Tell Me Who To Vote For!

As a resident of Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District – “The Fightin’ Second!” – I’m facing a classic election year dilemma.  I’m interested in the process our Catholic readers would use to evaluate my choices for US Representative.  You can assume that I desire to make a choice that is most consonant with the moral and social teaching of the Church. You can also assume that the three candidates are decent people (which they are) and fully qualified for the office. Aside from answering direct questions about the candidates, I don’t intend to comment in the thread (well, maybe just a little).

Note: If I seem to focus on abortion in my brief descriptions of the candidates, below, that’s because it really is at the heart of my dilemma. If all three held the same view on the issue – as they do on gay marriage, for instance – the choice would be much easier.

Jim Langevin, a Catholic, is the Democratic incumbent. I disagree with Langevin on most issues – he is a reliable vote for the American defense, insurance and banking industries, for instance – but he has a moderately pro-life voting record (NRLC, 76% lifetime).

Abel Collins, a Quaker friend of mine, is running as an independent, which is also my formal affiliation. I agree with Abel on most things – especially war/peace, the environment and regulation of the banks – but he is thoroughly pro-choice on abortion, although he firmly places the issue in the category of “secondary concerns.”

The Republican is a hedge fund manager named Michael Riley. He is vague on policy, but says his model in Congress would be Paul Ryan, of whom I am not a big fan (to put it mildly). Riley claims to be pro-life, but quickly dismisses any talk of overturning current law and promises that the issue is “way down the list” of his priorities.

If you were me, who would you support? More importantly, why?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Carl Diederichs

    Since being pro-life really doesn’t cost the candidate anything since the law of the land will not change anytime soon, I would concentrate on that candidate who does see war and peace as pro-life issues, along with stewardship of the earth.

    • Thales

      Hhmm, interesting. Nothing against Carl’s perspective–it’s a reasonable one held by reasonable people–but for me, I think I can make pretty much the exact opposite argument:
      Since being pro-peace/anti-war doesn’t cost the candidate anything since current foreign policy will not change anytime soon, I would concentrate on the candidate’s stance on pro-life issues (abortion, religious freedom) as that’s an area where he and his vote can actually make a difference.

      Mark, this is a tough question!

      • http://ryanpaulklassen.wordpress.com Ryan Klassen

        Really? How many representatives are pro-peace/anti-war, and how’s that working out for them? It may not change foreign policy any more than being pro-life will change abortion laws, but no politician is anti-war without really believing in it, because carries a hefty political cost. Contrast that to the political benefits of being pro-life regarding abortion. One is clearly more costly politically than the other.

        • Thales

          Ryan,
          You might be misunderstanding me (and I probably phrased my comment inaccurately). I was responding to Carl’s comment that I read to say (and I suppose I might be mistaken), “since the law of the land will not change anytime soon with regard to abortion, concentrate on someone who is good on foreign policy.” My response was that since the law of the land will not change anytime soon with regard to foreign policy, concentrate on someone who is good on abortion.

        • http://ryanpaulklassen.wordpress.com Ryan Klassen

          Fair enough. I don’t necessarily know the answer to this question, but I would ask it anyway since I think it speaks to the choice Mark needs to make. Obviously there is a limit to the effect one representative can have on either abortion or foreign policy. And both issues can also be tackled through grassroots efforts as well as legislative efforts. Assuming Mark wants both to reduce abortion and reduce the violence in American foreign policy, how will his vote maximally promote these goals? Would it be more effective in reaching both goals by having a pro-life representative and relying only on grassroots work to affect foreign policy, or would it be more effective to have a pro-peace representative and rely on grassroots work to reduce abortion?

        • Thales

          Ryan,
          Those are fair points you make, and your questions are exactly the types that should be asked by a thoughtful Christian voter. And I don’t have any definitive answer myself. It’s a difficult issue.

  • Thales

    Did Langevin vote for Nancy Pelosi as Dem. leader?

    You’ve presented an interesting dilemma, and one that I need to think about some more. As my question indicates, I think what leadership they would support might be an important factor, since it’s the leadership that crafts what policies and bills are being furthered, and that helps set the tone and the issues to be debated in our society. It seems to me that the current Dem. leadership (e.g., Pelosi) is particularly extreme on abortion, religious freedom, PP funding, etc. Personally, I might be open to voting for a moderate pro-life Dem. representative, but the extremeness of the Dem. leadership bothers me. I wish there was more moderation at the top of the party, like it can sometimes be found in the lower portions of the party.

