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Don’t Choose Evil

November 1, 2012

Last January, I predicted that Mitt Romney would win the Republican nomination for president and go on to beat Barack Obama for the White House. I’m sticking to that prediction, although I also thought that Romney would be running with Governor Susanna Martinez, and that Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden would flip roles. The lesson there is that I’m a lousy oracle, so readers would be advised to take any prediction of mine with a large grain of salt.

For my part, I won’t be voting for either Obama or Romney because both promise to pursue policies that violate my understanding of fundamental Catholic teaching. To invest my democratic franchise in either would, in my opinion, be an abrogation of my first responsibility, which is to to witness to the Gospel in all its dimensions. For me, there can be no disjunction between the two. To permit any other allegiance, identity, issue or ideology to trump the Gospel – even temporarily or provisionally – is, again in my opinion – a form of idolatry. Christian discipleship must be marked first of all by an unyielding evangelical integrity: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …” (Matthew 6:6). And just as I would hope not to choose a “lesser” evil in my personal or business life, neither can I do so as a citizen. As I’ve often written here, when you choose the lesser of two evils, you still get evil. Christians shouldn’t be in the business of choosing evil.

I want to briefly review for readers the specific issues and policy positions that have compelled me to repudiate both candidates, and I will do so below. I will not, however, indulge in the Scholastic trigonometry of “material cooperation,” “prudential judgment” and the like because those concepts, while valuable, are too often deployed as smokescreens for advocacy, not genuine moral analysis. I have one friend, for instance, who insists that abortion, same-sex marriage and “religious liberty” are the only non-negotiables in this election, and that everything else a candidate might advocate – from pre-emptive war and torture to the abuse of workers, the environment and the poor – falls under the category of “prudential judgment.” I find that sort of Weigelian “analysis” to be suspiciously convenient and transparently self-serving. It is Republican partisan advocacy dressed up as moral argument.

By the same token, I have friends who react to the Democratic Party’s vigorous promotion of abortion on demand, assisted suicide, or embryonic stem cell research by erecting an elaborate exculpatory apparatus anchored by supposed degrees of moral distance from the underlying acts. This, too, is self-serving and oh-so-convenient; and it only demonstrates to me that some people are Democrats first and Americans second, with Christian coming in a distant third.

Bob Dylan once wrote that “people don’t do what they believe in, they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent.” I would much rather a person admit to choosing evil for the sake of convenience or partisan loyalty than engage in the sort of intellectual sleight-of-hand intended to infer that either party’s platform is aligned with the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. Yet this is the voting booth reality for too many of us. It was my own reality for much of my adult life. No more. The Church is both my party and my country, and I have to be faithful to her whole teaching, regardless of partisan or nationalist entreaties to the contrary.

I take as my political litmus test what Blessed John Paul II wrote in Veritatis Splendor: “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons . . . .all these and the like are a disgrace … and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator.” By this test, both Obama and Romney fail, and fail miserably.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama seems to be a nice man: personable, intelligent, a good husband and a great father. He is also, I believe, an honest and earnest public servant who has done the best job he could under very difficult circumstances. But as president he has not only continued to deepen the Democratic Party’s antipathy toward the unborn, but he has extended that antipathy to the born, including American citizens who he deems to be “terrorists” and therefore eligible for assassination, as well as the millions who huddle nightly in fear of America’s fleet of aerial robots. I believe that if Obama is re-elected, Israel will receive the green light for a pre-emptive attack on Iran, probably within six months, and will receive full American military and logistical support. Whether undertaken directly or indirectly, an American pre-emptive war on Iran, which is no threat to the United States, will be a grave evil, in my view. Meanwhile, Obama has doubled or tripled down on the national security state here at home, pouring billions upon billions into electronic, physical and satellite surveillance or American citizens. As the link above notes:

Most striking is the normalisation of domestic surveillance under Obama. The federal government now employs 30,000 people to monitor phone conversations in the US; the Department of Homeland Security, formed only in 2002, is now the third-largest federal bureaucracy, surpassed only by the Pentagon and the Department of Veteran Affairs. The construction of a 1m sq ft (93,000 sq m) domestic surveillance data centre costing $2bn has just been started in Bluffdale, Utah.

Obama also singed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the arrest and indefinite detention without charge of American citizens suspected of having ties to terrorism. Habeas corpus, anyone? While I opposed the Obama Administration’s arrogant and intolerant HHS contraception mandate, I find it laughable that so many have construed that to be the great threat to “liberty” under Obama. A far greater threat to all Americans is his accelerating commitment to the permanent police-state.

I will credit Obama with attempting to solve the terrible problem of healthcare coverage in the United States. This is an issue that hits very close to home for me, and at least one member of my family will be voting for him precisely because of the Affordable Care Act. So I respect that point of view. But even the ACA was a complete sop to the insurance industry and as such represented the worst kind of crony capitalism: gigantic profits secured by private interests with the connivance and at the direction of the national government. He would have done far better to have pushed for a single-payer national health system and paid for it out of savings from dismantling the American’s global military empire.

In the end, though, I can’t in conscience pull the lever for Obama because of his stands on abortion, war, and assassination, combined with his contempt for the rights of ordinary citizens, including their religious rights. I find all of this opposed to fundamental Catholic teaching.

Mitt Romney

Which brings me to Mitt Romney. As a man, I find him to be the purest embodiment of ambition imaginable, mendacious to the core, without a shred of conviction beyond his own wealth and power. I live in Rhode Island, hard against the Connecticut border, but even at that I’m only thirty miles from Massachusetts, my native state, where most of my family still lives. I remember well Romney’s campaign for Senate in the 1990’s, and his term as governor. He was Scott Brown before there was a Scott Brown, and every New Englander knows that his claim of a conversion on the issue of abortion since 2007 is, to put it mildly, complete bullshit. If support for partial-birth abortion were required to secure the GOP nomination for president, he’d be foursquare in favor of it.

Still, his nominal position on abortion, insincere and incomplete though it is, doesn’t disqualify him from my consideration. What does disqualify him are his positions on war, torture, workers’ rights, and the treatment of the poor and immigrants. Mitt Romney was an enthusiastic supporter of the war in Vietnam, going so far as to lead anti-anti-war rallies, even while securing for himself a number of draft deferments that enabled him to avoid service. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Gulf War, and the invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan, even though not one of his five strapping sons ever bothered to wear the uniform and risk his own neck. Now, Romney has all but promised to launch a pre-emptive war on Iran, not explicitly – he hasn’t said “I will take us to war” – but in his unhinged rhetoric about the Iranian “threat” and in his choice of key foreign policy and military advisors, almost all of whom are neocons of the Michael Ledeen type (of the “Ledeen Doctrine,” a term approvingly coined by neocon writer Jonah Goldberg. The Ledeen Doctrine states that “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business”).

