Why vote for the presidency?

At the outset, let me declare that I take seriously the Church’s teaching to be actively involved in civic life. Emily’s recent post demonstrates this movingly. We all need to do our part to inject Catholic morality into our secular culture, especially in our laws and politics. Even though I can’t proselytize in my classroom, one of the main reasons I became an economics professor was to help students (e.g., future citizens) understand the importance of free markets and political liberty (in the classical liberal sense) to a nation’s health. It is clear that Catholics need to engage secular society, to stress not only the moral importance of particular policies (and the candidates who support them), but also the importance of morality itself. These messages are carried in our conversations with family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, and in our civic activities.

Voting has always been considered a, if not the most, noble and significant form of civic engagement. However, it always seemed odd to me that casting a ballot for a particular person, especially one who rules several hundred miles away, was given more honor than, say, convincing some of your family members about the horrors of abortion. So, even though I vote, I’ve never considered it high on the list of “important political activities.”

We have a moral obligation to vote, though, as spelled out in the Catechism (2240). But why should we vote for a particular candidate? There seem to be positive and negative reasons: either our candidate will do certain things that we like, or our candidate will not do certain things that we don’t like. I think it is much safer and more constitutionally and fiscally sound to vote for negative reasons than for positive.

I was reminded of this when reading Russ Robert’s take on Romney’s memorable line from his convention speech:

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.

Russ says:

My only problem with it is that I don’t want or expect the President of the United States to help me or my family. Or other people and their families…
My view that I don’t want the President (or the government) to help me or my family often gets twisted by the left (as Ryan’s libertarian moments in his speech also were) as some kind of anarchism or rugged individualism.
God forbid, if something bad happens to me, I don’t want to be on my own. I want help from family and friends and my religious community…
Being against government help is not the same as being against any kind of help. Why is this so hard for people to understand? Is the misunderstanding deliberate and malicious or does it just reflect a lack of imagination?
But what about people without friends or family? If government got out of the way, there would be more organizations to help people without friends and family. And we’d be better friends and better family members if government was less paternalistic.

So, I’ll be voting for Romney. Not because he’s a nice guy; I’m sure he is. Not because he is a strong leader; I’m sure he is. I’m sure Obama would probably be a decent guy if I chatted with him in my living room about our kids, and I bet he has some decent leadership qualities.

But Presidents have immensely more power to do wrong than to do right. Voting for Romney won’t make people more pro-life in their convictions; that is our job as a Church. But voting for Romney certainly will put the brakes on our blood-soaked abortion free-for-all that Obama and the Democrats have no problem with encouraging. Voting for Romney won’t make people more charitable toward their neighbor; that is our job as a Church. But voting for Romney hopefully will reduce the xenophobia and racism that manifests itself in protectionist trade policies, as evidenced in this ridiculous Obama anti-China ad which fails on multiple economic and moral dimensions.

So I’m voting for Romney. Not because he’s the lesser of two evils, but because I believe he will do the least evil. If I want someone to do good, I have only to look in the mirror to find the best candidate for that job.

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42 thoughts on “Why vote for the presidency?

  1. Jordan says:

    Mr. Shaughnessy writes: But voting for Romney hopefully will reduce the xenophobia and racism
    that manifests itself in protectionist trade policies, as evidenced in this ridiculous Obama anti-China ad which fails on multiple economic and moral dimensions.

    Racism begins at home. Mitt Romney has intentional and blatantly courted the racist vote. Witness his dog-whistle campaign ads which concern the supposed failure of Barack Obama’s workfare policies. Even Republican governors requested some leniency and flexibility in Clinton’s workfare legislation. Furthermore, Mr. Romney’s ads imply that only people of color receive public assistance. More white people than any other ethnic group receive public assistance. The insinuation that African Americans in particular are unmotivated to find and maintain employment is also a not-so-indirect character assassination attempt against a black president. Is the stirring of race resentments a way to draw our diverse nation together?