    • Kurt

      Gee, even I am not so partisan to say that I condition my support for congressional candidates solely by party affiliation (or the polite way of phrasing, it, “who they vote for leader”).

      Nevertheless, I had a meeting this morning with a Democratic pro-life congressional candidate that Nancy Pelosi recruited to run for Congress, even though there was a pro-choice Democrat already in the race.

      • Thales

        Kurt,
        I see you completely misunderstood my point. This has nothing to do with party affiliation. I’m talking about the fact that a party representative votes for the party leader within the party. You do know that Dem. members vote for their own leader (and vice versa for the GOP), right? Last time, several Dem. representatives voted for the more moderate and pro-life Heath Shuler over the extreme Nancy Pelosi, but not enough of them voted that way, in my opinion. As I said, I’d like to see a greater pro-life influence in the Dem. party, especially in its leadership.

  • Abel Collins

    Thank you, Mark, for raising an important issue. I value both your friendship and your faith. While I am pro-choice, I, like most, view abortion as the option of last resort. Too many women feel forced into making this terrible choice by the circumstances of their lives. I think what we should all be aiming for is the creation of a society where women can feel confident that when they bring a child into the world, he or she will be safe, healthy, and free.

    If we can reduce poverty, address domestic abuse, and provide adequate and affordable healthcare, we will go a long way toward making abortions obsolete. I think my other policy positions hold more promise for addressing those concerns than either Langevin’s or Riley’s, and thus a vote for me is actually a pro-life vote as much or more than it would be for them.

  • Paul

    I’d need to know more about the candidates’ positions, but with the picture you painted, I’d vote for the Democrat because I can count. The stanglehold the GOP has on the President needs to be broken…and the number needed is 218. Langevis is only one, but he is one.

  • http://www.takethepoorwithyou.blogspot.com Tienne McKenzie

    I have always found it most helpful to imagine what the candidate could actually accomplish in the position they are seeking. What do you foresee as the main issues this upcoming Congress will face?

    • Mark Gordon

      I think the next Congress will have some historic decisions to make regarding healthcare, spending and taxation, and war.

  • http://gravatar.com/w8kwses w8kwses

    One may write off the Republican, as he seems in opposition to the whole of Catholic social doctrine. I agree with one above commenter who points out that economic security for the to-be mother lets her look forward to having a child, instead of being terrified by it. I believe myself that if all to-be mothers were economically secure, peer pressure would end a very high majority of abortions.
    Secondly, there’s precious little Congress can do to prohibit abortion, given Roe v Wade. Anyone running for Congress who says he’s going to stop abortion, is untruthful, or ignorant.
    Abel Collins appears your best choice, given that abortion is nearly irrelevant to the campaign, and a voice in accord with Catholic Social Doctrine (see the Papal publication of like title) is going to work to reduce poverty.
    The overwhelming majority of abortions is among the very poor, and bettering their situation is critical on abortion issues until such time as lightning strikes with a Constitutional Amendment.
    Differently stated the Conservative stance on budgets and taxes is the most pro-abortion stance possible.

    • Thales

      Secondly, there’s precious little Congress can do to prohibit abortion, given Roe v Wade.

      This argument gets made all the time, but I think that’s an overly simplistic way of thinking about abortion issues. Sure, Congress can’t overrule Roe v. Wade but there are plenty of other other abortion/”pro-life” areas it can weigh in on and craft legislation about: namely, the areas of appropriate abortion restrictions, conscience protections, religious liberty protection (see HHS mandate), federal abortion funding, Planned Parenthood funding, federal ESCR funding, etc.

      • http://w8kwses.wordpress.com w8kwses

        and look how unsuccessful these ‘stick’ approaches have been. Isn’t it time we reflected on the facts that the wealth of the few has multiplied by many times, and where the top dog used to earn maybe 50 times what the bottom dog did, it’s now thousands of times more And down at the bottom are hard working people whose economic circumstances are perilous at best, for whom pregnancy means large uninsured expenses, and possibly loss of one parent’s income. There’s where the mass of abortions come from, and the Republican approach in the House is to make their plight worse. We need to attack abortion with the carrot, as the big stick is denied to us, and the little sticks don’t work.
        And by the way, even if Roe goes away, there are those states like NY or IL where abortion would likely remain lawful. That would mean the poor people get poorer, and the middle class gets on a bus.
        Let’s go back to tax rates of say 1953, with brackets adjusted for inflation, and adopt a tax credit for birth expenses, including sometimes like earned income tax credit for those who are too poor to reach the threshold for paying taxes.

