The fourth way of looking at voting

One of the stranger spectacles elections bring out is the strange spectacle of the Catholic arguing that wishing to avoid hell and attain heaven is evil is not, you know, normal Catholic faith, but is instead monstrously selfish and that Real Catholics should roll up their sleeves, get with the program, and sin gravely for the greater good. They do this largely on the theory that opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world. For instance, a reader of mine cavils at the thought that I will not be voting for either major candidate, and declares me and my ilk “egotists” engaged in a form of mental masturbation:

You can look at your voting decisions in one of three ways.

(a) You can decide that one particular political party fits 70 to 80% of your views and you support that party while trying to get it to shift on the 20 to 30% you don’t agree with.

(b) You can decide election by election, candidate by candidate, which of the two people of the parties running best fits your views and you vote for him/her.

(C) You can make a protest vote and vote against the two major party candidates.

Options A or B are viable options in having your vote count and shaping the country. Each have their pluses and minuses, which I won’t get into. Option C is only meaningful if at most the protest vote reaches 5%. Usually the protest vote doesn’t even reach 2%. Neither of the parties, winners or losers look at such a protest vote as meaningful or significant. You have no voice in shaping the direction of the polis.

If you make such a protest vote knowingly, then it’s an act of self centered egotism. It may make you feel good, but you did nothing. Sort of like masterbation.

Or you can live in reality and understand that in a national election, the only real difference your vote makes is how it affects your soul, not the vanishingly insignificant impact it has on the outcome of the election. The amazing thing is that a Catholic can say that not wanting to support grave intrinsic evil is “self-centered egotism”. The “come with us for fellowship” argument is a popular one, but still unpersuasive. As American history over the past 40 years has conclusively shown, voting for the lesser of two evils does not get you less evil. It gets you more evil at a slightly slower pace. I prefer not voting for evil and see no obligation to do so.

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  • Tominellay

    …thinking your reader felt really good commenting in that way, but alas, accomplished nothing…

  • Dave G.

    First, to put it in perspective, I live in one of the key swing states in the country. So I can’t so easily say my vote doesn’t count. Plus, there’s something that doesn’t sit well with that, IMHO. The ‘what does it matter, my [fill in the blank] doesn’t count’ has been used for ages to cover a multitude of inactions. That can be true of course, but it can still be a tempting excuse for avoiding things.
    Second, the idea that voting is important to the soul. Well, yeah. That seems to be the point of the Bishop’s little statement they put out around election time. But in it, the Bishops make quite clear that voting is the assumed act, though not the only act, of an involved citizen – which the Bishops say we should be. Furthermore, they allow for just about every possibility as a valid possibility, from the extraordinary decision not to vote (and I would say voting for my car mechanic as a protest is the same as not voting – you know it will accomplish nothing) to voting for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil. So while saying ‘voting can impact your soul’ is spot on, we must remember that how we vote may still play out differently and be entirely valid.

  • Chris M

    Anyone know much about this guy?

    Besides the “Peace through strength” part (which appears to just mean maintaining a strong military, not necessarily preemptive war) he seems like he’s not asking me to support any intrinsic evils.. although I’m skimming and finding articles supporting torture on the party site, I haven’t been able to locate Hoefling’s stance on it. I’m guessing if the folks supporting him are gung-ho for waterboarding, he probably is too, but I’ll keep looking to be sure.

  • Matthew

    Mother Teresa once said “God calls us to be faithful not to be successful.”
    The great illusion is that we need to be successful rather than faithful.

  • Confederate Papist

    This needs to be though of as a local election. At this point, I believe it’s the true way for survival. In that light, our Pro-Life director in my KofC council sent a link the Florida Bishops Conference site where the candidates either submitted answers (or not) and I found this lady from South Florida running for the GOP nomination for US Senate to replace the ever-awful Bill Nelson. Out of all the other GOP wannabes for the nomination, her answers, and then her website, made me wish I was voting in the primaries…if you live in Florida and are a registered Republican, vote for this lady!!

  • I’m not getting into who you should vote for here, though I do have strong opinions. I just think that there are a couple of things that still need to be on the table. Two other considerations in voting include the appointees selected and the mutual support party politics provides.