    Mr. Romney is right to point out the way in which the trade deficit, exacerbated by Beijing’s artificial peg of the yuan to the dollar, has placed the United States on the economic defensive. Even so, outsourcing has profoundly eroded the financial security of working Americans. Is it racist and xenophobic to design trade policies which balance the economic rise of China with the protection of Americans who are slipping from working class to working poor?

    1. Jordan says:

      Per above: “Mitt Romney has intentional and blatantly courted the racist vote.” Should be intentionally.

      I respect Mr. Shaughnessy’s libertarian views, even while profoundly disagreeing with them. And yet, I cannot help but place his post within the almost absolute majority of CatholicVote posts which cannot name at least one positive policy of Obama’s administration. Isn’t there something the president has done well in his first term? Perhaps any commendation of the president might plant within the mind of a CV reader a spark which might motivate him or her to vote for the incumbent. It’s quite unfortunate that CV cannot take even the slightest risk that a reader might change his or her mind.

      1. Joe M says:

        Jordan. You accusing Romney of courting “the racist vote” is not an example of him doing so. The examples you provide do not, by a longshot, demonstrate any intention of appealing to racists. Maybe it’s a shocking idea to some. But, perhaps Romney criticized the relaxing of welfare work requirements because he believes the current requirements effectively encourage people to work.

        And thank you for your question about Obama’s policies. I gave it some thought. No. I can’t really think of one policy of the Obama administration that has been positive. He has literally dropped the ball on every important issue and appointment that I’m aware of. He failed to improve the economy. He failed to improve conditions in the middle east. He damaged relationships with allies. He brought us to dangerous new levels of debt. He squandered tax money on junk science projects. He bailed out GM to win union votes while other hurting businesses around the country helped to foot the bill. He sold Chrysler to the Italians and characterizes it as government working for America. He appointed Eric Holder and kept the truth from the American people for political reasons. His approach to removing Gadaffi prolonged the conflict, costing human lives. He lied to the American people about the terrorist attack in Egypt, apparently believing that he could blame it on muslims getting angry about a youtube video. He flip-flopped on marriage. He has attacked religious liberty via the HHS mandate. And on, and on, and on…

        Maybe I should just ask you, what on earth do you think he has done that is positive?

    2. abadilla says:

      Jordan, “Racism begins at home. Mitt Romney has intentional and blatantly courted the racist vote.”
      Are you getting desperate these days? You should not! Your lying pro-Obama media is telling all of us Romney is already defeated before the election takes place, and would you be so kind to list by name all those racists Romney has been courting?

  2. Yeah! Romney tied his dog to the roof of the car and drove to Canada on vacation. The dog defecated in fear, so Romney stopped to wash off the diarrhea so that it didn’t ruin the paint job, then continued on his merry way. There just wasn’t any room for the dog in the station wagon, due to all the family’s luggage.

    I’m sure he’ll treat Americans better than he treated his dog though, except for the 47% of us that he’s already said he doesn’t care about…

    1. abadilla says:

      “Yeah! Romney tied his dog to the roof of the car and drove to Canada on vacation.” Are you serious? This is your best argument for disliking Romney and trying to convince millions not to vote for him? Let’s see, are there not issues which are more important than Romney’s dog, like 23 million Americans out of a job, a Middle East going up in flames because, apparently, the spring revolution has turned to winter, a man in Iran ready to attack the only sincere ally we have for the West in the Middle East, Obama’s support for abortion on demand? No, American Papist, all of these matters are not as important as a dog on the roof of a car. Poor Romney, he must be an animal hater and on those basis, people will reject him for the presidency of the United States. Any more “distractions” from Obama’s “real” record?

      1. I think you can learn a great deal about a person by how they treat their dog. What does typing your dog to the roof of a car say about a person?

        1. abadilla says:

          I’ve heard the President has “eaten” a dog? Can we say the last four years are worse because he ate a dog in Asia, or can we say the last four years are a disaster in the area of economics, foreign policy and his attack on the Catholic Church, not to mention his all-out-attack on the unborn?
          BTW, I don’t believe Romney mistreated his dog nor do I believe Obama ate a dog, but I do believe those are wonderful distractions to keep the American public in the dark concerning the last four years of Obama’s administration.

