Understanding the Vote Your Conscience Movement

Understanding the Vote Your Conscience Movement

Last week when I posted on social media my article about a Democrat challenging the establishment, referencing my contemplations on Donald Trump winning the Republican Nomination for President, and why he chose to run in the fractured Republican Party, I used the hashtags #VoteYourConscience and #NeverTrump, encouraging some of my friends in that movement to read the article.

The purpose of the article was to encourage blue dog democrats to take a serious look at Donald Trump.  It was also to encourage my friends within the Republican Party who do not like Donald Trump to at least consider his broader appeal.

I inadvertently offended some of my friends in the #NeverTrump camp, who, before reading the article, were offended by the use of the hashtags.  I know, because immediately after posting it, I received a phone call from a good friend in the low country of South Carolina.  I want to share some thoughts I have had since then.

First, as I stated in the article, I believe there is more that unites us as American’s than divides us.  That is why, as I stated, I’ve been thinking more about George Washington’s caution against political parties in his farewell address. Second, I believe The Republican and Democratic Political Parties recently have so thrived on keeping Americans divided – that an excessively divided condition has enabled the development of a de facto one party system to stay in power, despite Congress’ low approval ratings.  Third and most important – I never mean to offend, but I am keenly aware that the process of “iron sharpening iron” does at times cause significant sparks to fly.  The result of those sparks; however, should create better tools for us to wield the case for liberty – which is what our republic is about.  Those tools shouldn’t be used to sever relationships, but to become better in the defense of our principles and convictions.

Frankly, I don’t think either side, Republican or Democrat, does an exceptional job of getting outside of their respective boxes to really get to know or understand the other side.  The phrase “Birds of a feather, flock together,” comes to mind.  I have it on good authority that in Washington today our representatives rarely actually debate the issues.  Each side receives their talking points from their “caucuses,” are told how to vote by leadership, then provide those talking points to “the theater,” our mainstream media.  I referenced this in my column posted August 12th.

If we believe in our motto, “E pluribus unum,” which means “out of many, one,” – which is vastly different than the worship of diversity many politicians engage in – both sides have a lot of work to do, to get outside of our boxes to bring unity.

For my friends I may have offended, I do see political value in the #VoteYourConscience movement.

For example, the Socialist Party ran a Presidential Candidate in every election from 1904 through 1948.  For 44 years, they voted their conscience.  While their popular vote ranged from 80,000 to just over 4.8 million, only one year did the receive any electoral college votes.  In 1924 they won 13 of the 531 electoral college votes.  While they never actually came close to electing a President, over a period of almost 30 years they gained enough momentum to push Franklin Delano Roosevelt farther to the left than he likely intended to go.

Now we are 68 years removed from the last time the Socialist Party actually ran a Presidential Candidate. Since 1948 they have simply worked within the Democratic Party Structure.  By watching their 44-year foundation (1904 – 1948), we can see just how impactful they have been.

An example closer to home was the effort Ronald Reagan participated in, along with other stalwart conservatives in 1964 to elect Barry Goldwater.  Although unsuccessful in his bid, that conscience effort which started 16 years prior to Reagan’s election in 1980 came to a head 12 years later, in the 1976 Republican Convention, when Reagan was asked to provide an impromptu speech, where it became apparent to the crowd that the wrong person had been nominated.  Reagan still had to fight the establishment in 1979 and 1980, and even include some of the establishment on his eventual team.  I had the privilege of attending the Republican National Convention this year, and there wasn’t a Ronald Reagan moment at this year’s convention.
I admire my conservative friends who will be voting third party this year, because they have that long range conservative vision for our republic.  I simply have chosen a different path – not out of fear, but because I truly believe that the principles and platform Conservatives believe in already exist within the Republican Party and I believe that more unites us as Americans than divides us, and an additional party ultimately leads to additional division.

Scott Cooper

Follow Scott on Twitter

Follow Scott on Facebook