It's the big question some conservatives have started contemplating.
Contemplating in ponderous blog posts and whispers in private conversations.
Do we have to vote Republican this year? Would an Obama victory be as disastrous as we've been led to fear? Can America survive another four years of the Obama presidency until Republicans get their act together and run a slate of candidates who can beat Obama on the merits?
After all, the Republican Party has pretty much cratered this year, offering its faithful one of the worst slates of candidates from which to choose. Everybody knows it, although few prominent conservatives will admit it. Now that the primary race appears to be coalescing around Mitt and Newt - blatant clues to each of their characters - the bitter reality is beginning to sink in: can either of these guys win against the guy who captured Osama bin Laden?
Can either of these guys win against the guy with better morals than Newt, and the guy who is less elitist than Mitt?
We certainly don't want eight years of either of these two GOP guys, since if one of them lands the White House this year, we'll be forced to support him again in 2016.
Would 4 More Years of Obama Be Worse than 8 Years of Newt or Mitt?
So maybe four more years of Obama won't be as bad as a possible eight years of Mitt or Newt. After all, we've weathered these past four years; not well, mind you, but America has survived. Since none of the primary candidates wanted to remind voters of their GOP predecessor (George W. Bush, remember?) and the disappointment his eight years turned out to be, maybe we've pretty much admitted that at least some of the problems Obama has been dealing with during his first term were inherited. Think bank bailouts, auto industry bailouts, soaring unemployment, and two unwinable wars.
Bush inflated the government's payroll wildly, fumbled immigration reform, and foisted federal "no child left behind" standards onto local school districts - which has created the oppressive test-taking culture now crippling public school education. All Obama has done is simply fail to lead in much of anything, which is what Republicans generally hoped would happen. Sure, his inability to forge alliances, and fear of political compromise, sparked plenty of vitriol. He continued Bush's spending frenzy so our national debt continues to spiral out of control. And he pandered to his liberal constituency with some blatant left-wing ideology. But don't forget - he stunned leaders in his own party by ruling that teenaged girls should not have unfettered access to morning-after pills. If evangelical Christians didn't disdain him so much, they'd have thanked him effusively for that unexpected show of paternal bravado.
Not that Obama has been a good president. It's just that maybe he's not as bad as what we'd have to endure from our own so-called conservative kind. If they beat Obama this fall, neither Newt nor Mitt will win with significant political capital, as Bush himself found out even after he claimed he had in 2004. Those two guys have spilled so much political blood already in these early days of primary campaigning that their credibility as national leaders has likely been severely tarnished. We know Mitt has as much of a socialist bent as Obama when it comes to healthcare, and we know Newt has no loyalties when it comes to women or even politics, since he has as long a record of flip-flopping on major issues as Mitt does.
Believers Voting Democratic, and Why Blacks Who Are, Do
I'd seen a couple of online articles and blog posts about conservatives skipping this fall's presidential election, but hadn't really taken the question too seriously until a dear, long-time friend of mine posted a FaceBook link to a watch party for Obama's State of the Union speech this past Tuesday. My friend is a devout, born-again Christian, a devoted wife and mother of two, and black. And she's not my only black, born-again friend who supports Obama. What do such people whose only difference from me is their skin color see in somebody for whom I wouldn't otherwise be able to bring myself to vote?
Indeed, plenty of white evangelicals look at each other, dumbfounded, and ask, "how can anybody be a Christian and support a Democrat, let alone one who is pro-choice?"
Now obviously, I can't speak for an entire race, but I've been told in the past by two other die-hard Democrats - who are born-again Christians who happen to be black - that although abortion is the big deal-changer for most evangelical voters, it's not with them.
After all, what is it about abortion that makes it a deal-changer?
Well, what do Republican conservatives do to support life outside of the womb? They're crazy about protecting life inside the womb, but for socially-liberal believers who are members of a race which has received some pretty nasty treatment from whites for generations, life on either side of birth has equal challenges. Perhaps blacks aren't necessarily eager to become one-issue voters when that would mean they'd be supporting a political party that doesn't have the best track record when it comes to social supports. Generally speaking, some evangelical blacks who linger in the Democratic Party take issue with white evangelicals who refuses to acknowledge that some entitlement programs - the safety net disproportionately relied upon by minorities - have a greater validity than is popularly acknowledged.
Personally, I believe that entitlements like welfare, public housing, and other government programs need significant overhauling to make them serve their clients better, and encourage their clients to be more responsible for their own lives. But many Republicans talk as though welfare and public housing need to be completely abolished, even though such a mindset betrays more an ignorance about the value of social safety nets than the tough-love compassion - or even a fiscal prudence - that right-wing blowhards like Rush Limbaugh like to parrot.
After all, the Bible has volumes more to say about looking after the poor, being lavish towards others with the money God gives us, being fair, and refuting racism than it does about abortion, a word that's actually never mentioned in the scriptures. Abortion has become a political machination to cover for moral turpitude, more a symptom of societal decay than the cause of it. Perhaps that sounds like rationalizing away the pro-choice platform of the Democratic party believers who vote Democratic tacitly endorse. But if abortion is hatred for life, hating people on this side of the womb is equally heinous to God, since He equates such sin to murder.
And maybe white folk like me just don't understand how proud blacks are to have Obama in the White House. I'll be honest with you - even though I didn't vote for him, on his inauguration day, I was proud that the United States had finally - at least symbolically - broken the race barrier in the Oval Office. It was just too bad the person was a liberal, instead of a conservative.
Uneasy Lies the Head that Has to Vote
However, with all due respect to my believing friends who are as saved as I am, and with whom all of us Elect will be spending eternity, I would far prefer having a proven fiscal and social conservative on the Republican ticket this fall. Although things are bad in the GOP field, I consider it highly unlikely that the situation would ever become dire enough for me to vote for President Obama directly, even though a vote for either Mitt or Newt might have the same effect.
I simply think it's a testament to the deep dissatisfaction - and even, raw disappointment - that is growing among Republicans that talk of waiting out yet another term of somebody who's supposed to be the opposition is even seeing the light of day.
Right now, let's just not even think about having to endure eight years of Mitt or Newt. Might waiting to see if a better selection of candidates can be found for 2016 actually be in the best long-term interests of the GOP, even if there's some short-term pain?
Can you actually win by losing an election? The fact that other people - not me! - have already started asking that question means the answer is not as clear as it should be.
Update: Click here to read my follow-up on this subject.