Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Blank Ballot Option

Continuing our look at voting options, I notice that I've left out an option that has, at some times during the course of this election cycle, been the most attractive to me: leaving the boxes beside the presidential candidates blank, and only voting for state and local candidates and ballot initiatives.

Our ballots do not have a "none of the above" option; would that they did. There are plenty of times, especially in local races, where that's the option I'd like to select. For example, we have a pro-abort Republican U.S. Representative in our district. Primary votes have not removed this candidate. So when this candidate is up for reelection I simply leave that race blank.

And in Texas we elect judges, and I finally reached the point where I decided my philosophical opposition to an elected judiciary compelled me to leave these races blank, too. There are several reasons I'm opposed to an elected judiciary, but two of the biggest are: judges can more easily be corrupted if they have to run for election/re-election constantly; and it is pretty well impossible to determine for sure what a judge thinks about issues like abortion, gay marriage, and euthanasia, since judicial impartiality prevents them from answering direct questions like that. I give credit to some pro-life groups who have asked judicial candidates which recent presidents they most admire or which present SCOTUS judges they most resemble, but then you have the problem of still not knowing exactly what they mean (e.g., one lists Roberts, another Scalia, another Thomas--which of the three is the most likely to be truly pro-life? etc.). Even if you select someone who is described as a strict constructionist who admires Scalia and Reagan, you don't really know what they will do from the bench: the judge in Florida who ordered Terry Schiavo's death, Judge George Greer, is an elected judge and a Republican who is himself disabled, all things which would make a voter think he'd be the last person to promote euthanasia--and we see how that turned out.

But back to the presidential race: I was struck by a comment from Lydia McGrew over at WWwtW (it's down a bit on the page):
P.P.S. To all: Newsflash from VFR--Chuck Baldwin is some variety of 9/11 truther. Why does "third party" have to mean "kookball"? It's a shame, really.
I've voted for third-party candidates, even for the presidency, in the past. When I have done so, it has been in situations where the Republican candidate was someone I didn't much want to see elected and where the Republican candidate was either winning hugely or trailing the Democrat by a significant margin long before election day. In particular I point to the Clinton/Dole election: Dole was disappointingly "moderate" in many ways, Clinton was up for re-election and had already done the damage he was going to do to the pro-life movement (Mexico City policy in particular), and Clinton was enjoying such a comfortable lead that there wasn't really any hope of stopping him. The third-party candidate I voted for then was someone I wouldn't have minded seeing elected if by some miracle he had been, so my vote was an honest vote in favor of a principled conservative whom I admired.

But as I said in the post about third-party candidates, there isn't such a person among this year's selection of dq3 candidates. There isn't someone whom I could support in such a way that if some miracle allowed the person to be elected I'd be very happy about it. Some in the WWwtW thread I referenced said, in essence, that "Pastor Chuck" may be a bit of a kook, but they like what his party stands for--and I thought, well, John McCain is a disappointment, but I like the Republican Party platform better than I have in years, so is it really different? (And yes, I know, the "John McCain supports intrinsic evil" is the difference; I'm not trying to make light of that.)

For me, personally, though, a vote for the two most pro-life candidates, Baldwin or Schriner, would essentially be a lie: I'd be saying I want one of them to be president, when in all honesty I don't have the same admiration or respect for them as I have had for the dq3 candidates I've voted for in the past. Even if it were possible to send a message to the major parties with one's dq3 vote, I'm very much afraid that the only message one may send by supporting someone who's just a bit "kooky" is that one isn't a serious voter.

But the blank ballot option avoids all of that question of lying with one's vote, or supporting someone one wouldn't wish in a million years to see running one's local city council, let alone the country. (And let me just say, again, to avoid hurting feelings, that I emphatically do not characterize all dq3 votes as "lying" or otherwise acting dishonestly. If you truly do wish Joe Schriner or Chuck Baldwin to be our president, or anyone else for that matter, you ought to vote accordingly. It is neither lying nor wasting one's vote to vote for the candidate you honestly wish would be elected, practical considerations aside.) So if you are unhappy with the two major party candidates but equally unimpressed with the third-party choices, you can certainly decline to vote in the presidential race; we are supposed to participate in our civic life as Catholics in society, but that doesn't mean "vote in every race on every ballot in every election that comes up" ought to be the template for participation.

Having said all of that, though, I had to consider some things that Mr. M., among others, discussed with me about the blank ballot option: could I honestly say that in this year's election the choice of the president was a matter of indifference to me, or that I saw both men as equal to each other in terms of their support for intrinsic evil? Was this really a good election for the blank ballot option?

I realized that several of my unthinking criteria for the blank ballot option didn't actually exist in this election. For example:
  1. This is not an election whose conclusion is foregone (despite the wild polling). It is still possible for either candidate to win.
  2. This is not an election in which the candidates are undistinguished from each other. We don't have a "moderate" Democrat running against a "moderate" Republican; we have an "extreme left" Democrat running against a "center-to-right" Republican.
  3. On the issue of life, it is possible for Obama to create an environment that is extremely inimical to the right of the unborn to live--he really can, singlehandedly, set the pro-life movement back about thirty years. From FOCA to SCOTUS appointees to "health care" mandates that will increase government funding for abortion and curtail the rights of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions Obama has actively promised to create a nightmare world for pro-life citizens. While I am, and remain, deeply disappointed with McCain's ESCR position I believe it's a kind of sophistry to equate it with Obama's clearly destructive and anti-life viewpoints and intended policies.
  4. While I kept saying to myself, "But I'm not in a swing state!" Mr. M. pointed out that I can't say that for sure. Polls, after all, can be wrong in either direction. Worse, wasn't I really saying that of the two men who can actually win the election, Obama or McCain, I hoped McCain would win in that I hoped Obama would lose--but I was unwilling to say so myself, relying instead on others to say so on my behalf?
  5. I can't improve on Daddio's words, here. It's true that we can't specifically vote against a candidate (again, would that that were an option!) But we can, as Daddio says, vote FOR the guy who is AGAINST Obama. Leaving the ballot blank does nothing to defeat Obama, and given how much our bishops have written to us this election season about their own deep concerns for the unborn, I can't help but think that "voting in such a way as to limit the greater evil" is the same thing, more elegantly phrased perhaps, as "voting for the guy who is against the guy that we're against."
Now, this is where my thinking has been; I realize that each person may come to a different conclusion. But if you are in a situation where you truly cannot support John McCain in good conscience, but truly can't support a dq3 candidate either, the blank ballot option is still a valid choice; it's the closest thing we have to a "none of the above" vote.

1 comment:

Daddio said...

OOOH!!! A link! My ego thanks you.