Thursday, October 23, 2008

McCain and ESCR

As the election looms ever closer, the Catholic voter is left to put all the pieces together and decide what to do. Do we vote for McCain in spite of his ESCR stand, hoping to influence him positively later, and accepting the vote not as an unqualified endorsement of McCain but as an attempt to limit the far greater evil Barack Obama would unleash, possibly setting back pro-life efforts decades and even shaping the court in such a way that it will be impossible to see an end to legalized abortion on demand in America in our lifetimes? Do we vote for a third-party candidate, accepting the full reality of that vote? Do we abstain from voting in the presidential race entirely on the grounds that we values voters have already been de facto disenfranchised?

I know that each person reading this will be leaning one way or the other; perhaps, like me, you find more than one of those options attractive and are trying to decide exactly what to do in the voting booth. Over the next couple of days I hope to talk about all of these options--and then, this weekend, I hope to vote as Texas allows anyone to vote early who wishes to do so.

I'm being quite honest when I say that I haven't decided exactly what to do. I may or may not decide to tell you what I eventually do, either; the secret ballot is a good idea, generally. But thinking out loud up to that point is beneficial to me, so I hope you won't mind if I do so.

The first thing I thought about was the possibility of voting for McCain, so I'm going to focus on that in this post. I realized that there are lots of things to like about the McCain/Palin ticket; there are other things I don't much like, some of which I've talked about before. But the big looming issue for Catholic voters is the ESCR support. McCain does support ESCR to some degree, however limited; he might call for more funding for it if he's elected. We can't ignore that; in fact, a vote for McCain is predicated upon the idea that one wishes to limit the greater evil, not choose the so-called "lesser" one. Evil is evil, and only if we intend to be absolutely clear about our own rejection of ESCR and any funding for it can we vote for McCain--and we must desire to stop Obama as a prerequisite of such a vote.

You will notice that I'm not tackling the more esoteric "but does our vote actually count, or is it a symbolic civic ritual that can't possibly ever affect outcomes" logic in this post. I've done so before, and may engage that argument again, but I can't help but wanting to paraphrase Flannery O'Connor, and insist that if the thing's a ritual, then...but you know the rest of that quote. What I've come to think is that when we vote we should vote as honestly as if our vote really could affect the outcome of the election, given the reality of the election itself. That is, we can't pretend that we could singlehandedly elect Marcus Sheavius as Supreme Emperor and Grand High Poohbah Potentate of the American Continent, because that does ignore the reality of an American election, which is that we're only selecting a president, and that only one of the two major party candidates will actually win in any given election unless there's been such a groundswell of support for a particular third-party candidate before the election that this person is a contender. But I'll get into that more when I write about third-party voting, probably tomorrow.

For today, considering the option of voting for McCain, I thought about it this way: if I knew that either McCain or Obama were going to be elected, and I could actually help one or the other of them with my vote, which one would I vote for? The answer was obvious: I'd vote for McCain. I would insist on keeping a watchful eye on him in regards to ESCR, and I'd loudly voice any opposition I had to anything else he did that I didn't like, but of the two major party candidates he's the one I'd rather have in charge of things in general--if only because I believe that there is a very real chance Obama will do actual evil beyond anything McCain might do or attempt, especially in the arena of abortion.

Since I doubt I'm alone in thinking this way, I had the idea to write to the Texas Republican Party to ask them about McCain's ESCR stance. The answer I got made me think that there are a lot of pro-life Texans out here who've got my back, in a manner of speaking. Here's the answer I got, and less than an hour after I sent my query:
Mrs. Manning-

The Republican Party platforms (both Texas and National) are very clear in our stance opposing ESCR. Governor Palin has also been outspoken in her opposition to ESCR. Sen. McCain has, admittedly, been less than solid in this position. It is my hope and prayer that he will come around, and I am confident that Governor Palin will lead him to the light in this regard. I guarantee you the Republican Party of Texas will not waver from its position and will call him out if he takes any action in office contrary to the platform. It is also important to note that Obama/Biden are avowed enemies of life and would not support our position in any way. [Emphasis added--E.M.]
I have to admit that I liked this response. It seems to be well within a Catholic's view of the matter: McCain's not an "avowed enemy of life;" his ESCR position is disappointing; we're going to keep praying and working to get him to change his mind; we're not going to let him take any actions on ESCR that are contrary to what we believe without raising opposition to it. I could see taking a "limiting the graver evil" approach and voting for McCain with this in the background much more readily than I could see, say, voting for Bob Barr who is personally pro-life but whose Libertarian party is in favor of abortion, generally speaking.

But why vote this way at all? Why not vote for a doomed quixotic third-party (dq3) candidate who supports no intrinsic evil at all? Isn't that what every pro-life Catholic in America should be doing?

I'll get to that tomorrow.

1 comment:

Daddio said...

Looking forward to tomorrow's dq3 post. Maybe I'm still missing something there. But for today, I think you are right on the money.

"...if I knew that either McCain or Obama were going to be elected..."
There's no IF about it - these are the only two possible outcomes.

"...and I could actually help one or the other of them with my vote..."
We must vote as if our vote counted. We must not take our neighbors for granted. And there's been a lot of blood spilled for your right to vote (especially yours, as a woman, and my sons' one day, as men of color)

"...which one would I vote for? The answer was obvious."
Yes, it is.

For me it comes down to this: Who do you want to win? Vote for that person. Why is that so difficult?

So far, no Catholics who advocate a dq3 or abstaining entirely, have come out and said that they want Obama to win. Either they DO want Obama to win but won't admit it. Or they're too busy whining about how the Kingdom of Man is not perfect. I never expect life on Earth to be perfect, but there is a clear and obvious choice here between BETTER and WORSE.