        • Thales

          [shrug] There’s no necessary mutual exclusivity here. You can do all you suggest and ensure that federal funding and support doesn’t go to abortion.

        • Kurt

          Just be aware that the pro-life movement will invent new and increasingly novel claims of “federal funding of abortion” at every turn.

        • Kurt

          Boy, that was fast. The pro-lifers just made up a new one in the House mark up of the Appropriations bill.

        • Thales

          Kurt, I fail to see why this deserves criticism and scorn.

      • Mike

        I think this gives away a large part of the pro-life attack.

        The whole pro-life strategy has been to make it as if the entirety of the abortion practice is on the line. A candidate’s stance on war is irrelevant if the number of casualties is only a fraction of the number of abortions. Other issues are made to look small compared to the vast number of abortions out there. However, if one admits that a pro-life victory at best would only be affecting abortion at the margins, then abortion becomes one issue among many. It would no longer be the only issue. At that point supporting a pro-choice candidate for other reasons becomes a prudential decision as opposed to a support for the death of a million babies every year.

        • Thales

          Mike,

          You might be right with regard to others who exaggerate and propagandize in making their political cases (and I know that happens on the pro-life side, from time to time). But as for me, I’m quite cynical by nature and I’ve got no rose-colored glasses on, so I know that a candidate can’t prevent the death of a million babies. I don’t think, or speak, or advocate in those terms. I’m just noting that a candidate in Congress can actually do something and accomplish something with regard to pro-life issues and that it is incorrect to say “there’s precious little Congress can do to prohibit abortion, given Roe v Wade.”

          Also, consider that I could counter yours and w8kwses’s position by this argument:
          -A candidate’s stance on abortion can seem irrelevant when looking at the vast numbers of casualties in foreign wars. Other issues are made to look small compared to the vast number of persons affected by war and our country’s foreign policy. However, if one admits that a pro-“peace” victory at best would only be affecting casualties in foreign engagements at the margins, then war/peace becomes one issue among many. It would no longer be the only issue. At that point supporting a pro-“war and torture” candidate for other reasons becomes a prudential decision as opposed to a support for the death and torture of a million war casualties every year.

          Now I’m don’t subscribe to the above argument; I’m just using it to make a point that, in the grand scheme of things, one candidate can do little with regard to our foreign policy, just as you say that one candidate can do little with regard to our abortion policy. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean we should just ignore a candidate’s position on abortion or on foreign policy— because a candidate CAN have an effect on both abortion and on foreign policy, even though it may be small.

          It comes down to the fact that there is no one good candidate, and these are difficult issues which one must balance back and forth. A prudential judgment must be made as to the “least evil” candidate, to which a vote in the candidate’s favor might best support the “least worst” outcome. But just as we shouldn’t dismiss a candidate’s stance on war, let’s not do that for abortion either. (And as an aside, I think unlike past elections where it seems that we see basically the same issue of abortion and foreign policy, I this election has a new wrinkle with religious freedom added to the mix.)

        • Kurt

          A prudential judgment must be made as to the “least evil” candidate,

          As someone who finds neither the President nor Gov Romney as “evil”, nor do I find “evil” any of three candidates in the RI 2nd district, nor the vast majority of people, Democrats and Republicans, who put themselves forward for public service, I think far more harm is done to our society by the act of labeling such people in public life as “evil” than whatever policy positions these folks take.

        • Thales

          Kurt,
          Sorry, poor choice of words. I don’t mean to say that the candidates are evil themselves; I mean only to say that the candidates sometimes support bad (or even evil) positions. So scratch “evil”, and insert “bad” or “imperfect”. No candidate is perfect, so we have to vote for the least imperfect candidate.

        • Kurt

          Thank you, Thales. I appreciate your revision.

          None of us (candidates and non-candidates) are perfect due to our fallen nature.

