The Catholic blogosphere was buzzing earlier this week about this post from The Anchoress, in which she raises concerns that some conservatives may split the GOP if Rudy Giuliani is the nominee, effectively dividing the Republican vote and permitting Hillary Clinton to breeze to an election victory that would cost conservatives more in the long run than a Giuliani administration would.
With all due respect to The Anchoress (and many sincere prayers for her health), I must agree with those who think she's wrong about this.
Frankly, I've come to suspect that the unofficial motto of both major parties is, "Yes, America is Going to Hell in a Handbasket--But Our Handbasket is Better for America's Defense, Will Cost You Less, And Is Fashioned From Environmentally-Friendly Twigs, While Their Handbasket Will Kill You, Or At Least Beat You Up And Steal Your Lunch Money."
This is not to say that the two parties are identical. Democrats, for the most part, exclude pro-life Americans, while Republicans merely treat them with disdain and contempt until just before each major election. Republicans favor preemptive war with any nation that has threateningly large amounts of oil, while Democrats would prefer to stick to their oddly successful tactic of sending Jimmy Carter around the world to become the focal point of the world's anger, taking the heat off of the rest of us. Democrats are in favor of gay marriage, while Republicans are in favor of not being asked questions about that issue, which they invariably answer with mumblings about civil unions that don't fool anybody. Republicans are in favor of closing our borders, unless doing so would adversely affect the bottom line of any of the ginormous corporations who have rewarded Republicans for their loyalty; Democrats are in favor of securing the border, so long as that translates to "making the border safer for future Democrat voters to sneak across."
Lots of important distinctions, as you can see.
The truth of the matter is that, as Pat Buchanan put it a long time ago, "Today, candor compels us to admit that our vaunted two-party system is a snare and a delusion, a fraud upon the nation. Our two parties have become nothing but two wings of the same bird of prey." And George Washington was even harsher, warning about the dangers of political parties:
"All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests."
It would not send America into a decline for Americans to rally around a third-party candidate in 2008. Indeed, if Rudy Giuliani really is the Republican nominee, many of us will find ourselves without a better option. But will a Republican slow our rate of societal decline?
Would it be better to vote for Giuliani anyway?
Here are some of the reasons why I think that it would not:
1. Putting a pro-abort Republican at the head of the Republican Party means jettisoning the pro-life plank once and for all. With Giuliani in office, the "pro-choice" wing of the GOP will be in charge, possibly permanently.
2. Trusting a thrice-married man who has openly supported partial birth abortion, "gay rights," and gun control to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court is almost the definition of folly.
3. Running Giuliani as the nominee might be more likely to split the Democratic vote, since Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are ideologically similar on many of the issues, than running a third-party candidate would be to split the Republican vote. Most conservative Republicans who might cast a vote for a third-party candidate have already decided not to vote for Giuliani.
4. Sometimes, even in politics, it is more important to do the right thing than the expedient thing. While in a race between two pro-abortion candidates it may be morally licit to vote for one of them on some other grounds, it is hard to see what those grounds would be for these two specific candidates. There is almost nothing good about their political positions, and there is no really compelling reason to support or vote for either of them.
For myself, I won't vote for Rudy Giuliani, should he become the Republican nominee--and I'm not going to vote for a Democrat, either, even if Hillary Clinton inexplicably fails to secure the nomination. If Giuliani is the Republican candidate for President in 2008, I might vote third-party, or write someone in, or even refrain from voting in the presidential race.
Whatever I do, I'm not going to fall for the old argument that claims that Catholics have a moral duty to vote for the lesser of two handbaskets.