Hope for Tomorrow

Once upon a time, the Church said, “You *may*, if you find a proportional reason to do so, vote for the lesser of two evils as one possible strategy for limiting the greater evil, just so long as you are not voting for them *because* of the evil they espouse. You don’t have to but you you *may*.”

Somehow, that got transmogrified by countless members of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism into “YOU MUST VOTE FOR THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS AND IF YOU DON’T YOU ARE REALLY VOTING FOR THE OTHER GUY AND THE BLOOD OF MILLIONS IS ON YOUR SOUL IF YOU DON’T STOP TALKING ABOUT YOUR STUPID CONSCIENCE, SHUT UP, AND GET ON BOARD!!!”

This is another example of how human tradition winds up becoming dogma where the Church, at best, calls us to exercise prudence and leave others to their liberty of conscience.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    That’s OK. Once upon a time, the Church said if you just can’t bring yourself to vote for either candidate, you can take the extraordinary measure of not voting. And somehow that transmogrified into the strongly implied ‘clearly anyone who really understands their faith will abandon both major parties and vote for third party candidates, no matter how unlikely their chances.’ Defending political preferences in religious settings often ends up going that way.

    • Michael F.

      I just took the time to watch the video, Dave. You might want to, too. Because this young man comes pretty close to taking that extreme position – that a Christian can’t morally vote for the “lesser of two evils” in order to keep a worse candidate out.

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        Not sure what you mean. I watched the clip and got the point. Again, it’s a little of that Catholic spin: ‘You’ve heard the Bishops say thus, but I’m here to tell you what I know they really meant to mean.’ There are those who insist despite what the Bishops have said, there is no moral way you can vote for a candidate who is the lesser of two evils. If that’s how they feel, then fine for them. But when they attempt to suggest nobody can, then they’re running afoul of what the Bishops have most recently said to the issue. That’s the little Catholic trick: how do I invoke my inner Protestant when we Catholics have a living, breathing teaching authority right here. Easy. You say what it is you know they really mean, not just what they say.

        • Michael F.

          What I mean is that this young man pretty much takes the extreme position you parodied. I disagree with him and agree with you.

  • Laura

    Dave, please. He starts and ends this post clearly stating that he realizes that Catholic voters may legitimately vote for a lesser evil if they make that prudential judgment. To my knowledge, he has never said that one MUST vote for a third party, nor has he said who he will vote for (if anyone). If you’re going to sneer at him, sneer at something he’s actually saying, not the opposite of what he’s saying.

    Mark has said– and shown– repeatedly that both major parties have made strong, even enthusiastic, commitments to gravely evil policies. I’m talking about things like abortion, extra-legal (=non-legal) assassinations, aggressive war– we aren’t even down to possibly prudential things like 4th amendment privacy protections and wholesale false accounting in government and finance both. (To his credit, he has also published some “kudos” of politicians and parties doing the right thing as well.)

    For reference: I intend to vote for the less-evil candidate, what Mark sarcastically calls the “10% less evil” option… because I (prudentially) believe it’s more like “70% less dead innocents, 100% more receptive to post-election lobbying” than “10% less evil”. But I get what he’s saying, I respect his opinion, and I agree that there’s a very serious danger of just being played for a fool and taken for granted. And, at the risk of putting words into Mark’s mouth, we agree on this: the purpose of voting is not to get a particular party into power until Doomsday, but rather to get wise and good laws passed and enforced, prudential and sound policies enacted, and have government active and effective in its proper sphere– but utterly subservient outside of its sphere (e.g. in family life).

    • Ted Seeber

      That’s not my purpose in voting, because I’ve given up on any Democracy being able to ” wise and good laws passed and enforced, prudential and sound policies enacted, and have government active and effective in its proper sphere– but utterly subservient outside of its sphere ”

      In fact, I’m convinced that democracy itself is against truth and natural law, and certainly against the family.

      No, my purpose in voting is very singular- to support the candidates and laws that I personally agree with. Period. Anything more, would be so dishonest that I would not be able to live with myself past voting, and would need to commit suicide.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    Laura, please. To say that there has not been a major tendency across the Catholic blogosphere suggesting that both major parties are worshiped by Satan, and therefore vote for either of their candidates if you must, but really serious Catholics who put their faith first will clearly vote for some other alternative (or not vote at all), is akin to saying that The Ohio State University doesn’t put much interest in its football program. Plus, I didn’t say Mark, did I. Mark was pointing out one form of maneuvering doctrine to fit one’s political preferences, I merely was pointing to another form I’ve noticed.

    • Michael F.

      At the risk of sounding wishy-washy, I essentially agree with both of you on substance (Dave and Laura) and I suspect you largely agree with each other.

      • Chris M

        I’d like to wishywashily join in the wishywashy chorus here and ambivalently agree with Michael.

        • Michael F.

          And an ambivalent “welcome aboard” to you, Chris!

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        You’re probably right, I don’t think I disagree with Laura, as much as Laura may have thought I was aiming at Mark. Mark has generally voiced his own opinions, but has allowed for Catholics of good faith who have reflected on things and have chosen to support one party or another. That hasn’t always been the case with others, however, and I merely wanted to point out that there are some who go the other direction as well. But yeah, I think Laura (who apparently is going to vote for one of the major party candidates) and I (who is not sure if I’m going to) basically agree.

        • Laura

          Hey, did you guys save some s’mores for me? Let’s have a carebear ***HUG*** :)
          OK, so we’ll mark it down as missed emotional connotation on the intertubes. In my defense, plenty of people comment here with notionally philosophical comments about what “some people” say, but really are making an attack on Mark’s beliefs, and then claim they can’t be called on it. If I was wrong about your motivations, then I apologize.
          Also in my defense, I am in a toss-up state (Virginia) and it’s non-stop LIES in political ads– both sides, all the time. Honestly, if I see one “hands pushing granny in a wheelchair off a cliff” ad, I think I’m going to jump off behind her.
          Michael F. put it all in a much more substantive and well-documented way down below; all I can say is ditto. Well, that and: my only Lord is Jesus. My real citizenship is in Heaven. Nonetheless, I have been put into this society at this time, with all its privileges and duties, with a specific set of individuals around me; I am responsible to use what I have been given to try to ensure that the most true good and least true evil actually occurs. No party, no political system, no human system period, will ever be anything but a temporary means to achieve these goals. If St. Paul can work within Nero’s imperial regime, and pray for them while they kill him and his friends, I can hold my nose and work in America 2012. Power corrupts, and the parties have power and want more. I expect nothing else from either side, as a general rule; there are honorable exceptions at the personal level, but systematically… no.
          I’m not going to vote “for” a candidate. The primaries didn’t go the way I wanted them to, and the people I really wanted to see on the ballot didn’t run anyway. (I can’t blame them.) I’m voting against, not for; but I’ll be holding my nose and my stomach when I do. (I guess I’ll pull the lever with my feet or something.) I completely understand if others come to a different conclusion, though.

          • Michael F.

            I’m with ya, sister. :-) I think you made some important points there. And you can have one or two of our s’mores.

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      “To say that there has not been a major tendency across the Catholic blogosphere suggesting that both major parties are worshiped by Satan”

      If a whole bunch of people across a whole bunch of platforms are telling you the same thing, a wise man will at least consider their argument.

  • Evan

    This is all happening on the left as well. The Thing that Used to be Liberalism is also trying to coerce voters into supporting their candidate, because by their standards he is supposedly the lesser of two evils. I have several very liberal friends who are honest about Obama being a corrupt, incompetent failure, but if they mention they are planning to follow their consciences by voting for Jill Stein, other liberals tell them they are just supporting Romney and they will be to blame if he wins.

    • Melanie

      Progressive/liberal activist and writer, Naomi Wolf, is a former-Obama supporter very open and critical of his policies regarding war and civil rights. Her book, The End of America, is well-researched and an indictment of both political parties.

      I think those on both sides who are willing to call their leaders out on their lies demonstrate a decent amount of integrity greatly lacking these days.

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        And yet, there is a good example of what I’m seeing. I mean, I wouldn’t hold Ms. Wolf up as a moral compass either. But all of a sudden, as long as she adopts the ‘pox on both houses’ philosophy, it’s no big deal that she still advocates one of the primary reasons Catholics have for calling down curses on both parties in the first place. Why? Just because she’s decided that to call out both major parties? That alone covers a multitude of sins?