          1. Rich says:

            BTW – Huh? You really have to come up with a better campaign slogan than Romney didn’t mistreat his dog – vote for him.

          2. abadilla says:

            No Rich, I could care less about the dog story because I know it is just one more distraction in the arsenal the Democratic Party is using against him. If you must know, I am voting for him because he is the lesser of two evils, he believes abortions are wrong except in cases of rape and incest, while the President supports “all” abortions and partial-birth abortion. I am voting for Romney because I don’t believe the Nanny State is good for the common good of the nation. I am voting for Romney because I believe he would have a better foreign policy in the Middle East than Obama, who has a policy of appeasement. I am voting for Romney because I don’t believe he will continue the persecution against the Catholic Church, nor will he support Planned Parenthood responsible for most abortions in this country and abroad. I will vote for Romney because he will not get rid of the safety net, but will, like Clinton, reform the welfare system. I will vote for Romney because I believe he will kill Obama Care and will ask Republicans and Democrats to come up with a better plan to cover the uninsured.
            Are these enough reasons for you? BTW, I am a Republican and proudly so, but if Romney were to hold the same position on abortion the President holds, I will simply vote for a third candidate even though that will mean losing my vote. If a were partisan, like many critics here at CV, I would vote for any Republican even if he or she held a pro-culture of death position.

          3. Rich says:

            OK – so Romney fits with your paranoid view of the world. That stiill offers little Catholic rationale for the vote. You are voting for the best Republican who is on the ballet.
            Enough said. Please address future considerations to the Catholic reasons for voting for either Candidate, as you have only included your Partisan ones.
            But thanks for playing this round.

          4. Yeah, but Rmoney’s own son recounted the story of the dog that Romney tied to the roof.

          5. abadilla says:

            And once again, do you think his own son would try to hurt his own father by describing something the liberal media would use for weeks against his father? Perhaps his son and sister did not know the maliciousness and evil of the leftist media in this country, but millions of us do, and that is why we have no respect for it.
            But, like I said, the election will not be held on whether a dog was tied to the roof of a car or not. There are plenty of stories I can say about this president, but those are not what the important issues are.

          6. Rich says:

            Oh come on. Romney has admitted the story is true and he has moved on. It was a dumb thing to do and pretty thoughtless. Hopefully he has learned something from it. He has yet to express anything he gained from the experience.

          7. Joe M says:

            What do you think about the tens of thousands of people that put dogs in truck beds on a daily basis?

          8. Joe M says:

            Would you rather sit in a shielded container on top of a moving vehicle, or be eaten?

          9. KT1 says:

            Obama has it written in his book that he ATE dog.

        2. KT1 says:

          What does eating the dog say?

      2. Rich says:

        If you are voting for Romney, your concern should be the Romney record. If you do not have a good and solid reason to vote for him, then you should sneak out of the voting booth, having committed a serious sin.
        Do you really think that the 23 million would not be out of work if Romney had been in the white house for the past four years, or that he would have found a way to settle the uprisings in the Middle East that are the results of years and decades of American interaction. And you really think that Romney would have changed abortion legality?
        It seems Iran is the same issue now as it was when Bush was there, except that now there are sanctions in place and even greater dialogue about the bomb. And Israel continues to act aggressively (in a “defensive” pattern)
        Gee – what did God send Jesus when he could have just waited around for Romney? Its gonna be expensive for the churches to hang all the statues and bibles. But it seems we have a new Savior in town.

