Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Voting Criteria

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."
I'm not sure how often I would say it is necessary these days to execute someone to defend society.  I mean, most of these guys aren't going to be posing much of a threat from the inside of their cell in a super-max prison.  But, as it is, I do give candidates more lee-way on this issue, and it isn't a deal breaker like abortion is.

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!


  1. Your criteria is basically like mine. But I'd add one more thing. The spending of our government is crippling us and dooming our nation's future. They need to be against big government and committed to reducing our nation's debt and building up our own economy. America, economically speaking, is in crisis and that will only get worse with more politicians spending more money that isn't theirs!

  2. You're much welcome. I was just glad I could find it online. I have the actual book that I got from at our church before the last presedential election. I enjoyed reading it, and like it says - you should pass it on.

  3. I find my issues are very much hierarchical too and quite similar to yours. I include, just behind the abortion issues the issues of freedom to home school and parental rights at about the same level that I place the issue of marriage. Just because the government has an interest in marriage does NOT mean the government has the right to redefine a SACRAMENT so it is a religious freedom issue too.

    Life issues
    Parental Rights
    Educational Freedom (i.e. Home school)

    and only then the other issues.

    Church teaching condemns socialism and much of the stupid deficit spending is to support socialist style programs. This must stop. It is wrong that working people are denied the fruits of their labors in order to support persons who WILL NOT work-- or the many many pork barrel spending programs and handouts to foreign countries that serve only to make their governments rich at our workers expense!!

    Church teaching says that the citizens of a country have a right to a secure border-- it must be CLOSED. Citizens also have the right to demand that immigrants legal or otherwise to be law abiding and honor the traditions of this culture or be deported. According to Church teaching those fleeing to another country ARE OBLIGATED to honor the cultural traditions (learn English, fly our flag higher than any other, etc) and the laws of the land where they are residing-- You don't claim asylum and then declare you will take the land for the country you fled as does La Raza.

    That said, we clearly need some sort of immigration reform so workers can come across the border, be quickly documented and then go work and live as they wish, provided they keep our laws and actually WORK.

    But those issues are below the first set. Killing unborn children is just wrong, interfering with parents is wrong, redefining sacraments is wrong, and only then are the other social issues.

    I'm not real thrilled with the choices either, but any of them are better than the pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-infanticide, anti-parental rights, anti-American person currently serving as President.

  4. Hi Cam,
    It's nice to see an other Catholic who can see the human face of immigration. Most of them are my friends :). I would be interested to learn more church teachings on immigration. I had no idea that the Church expects immigrants to learn English when they come here. I'll have to investigate that some more and find out the reasoning behind that.

  5. I'm pretty much on board with your priorities, Cam; life issues are non-negotiable, etc.

    I also support some sensible resolution to the immigration issue; living in Alabama I have seen the results of the idiotic law passed here, which has also driven out plenty of legal immigrants terrified of being harassed, arrested, etc. Meanwhile, crops rotted in the fields and foreign companies are taking a closer look at coming to the state (a Mercedes exec was recently arrested because he had forgotten to bring his documents with him while driving ... stupid of him, but with possible adverse repercussions for s state that needs all the investment it can get.)

    I am also sick to death of flash-in-the-pan candidates who jump into the race because so many people are too dumb to discern who has enough brains and experience to be President and who doesn't. Sarah Palin? Michelle Bachmann? Herman Cain? Puh-leeze. Obama clearly hasn't been as smart as folks thought he was, either.

  6. Cam, this doesn't pick any political candidates, but I thought you might like to read this book by Thomas Williams, "The World As It Could Be" --- Catholic Social Thought for a New Generation. Father Williams explains WHY Catholic social teachings on abortion, dignity, violence, capital punishment, the common good, economic development, global governance, "tolerance", and justice exist as they are, and how they are still evolving. It takes arguments from "I think" and "you think" to theological and factual bases. You understand why you say you believe as you do --- or learn why you should. I find it to be a very clear, yet simple read.

  7. Oh --- I just noticed the back cover of the book. You can add to my comment that the book is recommended by Archbishop Chaput, Cardinal Pell, and (of all people) Newt Gingrich!


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