        I’m catching that opinion more and more, especially across the Catholic blogosphere. The idea that if you are going to support either major party, then you have some explaining to do. But if you just don’t vote or vote for any third party candidate, even an unnamed one, then that’s A-OK. Bonus points if you compare both parties (but no particular alternate party) to Nazi Communists. There is more than one way to go over the edge in terms of voting as a Catholic. Blind fealty to one of the two major parties is just one way.

        • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

          I think it’s perfectly fair to say that if you are going to support any candidate or party or legislation at all, you’ve got some explaining to do. That is to say, you should base your political action on rational discernment, not on partisan loyalty.

          I also think its ingenuous to think that someone doesn’t need to justify a vote for either presidential candidate with some expected proportional good that will accompany the expected evil policy that is in the record for each candidate. And when the expected evil is a matter of human life – whether abortion or unjust warfare – the proportional good had best be a good of the highest order.

          A vote for a lesser evil because it is a lesser evil is still willing evil. I have not heard anyone propose what tremendous and fundamental good Romney promises to do that somehow allows us to permit his stated willingness to initiate war, to use torture on prisoners, and to defend abortion in “the hard cases”.

          It is not enough that he be willing to initiate different wars, or willing to torture in different circumstances, or willing to defend fewer abortions, than Obama. These are differences of degree, not of kind; the kind of willingness that both major party candidates share is the willingness to commit/defend/promote acts which the Catholic faith teaches are intrinsically evil, wrong, and sinful.

          The object of moral action (and voting is one among many moral actions) is always the good. If the object is ever evil, then the act is always immoral. Evil is never something we may intend or will; at best, we may under some circumstances permit it. This is the context of the “lesser evil” argument: if we have no choices that are purely good, if all options available are admixed with evil, we may choose the good which has the least evil admixed with it. But we may never choose evil for itself.

  • Kirt Higdon

    I plan to cast a write-in vote for Ron Paul unless he does a last minute endorsement of Romney. While I consider lesser evilism to be a self-defeating strategy, I fully respect the consciences of any who make the prudential judgment to vote for the lesser evil – including those (and they include some of my friends and relatives) who consider Obama the lesser evil.

    • Michael F.

      While I may respect their intentions, I can’t respect the logic that leads a Catholic to conclude that Obama is the “lesser evil.”

  • Michael F.

    Mark – would you point out specifically who is doing exactly what you’re describing? If they’re blogging or whatever, I would be interested in leaving a comment or to against such extremism. As a person who may well vote for Romney and a person who is active in the pro-life movement, I (and others like me) may have more “street creed” to persuade them. They may well still not listen, but I’d be glad to try.

    • Michael F.

      *or two against such extremism*

      • Michael F.

        LOL – street “creed”, eh? Street cred.

  • Melanie

    That was a thought-provoking speech by an intelligent and principled young man. As someone who lost relatives under Hitler, I appreciate his analogy. The lesser of two evils is still evil. Supporting the devil behind the mask over the devil without a mask makes no sense.

    Thanks for sharing it!

  • bill bannon

    In the US, most states have a “winner take all” policy for the electoral college system that actually elects the president. You can vote in New Jersey e.g. for Romney but that state’s electoral votes are written off by the Romney campaign as all going to Obama already due to a 13% overage Obama has with likely voters there. Romney will spend no money there. You might say that the only place your vote counts are the hotly contested states where the electors could go either way. The electoral system protects the country from being controlled strictly by the heavily populated states… New York and California. Catechism writers etc who talk of the obligation to vote are really thinking of popular votes as counting as in Europe. Having multiple states like the US, makes the electoral system become the solution wherein your vote counts in only some hotly contested states as in Florida where Bush scarcely won the popular vote but then got all the electors of that state under the “winner take all” policy of most states. Maine doesn’t have that policy e.g.

  • Michael F.

    One of the more recognized, traditional books on Catholic moral theology, which is now in its eighteenth edition, is Fr. Heribert Jone’s Moral Theology. On this general topic, Fr. Jone writes:

    Quote:

    Chapter II, Civic Duties: 1) Section II, Subsection 3:
    Co-operation in evil legislation is sinful. The only exception admitted is
    the case in which such representatives might avoid a greater evil by their
    co-operation (Cf 144, 147) in such cases; however, they must make clear
    their position.

    2) Section III, subsection 3: Election of good
    representatives.

    Voting is a civic duty which would seem to bind at least under venial sin whenever a good candidate has an unworthy opponent. It might even be a mortal sin if one’s refusal to vote would result in the
    election of an unworthy candidate. One may vote for an unworthy candidate only when this is necessary to prevent a still less worthy candidate from obtaining office; but **in such a case one should explain the reason for his action if this is possible..**

    End quote

    I think that last caveat is extremely important and often overlooked by those who choose to vote for an imperfect candidate in order to limit evil. And I think Mark does real a service by calling out loud and clear when someone like Romney is wearing no (moral) clothes. I believe those who choose to vote for or publicly support Romney have a moral obligation to make clear what they are *not* supporting and object to so as to not confuse and cause scandal. They should also hold Romney’s feet to the fire; making clear to him and his campaign that if he does not follow through with key promises (such as rescinding the immoral HHS mandate and reinstating the Mexico City Policy), that they will hold Romney accountable.

    But I also hear those who point out that when we’ve come to the general election, we have to decide who we’re for and do it with some energy, in spite of the imperfections in our chosen candidate. Mark seems to have acknowledged this too, in the past. When it comes to an election, if you decide you want a candidate to win (in order to keep a worse one from winning), in spite of his imperfections, you can’t really muster much enthusiasm and energy if you’re constantly saying, “Vote Romney, he sucks much less and we need to hold him accountable!” And without any energy and enthusiasm, you’re not helping your chosen candidate to win. Again, just a pragmatic reality.

    I think there comes a point in the culture war (of which, an election is certainly an integral part) in which it may make sense to temporarily align with someone who is actually engaging the fight and will can and likely will move things in the right direction rather than remaining – out principle – more on the sidelines (which is what I believe a vote for a 3rd party is in this case – not completely on the sidelines, but significantly more so). Significant and serious moral objections could have been (and were) made against Abraham Lincoln. Ditto with the North as it battled the South. But there are moments at which one must decide whether one intends to join in the fight or remain – like Switzerland – more on the sidelines.

    I believe that decision depends upon whether one thinks there’s a significant enough different between the “viable” options in the battle. If there isn’t, then it doesn’t make much sense to vote for the “better” candidate. But if there is a significant difference, then I think it’s perfectly justifiable.

    Mark only thinks there’s a 5-10% difference between Obama and Romney. That’s why he went from considering voting for Romney to now moving more toward a 3rd party candidate (please correct me if I’m wrong, Mark). Personally, I think he’s underestimated the evil that Obama represents and has over-estimated the evil that Romney represents. But that’s a good-will difference of opinion. Personally, I think it makes more sense for Catholics to vote Romney, at least in “battleground states”. In non-battleground states, then I think a stronger case can be made for voting for a better 3rd party candidate.

    Regardless, I think Mark’s doing a great service by fostering the discussion and challenging Catholics to think. I wish more Catholics cared enough to get into this deeply and passionately. If they did, then maybe the whole discussion about whether to choose the viable candidate who will limit evil would become moot.

    • Michael F.

      Pardon the typos.

      **I think Mark does a real service**=
      **and can and likely will move things in the right direction**
      **rather than remaining – out of principle – more on the sidelines**

    • Ted Seeber

      Mark’s lucky in that he sees a 5%-10% difference between Obama and Romney. What do you say to somebody like me who sees the only difference being targets, not violence done?

      • Michael F.

        I would ask first whether you agree with the principles laid out by Pope John Paul II, the CDF and moral theologian Fr. Heribert Jone. And, in light of those principles, I would then ask if you acknowledge that a Catholic may judge Romney to be sufficiently “better” from a moral perspective to justify voting for him in order to keep Obama out of office, as long as such an individual makes clear that they do not support the wrong positions Romney holds.

        2) Next, I would ask you to explain what leads you to conclude that both Obama and Romney are equally unacceptable from a Catholic moral perspective.

        • Ted Seeber

          It is because of those principles, specifically the ones in Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that I say what I say. I’ve never heard of Fr. Jone until today and have yet to examine what he teaches, but if he puts the poor on the back burner in favor of usury, then his opinion is no different than the opinion of Planned Parenthood to me.

          For you see, it is the dignity of EVERY human person, from conception until natural death, including soldiers and condemned prisoners as well as the poor and the unborn and the terminally ill, that is the entire point. Abortion is just one symptom of the culture of death among many. A specifically intrinsically evil one, but only one of four Sins that call out to Heaven for Vengeance.

