In many minds the 2016 presidential election comes down to a choice between the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Republican nominee Donald Trump. To many Catholics—and many other Christians and others—this “choice” presents an acute dilemma. On the one hand, Clinton and the party she runs under are strongly committed to the pro-choice position on abortion and related positions on same-sex marriage, euthanasia, genetic research and other issues that are morally unacceptable to Christians. On the other hand, Donald Trump, while claiming allegiance to a pro-life position, proposes many questionable policies in other areas and outwardly expresses selfish, materialistic and egoistic beliefs (such as emphases on money, appearances and “winning”) that are fundamentally at odds with the Christian belief in God as the center. The many instances of immoral behavior attributed to Trump and the many insults he has leveled at many groups of people and individuals that imply a disdain for human dignity are well-known and arguments have been made to excuse some of them. But Trump’s dubious proposals and self-centered underlying values are more worrisome than his anecdotal behaviors and insults.
Some Catholics and Christians have nevertheless decided to vote for Trump. They cite especially the Supreme Court being in the balance. With the death of Justice Scalia and the Court divided four to four, the next appointment to the Court will decide whether the Court tips to the pro-life or pro-choice side. Trump has declared he will appoint pro-life justices, whereas Clinton surely will appoint pro-choice justices. Trump even said in a recent speech: “If you really like Donald Trump, that’s great, but if you don’t, you have to vote for me anyway. You know why? Supreme Court judges, Supreme Court judges. Have no choice, sorry, sorry, sorry. You have no choice.” Another reason to vote for Trump that has been mentioned recently is Clinton’s intention to repeal the Hyde amendment preventing taxpayer funding of abortions if she is elected president.
These are plausible reasons for a Catholic or a Christian to vote for Trump, despite his many faults. Especially if one lives in a swing state, and the result of the election may depend on the electoral votes of that state, it may be prudent to vote for Trump. But can’t we do better than that? Do we have to restrict ourselves to only two choices—Clinton and Trump? Despite the fact that one of these two seems mostly likely to win, despite what is often suggested in the media, we can vote for someone other than Clinton or Trump. If ever there was a year in which we should consider voting for a candidate outside of the two major parties, it would appear to be this year, in which they offer us two such deeply flawed candidates.
What are the possibilities? The most obvious are the two candidates outside of the major parties who have attracted the most attention and support—Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party. Johnson is currently polling at about 7% nationally, Stein 2%. But to Catholics or Christians, these two candidates eliminate themselves from consideration as readily as Clinton. Both Johnson and Stein are pro-choice on abortion, and hold similarly liberal positions on the other life issues. No matter their positions on other issues, Catholics and Christians should not vote for a candidate who explicitly contradicts Church teachings on fundamental moral issues.
There are no other candidates that have attracted much attention or support. Still, a Catholic should vote for a person who holds positions closer in alignment to the teachings of the Church than any of the four best-known candidates, all of whom are so far away from the teachings of the Church. Catholics should not feel that they have to compromise and vote for a “lesser of two evils” candidate or party.
Ideally, Catholics and other Christians and others who have compatible values should be able to vote for a political party that adheres completely to the social teachings of the Church. Although the Catholic Church is not “political” and cannot engage directly in politics, the Church’s social teachings provide a great amount of guidance on many issues. And since the Democrats and Republicans (and the Libertarians and Greens) contradict those teachings in so many ways, forming a political party based on Catholic teachings may be the most reasonable choice. Catholic pro-life positions are clearly more ethical than the positions of the Democrats, Libertarians and Greens on social issues. And it can be argued that Republican positions on a large number of important issues–the economy, tax policies, immigrants, the poor, the environment and others–are not in line with Catholic teachings. However, though perhaps desirable, it is too late form a Catholic political party in time to affect the 2016 election.
Although some Catholics may think it is prudent to vote for Trump in this election to prevent the effects on the Supreme Court and the Hyde amendment of a Clinton presidency, we should also look at the long-range view. In the long-term, Catholics are called on to try to infuse the Church’s values into the social order. With two major candidates (and also the two third party ones) that so clearly contradict Catholic values, this 2016 election is an opportunity to educate the public about Catholic values and how they are better than what the existing parties have to offer. Particularly, with the Republican Party in turmoil over the nomination of Trump, and many Republicans planning not to vote for their party’s nominee, this is an opportunity to educate them about how some Republican positions contradict Catholic values and to try to persuade them to bring their party’s positions more in line with Catholic values.
Rather than accept the “lesser of two evils” and vote for Trump, Catholics should look to the future and vote for a person that stands for Catholic values. It is not a “wasted vote” to vote for a person who really stands for what you believe rather than someone who stands for practically nothing in which you believe, but merely says he might do the right thing on a couple of issues. Even there, Trump, who has repeatedly not told the truth, may not appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices or uphold the Hyde amendment. Current predictions are that Trump probably will not win the election anyway. Is it not a “wasted vote” for Catholics to morally compromise themselves by voting for such a deeply flawed person who probably will not win anyway, and if he did, may well not keep his promises?
There is no time like the present. How much longer will Catholics continue to vote for the “lesser of two evils” instead of candidates who really represent their values? If this is not an election in which Catholics will refuse to continue to compromise their values and vote for candidates and a party that only support part of Catholic social teaching, when will it ever come? We should not delay any longer trying to change the American political culture and plant the seeds of Catholic social teaching and start to nurture the growth of a political party that will embody Catholic values and try to make them flourish in the United Sates. It may take a long time, but there is no time like the present to start. Catholics need to show that they are not satisfied with the current political choices. It can be argued that Catholics have not had satisfactory political choices in the United States since the Democratic Party embraced the Roe vs. Wade decision in the 1970s. If there are a large number of write-in candidates it will send a message that people are dissatisfied with the current candidates and parties and new candidates and a party with Catholic values—perhaps a Catholic third party–are called for. There is no 2016 presidential candidate who stands for the fullness of Catholic truth. But we all probably know of people who do. Please think of a person who stands for all of the Church’s teachings and write in that person’s name for president.
David S. Bovée
Since I have written the above, I have read of the presidential candidacy of Mike Maturen of the American Solidarity Party. Maturen and his vice presidential candidate Juan Munoz stand for a platform based on Catholic social teaching that is pro-life and based on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. You can learn more on their website. I urge a vote for Mike Maturen for president and Juan Munoz for vice president. David Bovee
Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barr