Election Denial And The Circumvention Of The Common Good

Election Denial And The Circumvention Of The Common Good November 30, 2022

DonkeyHotey: Kari Lake / flickr

“Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person.” [1]  Pope St. John Paul  II explained that for the effective engagement of democracy, basic principles need to be understood such as the point of government is to serve the common good  For this reason, it is important that laws, regulations, and those who govern, make sure the common good remains enforced, and that ideologues, seeking their own private gain, are not able to corrupt the state from within. “Thus she  [the church] cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological ends.”[2] Pope Francis reiterated this, pointing out:

In the face of many petty forms of politics focused on immediate interests, I would repeat that “true statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good.” [3]

Sadly, we find many who seek to circumvent the public order. Some of them are those who deny election results when elections do not give the results which they want. We see this in Arizona, not only by the Republican candidate for governor, but by a Republican-controlled county which has decided not to certify the election, despite what the law said should be done.  It is clear, county officials in Conchise County denied the result, as has a county in Pennsylvania, because they did not like the election results. Since the law mandated when certification should take place, they are being sued in order to make them comply with the rules and regulations put in place. “Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sued a Republican-controlled county Monday after it refused to certify its election results by the state’s statutory deadline.”[4] Interestingly enough, if they continue to refuse to certify the election, it is possible various election results will be changed, and not in their favor. “That would threaten to flip the victor in at least two close races, a US House seat and state schools chief, from a Republican to a Democrat.”[5] But, as there seems to be a desire to cause chaos in the system, to make more and more Republicans feel they have been disenfranchised, it is possible this is what they want. It will be easy for them to use this to suggest that Republicans are being unjustly denied their place in government, even though,  in reality, it is their own rules which have created the situation which they complain is unjust.

What is happening in Arizona is the continuation of what happened with the 2020 presidential election. Trump did not want to admit he lost, and he didn’t want his loss to be certified; this led  many Republicans to try to deny certification of the election which they could not do, but now the Arizona county has done. This demonstrates a significant breakdown in the political environment. Election results are no longer accepted by a significant group of Americans unless they results are what they believe should happen.  When they don’t get what they want, they not only claim the election was invalid, they claim everyone knows it was, using that claim to try to circumvent the election results; that desperation is what led to the attempted insurrection of 2020. And, as this mentality has not been fixed, it threatens the 2024 election, as more election deniers want the power to undermine the results of elections if their favored candidates do not win. We saw attempts to set things in motion so that they would have the power to deny 2024 presidential election results in the 2022 mid-term elections; thankfully, they were not successful, but this does not mean between 2022 and 2024, we will not see further attempts to change the electoral process and undermine the system as it is. Diligence must be taken to prevent such an outcome.

We must see what is going on and not be silent about it. There are several attempting to subvert the American political system. They ridicule, and therefore, reject the notion that government should work for the common good,. They represent the kind of regression which Pope Francis warned us about:

Our own days, however, seem to be showing signs of a certain regression. Ancient conflicts thought long buried are breaking out anew, while instances of a myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism are on the rise. In some countries, a concept of popular and national unity influenced by various ideologies is creating new forms of selfishness and a loss of the social sense under the guise of defending national interests.[6]

We should see the rhetoric they offer is often one of despair, using such despair to ferment a revolutionary spirit.  They claim their rights are being rejected, but when one examines their claims, it is obvious, they think only they have rights, and that they are upset at people telling them they have to respect the rights and desires of others. They think they should be free to dominate others, and if they are not able to do so, they claim freedom is being denied them. For example, they claim they want free speech, but they show they do not know or understand what free speech entails when they think they should be free to lie, to slander, to promote violence, without reprisal. They want the freedom to say whatever they want, to do whatever they want, and yet limit what others can do, if not actually “cancel” and hinder them from engaging their chosen professions. In other words, they want to dominate, and they embrace principles only for themselves, not others. Once again, Pope Francis saw the kind of spirit they represent, saying:

The best way to dominate and gain control over people is to spread despair and discouragement, even under the guise of defending certain values. Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools. Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion. Their share of the truth and their values are rejected and, as a result, the life of society is impoverished and subjected to the hubris of the powerful. Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and counter-charges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation. [7]

Christian nationalism is one of the many groups which has arisen within this context, trying to force society to conform to their desires; and though they claim themselves to be Christian, their principles are very secular as they ignore the principles Christ preached about and instead promote their own ideological group above all others, suggesting, moreover, that a particular group (or race) is superior to all others. What they want is to impose a totalitarian state, and in doing so, they show they are far from authentic Christian principles as they relate to government:

Nor does the Church close her eyes to the danger of fanaticism or fundamentalism among those who, in the name of an ideology which purports to be scientific or religious, claim the right to impose on others their own concept of what is true and good. Christian truth is not of this kind. Since it is not an ideology, the Christian faith does not presume to imprison changing socio-political realities in a rigid schema, and it recognizes that human life is realized in history in conditions that are diverse and imperfect. Furthermore, in constantly reaffirming the transcendent dignity of the person, the Church’s method is always that of respect for freedom. [8]

Government must be for the promotion of the common good. Many seeking power demonstrate their interest lies not in the common good, but their own personal likes and interests, and that they engage politics solely for the sake of power. When the common good is ignored or rejected, justice will be lost. Government which acts contrary to the common good will end up serving grave injustices. This, sadly, is what we see happening within the United States, as we find many reject the notion of the common good (calling its promotion socialism or communism), and when they have power, it is clear, their rejection of the common good is indeed more than rhetorical, as they put rules and regulations in place which undermine it and help a favored few (such as when President Trump promoted the rich over the common people). Tyranny is the end result. Thus, we must instill within everyone a desire for the common good, as then, we not only will promote the dictates of justice, but charity:

To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. To take a stand for the common good is on the one hand to be solicitous for, and on the other hand to avail oneself of, that complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pólis, or “city”. The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbour directly, outside the institutional mediation of the pólis. When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have. Like all commitment to justice, it has a place within the testimony of divine charity that paves the way for eternity through temporal action. Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family. In an increasingly globalized society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations, in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God.[9]

The rule of law must be joined with the common good. Government must work for the common good. Those who merely represent private, individual goods, seeking power in order to gain them at the expense of the common good, are willing to do anything for such power. This is why they do not care how silly, how false, their rhetoric can be shown to be, so long as they find enough people to convince and use for their own self-promotion. For they believe if they have enough followers, they think they can gain positions of power. So long as the government follows the rule of law, such would-be tyrants can be kept in check. But, as can be seen in Arizona, many are ignoring the dictates of law, even as they are trying to undermine election results. As long as they are not decisively stopped, and face the consequences of their actions, they will continue to threaten the system. Eventually, they might be able to achieve what they want, and circumvent the system, not for the sake of some greater good, but for their own private desire. Therefore, we must, under no uncertain terms, make their claims a thing of ridicule, and make sure they pay the price of their actions. We must do so in order to preserve the common good. If we don’t, everyone is put at risk if and when they gain power.

[1] Pope St. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus. Vatican translation. ¶46.

[2] Pope St. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, ¶46.

[3] Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti. Vatican translation. ¶178.

[4] Vaughn Hillyard and Zoë Richards, “Arizona Secretary Of State Sues GOP-controlled County Over Refusal To Certify Election Results” in NBCNews (11-28-2022).

[5] Gloria Oladipo, “Arizona Secretary Of State Sues After Republican Officials Refuse To Certify County Election Results” in The  Guardian (11-28-2022).

[6] Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, ¶11.

[7] Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, ¶15.

[8] Pope St. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, ¶46.

[9] Pope Benedict XVI, Cartitas in veritate. Vatican translation. ¶7.


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