Tombstone, Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- Almost 20 years ago, I wrote an article denouncing the practice of voting for the “lesser of two evils.”
In it, I focused on the idea that the lesser of two evils is still evil, and I argued that voters should always vote their conscience. I was naive. In the years since writing that article, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in politics, worked on dozens of campaigns, and come to some very different conclusions regarding who to support when.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a single-issue, no compromise GunVoter and advocate for the Second Amendment.
That doesn’t mean that I vote and advocate based solely on what the candidate has said or done regarding “my” issue. On the contrary, I’ve learned to think, advocate, and vote strategically. I’ve learned the importance of looking at the bigger picture, and voting based on what will best advance or protect what matters most to me. Often that best course turns out to be to hold my nose and support a candidate who’s not fully (or even a little bit) on my side.
I know that this statement will set off a wave of expletives among a wide group of my readers, and those of you who just declared me to be an idiot are exactly who this article is written for, so please keep reading.
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Ideological purity is a wonderful thing, but it’s pretty useless if it means you lose the battle and the war.
In politics today, it seems that everything is absolute black or white, with no shades of gray. Either you are on my side 100%, or you are the enemy. Either you agree with everything I say, or you are evil. Either you toe the line that I have drawn in the sand, or you are a traitor.
This sort of divisiveness and intolerance has always been with us, but it has come into full flower with the progressive “cancel culture” of the left, then, somewhat ironically, picked up steam among hardcore Trump supporters – and the virulent anti-Trumpers. Along the way, it has become a badge of honor among some Second Amendment advocates.
The practical result is that GunVoters will often engage in self-defeating behaviors.
It’s an unfortunate reality that most politicians think of the Second Amendment as just another political issue, not a moral issue or matter of core principles. As such, they often say ignorant things that drive committed rights activists crazy. That’s not a reason to throw those politicians under the bus though. It’s often just a matter of lack of education, and/or poor choice of advisors. While we’d all prefer that our politicians and political candidates be well-versed in the history and principles of the Second Amendment, the fact is that few actually are. They hold a general appreciation for guns and gun owners (or GunVoters), but when it comes to details, they frequently rely on “policy experts” to guide them through the minefields.
Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of professional, “conservative,” campaign and political advisors who just don’t understand the Second Amendment and GunVoters, and who give really bad advice on the subject. It’s no small chore getting past those advisors and capturing the ear of a politician (or their top aides), but it can be done, as long as the bridges haven’t been burned.
Regardless of the particular policy positions of individual politicians, we must always look at every race in the broader context of party politics, legislative majorities, and the overall potential impact of that race in the broader scheme of things. Then we must vote in accordance with what is best for our broad objectives. It’s not about rewarding or punishing a particular politician, but rather about how we can best advance the cause of individual rights.
Even if a particular politician is totally committed to bad policies that we disagree with, and can’t be convinced of the error of their ways, that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful – for a time. The fact that the Democratic Party has made gun control a priority, and its support a litmus test for its candidates, makes it difficult for GunVoters to ever support Democratic candidates, even when the Republican in a particular race is just as opposed to our rights as the Democrat, or even more so because in state legislatures and Congress, party majorities matter – a lot.
As I have often repeated in recent years, a RINO or two in the midst of a herd of elephants is a nuisance. But a RINO or two in the middle of a herd of Jackasses is a serious problem. Keeping anti-rights extremists like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer out of control and in the minority, is a very big deal (as the past year has demonstrated), and if accomplishing that means we have to support weak or downright hostile Republicans, then that’s what we have to do. And if it means throwing some support behind incumbent Democrats like Manchin and Sinema, who don’t really support our rights, but who refuse to kowtow to their leadership on critical issues like abolishing the filibuster, then we might have to do that too.
I know some readers are jumping up and down right now yelling about Libertarian candidates, and I’ll agree that, if there’s a Libertarian candidate who has any chance of winning, I will support them over a weak Republican. The problem is that the Libertarian candidate rarely has any chance at all of even making the ballot, much less winning. They don’t have the critical mass and party infrastructure behind them to seriously compete with Republicans and Democrats in most races. Too many voters are committed to voting for R’s and D’s, and Libertarians rarely find a way past that obstacle.
I personally think it would serve Libertarians well to abandon their third-party aspirations, and instead run their candidates as Republicans or Democrats, working to carve out niches within those two parties. With the Big D or Big R by their names, those candidates can have a chance of actually winning and actually making a difference.
Too often, our folks tend to look exclusively at individual candidates and lose sight of the bigger picture. I don’t want a turncoat or an idiot representing me, but I recognize that often the alternative is much worse. Trump gave us a ban on bump stocks and rhetoric in support of “red flag” laws, but he also gave us three fairly conservative Justices on the Supreme Court. Does anyone believe that gun owners would be in a stronger position had Hillary Clinton won in 2016?
The time to remove anti-rights Republicans is during the primaries. Once a candidate crosses into the general election, GunVoters must set personal feelings aside and support the candidate that will do the least harm to our greater cause. That’s not always easy, but the alternative can be devastating.
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs, and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona, and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.