        1. abadilla says:

          “If you are voting for Romney, your concern should be the Romney record.” I know his record, and that’s why I’m voting for him and no bishop in this country nor the Pope can point to an intrinsic evil the Republican platform supports.
          Any Catholic voting for a pro-abortion candidate and one who has declared war on the Church of Christ is indeed about to commit a serious sin, but you don’t want to see that, right?
          The situation in the Middle East is not the creation of this President but his policies certainly do not help. A policy of appeasement and criticizing Israel constantly, will not make the Middle East suddenly “love” us. They hate us with a passion and we continue to pour billions of dollars into those nations that hate us, while our nation struggles with an economy this president owns for four years. If that is not appeasement, I don’t know what is.
          “Gee – what did God send Jesus when he could have just waited around for Romney? Its gonna be expensive for the churches to hang all the statues and bibles. But it seems we have a new Savior in town.” Your cynicism is showing. No one here or any Republican thinks of Romney as a “Savior.” It was Obama who thought his election would make the oceans rise and Hillary Clinton herself mocked him about that one. We are simply choosing between the lesser of the two evils because we must fulfill our civil duty to vote, and because many of us share in the same philosophy the Republican Party shares in, that’s all.

          1. Rich says:

            Sharing Republican policy is not why to vote as a Catholic, but only why to vote as a Republican.
            Thank you for finally admitting to your true agenda here. Not so enlightening as it was not that well hidden in the first place.
            Perhaps that is why you are unable to discuss this on a faith level, as your investment is political and faith driven.
            The Church as not endorsed any political platform and will not do so, and there are intrinsic evils in both. Unfortunately for you, intrinsic evil is not a political term but a philosophical one, and the “common” theological usage is in error. The reality is that the Church is not seeking to find a home in the White House, but to build the Kingdom of God with or with out the cooperation of the government. With the Holy Spirit, we can do all things whether that be challenge the government or act in resistance to the government.
            Let us bring our Faith into our voting polls and not our Politics into our pews.

          2. Joe M says:

            The Church has said that abortion is an intrinsic evil that cannot be supported. If you go into a booth to vote for someone who is complicit with supporting abortion, faith (at least as it is expressed by Catholic authority) isn’t going with you.

        2. Joe M says:

          Thank you for telling us what our concerns should be. I can see why you feel a kinship with Obama who is constantly telling or legislating others to do what he thinks is right.

    2. KT1 says:

      Obama ate his dog.

  3. Reality Sets In says:

    “Voting for Romney certainly will put the brakes on our blood-soaked abortion free-for-all.” No it won’t. You are deluding yourself and maybe others. Romney won’t do anything to stop abortions. You should believe his sister.

    1. Brian_Dever says:

      Putting the brakes on does not cause a car to move in reverse, it simplely causes the fowrard momentun to decrease or cease altogether. Maybe Romney won’t be able to reverse the forward momentum of the abortion movement, but he will at least be able to put the brakes on that momentum.

      1. Romney signed a contract that gave him the right to abort a fetus. Romney and his company “stericycle” makes money by disposing of aborted fetuses for planned parenthood.

        What makes you think Romeny would want to put the brakes on abortion? It seems he’s embraced it quite fully.

        1. Brian_Dever says:

          Not sure where you get your info, but Bain did not invest in Stericycle until AFTER Romney left Bain in February 1999. Also, Bain has divested itself of Stericycle, so Romney’s not going to be making anything off of their disgusting business, anyway. http://www.lifenews.com/2012/07/04/left-wing-blogs-falsely-attack-romney-on-abortion-stericycle/

          1. Rich says:

            Romney continued to play with the Bain boys and received a lot of money through them including Stericycle dollars for abortion waste material. To pretend that he did not is the worst of all lies. Hang on the denial with both hands, but do not think you are fooling anyone else. He did benefit from abortions and that money is there with the rest of his finances. That dollar is probably right on top of the dollar that you contributed to his campaign. No one should be surprised that Bains work would help a company like Stericycle. It was just one more venture capital investment for the Bain boys. At least own that you are supporting the guy who partnered with guys who did this, and had no moral sense to tell his buddies who he golfed and met with to discuss horses and investments that this was a good idea or not. Even worse would be if he did not care to find out what his investments were being used for. Almost as bad as one not caring about how close Romney was to Stericycle, pretending that it is not your concern as you are ready to canonize St Mitt, patron of the Pro-life movement.
            Remember, it is an INFORMED conscience that you are to be using in making decisions and being faithful citizens.