Romney explicitly promises to reinstate the Bush torture regime, and approves of the NDAA, the Patriot Act, Obama’s illegal and immoral drone warfare campaign, and the growth of the national security police state here at home. He has promised to further militarize American foreign policy and even the American industrial base (40% of which is already tied to “defense”) through huge increases in our military budget, which now exceeds the combined military budgets of the rest of the developed world, including China and Russia. War is a growth business for Romney, and like a good investor he’s prepared to put your money where his mouth is, knowing that he and his won’t have any skin in the game if things go bad.

On the other hand, Romney the businessman sees the poor, the elderly, the handicapped and the unemployed as bad investments, and he has promised to undermine decades of bipartisan commitments to help those who struggle with poverty and infirmity. Romney’s endorsement of the Paul Ryan’s Randian budget – which would cut the legs out from under Medicaid and other social safety net programs – along with his repeated indictment of food and housing aid, his disparagement of the 47% of Americans who receive some form of transfer payment from the federal government, and his tax proposals that favor the wealthy all demonstrate that his Mitt Romney’s America would exercise a preferential option for the rich, in direct contradiction of Catholic Social Teaching and the spirit of the Gospel.

Both Romney’s preferential option for the rich as well as his overwhelming mendacity are on display when the issue turns to healthcare. He has promised to reverse Obamacare “on Day One.” That promise is his go-to applause line on the stump, and he no doubt intends to fulfill it (or else his credibility with the right would be shot by Day Two). He offers NO alternative for 40 million or so uninsured Americans, or for those driven into poverty by insurance industry practices that exclude pre-existing conditions or cap lifetime benefits or permit post-treatment policy cancellation. The wealthy never have to worry about healthcare coverage or provision. The sick rich get attention, maybe even a private room on a special floor. The sick poor get the shaft, the elevator shaft leading to the door. That plays in Alabama (for some reason), but not in Massachusetts, where one Governor Mitt Romney, under pressure from a Democratic legislature, happily embraced universal healthcare. Now, of course, when Alabama is more important than Massachusetts, Romney’s had another of his conversions. Here’s a fact: Opposition to universal healthcare is un-Catholic. Period. Full-stop. Want proof? “Justice requires guaranteed universal access to health care.” It is one of the “inalienable rights of man.” So said Benedict XVI two years ago, a fact conveniently forgotten by Catholics who promote precisely the “pharmacological, medical and surgical consumerism” (read: free market) lamented by the Pope.

Romney’s contempt for workers and workers’ rights is on display every time he degrades the contributions made by unions to building up and sustaining the middle class. This rhetoric is of a piece with his own record as a businessman. Not only was Romney’s Bain Capital one of the pioneers in outsourcing American jobs overseas, but even here at home Bain was a leader in pushing big box retail on thousands of American communities, at the expense of local office-supply, hardware, and other small businesses and their workers. Subsidiarity and respect for work and workers, anyone?

Finally, Mitt Romney promises to make life so unbearable for undocumented immigrants that they will beg to pass back through the borders. This, of course, flies in the face Church teaching, and has even threatened the religious liberty of Catholics who offer service to undocumented families, as Archbishop Dolan acknowledged in this interview with MSNBC. Throughout the primary season, Romney gleefully joined in the GOP chorus that heaped insults on the heads of our (mostly Catholic) brothers and sisters, who come here to work and raise their families.

In the end, I can’t in conscience vote for Mitt Romney because his positions on war, torture, and the dignity of workers, the poor, and immigrants. These are not “negotiable” issues for serious Catholics, in my view, because they directly oppose fundamental Catholic teaching and even the Gospel itself.

Conclusion

As blogger Mark Shea has noted, it is not a prissy perfectionism that leads some of us to withhold our votes from these two candidates. Rather, it is conscience, formed by attention to the fullness of Catholic teaching. I can respect someone who, acknowledging the deficiencies of both Obama and Romney, decides in conscience that a given issue is of sufficient weight to cause them to reluctantly cast a vote for one or the other. Oddly, I can even respect someone who honestly says that party loyalty outweighs even conscience. What I cannot respect is the person who attempts to sanctify a candidate’s policy prescriptions or record out of a desire to justify their partisan vote. As for me, I firmly believe that choosing the lesser of two evils still implicates me in evil, and that I am not willing to do.

So, I will write in the name of Wendell Berry, the sage of Kentucky, who I heard deliver this year’s National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecture at the Kennedy Center, and who once wrote: “The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth – that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community – and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.”

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78 Comments
  1. Mark Shea permalink
    November 1, 2012 1:04 pm

    “Obama also singed the National Defense Authorization Act”.

    Yes, but he did it in that sexy Al Green voice that drives the ladies wild. So it’s all good.

    Dumb joke aside, great post.

  2. Mark Shea permalink
    November 1, 2012 1:06 pm

    One other point: Don’t confuse Patrick Ledeen with Michael Ledeen. The latter is the cynical Machiavellian and duplicitous neocon.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 1, 2012 1:20 pm

      I meant Michael Ledeen, of course. Change made and thanks for the heads up!

  3. November 1, 2012 1:44 pm

    Mark, I hear you & what you write here is something that I *almost* agree with. But, I conclude that it is mighty convenient because you can sit back and judge and keep your hands clean while others have to do the dirty work. The reality is that there is NO perfect government EVER. There will ALWAYS be a politician who supports something that is morally repugnant. Please direct me to a country somewhere on Earth where I can vote with a pure conscience. Seriously. Whenever I am tempted to not vote for either candidate, I think back to Katerina, one of the founders of VN. She noted that people in Venezuela had quit bothering to vote or bothering to choose any of the evils. The results? Dictator Hugo Chavez. To me, this is like being a pacifist while living under the safety of public safety officers. If there is to be a choice, I will have to get myself dirty and make the best choice I can make under the circumstances. Anything else is outsourcing responsibility. If we want to make radical change, the Presidential election is not where we should focus. Radical change begins in city elections and state elections.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 1, 2012 2:01 pm

      Yeah, there’s the accusation of prissy perfectionism again. I can’t vote for the candidates of the two dominant parties because each of them asks me to implicate myself in evil. So my question for you is: which evil are you prepared to implicate yourself in, and will you own it personally after you vote? Or will you pretend that you had nothing to do with it?

      Incidentally I didn’t say that I’m not voting. In fact, I told you who I’m voting for. Apparently, you read the piece as a polemic against voting. I don’t know how, because I never said “don’t vote.” And I said nothing about local and state elections.

      By the way, radical change will come to our politics when we starve the two corporate-sponsored war parties of our votes. Radical change will come to our society when Christians realize that they are citizens of the City of God, but only subjects of the City of Man.