          And when it comes to willful murder, unnatural sexual acts, oppression of the poor, and defrauding the laborer of his wages, Obama is solidly in the camp of the first two, and Romney is solidly in the camp of the second two (as are their respective parties). And I have heard NOTHING that mitigates these four intrinsic evils (and despite Cafeteria Catholicism from both sides, they are all four intrinsic evils) from either side.

          Moreso, I don’t expect to. Current interpretation of the constitution, particularly the so-called rights of private property and privacy of person (neither one of which can be found in the actual Constitution) combined with the rejection of subsidiarity and solidarity by local populations in Article I Sections 8 and 10, make true Catholic pro-life social justice illegal in the United States of America until a constitutional crisis forces a new continental congress and a rewrite of our system of government.

          It is these four intrinsic evils that typify the heresy of Americanism to me. All talk of America being Exceptional while not discussing the extreme dependence of our economics and our culture on these four evils, rings hollow to me. Until these four evils are eliminated, I cannot call any major political party truly pro-life.

          And notice, I didn’t even reference Mark’s hot button issues of torture and war, or the common left wing complaint about the Death Penalty.

          • Michael F.

            You’re getting ahead of me, Ted. If you would, please answer the specific questions I asked. Rather than reproducing what JPII, the CDF and Fr. Jone wrote, here are the links (below). Do you dispute what they taught and the general principles they laid out?

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/10/hope-for-tomorrow.html/comment-page-1#comment-120347

            • Michael F.

              Here’s the other link – scan down to point #2, please.

              http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/10/hope-for-tomorrow.html/comment-page-1#comment-120391 (SEE POINT #2)

              • Ted Seeber

                But that’s my point. Abortion isn’t the only issue covered by John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae. And as Evangelium Vitae pointed out, abortion can’t be separated from providing a living wage for fathers to raise families (and the link is, actually encouraging fathers to raise families, instead of just have one night stands and run off to let the mother fend for herself).

                ALL four of the intrinsically evil sins, that cry out to heaven for vengeance, are linked. You can’t be pro-life and fail to combat some of them.

                • Michael F.

                  You’re confusing non-negotiable issues with negotiable ones, Ted. Catholics can disagree about the best economic policy that will help people, but they can’t disagree over whether abortion should be permissible or not.

                  You might want to read what the Holy Father wrote about this here – see section 2 and 3 in particular to see the principle.

                  http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/cdfworthycom.htm

                  A few bishops have pointed this out as well in their defense of Paul Ryan. And they touch on the other social justice issues. Repubs and Dems don’t disagree on the the need to care for the poor, for instance. They disagree on the way to accomplish it.

                  You can look up the video by Bishop Paprocki and statements by Archbishop Chaput and Lori for starters.

                  But I think that will do it for me, Ted. I think we’ve covered this as much as can be done in a combox.

                  God bless.

            • Ted Seeber

              I would have to read Fr. Jone in full context to know, and I don’t have time right now.

              By that assessment, I would not be able to salve my conscience by voting for the lesser evil- because the culture of death has gone so far that I see no good left in the American system. I long for the return of the dictatorship of Viva Christo Rey at this point; Bring Back Christendom! End this false liberty!

              • Michael F.

                Just a another note in case you don’t see the one below. – It seems that our host is concerned about people making too many comments, so I don’t want to overstay my welcome (or overstay it even more than I may have already). I enjoyed the discussion. It’s not that easy to find people in my neck of the woods who will take your position, Mark’s position or Zippy’s. It helps me to refine my own.

                God bless.

  • Michael F.

    Clarification:

    “I think there comes a point in the culture war (of which, an election is certainly an integral part) in which it may make sense to temporarily align with someone who is actually engaging the fight and can and likely will move things in the right direction..”

    When I wrote “actually engaging the fight and can and likely will move things in the right direction”, I meant that the “viable” candidate (in this case, Romney), has much more power and ability to actually affect actual change compared to a marginal 3rd party candidate who will get almost no public attention or traction.

    • Michael F.

      Pardon the typos as I’m in typing in a rush.
      should have been
      “has much more power and ability to effect actual change…”

      • Ted Seeber

        Or as the spambot puts it “Slow Down, you’re posting comments too quickly”

  • Michael F.

    In addition to what I mentioned above from Fr. Jone’s “Moral Theology”, we have this:

    As Pope John Paul II indicated regarding a situ ation where it is not possible to overturn or completely defeat a law allowing abortion, “an elected official whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality’” (EV 73; also CPL, n.4).

    Again, notice the point about “whose absolute personal opposition…was well known.” Again, we see the importance of making clear what one is supporting and what one is NOT supporting when one makes a decision to support a law (or candidate, by extension) that has morally problematic elements. This provision is clearly about limiting the possibility of creating confusion or scandal for other Catholics. And I do think it’s one that needs more attention – something that Mark is helping to do, imo.

  • Elaine S.

    “I think it makes more sense for Catholics to vote Romney, at least in “battleground states”. In non-battleground states, then I think a stronger case can be made for voting for a better 3rd party candidate.”

    My personal opinion (not binding on anyone) for anyone who doesn’t really want to vote Romney but feels they “must” to keep Obama from winning: about a week before Election Day, check the latest polls for your state. Sample several well known polls (Gallup, Rasmussen) or sites like Five Thirty Eight, to see which way your state is leaning. If your state is well within the “red” or “blue” column and marked as “safe” for Obama or Romney, or has 5 electoral votes or fewer, go ahead and vote third party, write in, or “none of the above” if you wish. If your state has more than 5 electoral votes and is merely “leaning” GOP or Dem, or is deemed “too close to call,” then I’d say vote Romney if you truly don’t want to risk contributing to an Obama victory.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      Voting third party doesn’t risk contributing to an Obama victory.

      • Elaine S.

        Yes it does, if just enough people who might otherwise have voted GOP vote third party (for whatever reason) in a hotly contested swing state to tilt its electoral vote into the Dem column. As little as one vote per precinct or less can make the difference. Did you sleep through the whole Bush-Gore Florida recount thing?

        • Andy, Bad Person

          Did Nader votes count for Bush or Gore? I forget.

          I thought Nader votes counted for Nader, but you’re saying something else.

        • ChrisKABA

          There are two problems with that.

          For one, it assumes that 3rd party voters would have voted at all if there wasn’t a 3rd party.

          For another, it ignores the fact that many people will not vote for a “party” but for a person.

          Lots of people determined to vote 3rd party have had no intention of ever voting for Romney, and would have voted GOP if the appointee wasn’t Romney.

      • Dan Berger

        Voting third party doesn’t risk contributing to an Obama victory.
        Especially in my case, as I would never vote for Romney in any event; I’d consider voting for the big O, for social justice reasons, if it weren’t for his deep love of death in all its forms.

      • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

        It is fascinating how much rationalizing people will do in the face of contrary math. They must just find the mathematical reality of their lack of personal influence so intolerable that their minds just shut it out. It is a very clever thing on the part of whomever designed modern democracy with universal suffrage: induce massive amounts of material cooperation with evil with no payoff.

        • Michael F.

          But you’re trying to convince other people to follow your example. It’s not just about you or me, individually. And you’re trying to persuade individuals in a forum where I believe it more likely that people would lean Romney than Obama. So, the net effect, if you’re successful in your efforts to persuade, is to help Obama here. And the election of Obama is the worst outcome.

          But if you’d like to make your argument over at the NCReporter or Commonweal, by all means. ;-) Godspeed.

          As Bush/Gore showed, a few votes (or hanging chads) can make all the difference.

          • Ted Seeber

            I think the net effect of teaching people enough mathematics to actually understand the situation, is having a group of citizens who understand enough mathematics to understand the situation.

            As I told a rather partisan Catholic back in 1992- it doesn’t matter if Clinton or Bush wins, it won’t change how I live MY life or the taste of my cereal in the morning.

            It is important to remember that God is more powerful than any government. Especially a government about to fall no matter what we do.

            • Michael F.

              “As I told a rather partisan Catholic back in 1992- it doesn’t matter if Clinton or Bush wins, it won’t change how I live MY life or the taste of my cereal in the morning.”

              All of the dead babies that were killed with your and my tax money around the world, thanks to Bill Clinton’s repeal of the Mexico City Policy, would probably disagree with you, Ted.

              You might also want to take a look at this list compiled by Fr. Peter West:
              http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1140835/posts

              • Michael F.

