Be a Single Issue Voter

Every election cycle I find myself reading a plethora of documentation on how Catholics are supposed to vote, that is, if they are going to vote in a suitably Catholic manner. This is a problem, and it is a problem, for any Catholic who wants his vote to match up with Catholic social teaching, because anyone making the attempt will quickly find that both the Democratic and Republican parties take positions that are diametrically opposed to that body of doctrine.

The Democrats, of course, are fairly rabid in their support of abortion, a euphemism for pre-birth infanticide, and there’s no way to make that square with Catholic teaching at all. They also have a problem of being pretty anti-Catholic specifically, and anti-religion generally. That contraception coverage mandate that the Department of Health and Human Services tacked on to Obamacare was pretty much a shot across the bow, in case you weren’t paying attention.

by Marc Nozell
The Republicans, on the other hand, tend to be opposed to abortion. That sounds good, until you consider that the things they want to do with the economy would cause more women to seek abortions. Most women who get abortions do so for economic reasons, and the world that the Republicans want, with little or no minimum wage (contrary to Catholic social teaching), and with little or no social safety net (also contrary to Catholic social teaching), would cause a boom in the abortion business. Add to that the fact that the Republican Party pretty much stands foursquare against the rights of labor, including the right to organize, while Catholic social teaching stands for quite the opposite.

Both parties favor an interventionist military policy, which is anathema to the Just War Doctrine of the Catholic Church. And the Republican nominee for president has indicated that he would be willing to use torture as a foreign policy tool, which the Catholic Church condemns.

So the problem, and it is a problem, is that both parties support policies that are outright abominations according to Catholic teaching. Pangs of conscience, therefore, seem inevitable for every Catholic who enters the voting booth.

For some, the solution is simple: Just pick the worst policy and vote against that. The worst policy, they say, is abortion, since nothing can be worse than killing a defenseless child. So the answer for this group is to vote Republican, since that is the party that is opposed to abortion.

They are right, of course. Nothing is worse than killing a defenseless child. But the answer isn’t quite that simple. I’ve already mentioned that Republican economic policies would likely increase the number of abortions, and engaging in such Republican actions as cutting food stamps increases the likelihood that the vulnerable, children and the elderly, will die from malnutrition. Not only that, but the Republicans of our epoch are notably more bellicose than the Democrats. It was a Republican president who got us into the undeniably unjust war in Iraq, and the victims of that action, many of them children, are just as dead, just as unjustifiably dead, as the victims of abortion.

by Gage Skidmore
Since both major parties champion things that Catholics should rightly detest, some look for third party options. But even if a party could be found that took its platform right out of the Catechism, the fact remains that the American system just isn’t set up for third parties. We’ve had a two-party system going back almost to the beginning, and a new major party never comes around unless one of the existing major parties collapses for some reason. We can theorize why things are the way they are, but, the fact is, everyone knows that the third parties don’t have a chance, and people know that even if they say they don’t.

Voting for a third party might alleviate someone’s conscience, but it really doesn’t get anything done. It’s a way of sitting out the election and looking responsible while doing it.

Some Catholics might consider all this and decide that it’s just not worth it going to the polls to vote at all. Refusing to vote can be a way of showing how disgusted one is with the choices and the process. But the problem with that is that the Catechism tells us that we should exercise the right to vote. [1] It’s right there in black and white (paragraph 2240, if you want to look it up).

So, what to do? The first thing not to do is pay any attention to someone who tells you that you’ve got a religious obligation to vote his way. Chances are pretty good he has ulterior motives, and, unless he’s a bishop, he doesn’t have the authority to say things like that. (Of course, if your bishop tells you to vote a certain way, then you’d best do as he says.)

What I suggest you do to simplify the decision is become a single issue voter. I don’t mean that you take on someone else’s single issue. What I do mean is that you should take a look at your own life, and take cognizance of what God has made you chiefly responsible for. If you have a family, chances are pretty good that God has made you chiefly responsible for them; and I mean them, not the idea of family in the abstract. So you can narrow it down to what would be in the best interests of the members of your family, and vote that way. If you don’t have a family, and God has called you to be responsible for something else, vote in the interests of that. If you’re responsible for someone else, vote in the interests of him or her. This way, you can avoid voting selfishly, and also act consistently with your calling in life.

Anyway, that’s what I’m going to do, and I think that will be best for my conscience too.

Louis Rose