      • November 1, 2012 2:19 pm

        I know you are voting, but voting for someone who has zero possibility of winning is like not voting at all. Honest to God, there is not much choice between the candidates so I will choose the candidate who will do the least damage in my view. Will I be guilty? Maybe. God knows my heart and he knows my intention so I figure I will deal with that when I die. I know every single person has the same calculation to address. I just do not find it very convincing. This is the same argument I have had with myself whenever I am tempted to opt out because no one is part of “my” perfect system. I don’t thing it is feasible. Now you can argue that it would be feasible if everyone quit participating in the evil system & maybe you are correct.

  4. Carl Diederichs permalink
    November 1, 2012 2:01 pm

    The president, no president, can stop an abortion if he is to uphold the law of the land. But any president can start a war and have thousands of soldiers and innocent by-standers killed. That president can practice the abortion of the born without hesitation. Now, which candidate has stopped a war? And which candidate has spoken freely about starting a war? I really don’t think we can abstain from voting and still say we are doing our best to prevent war.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 1, 2012 2:06 pm

      Which candidate has conducted an undeclared drone war in Pakistan, Yemen, and Sudan? Which candidate went to war in Libya? Barack Obama followed George W. Bush’s timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, and you want to give him credit for that? What about his “surge” in Afghanistan?

      Incidentally, if you think “abstaining” means voting for someone other than the candidates of the two dominant party, then you don’t understand the verb “abstain.” I said nothing about abstaining. I even told you who I’m voting for.

      • Carl Diederichs permalink
        November 1, 2012 3:04 pm

        You convinced me. Not.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 1, 2012 4:13 pm

          I’m not trying to convince you, and you weren’t susceptible to being convinced anyway.

  5. Pinky permalink
    November 1, 2012 2:29 pm

    This article assumes bad faith on the part of at least 98% of voters. That’s harsh, and I don’t think it’s true. There are a lot of people whose voting decisions are, I think, wrong. Heck, a lot of people who are voting the same way I am are probably miscalculating too. But if there’s one thing that shuts down communication, it’s an accusation of disingenuousness. You’ve got to be a soul-reader to make such an accusation, even on an individual basis. To apply it so broadly shows a lack of charity.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 1, 2012 2:42 pm

      It does not. In this piece I outline my reasons why I cannot vote for either of the two major candidates. If me telling you why I’m not voting for either Obama or Romney makes you uneasy, don’t blame me. As I wrote: “I can respect someone who, acknowledging the deficiencies of both Obama and Romney, decides in conscience that a given issue is of sufficient weight to cause them to reluctantly cast a vote for one or the other. Oddly, I can even respect someone who honestly says that party loyalty outweighs even conscience. What I cannot respect is the person who attempts to sanctify a candidate’s policy prescriptions or record out of a desire to justify their partisan vote. As for me, I firmly believe that choosing the lesser of two evils still implicates me in evil, and that I am not willing to do.”

      “As for me,” singular. You decide which category you fall into.

      • Pinky permalink
        November 1, 2012 5:04 pm

        You also wrote, “I find that sort of Weigelian “analysis” to be suspiciously convenient and transparently self-serving. It is Republican partisan advocacy dressed up as moral argument….This, too, is self-serving and oh-so-convenient; and it only demonstrates to me that some people are Democrats first and Americans second, with Christian coming in a distant third.” It’s not your telling me how you’re voting that makes me uneasy, it’s your telling us what our motivations are for how we’re voting.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 2, 2012 7:35 am

          I also wrote “I can respect someone who, acknowledging the deficiencies of both Obama and Romney, decides in conscience that a given issue is of sufficient weight to cause them to reluctantly cast a vote for one or the other.” If you’re in that camp, vote away. But I think my observation that the “scholastic trigonometry” of formal and material cooperation, prudential judgment, and the like have indeed been used as smokescreens by partisans on both sides. Why? Because those calculations almost always involve either a diminution of one or another aspect of essential Catholic teaching, or else an attempt to baptize what is transparently wrong as a permissible exercises of prudential judgment, if not a positive good.

  6. David Agnew permalink
    November 1, 2012 3:17 pm

    It is true. One does not choose evil.

    However, one can choose a good, desire a good, act on a good, even if you know some evil might come from it, if you do not intend, desire, or want the evil, and if you have no other realistic options and your understanding of the proportional reasons makes you think the good you do is justified.

    This explains so much of Catholic teaching on morality which the Pharisees do not get. We don’t live in absolutes. We can’t engage absolutes. We will have unintended, remote cooperation with evil. That is how it works in the real world.

    The principle of double effect however allows us a way forward instead of being trapped by the charms of the Pharisee. It allows us to find prudential reason to do what we must, for the good, even if we know it is not the perfect good because of how evil taints the world.

    This is what is forgotten in most Catholic discussions on voting. When people say you are voting for evil, when they say they are voting for the lesser evil, they have accepted evil. If someone says they are voting for the good, then they have not.

    Never vote for the lesser evil. Always vote for the cause of some good. Voting for that good does not mean you are always condemned for the evil which follows. Don’t let the Pharisees make you think otherwise.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 1, 2012 4:16 pm

      Like, for instance, voting for the guy who will keep the trains running on time, a good thing, even if they happen to stop at Birkenau.

      • David Agnew permalink
        November 1, 2012 4:25 pm

        Nice little example of exaggeration going on. Now if you can deal with the issues honestly instead of playing the Hitler Card, we might get somewhere.

        Did you notice the issues brought up. Double Effect. Proportionality. Your response doesn’t deal with the actual political landscape but with Hitler. We are not there with Hitler. Neither Romney nor Obama are Hitler.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 1, 2012 4:32 pm

          The exaggeration was deployed in order to demonstrate the silliness of your point about voting on the basis of the good. As for proportionality, I’ve obviously concluded that there are no proportionate reasons for me to vote for either of these guys. That’s because voting against Evil A would only get me Evil B, and the scales don’t tip.

        • David Agnew permalink
          November 1, 2012 4:44 pm

          The exaggeration does not deal with the fact on the ground. It is a fallacious argument. And you ignore basic moral principles of Catholic theology which recognizes evil might happen as the result of doing and promoting some good, but that evil, if unattended, is not something you are culpable with. Again, you are seeing them as “voting for evils.” That is the wrong approach. Look for the GOOD. As long as you vote for evils, you will find evil in everyone. So it only shows your approach is an evil approach. Catholic theology and morality is to look for the good.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 2, 2012 7:28 am

          The principle of double effect says that if one’s intentions are to realize the good, one may vote for a candidate, even though an evil may result as a by-product of his term in office UNLESS – and that’s the key qualifier – the evil that will result is proportionately greater than the good you intend. So, you may vote for Obama because 40 million uninsured Americans will have healthcare, but to do so you have to judge that the evil that results from his other policies – abortion, war, the denial of civil liberties, including religious liberty – do not outweigh that good. Similarly, you may vote for Romney because he promises to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court or overturn the HHS mandate, but only if the evil he promises – pre-emptive war, the resumption of the torture regime, and abuse of the poor, workers, and immigrants – does not outweigh those goods. I’ve concluded that the evil that will accompany each man’s proposed policies outweighs the good that I may intend in giving him my vote. As for proportionalism, which is a form of consequentialism, it is not legitimate to say that – again, here comes an exaggeration to demonstrate the point – Candidate A only promises to kill 1 million while Candidate B promises to kill 2 million, and that therefore I will vote for Candidate A because he will bring about proportionately less evil. Some acts are inherently evil, without regard to situational context or proportion, and they may not be countenanced in any moral calculus. Pope John Paul II provided a partial list of those acts in the citation I quoted, above. From my perspective, both Romney and Obama fail that test.