                And I think St. Ignatius of Loyola said it well: “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.”

                I’m a political Independent, I prefer not to belong to a political party. But there is a significant, substantive difference between the Democrat party and the Republican party.

                I think this video by Bishop Paprocki is also worthwhile:

                http://www.lifenews.com/2012/10/02/catholic-bishop-democrats-embrace-intrinsic-evil-of-abortion/

              • Ted Seeber

                As would all the dead babies killed by George HW Bush in the indiscriminate bombing of Iraq.

                Not to mention the intrinsic evils of oppression of the poor and defrauding of wages.

                America is an evil government. Locked in a culture of death that started in 1796. This is just the end game, and neither side is innocent.

                • Michael F.

                  Not an good comparison, IMO. And I urge you to really look over that list from Fr. West that I provided. I don’t see how you can have read it all. It took me quite a while.

                  I think you’ll have a hard time arguing that either Bush – who were both economic liberals when it comes to domestic spending (especially “W”) – objectively “oppressed the poor” and “defrauded of wages.” Never mind the false presuppositions you seem to hold in regard to government responsibilities vs. individual responsibilities to the poor (please see the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity – you might try Googling Benjamin Wiker National Catholic Register – he has a good series there).

                  In regard to those killed in the Iraq war, I think you’re mixing up apples and oranges from a Catholic perspective. It’s a terrible tragedy, no doubt. But there’s a stark moral difference between unintentional casualties in war and the intentional killing of the innocent in abortion. I think you’re also forgetting that both Democrats and Republicans agreed on the intelligence assessments in regard to Iraq (on both engagements). Dems almost unanimously gave the “go ahead” to invade Iraq under both Bush HW and Bush W. Under Bush HW (who ran against Clinton in ’92), I don’t recall much of any objection to the invasion of Iraq from the left or the right or from the Church for that matter.

                  So, I disagree with you in regard to the “essence” of the difference between either Bush and Clinton. But also in regard to the magnitude, in the U.S. alone there are 1.2-1.4 million abortions *every year*. And the amount of abortions we enable, fund and promote world-wide under Democrats is also an objective moral atrocity. So there’s a tremendous difference in terms of “magnitude” as well.

                  • Ted Seeber

                    I haven’t. I don’t know Fr. West from Adam. I read the Popes directly instead.

                    But I know for a fact that the Republicans are as much into intrinsic evil as the Democrats are- as the American Public is. We live in a culture of death and there will be no escape without a revolution.

                  • Ted Seeber

                    I’m well up on the Church’s teaching of subsidiarity. The Constitution makes it illegal under Article I, Sections 8 and 10.

                  • Mark Shea

                    In an unjust war (and two popes and a virtually unanimous consensus of the bishops agreed that the Iraq war did not meet just war criteria) the death of innocents is not ‘unintentional”. It is murder.

                    • Michael F.

                      Okay, here’s what I would say to that.

                      Hindsight is 20-20. You supported the war initially, true? I don’t think you or I were bucking the Pope and virtually unanimous consensus of the bishops at the beginning of the war.

                      The Church teaches that the decision to wage war and judge the criteria for just war lies with those in the legitimate position of authority and for good reason. CCC 2309: “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”

                      While I agree – in retrospect – that the war was unjust, it was not nearly so clear at the time, imo. Germany, France, England et al had similar intelligence as we did. As did the Democrats (yes, I know they later said about being misled, but I find that too convenient). And, again, you even initially supported the war. Once it had started and it became clearer that the nuclear program wasn’t what everyone feared, it wasn’t as simple as just pulling out. My impression/recollection is that once we were in there and things were well under way, the Vatican did not continue to say “get out.” I think they knew we had to stay or things would get even worse.

                      I think there’s a clear, practical moral difference between making an incorrect evaluation/application of just war theory and intentionally and knowingly killing innocent human beings, Mark. Unless you’re claiming that Bush knew the war was unjust and engaged it anyway. Is that what you’re saying?

                    • Mark Shea

                      I think Bush had no interest in the question, since he knew God was with him and he was acting as his Holy Prophet: http://edition.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/03/05/sprj.irq.bush.vatican/ Bush set aside the Pope’s appeal without reading it. http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=11872 When you are God’s anointed, you don’t need outside input.

                      Turns out, by the way, the Pope (and Ratzinger, and the bishops) were right. I learned from that mistake. Neo-cons (and Romney) have learned nothing.

                    • Michael F.

                      I agree with you that Bush’s judgement was likely skewed by his erroneous theology (many people seem to think that loving the Jewish people means supporting the State of Israel without question). But I don’t agree that he had no interest in the question. I think that’s significant over-statement.

                      I read the article you linked to and don’t see where it says that Bush never read the Pope’s appeal. Did I just miss it (or is that in another article somewhere)? Also, I did see where Laghi appealed to Bush to wait for the U.N. and to go all together. If he was arguing that military action was completely and flatly unjust, then that doesn’t seem like the sort of thing he would do. The article states that he said: “Let’s wait for the United Nations, whether they would give a green light in one way or the other.”

                      And I agree that it was an unjust war – again, in hindsight. I learned something myself in the process. But I don’t see much difference between Obama and Romney when it comes to war. Democrats are no less bellicose than Republicans, imo – they just have different targets.

                    • Mark Shea

                      Read the second article. Bush’s mind was made up. He didn’t even bother reading the Pope’s message.

                      But my point here is that Catholics who supported the war (myself included) were not listening to the magisterium’s teaching on Just War. We were listening to conservative punditry and the talking points of movement conservatism. Yes, it was a “prudential judgment”. “Prudential” is not Latin for “do whatever you like and ignore the massive and overwhelming guidance of the magisterium”. That’s what we did. It’s what an awful lot of “conservative” Catholics continue to do whenever the Church teaches something inconvenient to Talk Radio dogma.

                    • Michael F.

                      I did read it and I don’t see any place where it says that Bush “set aside the Pope’s appeal without reading it.” That’s why I asked you if I just missed it or if it was in another article. Just to be clear, I’m not being a wise guy or trying to be clever. When you wrote that, it sounded as if you knew, for a fact, that Bush didn’t literally didn’t even read the Pope’s letter. If you’re arguing that Bush’s mind was made up and he wasn’t really open-minded, that’s a different matter. Perhaps it was, but we don’t know whether it’s true or not. However, if Bush had literally not even read the Pope’s letter, I think *that* would be very damning evidence that he was intentionally not even listening.

                      I don’t think I can agree with you that we (you and I) were not listening to the magisterium’s teaching on Just War or that we were supporting a policy of “do whatever you like and ignore the massive and overwhelming guidance of the magisterium”. Or at least, I don’t believe *I* was. Especially at the beginning, it was not nearly so clear, imo.

                      The Church doesn’t teach that under Just War theory one must wait until a country lobs a nuclear bomb before acting. Considering Hussein’s demonstrated willingness to readily commit mass murder on his own people, if he did in fact have the capability that was believed in the intelligence community, then I believe it would have been reasonably justifiable to invade Iraq. Alas, it turned out that Saddam was lying and projecting more military, nuclear and chemical capability than he actually had because he didn’t want Iran or others to know how weak he was. And as a result, our country’s (and many other country’s) subjective assessment of the imminent danger was exaggerated. Honestly, I can’t completely blame Bush as though this was just obviously so clear and he was a complete idiot to do what he did.

                      To put this on a more personal level, if I’m dealing with a known nut and personal enemy who has killed other people (even his own family) and who has threatened and attacked me in the past (as Saddam did, repeatedly in violation of the U.N. sanctions) and he sends signals that he has an assault rifle and isn’t afraid to use it on me and my family, then I’m probably not going to wait to find out if he means it.

                      That being said, I do agree with you that this was an important lesson and we need to learn from it. I share your concerns about Iran – I worry that Romney may be too aggressive. But I also worry that Obama is too naive. Notwithstanding his action against OBL, I think he is too sympathetic to Islamic radicalism. I believe Dinesh D’Souza is right in his assessment that Obama sees Hezbollah and Hamas essentially as freedom fighters.

                      Your thoughts?

                    • Michael F.

                      Sorry – I didn’t see the word “second” in front of “article”. LOL

                      I just looked at that piece. Okay. I see what you’re referring to now. But I don’t agree that one can conclude Bush never read the letter. I don’t see anything unusual about putting the letter aside while talking to Laghi in person. I have no reason to believe that he would have cared enough about the Catholic Church to actually entertain Laghi and give him time for an appointment but not care enough to read a letter from the Pope himself.

