This time last year, I happily watched several presidential candidates discussing values which reflected mine. Their plans for our nation had differences, but I could picture many of them being enacted and doing real good in America and in the world. My top candidates don’t usually make it past the first few months of election coverage, but this time, my favorite candidate hung in there. I was enthusiastic and optimistic about our country’s future for the first time in a long time.
Then one by one, candidates I liked dropped out. I was genuinely sad to see some of them go but knew only one winner could be chosen. My top pick hung in there, but my hope for his presidency did not grow over time. In fact, I began to see more division in “my party”.
As November draws near, all the candidates I could have happily voted for are gone. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump represents my values. I am left with two people I do not have faith in and I am forced to reevaluate how I approach this election. As I said in my last post, I’d rather just sit this election out, and yet, I know that the lives of Americans and many others around the globe may be counting on the outcome of our vote. We are truly blessed to be in this country and with blessing comes responsibility.
Voting is one of those responsibilities but how do we vote when we are left with abysmal choices? The answer may come from attempting to separate ourselves from the candidates and looking less at personality and rhetoric and more at individual items. We can try to take an objective, rather than a subjective view of what we hope to achieve rather than at the people themselves.
Six Considerations for the 2016 Presidential Election:
- Voting on Moral Issues – According to Catholic Answers, there are five moral issues Catholics can never support: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and homosexual ‘marriage’. When choosing a candidate, Catholics are obligated to discern the candidate’s position, not just privately but publicly and in voting habits as well. Too many so-called Catholic politicians say they are pro-life personally but defend the murder of a pre-born child as the mother’s choice. In all cases, we must protect and defend the innocent and most vulnerable among us. This idea of protecting the defenseless extends to cover euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and cloning. Homosexual ‘marriage’ is something which had virtually no momentum 10 years ago but has now become the hot agenda of the left. It has become so hot in fact that many of Christian clergy fail to speak for pro-Christian Marriage and our children have been brainwashed into believing traditional Marriage is prejudiced and choose, for many reasons, to forego this sacred transition.
- Social Issues – If the morality taught by Jesus Christ and passed down through the Catholic Church was upheld consistently, there would be no social issues to deal with. Unfortunately, even among the best Catholics, we fall down on many moral levels. This moral falling down requires social issues be dealt with and compassion to be extended to those in need regardless of the cause or circumstances they find themselves in. It is easy to be caught up in the emotional pull that tugs at our hearts and tells us to give money to this cause or more leniency to that cause, but we were not created to be simply feeling beings. We were created to use intellect beyond all God’s other creatures. Intellect is another of those blessings that also bears responsibility. While we may want to throw money and resources to certain programs, we have to ask ourselves where our limited resources will do the most good. Assuming we can tax or spend our way to Utopia fools us into believing we are God and unlimited in our own power and ability to bring Goodness into the world. Jesus tells us the poor will always be with us. It is up to us to figure out how to best help the most without assuming we can do it all and then wringing our hands or turning our backs when we don’t. Research which candidate understands the power and limitations of resources and has the compassion and generosity to dole out aid when and where needed.
- Discern Whether a Flip Flop is Genuine – Saint Paul converted from a murdering Jew to become one of the greatest leaders in the Catholic Church. Saint Augustine turned from a life of lustful sinfulness to become a devout follower of the Lord. Change is possible. That fact keeps me praying for some that I love deeply who are not Catholic or who have a lukewarm faith. I was one of those lukewarm people for decades, so I know firsthand change is possible! On the other hand, a political candidate who claims to be one thing but has a sudden turnaround should be regarded warily. Proverbs tells us, “A dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly” (Proverbs 26: 11). A wise voter will seek to determine whether the turnaround is genuine or influenced by greed and deception and the desire to steal votes from another candidate.
- Show Me Your Friends & I’ll Show You Your Future – Investigating and then praying over the character and integrity of those around candidates is important especially when the character and integrity of the actual candidates leave much to be desired. We cannot vote hoping a candidate will change because he hangs out with people we like and respect but when the only choices left are poor choices, looking at those who may be influential can be beneficial. It’s been said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with and that our future can be foretold by the company we keep. If there is truth to these statements, looking at past connections, and today’s influencers and social contacts as well as choices for advisors, cabinet members, and vice president should all be considered.
- Voting for Supreme Court Nominations – While the president signs laws into being, how those laws are interpreted has an increasing influence on society. This gives the Supreme Court tremendous power. Justices chosen for the Supreme Court are supposed to be non-partisan but tend to decide along party lines. Catholics and the nation as a whole felt the loss of Justice Antonin Scalia, but his position may not be the only one filled by the next president. Up to four new justices may be chosen in the next few years. That means up to four new people, possibly fairly young people, could spin our Constitution. New, young judges could hold this power for decades changing the course of our nation and of the world. These individuals will hear cases concerning the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They will rule on freedom of religion vs. freedom from religion, school choice, pro-choice, and healthcare choice, and the ability to defend oneself and one’s property using laws of Eminent Domain and the Second Amendment. This is the number one consideration driving me to the polls this November.
- Endorsing a Third Party Candidate – There has been much talk in recent elections about going third party. Ross Perot was the first I remember sparking serious interest, and yet there has been no substantial growth of any third party or candidate. When neither mainstream candidate inspires confidence or greatness in its constituents, a third party gains power and momentum; however, one should think twice about voting for that third party. Third party candidates are often lesser known. To vote third party, Catholics must remember to investigate where that candidate stand on the five uncompromisable moral issues, but there is more too. It seems a statement is being made by voting third party, but one wonders what is being said in that statement. If you are considering a third party, now may be the time to strengthen that party. Get the word out while people are interested and then do the hard work to keep that momentum going so you have a viable candidate for 2020. The thing about endorsing a third party at this point is that it seems like a quick rebellious answer. If you really want to change the system, you need to do the work in between elections to build your party. This late in the game, a third party vote is never going to win and takes a vote away from the candidate who might.
The temptation to sit this election out is great, but I realize the blessing of being given a vote is also a responsibility. I owe the world, my fellow Americans, my children, and those who have fought to give me this right a debt. It is my duty to be informed and take this responsibility seriously. Voting is not always about who you like the best, but about who, of those left, you can support objectively. Voting this election is not without sacrifice. It is more about doing the least harm than the most good but by not choosing we still choose.
God gave us spirits of courage and strength and wisdom. He gave us this land and brought each of us to this particular time with a particular purpose. He knows where we’ve been and what lies ahead. He knows my final resting place. He is in control. Sodom and Gomorrah this may be, but we must still cast our votes and hope in the power of the Lord to surpass any of our political candidates.