I recently spoke to a meeting of a two-county Republican organization.  Having read my book Rules for Conservative Radicals: How the Tea Party Can Save America, (co-authored with Dr. Archie Jones) the local Republican Party Chairman wanted me to chastise those Republicans who advocate a move to the left in 2016.  I did just that.  The theme of my talk was that mainstream Republicans need to figure out—and soon—that liberal Democrats are the opposition, not Tea Party patriots and other disaffected conservatives.  The speech went well, as did the questions that followed.  That is until one sage member of the audience asked what might become the bottom-line question in the next presidential election: “If 2016 comes down to Hillary or Christie, who do you recommend we vote for?”

I prefaced my response by saying, “Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.  Surely the Republicans can do better than Governor Christie.”  Then I confronted the question head on and gave the same answer I will reluctantly give in 2016 should the presidential race come down to a Hobson’s choice between Hillary and Christie: I would recommend that you hold your nose and vote for Christie.  My rationale was simple and three-fold: 1) If Republicans can’t manage to field a real conservative candidate in 2016, then we need to swallow hard and vote for the candidate who most closely resembles a conservative, 2) In a race between Christie and Hillary, the candidate that would come closer to approximating a conservative would certainly be New Jersey’s rotund governor, and 3) I would vote for my family pet before I would vote for Hillary Clinton. A Christie presidency would hardly be a victory for conservatism, but it would at least start applying the brakes to out-of-control liberalism.  When it comes to taking back America, we conservatives need to be prepared to hit a few singles and doubles.  Getting it all back with one swing—hitting a political homerun by electing a true conservative as president—may not be possible in 2016. Conservatives might need to content themselves with winning the country back one baby step at a time, but with step being in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the reality of politics is that we are often confronted with these lesser-of-two-evils choices.  Even more unfortunate is the fact that when we refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils, we help elect the greater of two evils. Refusing to vote or throwing away our vote on a more palatable but hopeless third-party candidate might make us feel better temporarily, but in the final analysis it does nothing but ensure the election of the greater of two evils.  It is as if you are forced to sell your house and the best offer you can get is less than what you want for it.  Should you swallow hard and accept the lesser amount or let the bank foreclose on you and lose everything?  In 2012, conservatives let the bank foreclose and lost everything.

After years of failures, liberals decided to reject the all-or-nothing approach to voting.  Once they took this step, they started winning elections.  It took them a while, but they finally adopted the laundry list approach to voting.  Liberals make a laundry list of issues for every House, Senate, and Presidential election.  Then they support the candidate who advocates for the largest number of items on their list.  This means they occasionally elect moderates instead of progressive radicals, but to them electing a left-leaning moderate is better than electing a conservative.  Frankly, this pragmatic approach to national politics gives liberals a great advantage over conservatives who maintain a my-way-or-the-highway approach in House, Senate, and presidential elections.  In fact, it just keeps liberals in office.  This all-or-nothing approach is why enough true conservatives sat out the election in 2012 to give Barack Obama a second term.  Many of my true conservative kinsmen simply stayed home rather than vote for milquetoast Mitt.  Those who chose this option got what they deserved: Barack Obama.

Governor Christie is hardly a conservative, but Hillary is even worse. I told the audience that the rationale for my answer was simple logic.  Would you rather have a moderate in the White House who owes his election in part to real conservatives or a radical feminist liberal who owes conservatives nothing and despises everything they stand for?  Put this way, the answer to Hillary versus Christie in 2016 becomes clearer.  In a nation in which 47 percent of the population derives its sustenance from the federal treasury, we conservatives have to stop playing checkers and start playing chess.

Here is how I completed my response to the loaded question about Hillary versus Christie.  “Now that I have disposed of the worst-case scenario for 2016, let me say this.  As Republicans we can do better than Governor Christie and shame on us if we don’t.  Ronald Reagan’s political platform was almost indistinguishable from that of Barry Goldwater, but Reagan won big while Barry Goldwater suffered an unprecedented loss to “landslide Lyndon.”  The difference was that Reagan was a conservative version of John F. Kennedy (in front of the cameras only): He was telegenic, charming, inoffensive, fast on his feet, and disarmingly humble.  Unlike Goldwater who scared voters with what came off as a mean-spirited delivery, Reagan knew how to smile patiently while delivering a knockout punch to his liberal opponent or left-leaning journalists. It is hard for me to believe that the Republican Party cannot come up with a candidate who can espouse true conservative values without appearing to be hard-hearted or mean-spirited.  It is equally hard for me to believe that the best we can do is choose a candidate whose views would get him roasted in true conservative circles.  If we cannot do better than Governor Christie, we deserve to face the Hobson’s choice of Christie versus Hillary.