          2. Actually, Rmoney was still on the board at Bain after 1999, probably the real reason that he doesn’t want to release his tax returns.

          3. Joe M says:

            Obama will probably be on the board for Planned Parenthood once he is out of office.

            http://times247.com/articles/planned-parenthood-announces-pro-obama-bus-tour

          4. KT1 says:

            I once worked for a company that bought a generic birth control pill manufacturer. I guess that makes me guilty of promoting birth control pills? Come on. Enough already.

        2. Joe M says:

          Do you really think that comparing Romney and Obama’s record on abortion is going to be a win for Obama with pro-life supporters?

          http://times247.com/articles/planned-parenthood-announces-pro-obama-bus-tour

        3. KT1 says:

          Please search this site for the answer to the Stericyle lie you perpetuate. We are sick of hearing you say this ad nauseum.

      2. Rich says:

        First there is no free for all, and the conditions that would support a free for all are not up to any one person. Although it is an almost clever attempt at creating a scapegoat and using incendiary language. (When you can’t use logic, use fear – It works on the masses.)
        Romney has no intention of putting the brakes on anything. He will not be in the driver’s seat and has no control of the brake. There is a lot that can slow the momentum, but this has become so political, that no one is really interested in solving anything.
        Just think for a minute, how could this website have supposed Church authority (which it does not and almost is honest in saying that it does not – it just misleads those who are not interesting in finding out) without Abortion. They are using the issue, not solving the problem to increase their own position. That has been the real part of the GOP Functional Platform since the seventies. So many decades of politics and yet nothing has really happened. Because it is too good of a political issue to resolve anything.

    2. abadilla says:

      Reality, why do you NOT believe Romney yet you are so willing to believe his sister who is NOT running for office?

      1. Rich says:

        Romney has reasons to lie, but not so for his sister.
        There is verified facts to support that Romney is not telling the truth.
        Need we really go on?
        You can lie to yourself that Romney is the new abortion savior, but you can’t really make anyone else believe it.
        But it is really wrong to try to make other people believe in what he can’t or won’t deliver. It is just another attempt to try to find a rationale reason to vote AGAINST Obama when there is nothing to support voting FOR Romney. Sad, really sad.

        1. abadilla says:

          Rich, to sit there and accuse Romney of lying while you don’t say a word about any of the lying this President has done for the last for years, is, well, “rich.”
          This nation is going to either make him the next President or reject him because of what they think his policies will be regarding the economy and foreign policy, not because the American people believe or don’t believe his sister, that simple.
          As for what it is I support Romney for, I already went through that long litany and you ignored it as you ignore most of what CV has to say, so, at this point, I ask, why do you come into CV when, by your own admission, you have accused it of being nothing but a tool for lies?

          1. Rich says:

            So if one lies then the other gets a free pass for lying? Interesting way to determine what is the truth.
            Actually a lot of people are going to base their decision on Character and that is the whole issue with the truth vs.lies.
            I am still waiting for you or CV to show a Catholic rationale for voting for Romney, all you and they are doing is sharing the GOP line. That is fine a good many people support Romney because he will be a good republican. The trouble is that we are voting for president not the head of the republican party.
            I will wait until you can find your Catholic reason for voting for Romney to share with the class. I am not convinced that you have yet found that. Keep searching, and the search will do you good.

          2. Joe M says:

            Rich. What do you mean by “Catholic reason” to vote for Romney? I don’t believe that anything he has proposed is in conflict with Catholic principles. Can you point to one thing that is?

            On the other hand, there are things that Obama was responsible for that are in conflict with Catholic principles. Must I point them out?

    3. Joe M says:

      Even not doing anything to stop abortions would be an improvement over Obama on that issue.

    4. KT1 says:

      Should we believe George Obama? If Obama cares for the poor, and charity begins a home, then why isn’t Barack helping his brother George?

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