          I’m not even sure there is a piece of legislation that could be called ‘perfect.’ (although I have been in seemingly endless meetings where folks certainly tried to make it perfect until I was ready to poke my eyes out!!) :)

  • Kurt

    but he has a moderately pro-life voting record (NRLC, 76% lifetime).

    I like Jim Langevin and have contributed to his campaign, but as his NRLC voting record indicates, he is an anti-life vote on campaign finance reform issues. Of course, I support campaign finance reform, so I’m anti-life myself on that issue.

    • Mark Gordon

      Langevin’s lifetime NARAL rating is 10%. I don’t know whether that includes his votes in support of campaign finance reform.

      • grega

        I do not see a dilemma at all – why would you not vote for your friend Abel Collins? Why even hurting your friend by writing this post?
        I do not get it.

        • Mark Gordon

          And what if my friend Abel supported pre-emptive war against Iran, or a resumption of the Bush torture regime? Would you offer the same counsel? Or is a candidate’s position on abortion a negligible matter for you? Clearly, I would like to support Abel, and I very well may. But is it enough to say “he’s my friend?” (By the way, Abel and I are not close friends, and as a thoughtful man I know he understands my need to grapple with this question.)

        • gadria

          Well being a Quaker should preclude the war and torture related issues.
          In my opinion Abel has a very sensitive and realistic position on Abortion –
          I share his view and get more than a bit tired of the various particular Republican politicians that for all practical manners share Abels view as well but pay plenty cynical lipservice to the ‘base’.
          Including Mr. Romney who seems to change his mind depending what State he is running for office.
          As far as I am concerned Republicans and Democrats contracept and yes abort at pretty much exactly the same percentage – and that is the reason why we have the Abortion related laws that we have. As a society we might modify modestly one way or the other but overall the direction will be consistent. If we as a society gravitate towards 1 to 3 kids – force two income families and do not exactly come up with meaningful ways to financially support larger families – yes mature adults will continue to make exactly the kind of choices regarding contraception and in rarer cases Abortion that they seem to make – I find it rather naive to expect a different outcome without substantial change in society – and frankly overall our society is working rather nicely thank you very much.

      • Kurt

        No, NARAL doesn’t consider cfr a pro-choice issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=756600456 Ron Chandonia

    The rhetoric your friend Abel Collins uses here is certainly familiar and no doubt comforting to those who find abortion repulsive but do not want to seem judgmental about it. It offers them the best of both worlds: the soothing language of respect for life coupled with continued legal tolerance for destroying it at will. From this perspective, energy and effort–including the effort it takes to change unjust laws–can be expended for any worthy public cause except the very goal toward which the others supposedly lead: a society in which no human life is dismissed as unwanted.

    In actual practice, of course, rhetoric like this leads in a very different direction. In fact, the worthiness of various possible public policies tends to be measured not by their effect on the lives of the poor but by their impact on the lifestyles of the powerful, the affluent and the comfortable. Our latest causes du jour seem to be homosexual weddings and healthier restaurant portions; tomorrow we may subsidize mandatory genetic screening or perhaps assisted suicide. Meanwhile, the collapse of family life and civil society among the nation’s less fortunate continues unabated–and widespread abortion is not only its inevitable result but also one of its chief causes.

    I myself would probably not vote for either the Democratic or the Republican candidates in your district, but I would vote for either of them before I cast my vote for Abel Collins. I would see a vote for him as an endorsement of the fashionable politics of Cheap Grace.

  • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

    For my own part, I never vote either Democratic or Republican for federal offices as a rule, tending as I do to consider people who do as actively complicit in some serious political problems in our society. But setting that idiosyncrasy aside, I think it’s a mistake to vote on issues alone; you should vote for the person who would, on the evidence available to you, be most reasonable and open to seeing reasonable opposing arguments. Nothing else will actually matter once the man is in office. The primary value of what they say about the issues is simply that the ‘issues’, being the politically difficult questions, allow you to test whether the person in question can identify reasonable possible paths, and otherwise is only interesting if you are unable to choose between candidates solely on the ground of how reasonable or prudent they are.

  • Jake

    You pose an interesting request — for whom should you vote. I do not offer an opinion for whom to vote, but rather a thought on what NOT to consider. And I know it will not be well accepted by the other commentors.