        • gadria permalink
          November 1, 2012 5:42 pm

          Evil A and B – really?
          Time to take a couple of step down from the high horse if you ask me.
          I actually do not think there are all that many evil people in any given country of this planet.
          A majority of your fellow americans support the current laws regarding Abortion – are they EVIL?
          Close to a majority of your fellow Americans perhaps have not all that much use for key points of catholic social teaching – are they EVIL?
          This is such a crude way to look at thinks – perhaps we should be a bit more measured with a strong word and concept like EVIL .
          In my opinion nothing particualr good comes out of a situation where a decent men like you Mr Gordon is buying into this rather trivial pro life feeding frenzy – evil here evil there – come on -really?

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 2, 2012 7:40 am

          Acts are evil, not human beings. And I have not called anyone evil. My analysis of these candidates has focused on their acts, in the case of the president (who has a record, after all), and their promised acts (in the case of Governor Romney). Even in my assessments of the two men as men I didn’t refer to either of them as evil, much less the bulk of the American people. Try reading my piece again and engage it on the facts.

      • Mark Schoen permalink
        November 1, 2012 4:39 pm

        Really? Birkenau? You’ve written a cogent and impressive analysis about one person’s struggle to reconcile what our faith calls us to be with what two parties offer for president. But your response here really lowers the bar on thoughtfulness.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 2, 2012 7:46 am

          See my replies to David Agnew. I deployed exaggeration to make a point about the limits of “intending the good.” I did not compare either Romney or Obama to Hitler. On the other hand, if one is a six-month old fetus in the womb when the suction machine starts or a six year-old Pakistani girl with a Predator missile bearing down, the distinctions are somewhat moot, wouldn’t you say?

  7. crystal permalink
    November 1, 2012 3:32 pm

    Perhaps instead of looking at the negatives you could look at the positives – what either candidate brings that will help make things better instead of worse. For instance, Obama, as opposed to Romney, will be a better defender of the environment. There are things about Obama I don’t like, but I’ll vote for him again because I believe life here will become worse under Romney. Not voting for either man does nothing positive for anyone. It may preserve your sense of purity but it seems like a refusal to be responsible.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 1, 2012 4:26 pm

      Again, the prissy perfectionism charge. Your vote is a free one, and it is yours alone. Your exercise of it represents a moral investment in a candidate. If your preferred candidate promises to do something about, say, climate change, but also promises to routinely attack Pakistani women and children with drones driven from an air conditioned office building in Las Vegas, your investment is implicated in both things.

      Imagine you bought stock in a company on the premise that they provide stockholders with a good return by manufacturing life-saving medicines. Now imagine that company also pollutes the air and water around their manufacturing plant, or engages in illicit human trials in the Third World. It might satisfy you to simply consider the “positive” while attempting to morally insulate yourself from the “negative,” but it doesn’t wash. If you’re a stockholder, you’re an owner, and an owner of both the positive and the negative. It’s the same with your vote. You own it. So, will you own it? Will you come back here and say “I chose it. I’m responsible?”

      • crystal permalink
        November 1, 2012 5:01 pm

        The difference between voting for one of two candidates for president and buying stock in a company is that there are many companies to choose from and you could probably find one that you considered ethical in all its investments if you looked hard enough. But only one of the two candidates running is going to win, and one *will* be president, whether we like it or not. We have a responsibility to make sure the least bad one wins.

        It’s not about being a prissy perfectionist. It’s about to choose unless you can have everything your way.

        • crystal permalink
          November 1, 2012 5:02 pm

          Sorry – that should be “refusing” to choose

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 2, 2012 7:43 am

          As I wrote to Sophia, above, if winning and losing are your only criteria, then I suppose you only have two choices. You will only ever have two choices, and they will always be whomever these dominant, corporate-owned political parties offer you. And we say we’re “free?” That, in my mind, is the opposite of freedom, which it seems to me is the ability to exercise one’s conscience in accordance with the right.

  8. Thales permalink
    November 1, 2012 3:36 pm

    1.
    I would much rather a person admit to choosing evil for the sake of convenience or partisan loyalty than engage in the sort of intellectual sleight-of-hand intended to infer that either party’s platform is aligned with the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.

    When I read this at the start of your post and read through your post the first time, my thought was: I don’t understand why you don’t acknowledge the third option between (1) choosing one of the “evil” options “for the sake of convenience or party loyalty” and (2) your decision to choose neither “evil” side (and voting for Berry, or third party, or whatever). The third option, naturally, is voting for one of the “evil” sides, fully knowing the evil that the side chosen may engage in, but still voting for that side without intending that side’s evil, not because of party loyalty, but because it promises (in the voter’s belief) the best (albeit imperfect) alternative to promote the common good. I wonder whether Pinky was thinking something similar.

    But then I noticed that I had I missed this line down at the bottom of your post: I can respect someone who, acknowledging the deficiencies of both Obama and Romney, decides in conscience that a given issue is of sufficient weight to cause them to reluctantly cast a vote for one or the other.

    So, fair enough: I can understand if you think this third option is not possible for you because you believe both sides are so evil and your vote would be too close a material cooperation with that evil. And I’m glad to see that you acknowledge that this third option might exist for other voters who are sincerely trying to vote according to their Catholic faith.

    2. A side observation: I think you do a good job setting out the flaws of the two candidate’s political positions. So set that aside. What I find very curious is your attitudes towards the candidates as persons: Obama “a nice man: personable, intelligent, a good husband and a great father…. an honest and earnest public servant”; and Romney “the purest embodiment of ambition imaginable, mendacious to the core, without a shred of conviction beyond his own wealth and power.”

