Laura Calise on Voting for Clinton

Laura Calise on Voting for Clinton November 7, 2016

The following is a guest post from my good friend Laura Calise. Please enjoy

No matter what the opinions of others, I feel compelled to speak my heart and not hide as if I’m ashamed of myself. I’m coming out:

I am voting for Hillary Clinton.

This admission is positively surreal. I registered Republican when I turned 18. I’m center-right in my economic ideas and Catholic—not to be confused with “spirit of Vatican II” aging hippie heterodoxy— in my social agenda. I never saw myself voting for a democrat in my life, least of all She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

And, yet, I am. And there is one reason— my conscience demands it.

It certainly is not for my benefit. It would be so much easier if I could be a Five Non-negotiable Inquisitor, checking off my list of 5 shibboleths and then swiftly questioning the catholicity of those who vote otherwise. It would be so much easier if I could line up with the conscientious objectors who refuse to vote for “unacceptable” candidates. But I can’t… not in this election.

“Conservatism” used to mean (at least to my idealistic mind) something other than spouting disjointed anti-government ideas dripping with Ayn Randian contempt for the poor, holding a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. No, conservatism is supposed to be about conserving what is good and sound while holding “a humble view about government abilities; it’s cautious about unintended consequences…. Conservative policy aims for restoration rather than redistribution. It’s committed to the idea that work has inherent dignity, it’s committed to personalism and subsidiarity.” So, while my practical policy prescriptions have morphed over the years, in this fundamental essence, I am and can only ever see myself as a conservative.

The reasons for a conservative, particularly a pro-life conservative, to reject Trump are too numerous for a single blog posts. You can find them here, here, here, here, here, everywhere! But, I want to focus on something that falls under the same rationale as to why a Catholic must reject the legal status of abortion, the redefinition of marriage, and the commodification of the human body: what we embrace and normalize as a society matters.

Legal abortion doesn’t force someone to dehumanize and kill an unborn person, but it normalizes it. Redefining marriage from a lifelong commitment and the start of a family to an easily-dissolved contract recognizing sexual attraction and affection doesn’t make someone engage in that farce, but it normalizes it. And, if you can recognize this, then you are obligated to recognize what you are normalizing in a vote for Donald Trump. You are normalizing the Culture of Death.

Boastful adultery? Defrauding workers? Scapegoating ethnic and religious minorities? Rejecting the humanity of foreigners? Promoting violence and unlawful warfare? Violating the dignity of the female person? Merely trifles.

This is why support for Trump presents such a unique and absolute scandal to the pro-life witness. If you claim to see the humanity of the unborn, but you don’t see the humanity in the people— women, foreigners, ethnic and religious minorities, businessmen, immigrants, refugees—Trump has dehumanized, then your claim is axiomatically absurd. How can you ask your brother to see the fundamental importance of sexual morality when you can abide sexual depravity of such magnitude that even he recoils in horror? How can you ask your sister to see the humanity and dignity of her unborn child if you can so easily mitigate hers? How do you think anyone could see in you a witness to the love and protection owed to human beings made in the image of God when you vote for a man whose policies and statements drip with an insatiable contempt for humanity? You can’t, and you’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise. What people see is a Pharisee whose “core issues” of abortion or marriage flow from blind adherence to superstitious traditions and backward prejudices, not from a rational, coherent theology. They see an ideologue willing to sacrifice anyone for “The Cause.”

There have been many moments of “dear God, how is this happening?!” but there was one in particular that truly moved me: Anastasia Somoza’s speech at the DNC. When Somoza, a disability rights advocate who was born with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia, said, “in a country where 56 million Americans with disabilities so often feel invisible, Hillary Clinton sees me”, my heart sank. Among people who champion a woman’s “right” to snuff out thousands of undesired disabled humans like her, she feels more seen and at home than among self-proclaimed pro-life people. And realizing that collectively we have given her no reason to feel otherwise is nauseating and still moves me to tears!

The only shot we have is building up the whole culture of life, and we are utterly squandering all our influence and credibility. Instead of rejoicing when we can find common ground in defense of human dignity, instead of taking this as a jumping off point to introduce people to the fullness of truth, we demonize the person for holding the wrong stance on abortion. And we gain nothing! We squander all our moral legitimacy on a failed, myopic strategy that will sacrifice everything for a pipe dream that the hand of government can single-handedly save us.

If you are holding out for a couple legislative unicorns to stem the tide of secularism and immorality, then I have a message for you: that means you’ve already lost the battle. You lost before I was even born. You lost with Roe before my father even graduated high school. You lost with Casey, entrenching abortion into “settled precedent”, when I was just beginning to learn cursive. With the sexual revolution and the normalization of divorce, you lost the definition of marriage decades before Obergefell.

