Catholics must be “salt and light”. Choosing a president is among our highest duties as citizens, and is a decision that must be guided by the morality taught to us by the Catholic Church. In this article, I will handicap the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and discuss the moral implications of voting for the prospective candidates.
Former President Clinton made a statement with which I agree (even a stopped clock is right twice a day), “Democrats fall in love with their candidate; Republicans fall in line behind their candidate.” The Republican Party has a very “top-down” organizational structure that rarely grants decision making power to the “grassroots”. An example of this process was the selection of George W. Bush as the Republican presidential nominee. There was a large field of qualified Republican presidential candidates in 1999/2000, but no one ever doubted who the nominee would be. G.W. Bush was anointed to be the nominee, and the Primary campaign was merely a formality.
Out of the current crowded field of Republican contenders, only four really have a chance: John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Fred Thompson. The other candidates are fully aware that they do not have any chance of winning the nomination; they are in the race only to advance their ideals and enhance their name recognition.
John McCain was supposed to be the next in line. In the old style of Republican politics, candidates paid their dues in years of political service, and the guy who finished second in the previous presidential primary was the natural pick for the next race. McCain has spent decades in political office, has been a popular figure in national politics and gave President Bush a challenge in a couple of state primaries. However, he went too far in his independent/maverick persona. He opposed the President and the Party too many times, and alienated Republican voters by supporting and sponsoring legislation that they opposed. His hot temper and strident rhetoric cost him the nomination, which is a shame–he would be a strong wartime leader and is fairly good on the social issues that matter to religious voters. I wouldn’t vote for him, but I don’t think he would be too bad.
Mitt Romney proved himself capable as governor of Massachusetts and a popular personality. His positions, as they stand today, on national defense, fiscal and social issues are in line with most Republican voters. However, his positions are subject to change radically. As Governor, he was pro-abortion. He was also ambivalent regarding gay marriage…which became a major issue in Massachusetts. Now, he would have us believe that he had Road to Damascus revelations on those issues. He also supports the War on Terror, which is still popular among Republicans. All of that aside though, he is Mormon.
Like it or not, the Bible Belt south will not vote for a Mormon (Southern Baptists believe the LDS church is a cult), and a Republican has to carry the south to win the election. Before you frown on us bigoted southerners though, I would remind you that Romney’s Mormonism should give all Catholics pause. The LDS, or Mormon, church is virulently anti-Catholic and bears little resemblance to orthodox Christianity. A Romney presidency would lead to a wide-spread acceptance of Mormonism. Violent anti-Catholicism has not been common since the election of President Kennedy. A Romney presidency would give legitimacy to such preachers of hate.
Leading McCain and Romney is Fred Thompson. Thompson was not the pick of the RNC, but he had the name recognition to challenge their power–as did Reagan. Unlike President Reagan, who represented an ideological revolution in the Republican Party, Thompson’s popularity is due to what he is not. Thompson is not a moderate maverick who has alienated the base. Thompson is not a Mormon. Thompson is not a yankee. Republicans who seek a reliable conservative are looking for that man in Thompson. But, Thompson’s record is not as reliably conservative as it has been portrayed, his personal life will become a liability once the media begins picking him apart, his organizational skills will prevent him from running a solid campaign and the RNC will never fully back him.
That leaves Giuliani. Giuliani was a great mayor; he made America proud of New York again. He is a strong law and order figure and a leader in the War on Terror. In many ways, he is the ideal war-time president. However, Giuliani is pro-abortion, opposes gun rights and tacitly supports gay marriage. His positions are far more nuanced than I just presented them, but that is not a positive quality in my opinion.
I’m sick of politicians who answer simple and important questions like, “Do you support a Constitutional Amendment that would define marriage as only being between one man and one woman at one time?” with vague non-answers like, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.” As best I can tell, each of the four Republican candidates listed, as well as the three leading Democratic candidates, has answered that question in a similar manner to the above. Such answers only prove that the candidate thinks the voters are too stupid to understand what he is saying.
Giuliani will likely be the Republican presidential nominee, but he cannot win. The south will be hesitant to support a New Yorker. The social conservatives who make up the bulk of Republican voters will be troubled by his personal life. Religious voters will not support a pro-abortion candidate.
The Republican Party hierarchy are fooling themselves if they think Giuliani can win over enough independents and Democrats in Blue states to make up for all of the Red state voters he will alienate. They believe that Republicans will vote Republican, no matter what, because the Republican Party has become so identified with family and religious values, that its candidates become canonized as saints the moment the R is placed behind their names. They have failed to learn the lessons of Mark Foley and Jack Abramoff, who taught America that Republicans can be just as bad as Democrats and even worse. The RNC big-wigs and the political consultants who are pulling the strings these days have no moral or even political ideology–they exist only to win elections, to amass power. They see religious voters and ideological conservatives as rubes who have to be tolerated every few years.
They will make the argument that in this time of war the only thing that matters in a candidate is his position on the War on Terror. However, Catholics cannot vote for a pro-abortion candidate, no matter what. Catholics who vote for politicians who support abortion commit a grave sin, separate themselves from the Church and should not take Communion so long as they persist in their sin and are not reconciled with the Church. Catholic politicians who support abortion are committing even graver sin by publicly opposing the Church and causing scandal.
We need not be cowed into accepting the argument that, by voting our religious principles, we are undermining national defense. If Adolph Hitler were on the ballot as an American presidential candidate, one would not say, “Well, I don’t like Hitler’s position on the holocaust, but he is strong on national defense.” We would recognize him as an advocate of murder for whom we could not in good conscience vote. Not to minimize the atrocities of Hitler, but 48,589,993 babies have been aborted in the United States since Roe v. Wade, which is a greater slaughter of the innocent than that monster could ever imagine. Hitler did not carry out the mass murder of innocents himself; he was the politician who championed the policy. It is no exaggeration to say that any politician who supports abortion today is worse than Hitler.
If the field of Republican presidential candidates remains as it stands, Republicans will likely end up with a candidate who cannot win national election; Catholics may not have a candidate for whom we can vote. Although I once believed that to not vote was unpatriotic, I now recognize that we have a moral duty not to cast a vote for any candidate if to cast that vote would be morally wrong. If both candidates are morally unacceptable, one is not choosing between the lesser of two evils, but the evil of two lessers.
I do not know how the Republican Party came to be in such a state, but I do know that we have a moral duty not to vote for bad people. So long as we continue to vote along party lines, no matter the character of the candidate, we enable very bad people to gain power. If Newt Gingrich enters the race, I may have to reconsider my position. For now though, I reluctantly embrace the bumper sticker slogan: “Don’t vote, it only encourages them”.