Right off the bat, let it be known that Mitt Romney was my fourth choice among the GOP primary candidates.
Check my writing in this space from that time and you’ll see me talking up Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum, with barely a word in support of Romney. Since he won the nomination I’ve written a whole lot about how awful Barack Obama is but still barely anything in favor of Romney.
I think that establishes that this is far from blind loyalty speaking.
I am supporting Mitt Romney wholeheartedly in this election and I would like to share with you why I think you really ought to as well.
It comes down to this: we have a responsibility, as citizens, to be engaged in the public policy process to move public policy in the direction of the true and good. Our most direct and important means of doing this is voting. We are about to vote for President of the United States, the single most powerful secular political office in the world. There are two, and only two, candidates with any chance of winning the presidency next Tuesday. A vote for anyone apart from those two candidates will not affect public policy at. all. If one of the two candidates with a chance to win is morally acceptable then that candidate is eligible for your vote. But further, if one of the two candidates is morally reprehensible, then the other has a lower threshold to overcome to be deserving of your vote.
That applies to voting in general. We as Catholics have special considerations, teachings from our church on what is more or less important when casting a vote. There are five “non-negotiables:” abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, gay “marriage,” and human cloning. We cannot ever support policies that go against the Truth on these matters. Other areas that are negotiable—taxation, capital punishment, social welfare, waging war, etc.—allow for legitimate disagreement within a spectrum guided by Church teaching but ultimately up to the individual’s conscience. In this post I’m not talking about the negotiables.
On those non-negotiables, some seem to think we cannot vote for a candidate who is not darn-near pure as the driven snow. In his recent rather flippant post on such a consequential matter Mark Shea seems to be in this category.
After some undeserved and flimsy shots at Romney and Paul Ryan he concludes:
My point is this: If the five non-negotiables are this negotiable, something is wrong. My idea is that the five non-negotiables really are non-negotiable and that our selective negotiability has, over the past 30 years, cost the prolife movement a whole lot more than it has gained it anything. I think we should return to refusal to negotiate on non-negotiables–and re-evaluate our voting based, not on the negligible impact our vote has on election outcomes, but on the massive impact compromising on non-negotiables has had on the prolife movement.
First, his arguments against Romney in his preceding paragraph read more like sour grapes than anything else. Romney is endorsed by plenty of legitimate, respected pro-life groups and provides ample assurance that he will protect life, religious liberty, and marriage. I did not support Romney in the primary because I believed the other three would be better champions of these causes, but I am not afraid of a Romney presidency, and certainly not as afraid as of four more years of Barack Obama.
But second, based on that paragraph I quoted, which is more important to Shea, the “prolife movement,” or actually affecting public policy for the good over the next four years? He talks up the “prolife movement” at the expense of Romney and Ryan. He disparages the “negligible impact” of our individual sovereign vote. You could almost get the impression that Shea would be okay with four more years of Obama so long as the “prolife movement” gets stronger at some indeterminate point in the future. Ridiculous, and counterproductive for actually moving public policy in the direction of the good and true.
Shea may consider his version of the “prolife movement” more legit than others, but then what kind of movement is it if so many within the main bulk of the movement have already gone another direction?
Regardless of the present power or leadership of the “prolife movement,” public policy will be formed both over the next four years, as well as in that as-yet unattainable epoch when the “prolife movement” is strong enough to satisfy Shea. It is imperative that we do what we can to affect public policy now, and in the future. Voting is our most immediate and important means of affecting public policy. We live in the now, and the next four years of public policy will likely roll by before that coalescing of the “prolife movement” Shea so desires, so we need to act to affect the now. Romney *is* the only candidate for president who both has a chance to win and is acceptable on the non-negotiables. Romney is not perfect—no one is, not even the three I preferred over him—but the alternative is Barack Obama. And this much is true: If you sit out today and withhold your vote “to teach a lesson,” or in pursuit of ideological purity you will achieve neither in this fallen world of constantly shifting political factions and fads. It just doesn’t happen.
Politics, the rough-and-tumble, back-and-forth competition of coalitions and compromise by which we get public policy, is about doing what you can, when you can, with the team you can put together at the moment, to advance the ball as far as you can, every opportunity you can. Politics is not about taking your ball and going home when you don’t hit the 90-yard touchdown strike on the first play from scrimmage. If you pursue that strategy you will lose, badly, and not be taken seriously by those who are actually trying to, and are content to, advance the ball by increments toward the goal. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl, Jeff George did not. Don’t be Jeff George.
Catholics who are still pondering their presidential vote will have heard, endlessly, that no political party fully embodies the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. That is certainly true. And it is also largely irrelevant. For the choice in 2012 is not between two parties that, in relative degrees, inadequately embody the Catholic vision of the free and virtuous society. The choice is between a party that inadequately embodies that vision and a party that holds that vision in contempt, as it has made clear in everything from the “HHS mandate” through the Charlotte convention votes against God to the [Lena Dunham] ad. Catholics who do not like their Church, or their vote, or themselves to be held in contempt could make the decisive difference in 2012 — not so much as a “Catholic vote” bloc, but as a community of American citizens determined to restore the decencies to public life and American culture.
On religious liberty, abortion, defense of marriage, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, defense of marriage, and human cloning, the question is not, “Is Mitt Romney perfectly, solidly Catholic on these positions?” but “Will Mitt Romney or Barack Obama present the better opportunity to advance public policy toward the true and good, and will either of them be truly deleterious to these causes?”
I make no categorical claim that a President Mitt Romney will have a perfect record on all of these areas—only fools make categorical claims about the future actions of politicians. But the nearest to a categorical claim any of us can make is that Barack Obama, if given the chance, would continue to be the most anti-life, anti-religious liberty president we have ever endured.
So in my view the choice is clear: If you value life and liberty in the way the Church admonishes us to you must vote for Mitt Romney.