                      The article requires one to conclude that Bush not only put the letter aside, but that he never went back to read it. Personally, I find that highly unlikely.

          • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

            In the extraordinarily unlikely event that I convince 10 million people to follow my example, it will effect a far more beneficial change to our society than “[Romney|Obama] wins!”

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00805469860229478026 Irksome1

      It seems to me that the whole logic of voting third party to begin with is because each of the two major candidates asks the voter to compromise one at least one non-negotiable issue. If that’s the case, then whether or not the state is a “battleground state” cannot enter into the discernment process at all. Indeed, if the candidates from both major parties can expect to see no losses among their share of the electorate (especially in those “close” states) then there’s no incentive to get better on exactly those issues that matter most.

  • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

    The only realistic reason to go third party is to do so in an attempt to dethrone one of the two major parties in your state of residence. This makes the presidential 3rd party vote almost irrelevant in the struggle to promote good instead of the lesser of two evils. It is possible, and does happen, that well organized, small groups of activists can create a local party and actually take a majority of the seats on a town council. It is rarer, but still realistically possible for this to happen in a single county. If you do so in a majority of counties in the state, you have a realistic chance of taking 2nd place in a state which makes all the opportunists and patronage queens in the incumbent minority party desperate because you control their jobs at that point. The local, county, and state payroll controlled by patronage can be in the millions of dollars. It is this patronage that provides many of the foot soldiers for parties.
    Until 3rd party advocates start doing the heavy lifting to get to 2nd place on a state level and control that patronage, the current two parties will endure and 3rd party efforts such as Mark’s will be viewed by most as bad things because they will do nothing more than worsen the quality of people elected. Grab control of those millions and even tens of millions in payroll and you’ve suddenly got something that is viable and would be in a place to push Catholic values into the center of political discussion without having to do lesser of two evils.

    • Marthe Lépine

      To TML: “The only realistic reason…” Well, to be realistic according to the world is one thing. However, in my opinion there is something to say for “trusting Providence” as well. A 3rd party vote may not seem realistic. However I can see a vote according to one’s conscience going to a 3re party candidate, or a write-in, etc. as what some Evangelicals would call a “leap of faith” (I am not sure if this is only the Evangelicals, or if it is ok for Catholics to use that expression). What if… the Holy Spirit inspired so many people, unknown to each other, to take such a “leap of faith”, that the figures become significant? If you strongly agree that you have to choose which one of only 2 candidates is the “least of 2 evils” and refuse to listen to the voice of your conscience, you might just interfere with what could otherwise be a strong message that you do not agree with either of the main parties, and/or even lead to the election of a different candidate. In my country, some smaller parties have been convinced enough of their point of view to dare persevere, and do get one or more representatives elected to Parliament after a while, which gives them more of a public voice to continue their efforts. This could not have happened if everyone, at all times, limited their votes to the same two “main” parties…

      • Elaine S.

        “In my country, some smaller parties have been convinced enough of their point of view to dare persevere, and do get one or more representatives elected to Parliament after a while”
        If I remember correctly, you are from Canada. Your country and many others have a parliamentary system of government that functions differently from the American system. The prime minister in a parliamentary system is chosen by the majority party, or a coalition of parties, in the national legislature. A third (or fourth, or more) party that gets even a few legislative seats — just enough to deny either of the main two parties an absolute majority — can determine who becomes prime minister and thereby control the entire direction of the government for years to come. However, a third party that won, say, 5 seats in an evenly divided U.S. Congress would not thereby determine who became President (though it would have considerable leverage when it came to passing legislation).

    • Ted Seeber

      There’s one other realistic reason for doing so- a moral statement, made in the privacy of the voting booth and one’s own soul, that the government in general is corrupt beyond repair.

      • Michael F.

        I agree – assuming one comes to that conclusion. If one concludes that there is no real difference between the viable choices and the system is completely corrupt and beyond repair, then it would be right to refuse to participate and work toward replacing the government completely.

        • Ted Seeber

          Which is basically where I’m at. See above and the complicit involvement of both political parties in the 4 intrinsic evil sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance (and if I’m going to keep using that term and argument, I really need to learn to spell vengeance without a spelling checker).

          • Michael F.

            We agree on the principles but have a different judgment as to specific application in this case.

            • Ted Seeber

              Any specific application that ignores ANY of the four, cannot be described as pro-life. Subsidiarity being illegal under Article I Sections 8 and 10 of the US Constitution, makes it incredibly hard to create small government solutions to the problem, Which leaves us with only large government solutions. And since BOTH political parties who are putting forth large government solutions are intrinsically evil, we’re left with a culture of death NO MATTER WHOM WE VOTE FOR.

  • Elaine S.

    Speaking of early projections, this story indicates that the Associated Press has, in effect, already “called” 19 states for either Romney or Obama (mostly for Romney) because it’s not going to bother doing exit polling in those states:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2012/10/04/networks-ap-cancel-exit-polls-in-19-states/

    Also according to this story, these states currently fall in my second category of “better vote Romney if you don’t want Obama to win”:
    Tossup/too close to call: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida (NH has less than 5 electoral votes).
    Leaning Obama: New Mexico, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania. Catholic voter turnout could be potentially decisive in at least the latter 3 states and possibly all of them.
    Leaning Romney: Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina.

    • Ted Seeber

      And once again, the only thing the voting process leaves me as a native ‘Gonie, is feeling disenfranchised entirely.

  • Lloyd Petre

    Would you please link to the actual words of the Church to which you refer to in the first paragraph?

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      It echoes, for example, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship n. 36: “When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.”

  • TomD

    It is amazing to me how saturated the blogosphere is with talk of voting for third-party presidential candidates. What is the actual percentage of votes cast for third-party candidates, 1 or 2%? Talk about ultimately being irrelevant.

    And the idea that ANY third-party candidate is morally pure is wishful thinking that never will be tested anyway. We live in a fallen world, we are all fallen human beings, including our public officials. Absent a perfect candidate, the lesser of two evils is the only realistic approach

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      What do you mean by “realistic”?

      • TomD

        “Interested in, concerned with, or based on what is real or practical; resembling or simulating real life.”

        And my reference to realistic pertains more to the impurity of third-party candidates, since when dealing with fallen human beings we must always deal with the imperfect.

        But since only Romney or Obama has any realistic chance of winning, we all must realistically choose between those two candidates.

        • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

          Speaking realistically, neither you nor I get to choose who wins. In fact none of us in this discussion, nor all of us banded together, could realistically expect to affect the outcome in the slightest.

          As long as we are being stone cold realists we wouldn’t want to beg the question by being selective in our realism.

          • Michael F.

            I think you’re ignoring the effect of argument and persuasion, Zippy. It’s more than one vote. You’re trying to persuade others to follow your example. In the current case at hand (this election), I hope you’re not successful – especially when you’re making such arguments in an environment where there are likely many more people who are more positively disposed toward Romney than they are toward Obama – who is the *worst* option.

            As we’ve seen in Florida (Bush/Gore), a few hanging chads here or there can make all the difference. This race appears to be shaping up as another nail biter.

            • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

              I think you’re ignoring the effect of argument and persuasion, Zippy.

              No, I’m not. As I said above: suppose I have the amazing power to convince tens of millions of people to follow my example. Is “[Romney|Obama] wins!” the very best I can hope to accomplish with that power?

              I’ve addressed this in the past, for example here.

              • Michael F.

                You didn’t address everything, Zippy. The Church has laid out the principles by which Catholics may do what you’ve said they can’t morally do. And in regard to the effect of voting on the individual, I believe that effect is mitigated by the requirement laid out by JPII and Fr. Jone that those who vote to keep the greater evil from prevailing need to make clear what they are doing and why (i.e. “I am voting for Romney in order to keep a much worse evil from prevailing. I hold that Romney is *wrong* to support abortion in cases of rape and incest because a human life is a human life. etc. etc.). This mitigates the danger of scandal and reaffirms in the individual’s mind and heart what they are doing and why. I would also argue that your absolutist approach to voting can tempt one to sins of imprudence and pride.

                And I’m not sure how old you are, but the 2000 presidential election wasn’t that long ago. A few hanging chads here and there made all the difference. You don’t need to convince 10 million voters. And you are part of a crew that is promoting and idea/belief – it’s not just you. It’s the idea/belief that is problematic, imo. There is no way that this idea is going to gain enough traction to cause a 3rd party candidate to win. But it might get enough traction to help Obama win. If it gains traction in liberal circles and helps to take away from president “I’ve never seen an abortion I didn’t support” Obama, then fine. But I would rather it not gain traction amongst those who are generally more likely to vote Romney than Obama.