    Now I’m a huge cynic when it comes to politics, so I’m sympathetic to viewing a politician like Romney as mendacious, or insincere on abortion, or inappropriately ambitious and grasping at power, etc. — sadly, that’s the case with too many politicians. I’m not a Romney cheerleader, and I understand not liking/trusting him. But why such a different attitude to Obama? It’s the visceral hatred/distrust of Romney as a person juxtaposed to your positive attitude to Obama as a person which I find curious. I get that Obama seems to be a good husband and great father — I agree — but doesn’t Romney seem so also? I get that Romney is a flipflopper on abortion for political purposes, but isn’t Obama just as big flipflopper for political purposes (gay marriage)? I get that Romney might be in favor of partial-birth abortion if it were required to secure the GOP nomination for president, but isn’t Obama in favor of partial-birth abortion (and beyond) even though it *isn’t* required to secure the Democratic nomination? I get that Romney may be mendacious in grasping for power, but isn’t that the case with Obama too? (see Benghazi). I guess I look at both with similar levels of trust and distrust (ie, they both appear to be good husbands/fathers, and they’re both politicians who are often insincere), and I found your dramatically different attitudes to be curious. I can understand that Romney amply deserves your disdain for X, so why not also Obama? I can understand that Obama merits your recognition for Y, so why not also Romney?

    I also bring this up because I think it weakens your argument. Imagine the reverse: a post that says “Romney seems to be a nice man: personable, intelligent, a good husband and a great father, but his policies are evil because of X…. I consider Obama the purest embodiment of ambition imaginable, mendacious to the core, and his policies are evil because of Y”. Not very persuasive.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 1, 2012 4:28 pm

      My feelings about the two men as men is just that, a feeling, based on observation and my recollection of their public records. Romney’s public record is that of a man who has been on both sides of nearly every issue. The only constant, it seems to me, is his ambition. Not his core convictions, not principles. Ambition, and it’s handmaiden, mendacity.

    • November 2, 2012 4:54 pm

      My experience is that voting for a candidate will lead me to defend that politician’s policies or otherwise evade accountability for them.

      My observation of others has been the same — witness the machinations some went through to defend torture during the Bush Administration. Take a spin through the last four year’s of posts here from those who supported or voted for President Obama. Yes, they might acknowledge that things like the HHS mandate are wrong, but the bigger deal is that the bishops used strong rhetoric, or didn’t follow a consistent narrative, or Bush did worse…

      I don’t trust myself to resist this, and I would advise most people not to trust themselves either. Perhaps there are some people who can walk out of the voting booth after voting for a candidate without becoming a reflexive defender of that candidate.

      My experience tells me those people are few and far between, and that the primary effect of voting for the lesser of two evils is to turn you into the type of person who votes for evil.

      • Kurt permalink
        November 3, 2012 4:46 pm

        Just to disassociate myself from the accusation John makes. I am supporting the President but I am not trying to avoid accountability on including contraception in the basic benefits package. I firmly support the President’s position on this. I am working hard for its success.

        • November 5, 2012 10:42 am

          And there were/are many Catholics who supported the brave men of the armed forces and CIA having every tool at their disposal to protect us from terrorists, and worked hard for its success.

        • Kurt permalink
          November 5, 2012 8:29 pm

          Yes, John, I would be one of those Catholics as well who support the brave men [and women] of our armed forces, the CIA and other government agencies who protect us from terrorists. I support our troops AND I support access to contraception.

  9. November 1, 2012 3:57 pm

    As a Mennonite, one would expect me to argue against anything Catholic in origin.

    But as I have titled my blog, I’m an “abnormal Anabaptist” and so find myself nodding in full agreement along with you with one minor exception.

    For me, I am choosing not to vote…not just to starve the two major parties, but even to starve the entire electoral system which does more to divide people than anything else…and it has infected Christianity with its partisan divisions to the point where Christians will not even commune with one another because of partisanship.

    If you want to read my own summation on all this, you may on my own blog…but suffice it to say, my primary allegience is not to the political nation of the US of A but to the Kingdom of God, King Jesus, and to the mission of the ekklesia.

  10. Ryan permalink
    November 1, 2012 4:13 pm

    I assume you’re eagerly awaiting the historic Jesus/Satan election of 2016. No difficult decision there.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 1, 2012 4:33 pm

      According to the GOP, that election has been moved up to this year. So, which evil – pre-emptive war, abortion, torture, etc. – are you pleased to live with and accept responsibility for?

      • November 1, 2012 5:46 pm

        I suppose I’m just curious when you actually could vote in a presidential election? Could you have voted for Bush or Kerry? Gore or Bush? Clinton or Dole? When can you vote?

        And as for your question, I suppose I could turn the same question back on you. Which evil are you pleased to live with and accept responsibility for by not voting against? Refusing a choice of the lesser of evils means you also own responsibility for that greater evil continuing to persist. We all own evil. Refusing that seems to me like refusing the world.

        I have my candidate. My candidate is flawed far beyond comfort. My candidate has done and will do things I consider evil. Yes, I understand my complicity come the election, and come afterwards. I don’t make peace with it. I protest and advocate — I work against the evil I own. This is the messy work of living in the world.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 2, 2012 8:03 am

          At least you’re honest about the evil that will be done in your name and with your permission. I can respect that. For most of my adult life (I’m 52), I engaged in the sort of accommodationist and even exculpatory moral reasoning it requires to vote for an American president. My first vote was for Ronald Reagan in 1980, then again in 1984. George Bush I in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992, Dole in 1996. Bush II in 2000 and 2004 (Lord, have mercy). In 2008 I was so conflicted that I didn’t mark any presidential candidate. I actually stood in the both so long that a poll worker had to ask me to finish and leave.

          I think it’s a novel (and strangely twisted) idea that by resisting a system that offers only two credible candidates, both of whom promise to do evil, one is responsible for the evil done by the winning candidate. Your vote is an affirmation, which is why we say we are voting “for” a candidate and his policies; and one may not do evil that good will come of it, even if the “good” is the prevention of a greater evil. One may not torture a terrorism suspect, for instance, in order to prevent his dirty bomb from exploding in midtown. In the exigencies of the present moment, we might all do just that, but it doesn’t make it right. In voting, we have the luxury of taking our time to examine the candidates and their policies, look at their platforms and records, and weigh the relative goods and evils that their terms in office would represent. I’ve done that and found that the evil that might result from voting for either of these fellows outweighs any good I might intend. What is not acceptable, it seems to me, is simply to shrug and say “we all do evil things, so it’s okay.”

  11. November 1, 2012 4:36 pm

    In a representative democracy, we vote for people, not policies. Are you saying people are evil? Specifically, that Barack and Mitt are evil? You speak about what you assume these men would do, but you’re not voting for that, you’re voting for a human being.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 2, 2012 7:16 am

      Acts are evil, not people. I haven’t said either Romney or Obama are evil. But we don’t vote based on the relative inherent goodness of the candidates. We vote on the basis of the policies they stand for, and I’ve concluded that both Obama and Romney promise to enact policies that directly oppose fundamental Catholic teaching. By your logic, one could in good conscience vote for any candidate, regardless of the policies he or she promises to enact. Sorry, I disagree.

      • November 2, 2012 12:52 pm

        “We vote on the basis of the policies they stand for”

        Incorrect. This, I think must be your fundamental category error (though, admittedly, it is also the misunderstanding of the politicized bishops, apparently.)

