Sunday, May 20, 2007

Single Issue Voting

A friend of mine, who is Catholic and politically liberal, mentioned to me the other day that he would be voting for Barack Obama should he win the democratic primary. Obama, is NOT pro-life. I asked him how that squared with voting pro-life and he said he would not be made a "one-issue" voter. I didn't have the time to tell him he had been had, but that's what blogs are for.

I think there is one basic problem (and all politicians/political parties tend to do this), that is to discuss things in terms of "issues" and forget the fact that they're discussing real people. This leads to an easy breakdown of any objective moral value. Case in point, abortion and the right to life becomes a single "issue" right alongside talking about taxes or military base closures. Its easy to then quantify instead of qualify. You can say "I won't be made a single-issue voter" instead of "I care more about welfare programs and the war in Iraq than the tens-of-thousands of children murdered every day due to abortion." Sounds much better right?

If "issues" are about people, then we need to be discussing issues in terms of 1)their potentiality for good and evil, and 2) the moral weight of the potential evil which could be done. While tax law A has the potentiality to do good or bad, abortion has only the potentiality for evil. The fact that a tax law could potentially have good or bad effects makes it somewhat negotiable compared with a law which can only bring evil. Next, what would be the moral weight of these issues? A tax law which turns out to hurt the economy can force us to lose some money, maybe some jobs, but no lives are taken (as a direct effect anyway) and so the moral weight could again be considered negotiable. On the other hand, legallized abortion is murdering a baby. Murder, is obviously a very serious and evil crime and therefore it is non-negotiable in nature as far as whether it should be condemned.

Weigh the consequenses of whatever you like and the result turns out to be the same. Even, the Iraq war has its potentiallity for good (even those ardently against it must admit the potential good) while abortion is never allowable. US war deaths have been numbered at 3,431 since the war started in March of 2003. The number of deaths due to abortion in the US each day is about 3,700. That leaves the total number of US abortion deaths since 2003 at around 5.5 million. You do the moral math.

I realize that the "Hannity argument" is compare something, anything, to Nazi Germany and you win, but this comparison really does work- If you lived in Nazi Germany and the "issues" surrounding your next election (imagining you get one) are taxes, the military build-up, the invasion of Poland and the Jewish Holocaust, which issue would be more important to you?

We do live in a country, and a world where there is a holocaust going on. What should we choose?


Catholic Mom said...

Show your friend this address by Archbishop Chaput. It is not just a matter of voting on a single issue, it is a matter of living as a faithful Catholic.

Paul Cat said...

One issue. By voting on that one issue, in turn you vote on all issues. Without life there would be no other issues. It is funny how the early founders of the US wanted "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The early founders put them in that order for a reason. Now it seems like people have flipped it all on its head and are more interested in the pursuit of happiness, liberty, and life (life as an after thought).

Woe to us.

Damien said...

Brothers and Sisters, a small point re the "moral math" Interesting how your death toll doesn't include Iraqi dead, but only American dead. Last I heard more than half a millio n Iraqis had died as a result of the war and its predicted aftermath. Why not? Don't overseas deaths compute in the moral math of American voting? I am, by the way, pro-life, from conception to natural death. Jesus was non-violent. Listen to your pope, your bishops and the whole Catholic hierarchy. There are very feew exceptions. The current holy father is a contingent pacififst - that is to say he doesn't reject the notion of just war as such, but clearly feels the conditions are unlikely to be met in this climate - both in terms of ius ad bellum and ius in bello. I agree - there's no problem with single issue voting - as long as you take on the whole issue. That includes abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, war, the death penalty and poverty. If you can't find a candidate consistent on all of this, you shouldn't vote. It's that simple. Just saying that there is a moral responsibility to vote for the lesser evil on balance is proportionalism in other words. By the way, what's with the burning in Hell cartoon? I was under the impression that God alone would be our judge...
Much peace to you all.

aggiecatholic said...

I used only American deaths because I only used American abortion totals. Being that American voters only have control over American abortion laws I thought it would be best to compare the two. I also, having been an American soldier during the war and an intelligence analyst none the less, think the "half a million" civilian Iraqi deaths is a bit of a stretch. However, even if you calculate 500,000 Iraqi deaths from the war it isn't near the 5.5 million deaths from abortion alone in America since the start of the war. If you check, a decidedly anti-war website, they only report 72,489 Iraqi civilian deaths. I use the word "only" because of the great exaggeration of 500,000 and because 73,000 is the "body-count" reached by American abortion totals in less than a month.

As far as the reasoning of the pope and some bishops towards the justification of the war the CCC under paragraph 2309 states that "The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good." That judgment would belong to those in our country who have the authority to make such decisions, namely our president and other elected officials. Notice that decision is not the pope's or any other Church appointed official. In such matters obviously every Catholic must listen to and respect our Church leader's opinions as they carry great moral weight, but the information our national leaders have is better and comes in greater volume and is the reason why it is their decision to make.

Speaking of the opinions of the pope and our bishops, have you read Bishop Chaput's statement listed by catholic mom? As it turns out the pope even made the comment recently that “Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist." While voting for an anti-life candidate is not directly supporting abortion, it is not so small as just a "second-effect" if voting for another candidate who does support pro-life policies is available. That is of course assuming that abortion is a greater moral evil than a potentially justifiable war, which I think is the case. Contrast quotes 1&2 from 3 out of the catechism:
1)CCC 2271"Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law."
2)CCC 2272 "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense."
3)"All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, 'as long as the danger of war persists...governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed."

Numbers 1 and 2 show an unmoving certainty of grave sin of abortion while number 3 shows the potentiality of war's necessity. I think the sheer volume of deaths due to always gravely sinful abortion compared to the very small numbers of deaths due to the war in Iraq (because let's be honest, that's the one we're concerned with)is so overly proportional it is silly to think the two are even near a level plain morally. Being a "contingent pacifist" as you call the holy father, does not change the grave immoral value of abortion vs war. Again, the sheer numbers work against the argument. If the circumstances were changed, for instance if the war was totally unjustifiable and was causing massive numbers of innocent deaths, like maybe 500,000 while at the same time there were only say 1,000 abortions it would be justifiable to call the war the greater evil.

On the matter of the "lesser of two evils" I would agree that in some cases the lesser of two evils must be chosen. For instance if Giuliani won the repub ticket it would force repub voters to potentially look for a pro-life candidate in the dem or independent parties and vice-versa.

Poverty, the war, the death penalty and euthanasia are not the same issue as abortion. While these other things can destroy the dignity of the human person, none of them destroy at its inception the way abortion does. Infants could be regarded as the essence of innocence, totally dependent upon their parents or other caretakers. Even if the death penalty is unnecessary, its not as if the criminals don't know the punishment for their crimes. Likewise euthanasia is a sin against one's own dignity. War as I discussed earlier can be potentially justifiable. Poverty, when defined as "relative poverty" (that is say that for instance the American standard of living compared to the standard of living of a nomadic tribe would make the nomads to be in relative poverty)is no such offense against human dignity. When defined as "absolute poverty" it must be necessary to find the cause and "fixibility" of the situation before a "moral" judgment can be made. Even when a grave offense to human dignity it does not fall within the shadow of evil cast by the murder of the essence of innocence.

And about the picture, no one is judging whether any of the people depicted is going to burn in hell, only God will know their final destination. Its a satire based on the movie "300" using less than orthodox Church officials. I have to say though I think any influential official condoning same-sex marriage, women priests and the like seems to fall in the millstone around the neck category barring any unforeseen repentence.