                I completely agree with pushing for the best candidates during the primaries. Try to start a new party at the grassroots level and work up to the national level. But when we come to *this specific, upcoming election day*, there are only two possibilities for president: Romney or Obama. If you believe (as I do) that there is a significant moral difference between these two, then you should vote for Romney (especially if you live in a battleground state). If you don’t, then it makes sense to vote for a 3rd party candidate like Tom Hoefling.

                • Michael F.

                  “There is no way that this idea is going to gain enough traction to cause a 3rd party candidate to win.” (meaning in *this* election)

          • TomD

            ‘Stone cold” realist? I am simply stating a fact. Only Obama or Romney have a realistic chance of winning. If you vote for anyone else, you choose to make yourself irrelevant. Unless, of course, as in 2008, you vote for a third-party candidate for the US Senate in Montana, which almost certainly made the Democrat the winner in that election.

            Votes do matter. That is the point to be made in this discussion. When we let ourselves be convinced that what we say and do does not have an influence in our political outcomes, we begin to lose our self-governing society.

            • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

              If you vote for anyone else, you choose to make yourself irrelevant.

              And you think you are making yourself relevant by voting for a major party candidate. I get it. It is wildly unrealistic of you to think that, but I get it. You vote for an evil candidate to make yourself relevant, except that you don’t actually make yourself relevant by doing so.

              • Michael F.

                Zippy,

                Here’s a hypothetical scenario. Please tell me who you would vote for, based on the strict principles you’ve articulated.

                Viable candidate #1 (with 49% support in the polls the day before the election) supports gay marriage, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, unfettered abortion on demand for any reason and at any time, even refusing to protect babies who are born alive after a botched abortion. Viable candidate #2 (with 49% support in polls the day before the election), supports legal abortion in cases of rape and incest. But he’s against all the other things mentioned above. Candidate #3 doesn’t support any of these barely registers on the polls.

                Who would you vote for in that case?

                • Michael F.

                  And then, could you please point me which presidential candidates over the last 20 years have been morally right on all of the following grave issues? Which have officially and publicly stated the following:

                  1) I support making it illegal to get divorced and remarried, unless one’s marriage was invalid in the first place.
                  2) I support making all contraception illegal.
                  3) I support making homosexual acts illegal.
                  4) I support making fornication and living together illegal.
                  5) I support making all abortion illegal.
                  6) I support making all pornography illegal.

              • TomD

                Relevant: having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.

                Actually, as in Montana in 2008, if you, and those who agree with you, can succeed in convincing many to adopt your position, you may be exceedingly relevant in the 2012 presidential election.

    • Ted Seeber

      There’s a good chance this year that it could hit 10% or more again, which would send a major message to the major parties that they’re a bunch of idiots out of touch with America.

      Personally, I’d like to see the 3rd party vote approach 35%.

  • Michael F.

    I had a moment to watch this video finally. Here are some criticisms and comments:

    First, obviously, this young man is intelligent and should be praised up and down for his faith and devotion. Would that **all** our Catholic kids were so zealous. But he says some things that are false and others that are dubious.

    1) He says, “In 2005 [McCain] voted to provide nearly a third of a billion dollars to fund abortion in cases of rape and incest, authorizing tax-payer funding for more than 300,000 abortions.”

    He clearly appears to have confused his information. The only thing I can find close to this claim is a vote by McCain that would have permitted funding for abortion in the case of rape (not incest) in 2005. As rape accounts for between .5% and 1% of all abortions and there were 1.2 million abortions in 2005, that translates into between 6,000 and 12,000 abortions due to rape. So, his figure of McCain voting to fund 300,000 abortions makes no sense.

    2) Quote: “When did we forget that there are some issues, such as abortion, that are non-negotiable. When a person supports mass murder, that person is automatically disqualified as a candidate that Christians can vote for with a clear conscience.”

    I believe this is false. Pope John Paul II laid out the principle clearly in “Evangelium Vitae” #73 and the CDF reiterated it in “The Participation of Catholics in Political Life” (PCPL) n. 4. Quote:

    “A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations—particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation—there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects. “ ~ John Paul II, EV 73

    And even a traditional moral theologian like Fr. Heribert Jone laid out the principle in “Moral Theology” back in 1961. His book received an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat back when those really meant something. Quote:

    Section III, subsection 3: Election of good
representatives.
    Voting is a civic duty which would seem to bind at least under venial sin whenever a good candidate has an unworthy opponent. It might even be a mortal sin if one’s refusal to vote would result in the
election of an unworthy candidate. One may vote for an unworthy candidate only when this is necessary to prevent a still less worthy candidate from obtaining office; but in such a case one should explain the reason for his action if this is possible. (End quote)

    3) He appeals St. Paul in Romans 3:8 which isn’t an apt application of the verse. Those who vote to limit evil are not choosing to do evil that good may come. Again, the Church has laid out the principle.

    4) He says, “In truth, the choice to vote for the lesser of two evils is primarily made out of fear.”

    In truth, most of the people I know who vote to limit evil do so for logical, prudential reasons – of which, reasonable fear is only a part.

    5) His story about the person who said he would vote for the Nazis to keep the Marxists at bay only proves that in certain situations the “lesser of two evils” or “viability” argument doesn’t hold. It’s a principle that requires a subjective judgment that must be applied to each particular circumstance, not an absolute rule like “thou shalt not murder” (although, even in the latter case, one gets into the issue of what constitutes “murder” vs. a just killing). One must discern whether the difference between candidate A and candidate B is significant enough to justify voting for the “better” viable candidate. And there’s definitely grey area there.

    I would turn his example around on him, though. What if Adolph Hitler was running in the U.S. and he and Mitt Romney were the only viable candidates? Would he still stick by his rigid rule and refuse to vote for either? I doubt it – at least I hope not.

    6) He says, “What candidate wouldn’t we support, provided the alternative is worse? When our justification for supporting one evil is fear of a greater evil, then there is no depth of depravity and atrocity we would not support…as long as there is a darker alternative.”

    This is a non sequitur. Perhaps there are some who hold such a ridiculously rigid view of “the lesser evil”/”viability”, but I haven’t met them. If they hold such a view, they’re wrong.

    7) He says, “Voting for the lesser of two evils abandons the immovable standard of righteousness and replaces it instead with a shifting standard of moral relativity and situational ethics.”

    Of course, this is false, too. And the principles laid out by JPII in EV, the CDF in PCPL and Fr. Jone in “Moral Theology” demonstrate that. This is a pragmatic issue with prudential, moral overtones. He wants to make it a black and white non-negotiable and it’s not.

    8) He says, “Critics argue that voting on principle is impractical. But critics ought to act on the wisdom of God, even if it appears merely foolish from a human vantage point.”

    Here, he’s begging the question, of course. He’s presuming that his position is reflective of “the wisdom of God”. I don’t believe it is – at least it isn’t reflecting the wisdom of God completely enough.

    9) He says, “When we create imaginary requirements that we only vote for one of the two major party candidates, we submit ourselves to a system that advocates moral relativity and presses us into making excuses for unrepentantly wicked men.”

    Again, this is true only if one subscribes to the extreme version of “viability/lesser of two evils” that he’s addressing. He also seems to have forgotten the science of polling. We’re not living in the 1800’s when people really had relatively little idea of who could win. While polling can be skewed, we’ll have enough evidence to be able to know with moral certainty when we go to pull the lever whether a particular candidate has a snow-ball’s chance in Hades of winning or not.

    By all means – push and fight for the best guy from a Catholic perspective during the primaries. Perhaps try to start a new party at the local level and move up to the national level eventually as that becomes do-able. That would be great. But under the current conditions, coming into the general election, one of two men is going to win – either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. So, the question comes down to: Do you believe there’s enough of a difference between them to justify voting for Romney? If not, you vote for some 3rd party candidate who is perfectly right on the non-negotiables. If you do believe there’s enough of a difference (and I do), then you vote for Romney (particularly if you live in a “battleground” state.)

    I would point out, however, that those who take the “I won’t compromise at all on grave moral issues. I won’t vote for any candidate unless they’re right on all the non-negotiable issues” might want to look a little more closely to see if that’s really what they’re doing — if it’s even possible to find a candidate who actually fits that strict criteria. Is there any presidential candidate out there who is publicly against legal, no-fault divorce? Legal contraception? Is there any candidate out there who is against legal fornication? Legal sodomy, even?