    Right now, the current appointees in Interior and EPA are defying multiple court orders to permit certain resource extraction activities. They illegally banned them and now are illegally delaying them. A change in administration would change that behavior, but only if you vote for the largest vote total candidate opposing the current administration. You really can’t get at these bureaucrats. We don’t know their names. They operate at the direction of political appointees who are mandating this behavior and we generally don’t know their names either. A vote for a minor party candidate that has no realistic hope of winning reduces the chance that those unelected bureaucrats will improve their behavior.

    A further consideration is that it is possible to motivate people to do the right thing out of party solidarity when they are actually indifferent or slightly hostile to a cause. The GOP, for better or worse, has adopted fairly strong pro-life positions while the Democrats are the opposite. But this phenomenon is not limited to abortion but operates throughout the spectrum of issues.

  • I never bought into the “you’re throwing your vote away” logic. The value of one vote is the value of one vote, no matter how you spin it. What if there was a vote of no confidence? Each candidate would be deducted ½ vote. Candidate with the smallest negative number wins!!!

    • bob

      Then don’t vote. I’ll vote for you. If you’re OK with that so am I. WIlliam Buckley used to write that he *never* encouraged ANYONE to vote! Why dilute his own?

      • ivan_the_mad

        Thumbs-up to the WFB reference, but I don’t think the OP was saying don’t vote, but quite the opposite.

  • CJ

    I won’t vote for Vermin Supreme because I don’t want him to be President.

    I won’t vote for Barack Obama because I don’t want him to be President.

    I won’t vote for Mitt Romeny because I don’t want him to be President.

    I can’t understand why everyone thinks statement 1 is so different from 2 and 3.

    • CJ

      other than the misspelling, of course.

      • That’s weird. Most people misspell Romney as “Rmoney”

        I’m not sure why….

        • ivan_the_mad

          It’s a nod to his highly successful side career as hip hop star R-Money.

          • Beadgirl

            Ha! I’m kinda wishing it were true . . .

  • James Isabella

    “Or you can live in reality…”

    The reality of the situation is that the Constitution itself makes a third party candidate winning *impossible*. A candidate wins not through popular vote, but though the electoral college…and electors are selected by the two major parties.

    There are only two horses in this race, Obama and Romney. You may not like this fact, but its true. You can vote third party or not vote at all, but all it does is remove votes from the candidate closer to your view. Both candidates support positions that are evil, pure and simple, but only one of them is trying to shut the church up with the power of law.

    • ivan_the_mad

      “but all it does is remove votes from the candidate closer to your view”

      Let me explain how voting works. If you check the box besides a candidate’s name, their vote count is incremented by one. If you abstain, nobody’s vote count is incremented by one. There is no scenario in which a candidate’s vote count is decremented by one based on your vote.

      • James Isabella


        I can’t believe I have to explain this, but here it goes…

        Votes are not an unlimited resource. By casting your vote for candidate A, you are making it harder for candidate B to win. Unless you think candidate A and B are equally poor choices, one of them will necessarily be closer to your point of view than the other.

        If you decide not to vote (or vote third party, which has the same result), not only are you not giving the viable candidate* closer to your point of view the advantage of your vote, but you’re making it easier for the viable candidate further away from your point of view to win (since they have less ground to make up).

        You may think Romney and Obama are equally bad so the end result doesn’t matter, but it’s ridiculous to argue that diverting lukewarm Romney voters to a third party candidate isn’t giving an advantage to Obama.

        *Third Party Presidential candidates are *not* viable candidates. Voting for the Libertarian candidate, or Micky Mouse, or not voting at all have exactly the same effect.

        • ivan_the_mad

          This is just such stale and poorly reasoned crap.

          • James Isabella

            ivan, i am perfectly happy to be corrected, but a reasoned reply please. Saying my argument is “crap” doesn’t make it so.

            Elections are won on votes. If Romney has more votes he wins, if Obama has more votes he wins. If Obama can’t get your vote, he’s perfectly happy to have you vote for anyone other than Romney.

            All I can say is I hope more Liberals decide to vote their conscience and select a third party candidate than Conservatives do. 🙂

            All I can say is I hope more Liberals decide to vote their conscious than conservitive doe.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          but it’s ridiculous to argue that diverting lukewarm Romney voters to a third party candidate isn’t giving an advantage to Obama.

