Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
Voting isn’t as easy as you might think.
Each election cycle, you can expect Catholics with different points of view telling other Catholics for whom they should vote. You will also see Catholics telling some Catholics for whom they may not vote. Some bloggers will tell you it is this way, that way or the highway. This is an annual pastime of the Catholic blogosphere, so I thought I might have my say about the principles which guide my vote.
Let me repeat this again at the outset. These are my opinions and my opinions only. I do not speak for the Catholic Church, yet. Let me also say that I have good friends, both in and out of the blogosphere that will vehemently disagree with some of my thoughts. I respect them, I just disagree with them and hope that in time with counseling and a good med regime, they will come to understand how right I am. Enough preamble, let’s get to it.
You are not electing the Pope. In any election, particularly the big ones, you have a choice between two imperfect candidates. If you decide that you can only vote for candidates that uphold every key moral principle of the Catholic Church, you have just forfeited your right to vote. We are not electing a Pope here, we are electing a person to hold an office. Period. Somebody is going to end up holding that office and it will likely be an imperfect person. They may even hold some ideas you find repugnant. Never the less, somebody will hold that office and it will not be the Pope. Remember this principle, it’s gonna come up a lot.
When you vote for someone, you implicitly endorse all their positions. Hogwash. I can’t think of a single candidate, not even the one I support, that I would endorse all their positions. They have all made and cling to error. They make strategic mistakes, they make tactical mistakes, and they hold wrong positions. Sometimes they even hold positions I believe to be immoral. I am not endorsing everything they believe with my vote. I am simply making a prudential choice between two people for public office, nothing more. When making such prudential decisions you must weigh a whole host of issues. And some issues are way more important that others. Way. But you weigh all of it and you pick the one you think will do the better job. Better may simply mean not as bad as the other guy. That’s reality. That is the choice you have. Which leads me to my next point…
The lesser of two evils is good enough for me. I have heard a number of well meaning Catholics say “I can never vote for this person because they support [insert intrinsic evil du jour here.] I could never vote for a person who supports said intrinsic evil. Guess what, the use and promotion of contraception is a grave and sometimes intrinsic evil and just about every candidate for the last 60 years has supported it in some way. Were your parents and grandparents cooperating with evil because they voted? No. To hold such a a position is moral silliness.
Let’s look at this election. It may turn out that our choice is between the most anti-life, anti-religious liberty, anti-Catholic candidate in the history of candidates and another guy who is not. The other guy may have his flaws and even hold some positions that are anathema to me, but he is not even in the same league as the first guy. Guess what, I am pulling the lever for the other guy because he will not be as bad. Remember, someone is going to occupy that office whether I vote or not. If I can help insure that it is not the most anti-life, anti-religious liberty, anti-Catholic candidate in the history of candidates by voting for the other guy, well by golly I am gonna do it.
Third parties are for suckers. Some well meaning people decide to go third party to avoid making the hard choices. I will not vote for A or B (even though A or B will certainly win) because they hold positions with which I disagree and/or abhor and that the Church teaches are wrong. Therefore, I will choose 3rd party candidate C who is only on the ballot in 7 states and statistically cannot even win and I do this to voice my dissatisfaction with a system that produces candidates like A or B. (But I better not look too closely at candidate C’s record because he probably holds other horrible positions.)
My rule on third party candidates is similar to a principle in the just war theory, you need a reasonable probability of success. If your candidate is like candidate C above, you are just throwing your vote away and likely aiding the election Mr. A. (the most anti-life, anti-religious liberty, anti-Catholic candidate in the history of candidates.) That is a real world consequence, no way around it.
Are you doing something immoral if you vote for C? No. Are you doing something immoral if you vote for B? Probably not also. Unless you are voting for a candidate because you like his bad/immoral positions you are not doing anything wrong. You are making the best choice you can. Of course, if you vote for A you are going straight to Hell. No, I am really serious. Straight to Hell.
Now I have a blogger friend who will disagree with a lot of what I have written here, let’s call him Neo. Neo has stated unequivocally that he will never ever ever vote for a certain tall patrician looking guy from a northern state with a new found admiration for cheesy grits. I respect him very much but… as much as I campaigned against patrician dude during the primary, come November I will pull the lever for him if it comes to it (Pray, please don’t let it come to it.) Why? Simple, because A is the most anti-life, anti-religious liberty, anti-Catholic candidate in the history of candidates and patrician dude isn’t—and he can win. It’s that simple.
So once again, let me explain. No, there is no time. Let me sum up. If you vote for A you are going straight to Hell. No, I still am serious.