    • Michael F.

      As I look at point #1 again, perhaps he was trying tot say that the amount of money available in the bill would make it *possible* to fund 300,00 abortions in 2005? But, if so, that still seems misleading and it is also inaccurate as far as I can tell, including the part about abortion in cases of incest. Perhaps I missed it, but I only saw documentation for rape. Regardless, even if it is both, rape and incest account for 1% or less of all abortions – roughly 12,000 in 2005. (Of course, I’m not *condoning* this, if true. But as the “lesser of two evils”/”viability” argument depends upon a judging the relative moral differences between the candidates in terms both essence and magnitude, then it seems important to get the facts right on McCain’s fault.)

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      ‘Perhaps there are some who hold such a ridiculously rigid view of “the lesser evil”/”viability”, but I haven’t met them. If they hold such a view, they’re wrong.’

      Here, I think, you are charitably imputing a moral boundary that is often — far more often than not, in my experience — absent from the actual arguments made for lesser evil voting. Consider, for example, TomD’s “Absent a perfect candidate, the lesser of two evils is the only realistic approach” just above.

      I propose incorporating a boundary this way: When all candidates represent some evil, we are to cast our vote for the least of all evils — which includes the evil of casting our vote away altogether. And I agree with you, that judging how much evil a particular candidate (or not voting) represents is not laid out dogmatically by the Church.

      At the same time, when you quote Bl. John Paul II in support of voting for a mass murderer under certain circumstances, then you are telling me your own subjective boundary beyond which you won’t vote for a candidate — which, under my formulation, amounts to your subjective boundary for how evil it is not to vote for someone on the ballot — is so extreme that it doesn’t exist in practice.

      • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

        And then there are the social effects of all of this. If most people who vote for the lesser of two evils are doing so under a morally wrong or imprudent rubric, by joining with them you cause scandal (independent of who you actually vote for), reinforcing their wrong judgment by joining in solidarity with it. This effect is independent of the election outcome, so it is not subject to the attenuating effect of how little influence you have over the outcome.

        • Michael F.

          Zippy, this is why I emphasized the element that some who vote with the intention of limiting the greater evil seem to forget at times:

          Quote: “**in such a case [voting for the lesser evil] one should explain the reason for his action if this is possible..** (Fr. Heribert Jone, “Moral Theology”)

          And similarly, in JPII’s EV: “an elected official **whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known** could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done…”

          The Church has recognized the potential for scandal and *still says* it is permissible to vote for a lesser evil with the intention of limiting a greater evil. We’ve been given a proper way to mitigate the potential for scandal and it should be used.

          For instance, I have criticized certain pro-life organizations that have called a candidate “pro-life” without qualification, when he clearly is not. While it’s perfectly appropriate and necessary to push hard for a candidate to win once one has committed to him or her, one must still be careful to clearly lay out what one is NOT supporting in order to mitigate the possibility of causing moral confusion and scandal. I worry about some organizations that tie their wagons a little too closely to such candidates.

          I think Mark has done a service in this area.

      • Michael F.

        Are you saying that if Adolph Hitler was running against Mitt Romney and someone like Peroutka was also in the race, you would vote for Peroutka or no one at all (even though Peroutka hadn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning)?

        I completely agree that there’s a subjective element here and have said so all along. But I think we can each give examples that show the limits of the absolutist approach in either direction. The “lesser of two evils’/”viability” argument works within certain, subjective bounds.

        It’s good to clarify those bounds. I think this discussion has helped to do that. I think that people like Tom D were reflecting mostly on the current situation. But principles, by their nature, need to be able to function *generally* . So, we’ve clarified that, of course, there are limits to the principle (which I’ve maintained all along). And I strongly doubt that Tom D would disagree that there are logical limits. So, the apparent disagreement isn’t really a disagreement, imo. It’s a point of agreement about which we just needed to dig a little deeper.

        • Michael F.

          The above was to Tom K, although it could also apply to Zippy.

        • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

          Are you saying we should vote for the lesser good?

          • Michael F.

            No, Tom. That would be an incorrect conclusion based on an incomplete characterization of my point and my view.

          • Michael F.

            But will you answer the actual question, Tom? If Hitler were in Obama’s place right now and the polls were just as they are (Hitler and Romney as the only two viable candidates), what would you do?

            • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

              No, I will not answer the actual question, because it is silly.

              • Michael F.

                I’m not saying if Hitler were literally to be resurrected and run for U.S. president, Tom. I agree that would be silly.

                You’ve leveled many criticisms here, so I’m challenging you to positively lay out your own principles and show how they would play out in particular circumstances. I don’t see anything silly about that.

                So, if a person who held Hitler’s views and had his intentions were running for office against a person who held Romney’s views and had his intentions, and both were about even in the polls but there were a person like Peroutka also running for office who barely registered a blip in the polls, what would you do?

                • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

                  No, it’s still a silly question.

                  • Michael F.

                    Please explain why it’s a silly question, Tom.

                    • Michael F.

                      I’m trying to see how your principles (whatever they precisely are), play out in the same sort of extreme circumstances laid out by the young man in the video. (The video Mark put up). This helps to clarify whether it really is a hard and fast rule, or whether it has subjective elements and limitations.

            • Ted Seeber

              A much better question more fitting to me- if Hitler was in Romney’s place and Stalin in Obama’s place with the polls as they sit after Wednesday’s debate- what would you do?

              • Michael F.

                That’s already been covered, Ted. We’re trying to explore the other extreme now, thanks.

  • Sandy

    No normal Catholic will vote for pro-infanticide, pro-abortion, pro-communism Obama. there is no proportional reason to do so. his opponent is not Hitler.

    • Jenny

      This is the kind of post that suggests to me that most of this is tribalism. Obama is many very bad things but “pro-communism” is not one of them.

      • Peggy R

        Really? There’s plenty in his own memoirs and policy views and actions that would suggest he does support communism, especially from a racial justice, or liberation theology, standpoint.

        • Jenny

          Communism is a defined term. It has a meaning that you can’t fudge to make your arguments.

          • Ted Seeber

            Yes it is, but I can think of four distinct varieties of that term. And I think many conservatives mean only one of those four.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      Since we can expect about half the Catholics who vote for president to vote for Obama, “normal” may not be the adjective you want.

  • Peggy R

    My point of frustration on these posts is that apparently Mark thinks that voting is not a zero sum game, but wealth creation is. To vote for a third party, as opposed to the 2 major parties, will affect the allocation of votes among candidates. That can be mathematically shown. To vote for a third party as opposed to not vote, then the pie increases and the percentages are altered differently.

    Sandy, I agree that there is good proportionate reason to vote for Mitt Romney.

    • Ted Seeber

      The laws of physics say that wealth creation is a zero sum game, and that voting is not.

      • Michael F.

        I’m not following you here. My college background is in economics, Ted. Wealth creation is a matter of economics, not physics. Can you please explain to me how wealth creation is a zero sum game? “The pie” in this country has become remarkably larger over the past century. That’s wealth creation.

        • Ted Seeber

          My background is in software systems development. Even I can see there are only a limited number of atoms available to use by the human race, and thus material wealth creation is limited by that number of atoms until such a time that we are able to transmute matter from energy.

          Economics has become a game of who can lie the best for the greatest grants from the richest businesses. As such it has become divorced from the underlying reality of the physics of materialism.

          The pie in this country has only become larger by taking slices from other countries- and it was pretty large to begin with (as the Kalapuya once said before they were wiped out by the American Army, the natural wealth in North America (or at least their little slice, the Willamette Valley) was vast). But then again, being Christian rather than Atheist- I reject the libertarian/marxist value of labor in wealth creation, and attribute ALL creation to the One Creator.

          • Michael F.

            Here’s some information to get you started. But I really have to run now!

            http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/what-causes-wealth/

            • Michael F.
            • Ted Seeber

              I’m sorry- what part of “I reject atheists” did you not understand?

              • Michael F.

                The Church does not reject any of which is good and true, Ted. Just because a person may be wrong on one thing does not mean he is wrong on all things. Many scientists and doctors are atheists, but they know how to make a nuclear reactor and do a quadruple bypass.

          • Michael F.

            Just quickly – you’re forgetting about the input of man and his intelligence – forming and shaping those resources. Adding value. Trading, etc. Services. There’s more in the links.

            Pax.

            • Ted Seeber

              Man only has intelligence due to the blessing of God. Viva Christo Rey!