          Your problem is assigning voters an identity, i.e. “lukewarm Romney voters” vs. “just voters.”

          • James Isabella

            You may have to explain what you mean.

            I thought the whole point of this discussion was an attempt to justify Pro-lifers not voting for Romney because of this bad points. Should people accept Mark’s argument, then Romney would get fewer votes, making it harder for him to win and easier for Obama to win.

        • scott

          I assume you agree that the system sucks.

          So how exactly do you change it by voting for the lesser-evil over and over?

          There is a reason 3rd parties exist and have not been banned. The reason is situations like today where there is entrenched corruption in both parties and in the entire system.

          Face it…..getting people to abdicate their conscience and vote for the lesser evil is the best way to perpetuate the current corruption. And getting people to vote their conscience and have a little faith in democracy is the surest way to reform.

          The main function of the election process in the USA is to manipulate citizens into endorsing the system (eg the status quo) of their own free will. The goal is to create a patriotic consensus by limiting the voting options to 2 parties that agree with each other on 95% and disagree on 5%. This is absolutely not what the founders had in mind. And it’s not the kind of democracy that allows us to solve our problems, unless solving our problems means catering to the interests of the 1%.

          Once people start to reject the 2-party system…then there is a feeling of liberation and a shift in consciousness. Once a solid voting majority has achieved that shift in consciousness and reject both the Dem cult and the GOP cult…then we have half a chance at solving our problems in an open and rational manner.

    • CJ

      The Constitution, Green, and Libertarian parties have been on the ballot in 34-46 states in the most recent elections, and Perot and Buchanan were on all 50. For perspective, Obama carried 28 states +DC and a piece of Nebraska. The electoral college is no barrier to the election of candidates from those parties.

      • James Isabella

        “The electoral college is no barrier to the election of candidates from those parties.”

        Sorry, but in the Presidential election (which is what we’re talking about) it certainly is. The most successful third party Presidential run in American history was Ross Perot in 1992. He had nearly everything a successful candidate needs to have…he was likeable, funny, strong willed, a very successful businessman, and fabulously wealthy. He even managed an unprecedented 19-20% of the popular vote.

        How many electoral votes did he get? Zero.

        You know who else got zero electoral votes in that election? Me. That means that Ross Perot and I were equally close to becoming president in 1992.

        • CJ

          Perot lost for the same reason John McCain did: he didn’t get enough votes. There was nothing intrinsic to the EC that stopped Perot from winning (other than the requirement that you get more votes than the other guys running in that state). The way to make third party candidates viable is to have MORE people vote for them, not fewer.

          • James Isabella

            I’m not saying that the popular vote is meaningless, but the existence of the electoral college puts up a second (and I believe, insurmountable) barrier to Third Party Presidential candidates…a barrier that doesn’t exist in Congressional races.

            Remember, you can win the popular vote in the presidential race and still lose (E.g Bush/Gore in 2000). This is why all presidential campaigns focus on winning the most number of electoral votes, not the most number of popular votes. And this is why Romney will campaign heavily in California and we’ll only probably see him here in Delaware (my home state) once or twice if we’re lucky.

            Okay, its my contention that its simply impossible for a Third Party Presidential candidate to become President. The only thing I have on my side is the whole history of American politics and the fact that even the most spectacularly successful third party candidate in our history (one with nearly unlimited personal wealth to get his message across) managed to receive zero electoral votes.

            Please tell me why I’m wrong. Whats the winning strategy? If not Perot, then who?

            • CJ

              I should clarify that when I say that the EC doesn’t stop them from winning, I simply mean that they are on the ballot in enough states to win the EC. The only thing needed is for more people to vote for them. That’s extremely simplistic, but it’s also true. Having said that, the two-party system is firmly ingrained in our politics, and I don’t think it will change any time soon. As a practical matter, a third-party candidate can’t win this time around.

              It’s also important to remember that while Perot had advantages, he had liabilities too. He ended his campaign and then jumped back in with a bizarre conspiracy story. Stockdale’s senior moment certainly didn’t help. In order to win, a 3rd party candidate need all of Perot’s advantages with none of the liabilities. Additionally, they would need to attack the parts of the system that pepetuate the two-party system. The three biggest third parties have largely conquered ballot access, of they would have to go after the debate rules, or circumvent them with social media.