When you keep losing the battles, you change strategy or surrender the war (not an option for the Christian). Suppose you need to take a hill. The general orders a direct attack, and wave after wave of troops charge up the hill to no avail. A colonel protests, “Sir, we cannot take the hill like this” and proposes a flanking strategy. Instead of being seen as obvious good sense, the general brands the colonel a traitor destined for court martial; his lack of commitment is the whole reason they haven’t yet taken the hill. Later, the general bemoans the lack of new recruits to continue the charge.

We can’t convince the culture that ours is this beautiful vision of an abundant life if those we need to reach are repulsed before we can speak. Abortion is a symptom of a culture that says people are objects to be used and valued based on their utility. That culture is grotesquely exemplified in the man of Donald Trump. Believing that the triumph of the disease will save you from the symptom is nothing short of insanity.

I’ve met many Catholics who agree with me up to this point but will recoil at the idea of voting for Hillary Clinton. I have great respect for people in this camp, and their ideas are worth considering. However, we have a fundamental disagreement on the nature of voting and the problems plaguing our governmental system.

In general, those voting third-party, knowing that their candidate has a hopeless chance of winning, do so to feel that they haven’t “compromised” their values and wish to send a “message” to the major parties of their dissatisfaction. If that undoubtedly exhausted what such a vote meant, I would be in this camp. But it doesn’t. I can’t convince myself to see third-party voting in such ennobled terms, especially not in this election.
A third-party vote, far from being some principled escape from everything wrong with the system, flows from what makes our latter-day republic so dysfunctional: a rejection of compromise and common ground. We are so polarized and divided because every base— from the tea party right to the progressive left— makes greater and greater demands for ideological purity and intransigence. Any attempts at statesmanship, which necessarily involves giving something of your ideal for the sake of progress with your ideological dissimilars, are tantamount to treachery. Real-world consequences are irrelevant to ideological purity. And in this election, the real-world consequences are not irrelevant.

In another time and place, this would not necessarily be the case. If the third-parties started to take themselves seriously, built up their local/state presence, and started winning elections (not devoting their energies to being an ideological protest in national elections), they could offer a real, viable choice. Also, if the major candidates were truly indistinguishable in negative traits, then a non-viable third-party vote would be a great way to voice an indifference to what manner of terrible wins. I cannot wrap my head, though, around how anyone could find that to be the case in this election.

If you really do not believe there is any difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I have to question your objectivity. In every “category” of an offense, Donald Trump brings equal or greater offenses. That is the objective reality of the situation, and only those with a predetermined desire to hate Hillary Clinton pretend otherwise, clinging to whatever meager justification sensationalized by the media to do so. This is how we can pretend that Hillary Clinton’s vocal support of her husband despite accusations of moral turpitude can be on par with Donald Trump bragging about grabbing women by the pussy, his boastful serial adultery and misogyny, and over a dozen women accusing him of sexual assault. This is how we can pretend that Clinton’s progressive/libertarian-relative hawkishness is on par with the militarism of Donald Trump that says “bomb the s**t of ‘em”, “take out their families”, and refuses to take fist-strike nuclear warfare off the table. This is how we can pretend that the questions of judgment in setting up a private server and trusting staff who never heeded security concerns in Benghazi is on par with the judgment that wrought multiple bankruptcies, retweeted white supremacists, and expressed that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and Alex Jones’ Infowars is a legitimate information source. And the reality is that our votes will be what determines which one of these two will be elected President of the United States.

I wasn’t even in grade school when George H.W. Bush became president, so I hardly remember anything of his Presidency. But I do remember one thing vividly. I remember the forlorn look on my Limbaugh-listening father’s face when he realized that Bill Clinton was going to be President. He had voted for Perot on “principle” over “RINO” Bush. It was very easy for my father to say, “I owe no one my vote. I’m going to vote for the person I believe in,” and not-so-secretly really wanting it to stick in the craw of the party establishment. It was not so easy to accept that it meant also saying, “I won’t/can’t stand with Bush to defeat Bill Clinton.” If you vote for incredible long shots, the simple fact is that you must accept that your vote implies such an indifference. And in this election, that’s not good enough for me.

If Donald Trump wins, my conscience would forever convict me if I let some desire for moral exceptionalism outweigh standing in solidarity with those who bear the brunt of this rise in xenophobic, anti-intellectual populism. Digging in my heels and “not compromising” any of my political goals isn’t going to be much comfort when immigrant families are torn apart, religious oppression the Know-Nothings only dared to dream becomes precedent, and the instability of a trade war sees the abortion rate climb for the first time in a decade. Not any comfort at all.

Laura Calise is a homeschooling mother of three, part-time jack-of-all-communications-trades, avid opponent of bad church music and pseudoscience, and a terrible housekeeper.

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