Obviously, the political equation has a very different set of consequences, but the concepts are similar. As with war, there’s a lot of prudential judgment involved. And as in war, the consciences of objectors deserve some degree of deference — but not absolute deference.
Conservatives don’t like the thought of electing Republicans in Name Only, but there’s a much worse alternative to that — and I don’t mean defeat in an election, either.
In fact, count me among those happy to lose where the odds justify rolling the dice. But the loss must also be an honorable one. If you lose elections because you put unelectable, brain-dead idiots out front as the representatives of bonafide conservatism, then you are probably harming the cause even more than the person who just insists on voting for whoever can win, principles be damned.
In the Pennsylvania case, we have ample hindsight from which to benefit — not just from Specter’s betrayal, but also from Toomey’s own subsequent success. Six years after his loss in that primary, Toomey won that same Senate seat, and he did so with a smart, disciplined campaign against one of the best candidates Democrats could have run against him. Toomey has surely slipped in some people’s estimation lately, but only a bit. No one on the Right pines to have Specter back.