              If we want the two-party system to change (and I do) we’ll never get there by shrugging our shoulders and saying “what’re you gonna do?”

              • James Isabella

                “If we want the two-party system to change (and I do) we’ll never get there by shrugging our shoulders and saying “what’re you gonna do?””

                Actually, the issue I have is that, under the current rules, reform is only going to happen within the two parties themselves, and not through some mythical Third Party candidate that rises up and sets everything right. Trying to “hit a home-run” by electing someone outside the two majority parties isn’t going to happen and is simply a failing strategy.

                By the way, even if that mythical Third Party Presidential candidate did arise and bucked history and every trend and managed to win against all the odds…what then? A president without any support in congress is a president that will be elected out in 4 years with nothing to show for it. Obama himself shows how hard it is to get anything done, even when your own party is the majority party in in both houses of Congress (which it was for his first two years)!

                • Andy, Bad Person

                  By the time presidential elections roll around, using your vote to change the party is as useless as ever. Go ahead and work within the two party system to change it; that’s great. However, this conversation has never really been about getting a viable third party. It’s about not hitching your vote to an intrinsically immoral wagon.

                  • James Isabella

                    Of course its about whether or not third parties are viable. If they’re not, then a strategy of voting for them is counter-productive.

                    • Andy, Bad Person

                      Counter-productive to what? My main goal is “getting to heaven.” I think avoiding Romney and Obama is the best way to accomplish that.

  • The other thing is, even if I do opt in to the two party paradigm and vote for Romney, will my vote even count? I am not very convinced that the elections process is without fraud anyway, and the last two times the election was close here in my home state of MN, judges found a way to hand it to the Democrat, reversing a slim lead for the GOP candidate after the initial counts.

    So, my experience is:
    (1) I’m pretty sure the elections process is fraudulent anyway.
    (2) If it does end up close, the powers-that-be will find a way to make sure the Dems win, at least in my state.
    (3) The only way my vote matters is if it is close, so there’s only the tiniest chance that my vote will actually matter.

    I might as well vote for someone that I actually feel good about.

  • Kirt Higdon

    Correct, although the Demos may not always end up winning. Note Florida and the national presidential election of 2000, decided on a straight party line vote of the Supremes. Bottom line – your vote is likely to count even less in a close race than in a one-sided one, unless you’re talking about an unimportant local race with no high personal or political stakes.

  • alan

    When it was said that “if you don’t vote you have no right to complain” my dad would say “Wrong. it is the opposite that is true. When you vote for a guy you are saying -‘you speak for me.’ When he saw no one on the slate he waned to speak for him he did not vote and that was when he was the most politically active. Still works for me .

  • Ted Seeber

    About 18 years ago I realized that my vote would NEVER count in America- that the coming barbarism that is the twin libertine heresy of sex and money combined with the anti-libertine war on drugs would result in the issues I cared most about NEVER truly being addressed except as a sound bite to get people to vote against the stuff they did care about. It was about the time that Gingrich issued his Contract with America, which didn’t say one word about pro-life issues, that I realized that the Republicans only cared for unborn babies when it helped them win elections.

    And I couldn’t stand Clinton.

    So that’s when I started voting third party for a man who actually bothered to pay for a 30 minute infomercial in which he showed charts and explained what he was talking about.

    Until this election I never looked back.

    Now I am wavering. Partially because if Obama wins, I see him easily turning into a Black Nation of Islam Christian who Hates Catholics version of the atheist President Calles 70 years ago in Mexico- only he won’t need to convince the army to do his dirty work murdering priests because he can just have a Predator Control Center installed in the Oval Office.

    But the fear to me is- EVERY PRESIDENT IN MY LIFETIME HAS BEEN WORSE THAN THE ONE BEFORE- and I’m not real sure Romney will break that trend. At all. And since I don’t know who his enemies are, I’m not sure where the Hellfire missiles will be falling.

    • LV

      Wait. Let me make sure I’ve got this straight. You abandoned the GOP because the Contract with America didn’t address pro-life issues…

      And instead voted for the openly pro-abortion Ross Perot?

