The Thinking 

Neither Romney nor Obama

October 18, 2012


AT The Orthosphere, Proph argues that it is morally wrong for Catholics and any “men of good faith” to vote for either of the two major-party candidates for president. He writes:

Those who choose to exercise their right to vote should …. either vote for a morally commendable third party candidate (if one can be found), write-in such a candidate of their own choosing, or else spoil their ballots. The same principles apply in general to all candidates down-ticket, as well.

—— Comments —–

Terry Morris writes:

I abstained in the 2008 presidential election, and I will do so again.

Laura writes:

Your thinking?

Mr. Morris writes:

The simple fact of the matter is that my State, Oklahoma, is securely in the Romney column with, or without, my endorsement. So the decision is, thereby, made much easier for me (and Annette).

But the Bible clearly teaches me to “choose for your rulers wise men, men who fear God, hating covetousness.” HATING COVETOUSNESS!” Mitt Romney has in no way shown me that he “hates covetousness,” particularly female covetousness. Indeed, he’s shown me that he loves and endorses it.

Jesse Powell writes:

I’ve swung back and forth regarding whom I should vote for this election.  I’m not in a “swing state” so a protest vote seems a more reasonable indulgence for me.  Regarding third party candidates, may I suggest Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party? The Constitution Party is focused on returning government to the role and overall philosophy of the actual founding of the country.  I can’t endorse everything the Constitution Party supports, but it seems like a good choice for a third party alternative.

The Constitution Party National Platform Preamble states:

“The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States.

This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

The Constitution of these United States provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The Constitution Party supports the original intent of this language. Therefore, the Constitution Party calls on all those who love liberty and value their inherent rights to join with us in the pursuit of these goals and in the restoration of these founding principles.

The U.S. Constitution established a Republic rooted in Biblical law, administered by representatives who are Constitutionally elected by the citizens. In such a Republic all Life, Liberty and Property are protected because law rules.”

Under the Family section of the Constitution Party Platform it states:

“The law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The marriage covenant is the foundation of the family, and the family is fundamental in the maintenance of a stable, healthy and prosperous social order. No government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what God has instituted. We are opposed to amending the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of defining marriage.

We reject the notion that sexual offenders are deserving of legal favor or special protection, and affirm the rights of states and localities to proscribe offensive sexual behavior. We oppose all efforts to impose a new sexual legal order through the federal court system. We stand against so-called “sexual orientation” and “hate crime” statutes that attempt to legitimize inappropriate sexual behavior and to stifle public resistance to its expression. We oppose government funding of “partner” benefits for unmarried individuals. Finally, we oppose any legal recognition of homosexual unions.

We recognize that parents have the fundamental right and responsibility to nurture, educate, and discipline their children. We oppose the assumption of any of these responsibilities by any governmental agency without the express delegation of the parents or legal due process. We affirm the value of the father and the mother in the home, and we oppose efforts to legalize adoption of children by homosexual singles or couples.”

Alissa writes:

Here’s a blog post discussing how democractic elections are simply about validating the system of democracy.

Paul writes:

The proposal comes too late—a frequent occurrence in our world of overwhelming numbers of laws and lawyers—to comply with Catholic teaching in at least some states.  It is less than two months from the election.  The proposal is, “Either vote for a morally commendable third party candidate (if one can be found), write-in such a candidate of their own choosing, or else spoil their ballots.”

Catholic teaching requires voting, as shown by the writer’s citation to section 2240 of the Catechism.  Voting in America requires a ballot, and spoilation destroys a ballot.  Moreover, a third-party candidate that espouses Catholic doctrine and principles perfectly does not exist.  Finally, in Burdick v. Takushi504 U.S. 428 (1992), a conservative majority (including the brilliant Scalia) held, in summary, that Hawaii was not required to allow write-in ballots within two months of the election.  The Court reasoned (wonderfully) that prospective writers were given plenty of time to write in candidates.  The election is less than two months away.