    Don’t let abortion be an issue in your decision. If the messages on abortion from the pulpit were heeded, then all the court decisions and laws allowing abortion would be of no consequence. That abortions continue is an indication of the inadequacy of the pulpit, not the lawmakers. To ask the government to enforce by edict what people have not chosen to do voluntarily at the direction of the pulpit, seems a step toward a theocracy.

    The same argument can be made for gay marriage. If the pulpit is heeded then all the laws and court rulings are of no consequence.

    Vote for the person that will allow the pulpit message be unfiltered by government. Then get to work from the pulpit!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=756600456 Ron Chandonia

      Nonsense. The very same could be said of child abuse or theft or murder or any social ill we prohibit “by edict” when “people have not chosen voluntarily” to refrain from it.

  • Ronald King

    Vote for Abel. His picture is natural rather than fabricated with a suit, coat, tie and a :)

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Do you see the irony of this, in that the RC Church in America has already told you not to vote for your friend Abel?

    Thank the Lord that Archbishop Lori has informed everybody that they are really not interested in politics. Denial is a river that runs straight through Rome and Baltimore, it seems.

  • Kurt

    You can assume that I desire to make a choice that is most consonant with the moral and social teaching of the Church.

    Okay, here is probably the most thoughtful answer. The moral and social teachings of the Church do not and are not designed to lead an enfranchised citizen of democracy to make a particular choice for candidates. And this probably needs to be said more often. You actually are going to have to use your own best judgment.

    • Mark Gordon

      Well, of course I have to use my own best judgment, but that judgment isn’t informed by nothing. Unlike some, I’m not making a choice based on irrelevancies like eye color, personal friendship or partisan political affiliation. Judgments based on those are literally “nothing.” Or worse. I’m making a judgment about whose positions on the issues are most consonant with the whole teaching of the Church, properly understood and appropriately weighted. Believe it or not, that’s what an intelligent Christian should do, and Christian – not “enfranchised citizen of democracy” – is my primary identity.

      • Kurt

        I’m making a judgment about whose positions on the issues are most consonant with the whole teaching of the Church, properly understood and appropriately weighted. Believe it or not, that’s what an intelligent Christian should do, and Christian – not “enfranchised citizen of democracy” – is my primary identity.

        I actually don’t think it is what an intelligent or holy Christian does. And I don’t think there is some formula, even a difficult and complicated formula, that leads intelligent Christians to the proper candidate in a matter of a civil election. Faithful Christians might and will come to different, legitimate conclusions.

        • Mark Gordon

          So, religious conviction and the moral/social teaching of the Church have no bearing on public policy or on consideration of the politicians who will devise and enact those policies. Is that about right?

        • Kurt

          No, I never said it had no bearing.

          Religious conviction and the moral/social teaching of the Church have a heavy bearing on some public policy issues (and a light bearing or no bearing on others) and therefore they have an indirect bearing on the consideration of candidates for office. But we already have two degrees of separation there, even without considering factors other than public policy positions such as character, skills, constituent relations, etc… So I don’t think it can be said to have a definitive or universally determining bearing. In fact, the bearing is limited and indirect enough that certainly the Church and generally those claiming to speak with the Church should keep to public policy statements and not candidate endorsements.

  • Julia Smucker

    The dilemma seems to be between abortion and foreign policy (or maybe abortion vs. everything else). I wholeheartedly share your frustration, Mark, with being forced into such a false dichotomy when voting, and I also share something of the cynicism you and a few others have expressed: legislation on either of those areas is not likely to change much, whatever the candidates’ stated positions are.

    But if I were in your district and could be reasonably sure that Abel Collins is serious about taking a preventive, systemic, solutions-oriented approach to the problem of abortion (among other things, naturally, as it’s all of a piece), as he suggests in his comment on this post, then he would have my vote.

    In fact, I say a hearty “amen” to what he has said here:

    I think what we should all be aiming for is the creation of a society where women can feel confident that when they bring a child into the world, he or she will be safe, healthy, and free.

    If we can reduce poverty, address domestic abuse, and provide adequate and affordable healthcare, we will go a long way toward making abortions obsolete.

    In saying this, he is echoing the positions of the most articulate and well-rounded pro-life organizations (Feminists for Life and the Consistent Life network come to mind).

