Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Ace? Which Sleeve?

I've got a confession to make.

Though I've been discussing the 2008 Presidential election from an abstract and theoretical viewpoint, I've known all along that I've held a high-value card secreted somewhere above the elbow of my best lever-pulling (or today, touch-screen attire) shirt.

I live, as some of you may remember, in Texas.

Yep. This Texas. The one that, no matter how the electoral college pie is sliced, plans to put its full portion on a plate served up to the Republican candidates (sans Minority Whip cream, if they have their druthers).

So among my many possible options in this election is the option that has always been rather attractive to me: not voting.

Oh, I might show up at the polls, anyway. I might place a vote for some state or local office--assuming that I can find one where the candidate isn't "pro-choice," which is a sad reality for those of us in this area of the state; I've never yet and never will vote for Kay Bailey Hutchinson, for instance, though she's not on the ballot this year. But as far as the presidential contest is concerned, knowing that there's no way that the State of Texas will go to Barack Obama, my sitting out the election might have a more positive effect than my voting, since if enough of us make that choice McCain's margin of victory in Texas won't be anything to swagger about.

But I've been quiet about the fact that this is an option I have, because I know that many of you aren't in this position. You might live in a genuine swing state, or you might live in a state where any cut into Obama's victory, however futile, might just be a message worth sending. You might be in that position where enough votes for McCain would tally up to an actual limiting of the evil of a president who doesn't just favor partial-birth abortion, but post-birth abortion as well.

Now that Zippy Catholic has brought up the non-swing-state option, though, I figured that it was time for me to 'fess up that this has been, and continues to be, the way I've been leaning. Texas will go to McCain, come hell or...well, literally, high water. My vote for McCain doesn't make Texas one iota more or less likely to go to McCain, and it means that I'd have to put pressure of an uncomfortable organ yet again to overlook the fishy smell rising from the "R" side of the ballot; while I know that the Republicans are still the party most likely to help end abortion, I also know that there are other things they stand for that I find appalling. After years of being used by them to defeat the Democrats while being expected to be appeased with the occasional pro-life gesture, I'm only too happy to turn the tables, and use the GOP to help end abortion without actually giving them the only measure of support they actually want from me: my vote.

Some might say, "Well, what about Sarah Palin?" I certainly hope Governor Palin has a bright, pro-life future ahead of her in the GOP; I also would be much more willing to consider voting for her in four or eight years than I am to consider voting for McCain now. But alas, she's not the nominee presently, and while I respect those who will vote for McCain solely to help Sarah Palin's future in the party, I don't think I have to do likewise, considering the whole "Texas will go to McCain quite easily" calculation.

Another question might be "But why not give your vote to some doomed quixotic third-party candidate, to send a real message to Washington?" I've done that in the past, and haven't completely ruled it out, but there's one thing that must be clear: while voting for such a candidate may be emotionally satisfying, by the rules of most states' vote-counting mechanisms, voting for a candidate who is not actually on the ballot means that your vote will not be counted. Even states that allow write-in candidates won't necessarily record votes for them; one piece of info I found said that unless the state's vote-counting equipment suspected that such a write-in candidate was approaching the tally that the regular candidates were receiving, they'd automatically not be counted. So while voting for doomed quixotic third-party candidates may be fun, especially at parties over the next four years when you solemnly pronounce your opinions on politics and then casually mention that you voted for Horace C. Quackenfeathers of the Duck Hunters for America Party in the last election, there's not really any practical value in doing so.

But Catholics are free to decide how to vote, using their well-informed consciences. I still believe strongly that there can't be said to be a proportionate reason that allows a vote for Barack Obama given his absolute and bloodthirsty extremism on the abortion issue; whether a proportionate reason of the "limiting evil" variety exists for you personally to vote for McCain is something only you can determine; a vote for a third-party candidate who is on the ballot in your state may send a message, but a write-in vote probably won't; and since the situation exists that both major candidates support something that is intrinsically evil (McCain with ESCR) a Catholic is free to decide not to participate with his vote at all this time around, as well.

In the end, it should be remembered that there are hundreds of other ways we can influence public policy aside from voting once every four years in a Presidential election. However you decide to vote, I think it would be a good thing for pro-life Catholics to consider working over the course of the next four years to educate and inform, teach and guide, pray and sacrifice, march and demonstrate, and do whatever else needs to be done on behalf of our unborn brothers and sisters who need our voices raised in unison to protect them from the evil public policies that dictates that their lives have no value.


La Familia said...

I won't be voting. I don't see that I have any other option. I've always said I could never vote for somebody who supports abortion. I would feel like an accomplice. But now that I know just how many innocent civilians die because of the wars we start, I can no longer vote for Republicans in good conscience. We've been lied to many times over as they've tried to make our wars "just" but they are not "just". Too many people have died due to our war policies and we will always be seen as hypocrites if we allow for the killings of civilians but fight for an end to abortion. Supporting warmongers and being prolife is just as absurd and hypocritical as those liberals who don't mind killing human innocence in the womb but scream murder when a tree is chopped down or a beluga whale dies in a fisherman's net. I cannot jump on the Palin bandwagon. McCain is smart enough to know her position would make the pro-lifers forget everything McCain stands for. She will not have the power that Cheney has had. She's simply bait to reel the pro-lifers in.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I envy your residence in a non-swing state.

Anonymous said...

Well, paint me "absurd and hypocritical," la familia. An awful lot of innocent civilians were dying in Afganistan and Iraq before the US military intervened; the difference is that our military generally tries to avoid such things (and gets bad press here and abroad when they don't). We actually investigate and prosecute members of the military who knowingly harm civilians--Saddam promoted them. Harming civilians is the entire point of terrorism--it is not the goal of our military. There's a moral difference there.