As someone against abortion from my earliest remembrances, I think the proposal is worthy of respectful consideration.  During and before high school, the idea of getting a girl pregnant was extremely unpleasant because I would have had to marry her; and I did not want to marry young or a girl I did not love or like.  Abortion was unthinkable.  Yet I have not considered the proposal enough recently to tender a moral opinion.

Laura writes:

Paul is right. Proph’s proposal at this point is essentially a form of withdrawal, or non-voting, for those without third party candidates who are any better.

Bruce writes:

I’ve thought about voting for American Third Position if they make it on the ballot here. If one’s intention in voting third party is to “send them a message” then I think A3P’s message is pretty clear.

Mr. Morris writes:

That’s a good post by Zippy that Alissa pointed to. Zippy should address the issue I often run up against whenever I share with others that I intend to abstain in one or more elections:

Respondent (look of self-righteous disgust on his/her face): “Well then I have to say that you have no right to complain about anything if you choose not to vote.”

My response is usually a form of the folllowing:

“I beg to differ with you on the point because you are dead wrong. I am a natural-born U.S. citizen, with deep roots and both feet firmly planted in this country. Whatever happens inside or outside this country in the name of the United States, socially, and/or, politically, affects me on a personal level, and my family on a family

level. That, in and of itself, gives me every right to complain whenever wrongs are committed in the name of my country. Whether I choose to vote in any election or not.”

Indeed, I’ve had numerous people say to me, “Well, since I don’t vote I guess I really have no right to complain about anything.” Those individuals usually get a different version of the same speech.

Proph writes:

A quick response to Paul:

It is true that Catechism acknowledges that voting is both a good and a duty (insofar as it constitutes participation in civic life, and such participation is a natural good owing to man’s social nature). What I am disputing in particular is that this duty is absolute or that the present election presents us with a situation in which the obligation to vote overrides other considerations. As usual, there is more nuance to the situation than a casual perusal of Catechism lets on.

Pope Pius XII spoke to the importance of voting but it’s worth remembering that he lived in a world where it was reasonable to suppose that in most areas, there were still candidates for public office not utterly in thrall to moral depravity. For Heaven’s sake, he was born into a world where Catholic monarchs still ruled some parts of Europe!

There is exactly one duty in Catholic moral teaching that is absolute: the duty to love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul, specifically, by obeying His law and avoiding sin and complicity thereto. Everything else is secondary and conditional, and voting is no exception. In voting, we must observe the duty to maintain our moral hygiene, to avoid tolerating evil except in particularly grave circumstances. And while it was perhaps minimally plausible a few months ago that Romney’s nominal opposition to abortion would justify toleration of all the active and positive evils he does support, with his opportunistic recantation of his equally-opportunistic pro-life position, that position simply is not tenable.

Simply put, where Catholics have no good options in a particular race, they simply must not vote in that race. They do not offend against the natural law by so abstaining.

Zippy Catholic writes:

In reply to Mr. Morris:

In my view it is those who choose to vote who have no right – or at least a much more attenuated right – to complain.  They have personally endorsed the governing consensus and the process by which that governing consensus is made legitimate.  Someone who refuses to endorse personally the governing consensus in a concrete act has greater right to complain, not lesser.

* Someone who refuses to work for Planned Parenthood has a greater right to complain about abortion

* Someone who refuses to fight in an unjust war has a greater right to complain about the unjust war

* Someone who refuses to eat processed food has a greater right to complain about processed food

* Someone who refuses to buy products made in sweatshops has a greater right to complain about sweatshops

I could keep making this list forever.  But the point is that one entry on this potentially infinite list is:

* Someone who refuses to endorse the political consensus by voting has a greater right to complain about the political consensus

Integrity matters, and it is more than a little rich for the unscrupulous to lecture conscientious objectors.