        Politicians don’t “stand for policies” as if, through our elected officials, we were just voting for embodied policy. If THAT were the case, we’d just have direct democracy and vote on policy directly.

        Indeed, in the old days, you didn’t even necessarily know where a candidate stood. Indeed, the fact that we elect electors for president rather than the president directly was (originally) supposed to mean that you weren’t even voting for a person directly, but for a person or slate of people you trusted to make a good choice (in the context of the rest of the college). Maybe they even do promise to vote for a particular someone, but then get to the meeting of the College and realize that that person has no chance and so figure out how to best spend their vote in the political landscape that emerges.

        Indeed, it is this factor of the unexpected which is why it is especially important to understand that we vote for politicians as people, not as just incarnate policy. Leaders will face all sorts of decisions they have no policy-position on beforehand (did anyone vote for GWB in 2000 because he promised to invade Iraq if terrorists attacked New York???) Further, even if they make their “ideal” known, they will face a political landscape in which they will often have to function by negotiating and compromising (GWB wanted Roe v. Wade overturned. Was it???)

        Therefore, this idea that we vote “based on the policies they promise to enact” is a category error. That’s certainly not how I conceptualize my decision in voting. We do not vote for policy in an idealistic manner. Rather, we vote for human beings in a pragmatic manner.

        What those humans say about their ideals can factor into our judgment of their leadership. But at the end of the day, we vote for a person, not policies. And no human being is an intrinsic evil.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 2, 2012 9:14 pm

          This argument of yours is so floridly absurd that I debated even offering a response, but here goes. Briefly. Of course we vote for candidates based on their policy prescriptions and public records. An election is not a contest between the innate character of the candidates (or their looks, or IQ). We’re not electing someone to be “Number One Good Guy.” We’re electing someone to a public office, a job. When one holds a job one is responsible for doing things. When the job is president, those things are known as “policies.” The fact that unexpected decisions must be made is entirely beside the point. An understanding of the candidates’ guiding philosophies, as expressed in concrete policy prescriptions, will telegraph how they’ll decide in unexpected situations far better than an assessment of their characters made remotely and filtered through the lens of publicists, admen, handlers, and gauzy convention videos. Imagine a voter in 1860 saying, “Well, I’m for retaining the Missouri Compromise because I don’t want slavery in the North, but I’m going to vote for Stephen Douglas anyway because that Lincoln seems unstable and suspiciously depressive.” Ridiculous.

        • November 2, 2012 9:32 pm

          “An election is not a contest between the innate character of the candidates (or their looks, or IQ).”

          In 1960, in several Southern states, there were on the ballot slates of UNpledged Democratic electors. Now, they all voted for Harry F. Byrd, and the clear reason for their presence on the ballot instead of electors pleged to Kennedy was Southern racism (but stubborn loyalty to the Democratic party).

          However, what this situation meant was that the people voting weren’t really voting for anyone candidate for President AT ALL, let alone any particular policies.

          So consider your position again in light of this. What if, say, electors were not pledged to any specific candidate? If they all came with their own ideas about who to vote for, and worked out their decision in the College (like the Cardinals do) with no particular frontrunners going in.

          How, then, would you choose whom you were going to vote for when you voted for Electors for President?

          You could say, “I wouldn’t vote for any Elector who would promote a pro-choice candidate,” for example. But in truth, a given elector might compromise on that, when the college met, to gain something else. Or they might elect someone (as often happens in picking supreme court justices) who has no particular record on an issue and won’t say directly what their opinion is. How do we choose in this case?

          I’m not saying our situation today is like this, but it’s illustrative of the fact that we aren’t electing policies, we’re electing people. People AS decision-makers, yes, but “good decision making” is, in one sense, more about “process” than about “content.” Prudence and orthodoxy are two different things.

          Heck, if we just wanted someone with “all the right positions,” Catholics could just field a candidate. It could literally be ANYONE as long as they towed the line on the “positions” we wanted. But just anyone can’t be elected. More than holding this or that position (which LOTS of people hold), we vote for people based on a variety of SKILLS. Not positions, but skills.

          Whether we “reward” the RIGHT skills through the campaign process is debatable. Is “networking” well necessarily indicative of a good leader? Is knowing how to run your own staff and keep a tight ship and be diplomatic in speaking and how to debate in a way that appeases the broadest segment? I don’t know, but the fact is that it is these skills or dispositions which are rewarded by elections, not positions in themselves.

          Like I said, if we were voting for positions it would be direct democracy, or literally ANY person could be put forward as simple the vessel for a party platform, a mere vehicle carrying different Memes forward. But that’s clearly not the case. The selection process for being a leader is not just about having everyone come together and vote on which of two mixes of policy they like best, but on human beings, who are not reducible to platforms (even if they do have platforms).

  12. November 1, 2012 5:31 pm

    Mark — I fully understand your argument and I agree with it to a certain extent. The problem with it is this: not voting for either major party candidate, and effectively washing one’s hands of the outcome of the election and, therefore, the acts of the executive branch of government subsequent to that outcome, is pretty easy to do. There’s no skin in that game. But, even if you don’t vote for either of the potential POTUSes, you will be paying for all of the evil done by whichever man wins the election. Are you willing to break the law (and face the consequences) by not paying your taxes? You have asked me this same question in another context, so I don’t hesitate to ask it of you in this one. Or is there a rationalization similar to those put forward by the commenters above who feel that they need to vote regardless of the risk of cooperation with evil that you will deploy to justify your role in funding the evil you refuse to vote for?

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 2, 2012 8:39 am

      It is a very good question, and a legitimate one to ask. There are two aspects to my response. First, if I were rejecting the system outright that would be one thing. In this case, I am exercising my democratic franchise and voting for someone I believe would be a good president. He is not running, and he obviously has no chance of winning, but the latter could be said about any candidate from any third party, or even most major party candidates running in the primaries. Ron Paul, for instance, or Dennis Kucinich, had no chance of winning. Still, people voted their conscience. Why does that change in the general election? So, I am participating in the system by voting. I haven’t rejected the system, and my participation in the system also incurs a responsibility to pay taxes, obey the law, etc.

      Second, obviously my views on all these things are evolving. (See my response to Ryan, above, for my presidential voting history, then compare it to this post.) On taxes, I will say this: if I were convinced that my taxes were being used to fund a manifest evil, I would have to seriously consider tax resistance as a response. The Hyde Amendment has always provided a prophylactic barrier against that question on abortion, for instance, but if it was no longer in place, and if the federal government was in fact paying for abortions using my tax dollars, I would have to confront that problem head on. Similarly, if we initiate or provide material support for a pre-emptive war on Iran, I’ll have to consider tax resistance as a response. During the run-up to the war in Iraq, which I now view as immoral, I simply wasn’t in the same place. In fact, I not only sent my taxes to fund it, I sent my son to fight it, and he did two combat tours there. If I had it to do all over again, I would strongly advise him not to go, to find an alternative means of service. But at the time I didn’t, and I’ve had to live with that, including my own culpability in the psychic and physical damage he suffered as a result.

