The division within the Republican Party has been the subject of much debate in recent years. More than ever before, patriots who once fought side by side are pitting themselves against each other in a bitter battle that has festered and grown into the currently brewing war. But the real division is deeper than just taking side between candidates, it goes to the heart of the voters.
You see, among Republicans and conservatives, there are two types of voters. There are those who take a hard line stance on principle and vote based solely on that. They have little concern for the idea of “electability” and view any vote for a less principled candidate simply because “he can win” as an unconscionable compromise.
The other type of conservative voter looks at a much bigger picture. He sees all candidates as imperfect and believes that a compromise may be necessary in order to win. He is more concerned with the perceived electability of the candidate, and is therefore more likely to be willing to concede a few issues and support a candidate who has a better chance of winning.
The real problem is not that both types of voters exist within the Republican Party – it is that we can’t get both types of voters to exist in the same people. You see, both types of voters are useful in their own ways.
The first type, the voter who sticks on principle, is absolutely vital during primaries. This type of voter culls the field and succeeds in promoting candidates who are also principled, candidates who will vote those principles once they are elected to office. Once the principle-first voter gets past the primary, however, he becomes a liability. He is the one who is likely to vote for a third party candidate that has no chance of winning, thus splitting the conservative vote and handing the election to the other side. He is equally likely to stay home and refuse to vote at all, which has a similar result. Some vote third party or stay home because they feel disenfranchised, and some do it because they want to punish the voters who were willing to compromise in the primary, saying that they "deserve what they get for not picking the right guy." Either way, the end result is a split Republican vote, and a likely loss.
The voters who focus on electability, if they begin to do so during the primary, actually become part of the reason that the general election becomes a choice of the lesser of two evils. Their tunnel-vision concerning the ultimate electability of the candidate allows them to overlook ideological shortcomings to the point that any candidate who makes it through the primary is by definition less principled. Once the general election rolls around, however, these voters become absolutely necessary. They come out in droves to do exactly what they did in the primaries – hold their noses and vote.
What we need is more voters who understand the entire process – who are willing to stand on principle during primaries in order to ensure better candidates, but then are willing to do what it takes to win when the general election rolls around.