Religious people can fall into two fundamental mistakes when it comes to elections. The first: Putting too much hope in politics. This has been a problem since the dawn of Christianity, when two disciples walked away from Jerusalem disappointed by Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection because “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.” The sign of Christ’s victory wasn’t political power but crucifixion.
The second mistake is to be unconcerned about politics. No, Christ’s Kingdom can’t be reduced to the merely political. But in the 20th century, we learned the hard way — in places from Mexico to Germany, Russia to Rwanda — that terrible things happen if Christians aren’t vigilant.
America may not have state-sponsored atrocities to fear. But abortion kills more than a million unborn children a year, and the institution of marriage is in jeopardy of being redefined in a way that will be disastrous for families.
The Democratic candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, co-sponsored the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) and has made enacting it his first priority if elected. He would forbid states from limiting abortion at all, and transfer taxpayer money to abortionists. Obama criticized the Supreme Court for its 2007 decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. He voted to allow “live-birth abortion” when the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act came up in the Illinois Senate. In the U.S. Senate, he has a 100% pro-abortion rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
The Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain, opposes FOCA, says “Chief Justice [John] Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito would serve as the model for my own nominees” to the Supreme Court and has a 0% pro-abortion rating from NARAL.
In this key election year, Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life identifies eight “voter traps” Catholics should avoid:
1. “One vote is meaningless.”
This “I won’t vote” trap overlooks the lessons of history that show how elections can be decided by a single vote or by a handful of votes. Can we forget the ordeal of the 2000 presidential election? Less well known, perhaps, are these facts:
A shift of less than one vote per precinct in a handful of states would have defeated Woodrow Wilson in 1916. A few votes per precinct in Illinois and a couple of other states would have meant no President John F. Kennedy in 1960.
If only a few additional people in each precinct in Ohio had voted differently in the 1976 presidential election, Ford would have beat Carter. The governor of Ohio back then won by a margin of one vote per precinct. Your one vote counts. Use it wisely.
2. “They’re all bums!”
This is the trap of looking for the non-existent perfect candidate. Your vote is not to canonize a candidate; it is to give him or her temporary power to do some limited good. If both choices look evil, try to see how one may be better than the other. This is not “choosing the lesser evil.” Rather, it is choosing to limit evil, and that choice is a good.
3. I can’t be a single-issue voter!
First of all, most people are. It is a “single issue” that usually motivates people to rally around the candidate who supports their position on that issue. But if you don’t want to be a “single-issue” voter, at least you can be an intelligent one and realize how the many issues are related. At the foundation of them all is the right to life; without it, no others are possible. If a politician can’t respect the rights of a little baby, how is she supposed to respect yours?
4. “The election doesn’t matter.”
“We can’t put our trust in worldly power. Those we elect whom we think are on our side disappoint us anyway.” Well, no, we don’t put our trust in earthly power and government, but in the Lord. But we are responsible for doing all we can to influence our world for the good — this actually shows our trust in the Lord.
5. “I’ll show them!”
Sometimes individuals or groups vote reactively. A candidate, or a party, did them wrong, and so they want to teach them a lesson by voting vindictively. This may help to vent a personal frustration, but who suffers in the process? It would be far better to go to the gym and take out your anger on a punching bag, or go into a field and yell. But those you elect to public office will influence a lot of people — born and unborn — for a long time. Look beyond your personal problems or agendas.
6. “I’ll go later …”
Vote first thing in the morning. If you delay going to vote until later in the day, you increase the chances that you will be distracted or hindered by some problem that arises unexpectedly. You may also become busier than you anticipated and might forget. The rule is: the earlier, the better.
7. “Other voters, at least, aren’t my responsibility.”
True, they’re not. But if you are concerned about the future of the country, why not promote the vote? Here are some suggestions:
Offer rides to pro-lifers who need help getting to the polls. Parishes or pro-life groups can organize car pools or vans to accomplish this. Perhaps someone needs assistance to watch their children. You can babysit, or even organize a service for a group of parents.
E-mail and call. Remind pro-life friends that it’s voting day.
8. Overconfidence or dejection.
If the election goes the way you want, do not become overconfident or lazy. Work harder than ever to encourage and assist those whom you helped elect. If it does not go the way you want, set your energies on challenging those who were elected to govern in a way that follows the moral law.
In any case: pray. A simple prayer will do: “Lord, awaken your people to a commitment to justice, to the sanctity of marriage and the family, to the dignity of each individual human life, and to the truth that human rights begin when human lives begin, and not one moment later.”
Or better, say a daily Rosary for the election (and for the family, as Pope Benedict XVI has asked). Participate in the 40 Days for Life — see 40DaysforLife.com for details.
If we do all we can do, we can leave the rest in God’s hands.