The other day on Facebook, I wrote a post saying that one should always vote according to principle. I wanted to take the opportunity to clarify what I meant in that post.
First, voting on principle is not the same thing as voting on ideological purity. A candidate is rarely, if ever, going to reflect the ideology one holds perfectly. Even though I am voting for him, I do not agree with Gary Johnson on every position he holds. Moreover, there are stances he takes that quite a few libertarians would disagree with. However, in the big picture he is a libertarian, and is doing a decent enough job of representing what the libertarian position looks like in modern American politics.
Second, and following on the first point, I am not saying one cannot vote pragmatically. In some ways my support for Johnson is pragmatic. However, when I say that one should always vote on principle, it means you should always look for the candidate that you respect, and will make the best president. If you don’t think anyone fits that mold, then you shouldn’t vote for any of the options. However, within that framework, there is a lot of room to move around in terms of ideological considerations and pragmatism. Unlike Johnson, I am pro-life, and I think freedom of association deserves more thought than what he seems to be giving it. However, I also agree with him on many other positions, and I think he will not do much harm to those areas where I disagree with him. I also think that both him and Weld, his running mate, were good governors, as far as I have been able to gather, and I think Johnson would make a good president. That is, he will uphold and defend the constitution of the United States.
This is my take at least, and I welcome others. Ideology, and other factors, will obviously play a role in how we understand the principles that we apply. However, voting for a lesser of two evils is simply not an option. Sometimes it is best to not vote.