Daniel S. writes:

The Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre (author of After Virtuewrote the following about voting several years ago, and it remains equally valid for the current election cycle:

When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives. These are propositions which in the abstract may seem to invite easy agreement. But, when they find application to the coming presidential election, they are likely to be rejected out of hand. For it has become an ingrained piece of received wisdom that voting is one mark of a good citizen, not voting a sign of irresponsibility. But the only vote worth casting in November is a vote that no one will be able to cast, a vote against a system that presents one with a choice between Bush’s conservatism and Kerry’s liberalism, those two partners in ideological debate, both of whom need the other as a target.

Why should we reject both? Not primarily because they give us wrong answers, but because they answer the wrong questions. What then are the right political questions? One of them is: What do we owe our children? And the answer is that we owe them the best chance that we can give them of protection and fostering from the moment of conception onwards. And we can only achieve that if we give them the best chance that we can both of a flourishing family life, in which the work of their parents is fairly and adequately rewarded, and of an education which will enable them to flourish. These two sentences, if fully spelled out, amount to a politics. It is a politics that requires us to be pro-life, not only in doing whatever is most effective in reducing the number of abortions, but also in providing healthcare for expectant mothers, in facilitating adoptions, in providing aid for single-parent families and for grandparents who have taken parental responsibility for their grandchildren. And it is a politics that requires us to make as a minimal economic demand the provision of meaningful work that provides a fair and adequate wage for every working parent, a wage sufficient to keep a family well above the poverty line.

The basic economic injustice of our society is that the costs of economic growth are generally borne by those least able to afford them and that the majority of the benefits of economic growth go to those who need them least. Compare the rise in wages of ordinary working people over the last thirty years to the rise in the incomes and wealth of the top twenty percent. Compare the value of minimum wage now to its value then and next compare the value of the remuneration of CEOs to its value then. What is needed to secure family life is a sufficient minimum income for every family and that can perhaps best be secured by some version of the negative income tax, proposed long ago by Milton Friedman, a tax that could be used to secure a large and just redistribution of income and so of property.

We note at this point that we have already broken with both parties and both candidates. Try to promote the pro-life case that we have described within the Democratic Party and you will at best go unheard and at worst be shouted down. Try to advance the case for economic justice as we have described it within the Republican Party and you will be laughed out of court. Above all, insist, as we are doing, that these two cases are inseparable, that each requires the other as its complement, and you will be met with blank incomprehension. For the recognition of this is precluded by the ideological assumptions in terms of which the political alternatives are framed. Yet at the same time neither party is wholeheartedly committed to the cause of which it is the ostensible defender. Republicans happily endorse pro-choice candidates, when it is to their advantage to do so. Democrats draw back from the demands of economic justice with alacrity, when it is to their advantage to do so. And in both cases rhetorical exaggeration disguises what is lacking in political commitment.

In this situation a vote cast is not only a vote for a particular candidate, it is also a vote cast for a system that presents us only with unacceptable alternatives. The way to vote against the system is not to vote.

Laura writes:

McIntyre’s argument is lost on me. I can’t get beyond his shocking support for government aid to single-parent households, which throws such doubt on his judgment, and his statement that each family is owed a living wage and meaningful work by government. I haven’t read his full essay, but he seems to be advocating socialism

Mr. Morris writes:

Zippy has made my day, and I’m going to bask in it! Now you see the reason for my subtle hint to Zippy.

Could I add more to his list? Of course I could. But why? He’s made it abundantly clear, in a way I couldn’t have, that conscientious objection is a legitimate means of dealing with the current crisis facing our nation.

You want to truly be liberated and empowered? Read Zippy’s response to my post. And follow it.

Daniel S. writes:

I was perhaps reading McIntyre’s essay too much through the lens of Pope Leo XIII”s Rerum Novarum. McIntyre was a Marxist before his conversion to Catholic Church, though he now subscribes to an Aristotelian Thomist philosophy. Though it would seem he is still influenced by his former Marxist thinking. Then again, in theory there is nothing inherently wrong about the state aiding single mothers. Where I would contest McIntyre’s argument is that the reigning ideology of the state is liberalism, which is at its roots at odds with the Catholic mission, and as such any aid the state gives to single mothers or any attempts toward “just” wages will do nothing more but further the hegemony of liberalism.