Living in PA, I don't think it would be moral for me not to vote. I owe it to the unborn to vote for McCain/Palin--it's far from perfect, but it's the choice I'm presented with, and I'll choose to limit the evil of abortion in this small way that I can. The day the Republicans become pro-choice is the day I'm no longer a Republican; until then, they are often the best realistic choice available.

--Elizabeth B.

La Familia said...

-Elizabeth B.

I had written a comment in response to yours and the comment may have been lost or might be posted later by blogger. Not 5 minutes after I posted my response, I found this article by Thomas Woods basically stating my points. Please take time to read it.

Paul said...

Just like voting, one has to consider all the consequences of not voting before choosing to do that. Some of these potential consequences are not so obvious.

Example 1: There are two candidates running for an election, A and B. Candidate A is pretty much aligned with Catholic teaching, except that he favors abortion being allowed in the case of rape/incest. Candidate B favors always allowing abortion. Now 90% of the voting population in this election are reasonably-faithful Catholics, so before the election it looks like a slam-dunk for candidate A, despite his drawbacks. The other 10% of the population are pretty much in favor of candidate B. When it comes to election-time, all the Catholics decide that candidate A is surely going to win, so (following the USCCB Bishops' statement) they choose not to vote. Result: candidate B wins.

That's an extreme possibility, though one could imagine a situation where even, say, a 10% swing of such a nature could be enough to change an election result.

Example 2: A Catholic voter looks at election between two candidates, X and Y, who both support intrinsic evils. X is definitely the worse of the two, but Y is far ahead in the polls. So the voter decides (in accordance with the Bishops' statement) that the objectively best decision is not to vote at all. There's no surprise and Y does in fact win. After the election, the voter suddenly realizes that he was relying on people making objectively the wrong decision in order to get Y elected. ("I wanted Y to win, but I didn't vote for him because I knew there were plenty of people who would vote for him, though I don't think they should have.")

That second example just strikes me as extremely weird. That sort of weirdness might be avoidable if voters tried to take into account what might happen if everyone in their situation used the identical line of reasoning.

I don't there's anything wrong at all with the Bishop's statement. But I think that the decision not to vote, because a definitely-preferred less-evil candidate is strongly favored in the election should probably only be made if one is morally certain that such a preferred candidate is going to win, since the consequences of being wrong may be harsh.

Jeff Miller said...

That is where my thinking is at right now. Living in Florida and going through the Bush/Gore debacle I know how close it can get. Florida right now is shaping up to go McCain so that is giving me a bit more option. So I am in a holding mode to wait and see.

Daddio said...

I need to contemplate this more, but at this time, I still feel compelled to vote Republican. I don't agree that we perfect, holy Texans should allow "everyone else" to do the work for us because "our vote doesn't count". It's an interesting idea that you are making a statement by not voting, but I still think that if you don't want Obama to win, you should vote against him. And if you do want McCain to win, you should vote for him. Accept the limitations of this earthly kingdom and do what little you can to support a step in the right direction.

Daddio said...

Again, I feel just as used and taken for granted as anyone. But the reason why McCain *will* take Texas is because more people will hold their nose and vote for the lesser evil. Aren't you taking your fellow Texan voters for granted, just as the Republican party does? Promote change from within by joining the party rather than complaining from the outside. Demand action once they are in office. Vote against him next time around if he nominates bad judges.

Anonymous said...

la familia--thanks for the article. I have read it, and have been thinking about it today as I go through my routine. I'll probably comment in more detail tonight when my toddlers are asleep.

--Elizabeth B.

La Familia said...

Elizabeth B.

Thank you for at least considering reading the article. And, just for the record, I refuse to paint you "absurd and hypocritical". After thinking about it for some time, I realize that in order to be truly hypocritical, one has to know the facts in the matter. Many people, like myself simply do not know what our government has been doing. I had NO idea that 500,000 Iraqi children have died since the U.S. placed those terrible sanctions on their country to get Hussein out. And that's just one example of the negative impacts our country has made. It makes me very sad, and I don't think that makes me a liberal, it makes me even more pro-life. That's why I can't vote for either candidate. They both support death on a massive scale.

Anonymous said...

la familia--

I completely agree with you about the economic sanctions in Iraq--it seems to me that economic sanctions directly target innocent people. A dictator will always have enough to eat. I am a skeptic when it comes to "nation building." But, given that we have invaded Iraq, I think we have a moral obligation to do everything possible to stabilize it now. I think that withdrawing from Iraq would be morally reprehensible.

After thinking it over, I have to admit that I wasn't too impressed by the article. The rhetoric is over the top, for one ("Pro-Lifers for Murder"--the deaths resulting from a war are not necessarily murder). If propaganda and specific unjust actions by individuals and governments can make any war fundamentally unjust (and Woods basically implies that this is the case with every war since the War of 1812), then I doubt any just war could ever be possible. It is my understanding that the Church doesn't teach that. For the record, there are a variety of things I find troubling about John McCain; and not just on abortion. Considering that Georgia did provoke Russia, I find his enthusiastic support for them to be troubling. At the same time, however, I do think that the leader of any nation needs to let other nations know that he will not hesitate to defend his homeland.

In closing, though we disagree, I don't think you're a liberal (and I'm pleased you don't think I'm hypocritical or absurd). War is definitely a life issue; it's just not as clear cut a life issue as abortion is.

I'll vote for McCain, not because he is a "lesser evil" but because I think he will do more good than Obama will (which is perhaps just saying the same thing). And one of those two will be president--that's the reality.

--Elizabeth B.