In Defense of One-Issue Voters

A midterm soliloquy.

A friend of mine who blogs recently wrote a post in which he asked if being “pro-life” entailed more than a simple opposition to abortion (he implied that it does); I suggested in my response that to add a lot of other issues (environment, military buildup, gun control, etc.) to the meaning of “pro-life” is a mistake in that it morphs the definition beyond either recognition or use. He then responded that his intent wasn’t necessarily to do that, but to argue that, as evangelicals, we ought not simply be “one-issue voters”. To which I responded that I am–and am not–a one-issue (actually, two-issue) voter. Allow me to explain, and then defend, my position.

I am a two-issue voter in this sense: I will not support a candidate who is not, at the very least, “largely” pro-life. I don’t believe that an exception ought to be made in cases of incest or rape, though I do in the case of the life of the mother. I can vote–have voted–for people who would include rape and incest in their exceptions. Further, I will not support a candidate who believes in redefining marriage in any way beyond one-man/one-woman. Now, holding these positions becomes potentially more difficult if one is wedded to the notion–and I am not–that one may only pull the lever for a candidate with an “R” or a “D” after his/her name.

Now, if more than one candidate passes those two tests, we can look at other things; sadly, today it seems as though we only have such choices in primaries, as the Democrat Party has by and large (save for a few dwindling Blue Dogs) adopted pro-choice and, increasingly, pro-gay-marriage positions. That’s the America in which we live today.

I feel pretty certain that my friend disagrees with my position, and he seems to be in the vanguard of a generation of young evangelicals who feel the same way. And I must wholeheartedly object, and so herewith I offer a defense of the concept of the “one- (or two-) issue voter”. To do so, I shall build, as I am wont to do, a hypothetical case.

Candidate J is a winsome politician who happens to believe in most of the things I do. I thrill at his economic prowess and plans to fix the economy. He is a family man with several kids. He holds all the right social positions…well, all the right social positions save one. He believes that the solution to illegal immigration is to shoot all illegals on sight. Nah, let’s make it stronger: he believes that a whole class of people are second-rate citizens and ought to be exterminated. But his environmental policy is tops! And he has a plan to deal with health care that is foolproof! And he is committed to appointing justices to the Supreme Court who…

Get my point? Would I vote for Candidate J, a person with everything right…except the fact that he condones genocide? Ummmm…duh. Would this make me a “one-issue voter”? I suppose it would. And I would be entirely justified in being a “one-issue voter” if that one issue were of the nature of genocide, would my readers not agree?

And so we go back to the future and the question at hand: is it right to be a “one-issue voter” when it comes to abortion? Well, doesn’t the answer to that hinge on one’s perception of the seriousness of that one issue? Further, do we really believe that the person in the womb is just that, a person? And if people in the womb, having been denied equal protection under the law, are being systematically eliminated in a modern-day American holocaust to the tune of well over 1 million abortions being committed each year, then are we well-justified in saying that we cannot in good conscience ever be party to that epidemic of genocide?

And so with those understandings in place, can I be a “one-issue voter”? A better question for evangelicals, to me, is “how can you not?”


  1. Bob Robinson on October 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Good response to my post, Byron.

    To be clear, I am thoroughly Pro-Life (that is, I am absolutely against abortion). The best point you make here is that if we have a pro-abortion president, he or she is in the position to appoint Supreme Court justices that will continue the abomination of Roe v. Wade.

    I truly respect your position. Your hypothetical case is very convincing.

    Since you are wont to do this, I shall also build a hypothetical case:

    Candidate K is a winsome politician who believes in most of the things I do. He holds all the right social positions, especially being against abortion. Well, all the right social positions save one: He believes that the solution to the budget deficit is to adopt a completely isolationist policy when it comes to foreign aid.

    He makes the case that the deficit is so dire that all economic and military assistance to foreign countries must end, saving the country over $50 billion. No more funds for GHCS (Global Health Child Survival), including funds to fight HIV/AIDS. We will not be able to keep our commitment with the other G8 nations to work together to lift more than 50 million people out of hunger through farming programs. We will stop our financial support for healthcare for women and families in impoverished regions. We will no longer budget for international programs for Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, and we will end all Military Peacekeeping Operations.

    I am a one-issue voter, and since his opponent is has stated that he is not Pro-Life, I must vote for Candidate K. We do, after all, have to stop abortions in America and the next President may be in the position to appoint two Supreme Court justices in his presidential term. The abortion issue outweighs all other issues, even the welfare of people outside our borders.

    That, I think, shows the possible problem of being a “one-issue voter.”

    • Byron on October 3, 2012 at 6:58 pm

      There is no problem at all if one does not confine himself to having to vote for only R or D. If you would find your scenario, standing alone, disqualifying for a candidate, then I would suggest there’s no problem not voting for him. There are points beyond which I will not go in voting for a “mainstream” candidate (for the record, I made it clear on this blog that I would under no circumstances vote for Newt Gingrich, had he been the nominee, nor Rudy Giuliani, had he been the nominee in 2008; ironically, my unwillingness to vote for pro-life Newt would seem to indicate that I’m not entirely a one-issue voter, right?).

      There are other arguments I could make, but I’ll stop there.

