Yesterday's post resulted in some great discussion and questions, and had me thinking over my own voting criteria as I went about the day trying to regain some control over the house. You see, usually I clean after the girls to bed, but this last week I sewed and made rosaries after bedtime, and the house was definitely in disarray. One bed could hardly be located under the pile of clothes when I began cleaning (it felt good to get that done!). As a result I didn't have much time to join in the conversation until this morning.
Here is, roughly, the criteria I use when I go to the ballot box:
First there are the non-negotiable qualities that I look for. The politician must be solidly pro-life (at least that is the dream... that there will be a "solidly" pro-life choice... sometimes we have to make due with the choices we have on the ticket...). This means they protect human life, regardless of the circumstances, from conception to birth (and beyond). It means they aren't okay with embryonic stem cell research (and hopefully they understand that the alternative is much more promising anyway) and that they're going to fight against euthanasia and eugenics. Those are the top requirements.
Then I go down to the next tier of requirements (on my personal list), which is the whole marriage issue and the issue of capital punishment. For me, the issue of capital punishment is slightly more negotiable than other "life related" issues. I really would like a candidate who was ready to lock up offenders who were convicted of horrific crimes and throw away the key, but who wasn't for capital punishment. I guess I'd say my belief is in line with Blessed John Paul the Great in Evangelium Vitae:
"...the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: In other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent."
Because most pro-life candidates are also pro-marriage, that issue doesn't usually come up. But if I were given the choice of a pro-life candidate who wasn't going to defend the definition of marriage as I understand it/ and a pro-choice canddiate who was for "traditional" marriage, I can tell you I'd still be voting for the pro-life candidate because on the list of priorities I'd put the slaughter of the unborn at the very top. However, again, it's rare that one needs to make that choice, because these things generally fall along party lines.
When voting I don't buy into the line that all evils are equal. When our family living below the poverty level, and eating rice and beans for a month while we figured out finances after we moved, it was not an evil on par with a child be torn apart in his mother's womb. Us struggling to pay the $1600 bill that we just received from a collection agency (after contesting it and hearing nothing from the hospital until now... not even another bill...) for the horrible care I received during my miscarriage, is not equal to a child being murdered. Poverty is a very real issue, and a very important one, but there are different ways of addressing it. And so, while I probably am more towards the center on this particular issues than the average conservative, it usually doesn't affect the way I'm going to vote, because abortion is a greater and more immediate evil.
On the immigration issue I'm much closer to Newt than Bachmann. Maybe it's because I grew up in California and can picture the faces of some of illegal immigrants that I knew when I worked on a living-wage campaign at my "we're Catholic on social issues because that's all that matters... but we pay our workers so far below a living wage that most of them work three jobs to put food on the table" college and can still see the face of one of the school's management personal telling us "you know these 9 out of 10 of these workers are illegal and could get deported if you push the issue" or some combination of those words (they did end up getting a living wage).
I'm all for securing our borders. I'd love it if the drug... personnel... that are using the US Forest service land to produce cash crops in Northern California, weren't able to make it up each year. But my stomach churns a bit when Bachmann says she's going to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into deporting every man, woman and child she can find that doesn't have the right papers.
So those are my main determining factors when I vote. It's pretty much impossible to find a candidate who I agree with 100%. It's even harder to find a candidate that doesn't have some sort of dubious record on the top issues, in their past. Some I can live with (think Santorum and the Specter debacle... to which I say... why Rick? why?). Others I can't (Romney and his whatever-way-the-wind-blows-pro-whatever stance and voting record). Mostly the ones I "can live with" I live with because there are no better options. Santorum's voting mistake is still better than the mistakes and issues that the other candidates support (when I sum up the factors I use) and so I make my decision accordingly.
I'm sure I've missed some issues here. But these are the patchwork I use when I vote. If you're interested in a great Voter's Guide with quite a bit more knowledge than what I've written here I'd suggest this. It was suggested in the comment section yesterday (thank you!) and it will definitely give you some clear instructions on the importance of the issues!