      This is not a game for me. I left the ivory tower thirty years ago with my undergraduate degree, and so none of what I’ve written here is offered merely as an intellectual parlor game or academic exercise. I’m trying to explore the boundaries of what it means to really live as a Christian, not just talk and worship as one. In this respect, Dorothy Day has in the past few years become my constant – if still unattainable – model and a daily challenge and reproof.

      Bob Dylan said “He not busy being born is busy dying.” In a real way, stasis is death. In a political sense, stasis is the ultimate accommodation to the spirit of the age, which we are instructed to resist.

      • November 2, 2012 5:12 pm

        Thank you, Mark. That is an honest and reasonable answer to my question. We are, of course, both funding those drone dattacks. And I seriously considered voting for a third-party candidate myself to send a signal to the president and his party that the “war on terror” has exhausted my both my patience and my last reserve of tolerance. In the end, however, I decided that perpetual war will continue so long as the plutocrats who profit from it continue to fund–and own–the politicians of both parties; there is no avoiding it under the current system. Obama, I feel, will do more for the poor than will Romney. And he will do more for the poor than would any libertarian candidate. I have written many times that what I would most like to see is a general boycott of a national election, which would show the world that the American people do not support the evil actions of our national power brokers. But my individual boycott would be meaningless, so I have chosen to vote for the man who I feel, truly is the lesser evil. I don’t believe that any of us can lead a “normal” life in American society To avoid that would be to drop out. I found out in the ’60s that dropping out is easier said than done.
        Again, I thank you, Mark, for your excellent post and your truthful response to my question.

        • November 2, 2012 5:19 pm

          NOTE: I somehow lost a clause in my comment above. My belief is that none of us can lead a “normal” life in American society without cooperating with various evils, whether with or without intent; it is inevitable.

  13. Cindy permalink
    November 1, 2012 6:25 pm

    Bob Dylan once wrote that “people don’t do what they believe in, they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent.” Just curious Mark. What Dylan song is that?

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 1, 2012 10:28 pm

      Brownsville Girl, from Knocked Out Loaded.

  14. trellis smith permalink
    November 2, 2012 2:54 am

    Has any recent president escaped implication with evil?

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 2, 2012 7:48 am

      Good question. What’s your answer?

  15. November 2, 2012 9:27 am

    Evil, even a so-called lesser evil, can never be the object of a morally good act. However, there is such a thing as choosing a limited good, an “imperfect” good. Indeed that is always the case in the temporal realm, this valle lacrimarum. Opposing abortion-on-demand and protecting religious liberty are legitimate goods. Catholics should not become confused about what is at stake here.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 2, 2012 10:21 am

      Well, that’s the talking point. But merely overturning Roe doesn’t end abortion on demand. It only sends the matter back to the states, where many if not most states would permit abortion in most cases, and the others would permit it in at least some cases, which is the Romney/Ryan position. Meanwhile, you apparently believe that pre-emptive (immoral) warmaking, state-sponsored torture, and shredding the social safety net including healthcare are outweighed by … the HHS mandate. I don’t.

    • Kurt permalink
      November 2, 2012 12:47 pm

      Neither (major party) candidate has opposition to abortion on his agenda. As far as contraception, I support the right of every woman who wants it to have access to contraception as part of a basic health care benefits.

  16. Julia Smucker permalink*
    November 2, 2012 10:22 am

    Mark, you’ve pretty much expressed all my sentiments better than I have been able to. This is my first presidential election in which I am not overseas and can actually vote in person, and I plan to vote independent. I’ve been charged with “prissy perfectionism” numerous times in the past few months (including by friends I respect a great deal, which makes me feel all the more politically lonely, and also perversely consoled that you are dealing with the same thing). But both of these candidates’ policy agendas are too overwhelmingly unconscionable for me to justify validating them with my vote, for all the reasons you name here.

    If I may make one nit-picky correction: that excellent laundry list of offenses against human life and dignity that you quote from Veritatis Splendor is originally from Gaudium et Spes 27. It has been an invaluable reference point for me in terms of the consistent life ethic in Catholic teaching.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 3, 2012 7:47 am

      Yes, my mistake. JPII quoted it in VS. thanks for that correction.

  17. Doc Fox permalink
    November 2, 2012 10:38 am

    I find ‘abortion’ to be the most deceptive issue in any election.

    Given: abortion can not be made illegal — Roe v Wade. Therefore, anyone running for office saying he or she will stop abortion is a liar. Many have run for office on that position and have of course done nothing about the question. They prefer the issue to a solution. Too often we Catholics respond to the abortion campaign, ignoring that nothing will be done, while social justice, the common good, and all that, are damaged by that vote.

    “Packing” the Court is a risky solution. First, if Roe is reversed abortion will remain legal in many states. Second, putting people on the Court who are prepared in advance to guarantee their vote on an issue of importance to us (a major violation of judicial ethics, by the way), prepared to overrule a decades old case, leaves us to wonder what else by way of extraordinary behavior on the Court we are buying sight unseen.

    The solution for those whose instincts run to criminal law as a response to the problem is a Constitutional Amendment which cannot hope to pass unless at the very least it permits abortion in cases of rape, incest, and threat to life of mother. That does not satisfy the principle of things, though, does it. It helps, only helps.

    I believe myself that an inquiry into ‘why’ abortion occurs, and into what can be done about that ‘why’, will reveal that abortion is motivated by fear, fear of what the birth will mean in the life of the mother. Too often, I expect, mother sees birth as imperiling her education or employment, the former relevant to her long-term success in escaping poverty, the latter directly related to her poverty. The solution to the problem caused by those fears is to eliminate those fears. We could do that by making sure that medical care for her and for her child are free and of high quality, and that there is a program of free child care available to her for educational or employment purposes. I sincerely believe that such a program would nearly eliminate abortion. Of course, those who campaign on anti-abortion tend to be skinflints and low taxes über Alles types.

    That is why I will not vote for a fiscal conservative who pays lip service to anti-abortion.

    • November 2, 2012 9:41 pm

      “First, if Roe is reversed abortion will remain legal in many states.”

      Well, unless the anti-Roe justices rule that abortion is positively UNconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment’s clause that “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

      All it would take is the Supreme Court deciding to rule on what “person” means in the Constitution, which seems a legitimate exercise of “interpretative” power to me!

      Presumably, anti-Roe justices would believe the unborn were persons. If they were not cowards, they would rule on what “person” really means.

  18. David Agnew permalink
    November 2, 2012 12:03 pm

    Mark

    You continue to get it wrong.