 Laura writes:

The state couldn’t provide aid to unwed mothers without usurping the role of men as providers, thus violating the principles of subsidiarity. But in any event that is a side issue to this post.
Mr. Morris writes:

There is a movement afoot amongst the Constitution-loathing, Democracy worshippers in the United States to turn our electoral system into a compulsory system like that of Australia.


Reading the articles favoring the institution of mandatory voting, one comes away with the overall impression that, though a “small but artful minority” (see Washington’s Farewell Address), these advocates of compelled participation in the electoral process consider all elections at all levels of government to be illegitimate under the voluntary system since it is the rule under the voluntary system that our ‘leaders’ are chosen by a minority of eligible voters. This is particularly egregious, to their minds, as pertaining to the election of the POTUS.


I don’t think this idea has too many votaries at present, but I’ve been seeing more and more interest in the idea as our elections have become more and more noticeably a choice between two unscrupulous candidates who “pay an obsequious court to the People, commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.” (Federalist)

And of course, this whole idea promulgated among the proud “I Voted” election day sticker-bearers (these people are adults!) declaring that one hasn’t the right to complain if he does not vote, is the kind of thinking that could ultimately lead to compulsory voting in America. I don’t see it happening anytime soon, but that’s beside the point. Or maybe it is the point.

Back to Zippy Catholic’s reply to my comments, an acquaintance of mine once said to me about a mutual friend of ours who was a homeschooler, that she had no business complaining about the goings-on at the local public school his children attended since her children did not attend public school. Once I established that I did not care for his rather cowardly methods (using her as a way to avoid confronting me directly about the issue), I reminded him that, unlike himself, she and I both owned and operated private businesses and were heavily taxed thereby, as well as in other ways, to support the public schools. And that that gave us the right to complain. But I will employ Zippy’s irrefutable reasoning from here on out, as I’m confronted with the if-you-don’t-participate-you-don’t-deserve-a-voice opinion quite often.

As an aside, but nevertheless related, a close family member, after becoming agitated at me for my non-participatory stance on several issues you often discuss here, exclaimed “then I will throw your own statement back into your face: “Love it or leave it!”” Once I finally managed to get her to calm down, I asked very pointedly, “And exactly when have you ever heard me say this?” After some discussion she admitted that she could not recall having ever heard me say this, but had attributed the saying to me by way of inference. I conceded that I could have said something like this to her before, but never in the context she was attributing to me, and never in regards to my fellow citizens. Glad we got that settled! lol


Mr. Morris writes:

There is nothing inherently wrong with the state aiding single mothers?

There certainly is something inherently wrong with it under separation of church and state. And I mean that the first amendment’s prohibitions against an establishment of religion and prohibiting the free exercise thereof applies to the federal government exclusively,and has no legitimate bearing on the States and local governments. (I understand things are different under Incorporation, but the issue is whether the state can legitimately engage itself in charitable work.)

 So if, say, Seattle were to establish Christianity as the city’s religion in exclusion to all others, then it might have justification in providing aid to single mothers since the city itself would be an arm of the church, where this responsibility lies. Whenever we separate Caesar from God, then it becomes clear that God has ordained Caesar to perform certain functions, while retaining to himself, and through his church, the performance of certain other functions.

Whose inscription do we find on our currency? It is the Federal Reserve. Then give unto the federal government that which belongs to the federal government by way of the federal Constitution, and unto God and his church that which belongs to God by way of his Word.

Zippy Catholic writes:

Commenter Paul writes:

Catholic teaching requires voting, as shown by the writer’s citation to section 2240 of the Catechism.
This is false if it is taken as a universal requirement, as I explain with Magisterial citations here:
In Catholic moral theology positive obligations to act are always mediated by prudential judgement. Only negative moral precepts, prohibitions of certain actions as intrinsically immoral, are universally valid at all times.
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