresses care, no? But the more important point, the one I intended to raise, was that voting might not be inherently combative. And if it isn’t (IF), then what is the structure and function of an ethical democracy?

    I’m going to bypass that third point because I’m sure you didn’t mean to suggest that I was suggesting what you suggested I was suggesting.

    @Luke –

    I liked your point about Huntsman and Cain.

  21. Scott,

    To deal with number one, then, I would say that the relationship of voting to winning is that because your favorite candidate (say, your pastor) cannot win, an election is necessarily a matter of choosing the better of two imperfect candidates. A person whose candidacy will necessarily end in failure (whether it be Ron Paul or your pastor) is not a serious candidate because voting for them, best case scenario, would take your vote away from the better of two imperfect candidates and possibly help the worse of two candidates to win.

    So, let’s say Ron Paul ran as a Libertarian, with Obama as the Democrat and Mitt Romney as the Republican. And let’s say that fiscal discipline is the most important issue to you. So your order of preference for those three candidates is Paul first, Romney second, and Obama third. The problem with voting for Paul, who has no chance of winning, is that you are assisting Obama by wasting the vote on a non-starter rather than someone with a chance to win (Romney).

    That’s why I disagree when you say, “it’s simply not obvious to me that probability of winning an election is crucial to taking seriously someone’s candidacy.”

    Your point about “if votes are for primarily for victory, that makes them combative, and combat is antithetical to the gospel of peace” is really just a play on the word combat. Nothing about the gospel of peace prevents casting your vote of preference for one candidate or another. Elections are not “combative” in any sinful sense and “peace” is not the avoidance of any and all disagreement. A quick look at the words and ministry of Christ shows that one cannot say disagreement or argument about what is best is inherently bad… Christ argued combatively with people all the time.

    Finally, you state, “I don’t share in your pessimism that ‘we know the ideal is impossible in this fallen world,’ not least (but by no means only) because of the simple fact that the Incarnation occurred. Rather, I would say, “we hope for the ideal in this fallen world.” Your solution to the fall seems to be, “Yeh, it sucks, but let’s make the most of it.”

    I certainly don’t lack for hope. I hope for the ideal all the time. But there is also a time for realism, and realistically our next President will be full of imperfections and will be missing many of my preferences for that role. And yes, I do think we should make the most of it in the sense that on one hand we influence real-world politics as much as we can, while on the other we always proclaim the better kingdom that is the Kingdom of God.

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