    • brettsalkeld

      I am basically sympathetic to the idea that working towards creating certain social conditions will make abortion a less appealing option for many women. On the other hand, if such work is accompanied by a reckless and negligent sexual ethic as is typically promoted by those who tend to take the “let’s work to reduce abortion through social policy” angle, all the social programs in the world aren’t going to be able to keep up with the lives broken by a misuse of sexuality. People having sex who aren’t prepared to deal with the results of sex are going to have abortions no matter what. Now, it probably violates the principle of subsidiarity to expect good sex ed from the federal or even state governments. This needs to happen in families, churches and schools. What we do need, however, are legislative bodies that don’t override and undercut our efforts in this area by doing things like funding Planned Parenthood and their abortion inducing sexual education programs.

      • Kurt

        What federal funding is there of PP sexual education programs?

      • Julia Smucker

        Of course a healthy and morally sound sexual ethic should be connected to the social policy angle. There is no intrinsic discontinuity between these things that would make the connection difficult, so the fact that some people with a more “reckless and negligent sexual ethic” also want to work to reduce abortion through social policy is no grounds for dismissing this work. On the contrary, it’s a sign of common ground: even if we disagree on certain points related to sexuality, we can and should work together to prevent the situations, often abetted by systemic injustices, that tragically lead to abortion.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=756600456 Ron Chandonia

          Except that it does not happen, Julia. People who think of sex as a recreational sport–or regard unwanted human lives as dispensible–are not likely to support social policies that help others to become (in Abel Collins’ phrase) “safe, healthy and free.” This is a major point Pope Benedict makes in Caritas in Veritate. Obviously, many Catholic voters in this country would prefer to believe otherwise, but their optimism is supported more by wishful thinking than by empirical evidence.

        • brettsalkeld

          Agreed. We should be work together where we can. The point of my comment is to highlight that working together can be quite messy and requires careful discernment. Catholics have to be very careful when working together to reduce abortion with those who embrace policies (about sex ed, for instance) that actually increase abortion. It is one thing to say that we can agree that reducing abortions is good, but if we can’t agree on the causes of abortion, there is some work we can’t do together. If we can agree that a better social safety net would decrease abortions, let’s work on a better social safety net. But if one group thinks sex education and access to contraception decreases abortion, and another thinks it increases abortion, we have a problem. And the problem gets bigger when those we want to work with on the social safety net are inclined to include sex ed and contraceptive access in their definition of social safety net.

  • Ronald King

    Brett, In my experience the source of a reckless and sexual ethic is an absent narcissistice father. That certainly cannot be legislated. It is that type of father who leaves a void within the child’s psyche due to his ablsence. This void will influence the development of addictive behaviors. This happens all acrosss the social classes. Sex ed will not prevent abortions without teaching the interpersonal dynamics of healthy relationships vs unhealthy reslationships and how each influences our cognitive development.

  • http://tau-cross.blogspot.com/ Tausign

    My focus in this election cycle is on work and jobs and everything else is subordinate this time around. The need to work is so vital to human development and a virtuous society that all else pales in comparison. All other concerns nearly disappear when people are working and the economy providing full employment. Here’s an article from that I observe in the SFO Rule: Article 16 – Let them esteem work both as a gift and a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

  • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

    I would probably vote for the Democratic incumbent, my primary motivation would be that I think it is important that there be a pro-life presence in the Democratic Party, and that remaining a pro-life Democrat is a bold stance that should be encouraged.

    More important than who (or whether!) you or I vote for is that me resist the temptation to identify with whomever we vote for, minimizing his faults, and be willing to strongly criticize him when he takes a position in conflict with my values.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nate.wildermuth Nathaniel Wildermuth

    “Don’t vote. It only encourages them.” – Dorothy Day.

    And yet, Dorothy lived a life immersed in political action, as the Catholic laity are called to do. But to my knowledge she didn’t vote, because voting gives legitimacy to a system that has no legitimacy. The state, far from being the protector of society that it claims to be, has instead been the protector of the rich and ruthless.

    Moreover, the state will always fundamentally be the protector of the rich and ruthless, which is why Dorothy described her mission as including “overthrowing the state (nonviolently).”

    Leo Tolstoy taught that the state is founded upon violence and threats of violence: the use of laws, judges, police, and prisons to enslave a population. Without the use and threat of violence, the state would immediately collapse.

    For a Christian who has made the Sermon on the Mount their guiding principal of socio-political life (and there are many who deliberately have not done so), violence is anathema. And if violence is rejected, so too the state that lives on bloodshed.

