Kudos to the Tea Party Nation for living up to the truly democratic ideals of this country. And that doesn't mean lower taxes for the wealthiest, or no taxes at all, or bringing the world to the brink of global fiscal meltdown by playing games with the debt ceiling. It's because the Tea Party Nation's Judson Phillips gave exactly the right answer when he was asked how he could imagine voting for Mitt Romney, despite the discontent toward the former Massachusetts governor Phillips has vocalized in the past.
Appearing on the Martin Bashir show on MSNBC, Phillips was asked how he felt about the financial troubles of his favored candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich—not so good, it seemed. And then he was asked if he would support Romney anyway, since Romney appeared to be headed toward the nomination.
Phillips answered the way many Americans in our two-party system would have answered: Sure, I'll vote for the guy, even though I'm not crazy about him, because I really, really don't want the other guy in office any longer.
Bashir was appalled, suggesting Phillips was belying his own convictions. "If you were being true to what you were saying, you wouldn't vote for Mitt Romney," Bashir said. When Phillips began to explain he would end up voting for what he saw as the lesser of two evils, Bashir interjected. "Why not just abstain from the election?" he demanded.
Phillips appeared appropriately offended by the suggestion. "There are too many people who gave their lives to give me the right to vote. I'm not simply going to sit an election out," Phillips said.
How is not voting a true choice? It's a cop-out, a way of avoiding any kind of responsibility for what happens to the country by saying, "I didn't vote for so-and-so." So don't vote for him or her. You don't have to vote for the other major party candidate, either. You can write someone in you prefer. You can write in Mickey Mouse if you want. And if you think write-ins are a cop-out, take a look at the last Alaska Senate race, in which Sen. Lisa Murkowski refused to be driven from the race just because Tea Party movement voters nominated someone else on the GOP line. She ran as a write-in, and she won.
The turnout in many of the presidential primaries has been abysmal. In the District of Columbia, which has seen an embarrassing display of bad behavior by local officials, voters still didn't make their feelings known at the ballot box. Those who didn't show up have no right to complain if and when things deteriorate in the nation's capital.
Many Americans laud voting as a hard-fought right, and it is. But it's also a responsibility. And Phillips is right—we shouldn't dishonor those who fought for this right by refusing to exercise it.