    You are right: one does not choose evil. However, you confusing choosing a political candidate with choosing said evil. You agree that proportionate reasons are needed to justify choosing a person who has various agenda which could be considered evil, however, when push comes to shove, you still make it out as if someone is choosing evil. This is a basic flaw in your argument. Moreover, if one looks carefully at the history of Catholic political thought, your reasoning is shown never to be the one Catholic legal or political thought takes. It is a Protestant-based Pharisaic mentality which lies behind your analysis. It is right to say it is your prudential decision not to choose Obama or Romney but you found it (with so much of the Catholic blogosphere) on the false premise one must choose evil to vote for either. That is false.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 3, 2012 2:34 pm

      You don’t understand the principle of double effect. One may choose (in this case vote, an otherwise good act) based on an expected good effect, even knowing that a bad effect may result. But you may NOT do so if the resulting bad effect outweighs the good you intend. I have concluded that voting for Romney based on the good he may do – appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, reverse the HHS mandate, uh … I guess that’s it – is outweighed by the bad effects of his presidency, including pre-emptive war, torture, and the abandonment of the poor, immigrants, and workers. I have concluded that voting for Obama based on the good he may do – universal healthcare, preservation of the social safety net, progress on climate change – is outweighed by the bad effects of a second term, including an continuation of drone warfare, assassination, support for Israel’s impending pre-emptive war on Iran, the appointment of pro-choice justices, and continuation of the HHS mandate. It really is that simple.

      But I’ve told you where I’m coming from. Why don’t you stop hiding behind your scholastic arguments and tell us who you’re voting for?

      • November 3, 2012 2:51 pm

        Mark — I’m confused as to why you think that Obama is more likely to go to war with Iran than is Romney. Every Republican I’ve heard making pronouncements against Obama have included his supposed “betrayal” of Israel on his list. Obama has always maintained that sanctions and diplomacy are the means to curtail Iran’s nucleur ambitions, to the extent that they actually include weapons. Romney, on the other hand, has virtually promised to bomb Iran if he’s elected. He won’t even send in Israel to do the dirty work; he’ll do it himself. Where is your evidence that Obama plans to go to war with Iran (which would be virtually suicidal for our economy, and certainly result in a GOP sweep in the mid-term elections?)

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          November 4, 2012 7:00 pm

          I don’t think Obama is more likely to go to war with Iran than is Romney. What I think is that if Romney is elected, the United States will be at war with Iran within six months, with full military support from Israel. If Obama is re-elected, I think Israel will be at war with Iran within six months, with full military support from the United States. Either way, it’s war in my view.

        • gadria permalink
          November 5, 2012 4:01 am

          I sure hope that in six month this comment/post (“Either way it’s war in my view”) will feel so terrible old and wrong.
          Perhaps the fact that consistently the extremes come up is telling and partly explains why you choose a very strong word like Evil to describe views and activities of the majority of your fellow citizens. But – you wrote an honest post – like many here I do not share the sentiment – likely your actual day to day activity will not be all that much different from those that you accuse of supporting evil. These are known to be very difficult questions and just slapping the tack EVIL on them does not get the job done either.

      • Kurt permalink
        November 3, 2012 4:49 pm

        So what is the “effect” (double, single or triple) of not voting for either? Will less evil happen by not voting for either?

        • November 4, 2012 7:53 pm

          @ Kurt — This isn’t about “lessening evil,” is it? Isn’t it, rather, about avoiding personal culpability for the evil that occurs?

        • November 4, 2012 8:25 pm

          @ Mark — I don’t think so. As I said, Obama going to war with Iran would surely mean landslide defeat for Democratic senate and congressional candidates in the mid-terms, and no hope for any Democrat to follow Obama into the White House. If he loses, it will already have been because his base does not support his use of the military to-date; he will not escalate.
          If Romney wins, however, war with Iran is virtually assured–there’s big money in it for Romney’s ilk. It has nothing to do with Iran’s nukes and everything to do with American corporate profits.

  19. November 2, 2012 11:47 pm

    Because of his ignorance of geo-politics, Mark Green is terribly–almost catastrophically–wrong:

    http://publius-aelius.livejournal.com/728717.html

  20. digbydolben permalink
    November 5, 2012 11:59 am

    Rodak, it’s also about Christian Fundamentalists’ millenial hopes, among Romney’s “base,” for an Armageddon that would initiate the return of Jesus–at the same time as it would damn all “unbelieving” Jews to Hell. I know that most Roman Catholics do not want to take this fanaticism–or the fanaticism of eschatology-crazed Jews and Muslims–seriously, but there most certainly is an aspect of this dangerous crisis that is wholly rooted in religion, and, frankly, I think Romney’s Mormon Church also puts a sickeningly dangerous spin on it.

    • November 5, 2012 7:13 pm

      Digby — I don’t think too many Jews are “eschatology” crazed since the Christian fundies to whom you refer expect all but small remnant of the Jews to be extinguished on that Day.

  21. Anne permalink
    November 5, 2012 7:32 pm

    Mark, I guess I’m your mirror opposite in that for most of my adult life I refrained from voting for the top of the ticket over the abortion issue. I was a registered Democrat who believed in virtually every position the Democratic party stood for EXCEPT abortion. Bill Clinton so conflicted me (because of his Republican-like fiscal policies, including both welfare cuts and de-regulating the broadcast industry) that I ultimately made the impulsive decision to vote for the Compassionate (and Republican) Conservative in 2000. That was truly one of the worst decisions I ever made in my life, but it taught me an important lesson: Presidents can cause a LOT of harm to this country and to the rest of the world even when their views on abortion are honestly held and beyond criticism…two things I daresay no one can be sure about with regard to Mitt Romney’s views on the subject. Choosing a President simply can’t wait on making sure all the candidates have the correct view on abortion, or any one or two issues, never mind everything else. You have to look at the big picture, and as in all times past, pick the person you think will do the best by the country and the world. For me, that’s Obama. I can’t abide a return to the world (and fiscal) viewpoint that brought us to where we were in 2008. That IMHO is neither Christian nor common sense.

    As for abortion, Barack Obama’s position reflects the consensus of most American women; it’s neither prophetic nor pandering, just honestly held by a guy who thinks women should have the last word. I know Catholic Americans, like most Americans, no longer consider consensus building or changing minds a duty; changing the law is all we hear about now, let those who disagree go hang. To me, that’s another cultural inadequacy Christians need to confront in themselves and the society around them. We cannot abandon our belief in the sacredness of human life; it’s our duty to convince the world. But we’ll never do so by supporting politicians who show a general disregard for all other Christian values, from the needs of the sick, the poor, and the elderly, in this country and around the world. No candidate is perfect on every score, it’s true. But unless you give one issue such as abortion priority over all the rest, choosing the right person for the job is not beyond our abilities. We can do it, and for our fellow citizens’ sake, we must.

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