      Talk about the perfect being the enemy of the good!

      • Ted Seeber

        At the time, I was a bit young. And I saw abortion as primarily an economic problem (actually, I still do). Ross Perot’s focus on preventing globalization would also prevent abortions, by providing living wage jobs in the United States.

        I’m FAR more discriminating now. But back then, I wasn’t.

        What the Contract With America proved to me is that the GOP is not pro-life at all.

  • Anon

    I recommend for people to watch C.G.P. Grey’s videos on the electoral college, our current voting method,and the alternate vote method. It is a very good way to understand why our method is so stupid and old, prevents third parties from ever winning, and needs to change on so many levels…but it won’t change because the two parties in power now know that it will take away from their power and they can’t let that happen!!! It might improve our country or something and that would be horrible!! They could no longer force proxy extremism on the common-sense and more moderate populace!! And think of the less money those parties would get and the fewer purely political appointees to positions that require ability and a fair mind? Oh the humanity!!! (sadly it is one of the few things they can agree on) Oh politics why you make me so sad ;_;

  • ds

    If you make such a protest vote knowingly, then it’s an act of self centered egotism. It may make you feel good, but you did nothing. Sort of like masterbation [sic].

    If you believe the Catechism of the Catholic Church, masturbation is not doing “nothing,” it is committing sin via “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.” Kind of similar to siding with what you know to be evil, hoping that good may come of it.

    And for what it’s worth, as far as “it may make you feel good,” while it may (emphasis on MAY) be enjoyable for a time, I usually feel bad after I masturbate. 🙁

    • Andy, Bad Person

      That’s the trap of every sin. It starts out feeling good, and then it hits you. That’s why Satan is both the tempter and the accuser.

  • enness

    You’ve made your point…exactly the same way…over and over and over again. I don’t agree with your implications about voting and hell any more this time than I did the last umpteen times, and on top of that it’s beginning to look almost embarrassingly defensive that you harp on it without being able to just lay it down and move on. It’s really a shame, because as I have said numerous times, when you hit the nail on the head you are practically unparalleled.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m not sure who you are talking to. If it’s me, you don’t seem to have really grasped my point if you think I am suggesting I think anybody is going to hell if they vote different than me. Indeed, that is the exact opposite of what I have repeatedly said. That’s why I keep saying it over and over, since so many readers seem not to grasp my point.

    • ds

      Perhaps I can make this simpler? Each should follow his own (hopefully well developed) conscience. Mark’s conscience tells him that voting for either of the main candidates is cooperating with evil and he can’t do it. Other’s consciences tell them it is acceptable and even commendable to vote (not cooperate with evil, but simply vote) for one candidate to oppose another. He doesn’t try to tell others their conscience is wrong; others should not tell him his conscience is wrong.

      It’s like A Man for All Seasons. More didn’t say anyone who took the oath was cooperating with evil. He only said that his own conscience wouldn’t allow it so he could not take the oath. (Mark, you’re no Thomas More, but I hope you take that as the honest compliment it is, and we can both be grateful you haven’t been tried as he was.)

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    DId I just read the trademarked Lute use “drIll,baby,drIll” as an argument to vote In support of the party out of power?

    Thats a response to “I object to votIng In support of grave evIl” that ought to get one laughed at, rIght?

  • scott

    The 2 party system is not ordained by God. It certainly wasn’t envisioned or endorsed by the founders..

    Every major Western democracy has a more democratic and open electoral system then the USA. The 2 party system and its corporate backers (banksters and lawyers on one side, the military industrial complex and the fundies on the other) relies on the “lesser-evilism” arguments to maintain their grip on our political system.

    People need to understand that when they use lesser-evil argumentation to bully people into voting against their conscience, they are in fact helping to support the 2-party system and the kind of politics that results from it.

    The next time somebody tries to guilt-trip you into voting for a major party, try to get at why they find the 2-party system so rational and why they have no interest in changing it. Hint: continuing to support lesser-evilism is NOT the way to change it.

    If one of the major parties was forced by its constituents to advocate instant runoff voting, proportional representation, or other forms of electoral reform, we could perhaps adapt an electoral system where voters get to express their desires clearly instead of only getting two (really bad) choices.