              • Michael F.

                Yes, of course, Ted. But man’s intelligence and creativity cannot be reduced to the mere number of atoms in the world (as you argued earlier) – unless you’re a strict materialist – which is a heresy.

              • Michael F.

                Now, based on a recent post by Mark, I’m going to bow out. It seems that he’s concerned about people making too many comments. I hope I didn’t over-stay my welcome. If you write back, please don’t be offended if I don’t respond.

                God bless.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Mark S.,

    Not when the morons are arguIng that Satan.worshIps both partIes. What fool belIeves Satan worshIps eIther party?

    I do personally belIeve both partIes worshIp Satan, but that’s a horse of an entIrely dIfferent specIes.

  • Lone Star

    I have been agonizing over this and have decided not to vote. I CAN’T vote for one and I WON’T vote for the other. I’ve been an active voter since I came of age, so this is hard, but in these cirumstances, it’s the best I can do.

  • Michael F.

    Tom K and Zippy –

    I mentioned this above but you both seem to have missed it. What is your reaction to this?

    Quote:

    I would point out that those who take the “I won’t compromise at all on grave moral issues. I won’t vote for any candidate unless they’re right on all the non-negotiable issues” might want to look a little more closely to see if that’s really what they’re doing — if it’s even possible to find a candidate who actually fits that strict criteria. Is there any presidential candidate out there who is publicly against legal, no-fault divorce? Legal contraception? Is there any candidate out there who is against legal fornication? Legal sodomy, even? (End quote)

    Tom K – have all the people you’ve voted for been morally correct on *all* these issues? (And if they have, could you please point me to the candidates?) Or have you just not voted for anyone since you adopted your voting philosophy because no one measures up to the standard? I ask that seriously.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      If you can tell me what my voting philosophy is, I’ll answer these questions.

      • Michael F.

        I’m trying to follow it, Tom. It seems like you’ve modified it slightly here:

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/10/hope-for-tomorrow.html/comment-page-1#comment-120427

        QuoteL “When all candidates represent some evil, we are to cast our vote for the least of all evils — which includes the evil of casting our vote away altogether.”

        I thought that your answer to the question I posed would help you to clarify what your philosophy is and how it plays out in practice. I’m not trying to trick you or make you look like a fool.

        Yes, I’m skeptical of what you seem to be laying out here, but I’m interested in understanding and learning because these issues are grave concern to me. Again, at this point, I’m not persuaded by your arguments (nor those of Zippy), although I think you both have helped to demarcate where the “lesser of two evils/viability” argument can be carried too far. Also, I’ve had my mind changed in the past, so I’ve learned to listen and try to keep an open mind. I am challenging you, though, yes. And I by challenging I hope that provides an opportunity to refine our understanding.

        Follow?

        • Michael F.

          Pardon all the typos – I’m doing this in between many other things.

        • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

          “When all candidates represent some evil, we are to cast our vote for the least of all evils — which includes the evil of casting our vote away altogether.”

          I’ll note that this does not require that a candidate be “morally correct on *all* these issues,” nor does it propose a “standard” a candidate must “measure up to.” So I’m not sure what to make of you asking those questions of someone you think holds that as their voting philosophy.

          That said, sometimes I vote for candidates I have no moral reservations regarding, sometimes I vote for candidates I have moral reservations regarding, and sometimes I do not cast a vote for an office.

          • Michael F.

            I posted in the wrong space. See below please (starting with “Thanks, Tom”)

    • Ted Seeber

      Tom Hoefling. I got ahold of him in a facebook chat and asked him the hard questions. Even brought him around to my view of divorce in a domestic violence situation- that we need to term domestic violence as an illness in a marriage that needs treating, not a reason to kill the marriage.

      • Michael F.

        Looks like a solid guy on the issues. If I decided to make a protest vote (which I still might because my state is bluer than blue – no way Romney will win here), he might be the guy I would choose. He’s not on the ballot in my state. And according to our laws, it seems that my vote for him wouldn’t even count because he hasn’t filed the paperwork necessary. How many states have him on the ballot? I wish he had a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning.

        That said: I’d like to see him put his positions out there publicly. It’s easy to tell people what they want to hear when you’re in a private or semi-private setting. Ask him if he will make these positions public and put them up on his website.

        Again, in order for him to be morally “right” across the board, here’s a partial list of what he would have to public commit to:

        1) I support making it illegal to get divorced and remarried, unless one’s marriage was invalid in the first place.
        2) I support making all contraception illegal.
        3) I support making homosexual acts illegal.
        4) I support making fornication and living together illegal.
        5) I support making all abortion illegal.
        6) I support making all pornography illegal.

        Ask him to commit to those positions publicly, on his website and see what he says and does. I’d be very interested to see.

        Of course, from my perspective, it doesn’t make sense to vote for him, regardless, in a “battleground state”. I think there is an significant moral difference between Obama and Romney. But in a non-battleground state, he might be a good guy to support. I’d have to learn more.

        • Ted Seeber

          He’s my write in choice. I suggest you join America’s Party on facebook to ask him your set of tough questions- I’d be interested in seeing the result.

          For “Guys on the Ballot”, Virgil Goode is my 2nd choice. Solid on everything other than racism (and a bit Americanist on that- not really against people for the color of their skin, but rather discriminating based on where they were born- a bit of an American-Firster despite being in the Constitutional Party).

          And like you, I’m in a state that is blueer than blue- and guaranteed to go at least 60% for Obama in the five counties that actually get a vote (Mutlnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Linn, Marion). The rest of the state might as well not exist- 65% of the population is in those 5 counties. Slightly more than 52% is in three of them. Might contribute a bit to my cynicism- what few Republicans survive here do so by favors to big business. The rest of the politicians are all Democrats. You have to go down to county government in rural areas to get anything else.

          • Michael F.

            I’ll think about it – maybe when I have time. But now I’ve got to run. Lots of things that I been multi-tasking with while writing comments. LOL Time to focus.

            Enjoyed the chat. God bless!

  • Michael F.

    Thanks, Tom.

    But I don’t really follow you.

    You wrote, “When all candidates represent some evil, we are to cast our vote for the least of all evils — which includes the evil of casting our vote away altogether.”

    To me, this certainly looks like a rigid principle and a standard that you’ve established. If all the candidates represent “some evil” then “we are” to vote for the least evil, including the evil of casting our vote away altogether. I’m not aware of any candidate in any presidential election in modern history that doesn’t “represent some evil.” And then you said that in such a case, “we are” to vote for the least evil, including the evil of casting our vote away. “We are” sounds like an absolute, not a flexible suggestion.

    So, could you clarify your general principle? Because, at least as stated, it doesn’t seem to square with the real-world results you mentioned.

    Again, I’m asking sincerely.

    • Michael F.

      Clarification: I wrote, “So, could you clarify your general principle? Because, at least as stated, it doesn’t seem to square with the real-world results you mentioned.”

      By “real-world results you mentioned”, I was referring to your actual voting record. I don’t see how it squares with the principle you laid out.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      When “I vote for candidates I have no moral reservations regarding,” the “least evil” principle doesn’t apply. When “I vote for candidates I have moral reservations regarding,” I judge the effects of voting for those candidates to be better than the effects of either voting for another candidate or not casting a vote for the office. When “I do not cast a vote for an office,” I judge the effects of a vote for each candidate to be worse than the effects of not casting a vote for the office.

      • Michael F.

        Thanks, Tom. Some more questions that will help to clarify and help me to understand how this plays out:

        1) Which candidate(s) today and in the past do you have “no moral reservations regarding”? Or using the others words you chose, which candidate(s) today and in the past do not “represent some evil”?

        2) If the polls show that your favored candidate has no chance of winning at all, under your principles, would you still vote for him or her if the two viable candidates have very significant moral differences between them?

        For instance: Viable candidate #1 (with 49% support in the polls) supports gay marriage, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, unfettered abortion on demand for any reason and at any time, even refusing to protect babies who are born alive after a botched abortion. Viable candidate #2 (with 49% support in polls), supports abortion in cases of rape and incest. But he’s against all the other things mentioned above. Candidate #3 who doesn’t support any of these barely registers on the polls.

        Who would you vote for in that case?

        • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

          You seem to be under a misapprehension about how desperate I am to communicate my voting philosophy to you.

          • Michael F.

            :-/ That’s a very odd conclusion for you to reach. But no problem, we’re done. Thanks for you time. I enjoyed and benefitted from most of the discussion.


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