    • Mark Gordon

      Nate, I always welcome your bracing commentary. It’s true that Dorothy didn’t make a practice of voting, and that weighs heavily in my consideration. I’m not there yet, just as I haven’t yet embraced voluntary poverty or pacifism. One note: I can’t verify that Dorothy ever actually said or wrote “Don’t vote, it only encourages them.” I think that may be attributed to her erroneously.

    • Mark Gordon

      Nate, do you know Brian Douglass?

      He’s in St. Louis and apparently has some CW ties or interests.

  • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

    Vote for Abel.

    • Mark Gordon

      I may. But why do you say so?

      • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

        Sorry. I realized that I forgot to state my reason, and then got busy and forgot to come back and do so. My primary reason is that he is an independent. The major parties are corrupt beyond all redemption. Any person willing to put himself on the line, able to count only on such support as he can muster on his own, should be supported, provided that his political agenda is generally acceptable to the voter.

        • Mark Gordon

          Thanks!

  • Cindy

    I would vote for Abel. First off he is your friend. You know him. If you like him and trust him, then I would support him. Secondly, I like that he agrees with you on war and peace. I think that’s really important, considering how we are the police of the world. I think it would be nice to have politicians in place that are more cautious and want to keep us out of wars. I only have one question. Is he a millionaire? If he isn’t then yes. Vote for Abel. How can any little guy out in this world have any true representation if all that is representing us are millionaires who can’t possibly know what it’s really like to be in our shoes? It would be nice if politicians were just more like regular people.

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ danielimburgia

    Since Nathaniel mentioned her, let me offer this from Day’s diaries that I read just today: “The less you have of Caesar the less you have to render to Caesar,” (685). These great saints like DD and Mother T always make it all seem so obvious don’t they! I think a reasonable case can be made for not voting at all, but as I look at my life it would be a fair judgement to conclude that I am already Caesar’s bitch; and I’m not sure that a lot of moral/ethical handwringing about which of Caesar’s children to vote for does much to assuage my culpability or usher in the Kingdom of God. We are called to make some really hard choices if were going to follow Jesus, casting votes in the empires pseudo-democracy probably ain’t one of them. obliged.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      I agree that a good case can be made for not voting at all. If there were to be, say, a ten-percent turnout for the national election, then no matter who was elected it would be obvious to the world-at-large that the American government does not have the support of, and does not represent the will of, the American people. This is true now, but it is currently easy to avoid looking at it, on the one hand, or to deny the truth of it, on the other.

  • Mark Gordon

    And the winner is … Abel Collins. Abel will get my vote this November. Here’s my rationale: Apart from the issue of abortion, I find Abel’s positions on most issues to be in harmony with my own views, which are in turn informed by my understanding of Catholic Social Teaching. These include the issues of war and preserving the social safety net for the poor, which both approach – though not eclipse – the proportionate gravity of abortion for me. Still, it remains true that Abel is pro-choice and Langevin is at least moderately pro-life. However, the deeper truth is that neither Abel nor Langevin is going to have any impact on abortion policy in the United States. On the other hand, there is a good chance that the next representative from RI’s 2nd District will have to vote on a series of bills related to war with Iran, and possibly even a declaration of war. And it is a certainty that he will be voting on how we balance taxation and spending, including whether or how deeply to cut into programs for the poor. I want Abel making those votes on my behalf. If protecting the unborn was on the legislative calendar, I might decide otherwise, but it’s not.

    Finally, our friends Nate Wildermuth and Daniel Imbruglia reminded me that my hero, model and patron, Dorothy Day, refused to vote for fear of granting legitimacy to an essentially illegitimate state. Instead, she was committed to the non-violent overthrow of the state. I understand and even accept the Christian anarchist point about the general illegitimacy of all states. But even Dorothy acknowledged that the state is not about to wither away. In my opinion, one way we can help to “overthrow” the state is to disrupt its normal working order, which has nothing to do with bureaucracies and budgets and everything to do with the collusion of two parties who are, as Rodak put it above, “corrupt beyond all redemption.” I would contend that Peter Maurin’s goal of building a “new society within the shell of the old” can be furthered by busting up a party system rigged to benefit the wealthy and powerful, and that the election of a good man like Abel Collins – even with his flaws – would represent a blow against that system.

    THANKS to everyone who helped me figure this out.