  2. ken on October 2, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    I remember reading an old political cartoon years ago it went like this:

    Husband: I don’t care about anything else, I’m going to vote for the guy who promises to cut my taxes the most.
    Wife: the president doesn’t set the tax rate dear, congress does that.
    Husband: Well, then why do they all promise to cut taxes?
    Wife: because they are counting on most voters being as knowledgeable as you are dear.

    In general, I don’t think it is wrong to be a “one-issue” voter. Just be sure it is an issue that the candidate will actually have some power to significantly influence.

    Today (and frankly since I’ve been able to vote), it is never about “picking the best candidate”, it is about picking the lessor of 2 evils. So if there is one issue that helps you decide who is the lessor evil, fine. At least you voted.

    • Byron on October 3, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      Ken! Something upon which we agree!

  3. AC on October 3, 2012 at 2:57 am

    I fully agree that on the issue of abortion, how can we not be “single issue voters”. I’ve pondered the question of whether I could accept a candidate who is more pro-life if they are anti-gun, pro-gay-marriage (not to be confused with libertarian on the subject), socialist, etc.

    However, I’ve come to see that it’s very rare that it actually works out that way. Because a core set of principles will advise one’s belief on all those issues. The same Christian or Christian influenced (ie Paine & Jefferson) world view that tells you life must be protected also tells you about sexuality and liability for governmental corruption (indirectly arguing against socialism & gun control). While fiscal policy matters, the Bible clearly teaches us not to trust money or the things it can buy. It certainly isn’t the root cause of societal problems, our sinful nature is.

    While voting on the single, most important issue is certainly reasonable, it almost always comes down to the source of a person’s principles.

  4. Carmen on October 3, 2012 at 5:56 am

    To Ken – my dearly departed sister would say, “You are still choosing evil!”

    To Bob – It is not the responsibility of the government to take care of people of other countries. (New World Order) According to The Constitution, the governments role is to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” That being said, the general welfare is not “Welfare” as we know it today. A president is not the fixer of the economy! Our only hope is that he will put forth policy that does not hinder business & economic growth.

    To All – The reason the Nazi Party was able to do what they did prior to WWII is because the German economy was strong. Many of the happenings within the government didn’t effect them so so they turned a blind eye to it. They elected leaders that lied and the rest as they say is now history! Read the book How Do You Kill 11 MILLION PEOPLE! You must look at the candidates and vote for who is telling the truth, even if the truth is something you don’t want to hear because it doesn’t follow what you desire. As it says in a Good Book I read, “The truth shall set you free!”

  5. Ian on October 3, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Some really good points have been made not only by Byron, but in the comments as well. Civilized debate is refreshing to see.

    I, too tend to be the one (or two) issue voter. Our choices, as mentioned above, are rarely between good and bad. They’re often between bad and worse or terrible and more terrible.

    We’re a prosperous nation that leads the way in global humanitarian efforts, global peace keeping efforts, global hunger relief, etc. that has changed the world to have somewhat of an entitlement mentality. The very same mentality demonstrated through our current administration’s policies. I’m all in favor of doing what we can as a nation to end tyranny and violations of fundamental human rights in countries where there are no such freedoms. Do I have the answers for foreign policy? Uh, no. Immigration? Ditto although I have some good ideas. Do I have an answer on who to help and who not to help? Well I would start with not helping our enemies and those that support our enemies. I think that’s a no-brainer.

    There are many issues to consider with some carrying more weight, if you will, than others. I am not naive enough to think that our government is the answer to our problems. Our government is part of the problem. I will vote for the candidate that most closely aligns with my biblical values; the candidate that allows me to pursue my biblical values without restriction. In the 2012 election, it’s an easy choice. As for abortion, I hold the view that it’s wrong in every single case and I will vote for the candidate that has a position as close to mine as possible.

    To add fuel to the debate . . .abortion should be a state issue, not a federal one.

    A closing thought. I want to state again, how each of the posters above were respectful and careful to articulate their position without name calling, attacking, or degrading others even if there were disagreements. That is something that is lacking today.

    • Byron on October 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      Ian, that’s what we do on this blog: have civilized discussion. Those who go beyond certain bounds eventually get booted. That has only happened rarely. Usually, I let that occasional idiot have enough rope to hang himself, so long as he isn’t cussing a blue streak. But you’re right, it’s unfortunately rare these days–and people on both sides of the political realm are guilty in that regard.

  6. Shane Ryans on October 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    you do make some great points. Many people don’t’ exactly know how they feel until the last minute anyway, there are so many things to weigh and no one candidate is going to satisfy everything.

  7. Shane Ryans on October 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Interesting Carmen I will have to check out that book. Thanks for the info.

  8. Bob Robinson on October 24, 2012 at 9:45 am

    I certainly hope that (if you are a Christian) you do not put Nationalism ahead of God’s design for his people to be part of the kingdom that sees no borders and cares for all humanity.
    America is a great nation not only because of how it takes care of its people, but because of our nation’s leadership in showing compassion and seeking justice around the world.

  9. Bob Robinson on October 24, 2012 at 9:47 am

    With your interpretation of the Constitution, the United States had no business overthrowing the Nazi regime.

  10. Esdraelon on October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Ken, looks like we agree on something, probably is more somewhere along the line…..

    And regardless of you ‘one-issue’ voters, it people don’t wake up to What Is Really Going On, we won’t have to worry about issues any more.

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