I sometimes think that we conservatives are our own worst enemy.  For example, we are our own worst enemy every four years when presidential elections roll around.  Presidential elections are always frustrating, sometimes irksome, and occasionally infuriating for those of us who are true conservatives.  Why? Because prior to Ronald Reagan and ever since, the Republican Party has proven itself either unable or unwilling to choose a true conservative as its presidential nominee.  In every election it seems our options are to vote for some milquetoast RINO, don’t vote, or vote for a third-party candidate. My response to this dilemma used to be to make a statement by voting for the most conservative third-party candidate available.  However, Barack Obama’s first election showed me the folly of this approach.

Until Barack Obama became president, I did not believe our country could fall so far so fast.  Unfortunately, not only could our country fall real far real fast, with Barack Obama in office it did.   The realization that my self-satisfied but naïve vote for a third-party candidate had helped put this man in office was a hard fact to accept, but it was an even harder fact to deny.  The undeniable fact was that by throwing my vote away on a third-party candidate, I had for all intents and purposes voted for Barack Obama.

After his first election, I had to swallow hard and admit that my vote for a third-party candidate had, in practical terms, been a vote for Barack Obama.  I had to look at myself in the mirror and admit that my attempt to make a philosophical statement by voting for a third-party candidate had helped elect the worse president in our nation’s history.  Consequently, when President Obama ran for re-election, I held my nose and voted for Mitt Romney.  I did not want to vote for Mitt Romney.  In fact, I found the experience distasteful.  However, I did have to admit that voting for Mitt Romney was not nearly as distasteful as Barack Obama winning re-election.  As frustrating as Obama’s re-election was for me, I found some solace in knowing that—unlike in his first election—I had done nothing to help him win.

The lesson I learned by voting for a third-party candidate during Barack Obama’s first election to the presidency changed my approach to voting in presidential elections.  Here is what I do now.  During the Republican primary, I work hard to secure the nomination for the most conservative candidate in the race.  Once a Republican candidate has been selected—no matter how disappointed I am—I vote for that candidate in the presidential election.  Why?  Because I learned the hard way that to do otherwise—no matter how disappointed I am in the choice of the Republican Party—is to vote for the Democrat.  And when that Democrat is someone of the caliber of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, I cannot justify taking any action—whether it be sitting out the election or voting for a third-party candidate—that will contribute in even the smallest way to helping elect the Democrat.

Here is what I now understand: No matter how bad the Republican nominee might be, he or she could not be as bad as an Obama or a Hillary. I have also learned that if we conservatives are going to sit around waiting for the perfect conservative candidate to be nominated by the Republican Party, we are going to have a long wait.  The Math is simple.  Would I rather take a half step forward toward saving America or 10 steps backward?  The obvious answer is that I would prefer to have better options, but in presidential elections our options are limited to two candidates—one a Republican and one a Democrat. We are going to vote for one or the other, no matter how we vote or even if we vote.  Refusing to vote or voting for a third party candidate is the same as voting for the Democrat.  Conservatives who think they are making a statement by voting for a third-party candidate or just staying home need to understand the statement they are making.  That statement is I am voting for the Democrat.

I know this is an unwelcome message.  For conservatives, voting for a RINO instead of a third-party candidate will require an act of pure will.  But when that RINO is running against a radical leftwing socialist and refusing to vote for the RINO will help put the socialist in office, justifying a third-party vote or refusing to vote becomes difficult.  My message to conservatives is this:  When 2016 rolls around, work as hard as you can to nominate a true conservative on the Republican ticket.  But if your candidate does not win the nomination, vote for the Republican candidate who does win it.  To do anything else is to vote for the Democrat no matter how you try to justify it.  Further, if you want to make a statement with your vote let it be this:  I will vote for the worst the Republicans can offer before I will vote for a radical, leftwing socialist running as a Democrat.