FishEaters Traditional Catholic Forums

Full Version: The Peril of Total Political Disengagement
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2
In a recent column, I argued that Catholics should willingly lend political support to the Republican Party. The focus of that piece was on the contention that there is no particular principle on which the Republican Party and the Church are clearly and intractably at odds.

For many serious Catholics, I suspect that that argument will come across not as wrong, but rather as dissatisfying or unresponsive to their true concerns.  In my experience, anti-Republican resentment is fairly strong among Catholics, but the antipathy is not a response to the party’s formal commitments so much as the lackluster way in which it pursues them. Republican politicians pay lip service to certain cherished principles of religious conservatives, but relatively few seem to be committed pro-lifers, and even fewer seem genuinely to care about protecting marriage, the family or the autonomy of the Church. These issues, Catholics feel, are reluctantly included in the Republican platform merely for the sake of winning votes. Republican leaders have no serious intention of pursuing a socially conservative agenda in the foreseeable future.

I’ve heard this analysis time and again from Catholic friends who are disillusioned with the Republican Party. And in fact, there’s an element of truth in it. The reality is that America is at present a deeply divided country in which religious conservatives represent a counter-culture. High-ranking political personalities tend to be immersed in an elite culture that fears and reviles traditional religion along with traditional values and mores, so they aren’t always well-versed in, or sympathetic to, the concerns of serious Christians (or serious religious people of any stripe). Also, politicians are perpetually looking for ways to win elections, and it understandably seems to them that it will be difficult to win with a social message that is increasingly out of sync with modern popular culture.

This predictably creates some tension within the party, and it’s fair to say that prominent Republicans don’t all hold religious conservatives in high esteem. Some, to be sure, are genuinely eager to hold onto a fusionist vision that combines a small government agenda with a robust commitment to virtue, community and family. For others, accommodating social conservatism is just a necessary evil. It’s a crude oversimplification but not entirely wrong to suggest that Democrats have “bought” a winning coalition by supporting welfare and organized labor. As the party of fiscal austerity, Republicans are unwilling to match Democratic spending commitments, and consequently they are “stuck” with religious conservatives as the only remaining voting block large enough to keep the party viable.

Nobody likes feeling like the last kid picked for the team, and considering the matter from this perspective, it’s hardly surprising that religious conservatives feel used. It’s not very thrilling to think of ourselves as microscopic cogs in a political machine mostly dedicated to preserving the elite status of the power-hungry. I’ve known many who were sufficiently discouraged about this that they stayed home on election day, or cast “voting my principles” ballots for powerless third parties.

Others call for a kind of grassroots revolt from the traditional party structure. This perspective was reasonably well summarized in a recent article from American Conservative’s Noah Millman. Angered by the way in which the elite exploit the rhetoric of the culture wars to entrench their own positions of privilege, he recommends that we ignore the charged rhetoric, denying political parties the opportunity to take us for granted.

It sounds appealing on its face, but there are some problems with this position. First of all, political parties are not hive minds. They are big, messy conglomerates of wildly diverse people and groups, each with their own sets of concerns. Political strategists endeavor to meld these varied interests together into a reasonably coherent political message, but since no single person has absolute control over the entire political process (much less the media), the resulting product is still typically quite diffuse. Late in his article, Millman attempts to pinpoint what each party “really” values (he mostly sees the parties breaking on size-of-government lines), but any effort to do that will be fairly arbitrary, because the party isn’t a single organic entity. Different members value different things, which is why so much negotiation goes into developing a platform and political message.

Of course, it’s also quite true that the entire political process is awash in greed and empty ambition, and that many people (whether politicians, pundits or political operatives) will say or do almost anything to maintain their own status and position of privilege. So it has always been in our fallen world, and ever shall be. But that bland observation really shouldn’t affect our personal voting habits. We can’t look into politicians hearts to gauge their sincerity, so the best thing we can do is make it worthwhile for the ambitious to represent our interests. The way to do that is by making the case that there is real life and cultural vitality in the positions we want them to espouse (both in rhetoric and in concrete political efforts).

Given how religious conservatism is viewed within “elite” American culture, it’s entirely unsurprising that many Republicans want to secure our votes while making as little commitment as possible to our views. Thus, we see regular calls for a “truce” on social issues, which generally amounts to an appeal for social conservatives to remain in the Republican fold while muting their social views as much as possible. Of course, we should reject this kind of “truce.” But even that won’t be possible if we storm away from the negotiating table.

As unwelcome as the news may be to certain ranking Republicans, the party still needs our votes. But if (as Millman recommends) we stop voting on social issues, the parties will inevitably realign in such a way as to leave our social concerns unrepresented. Given the current direction of the culture, it’s more or less a given that the end result will not be pleasing.

Perhaps this wouldn’t matter if indeed the GOP did nothing to promote the good. If Republican pro-life and pro-marriage advocacy were really confined to rhetoric, perhaps it would be just as well to vote our fiscal views or not at all. But it’s a terrible mistake to think that the Republicans have done nothing concrete to protect life or promote the family. As Exhibit A, consider the substantial progress the pro-life movement has made in restricting (which often means closing) abortion clinics in recent years. Liberals are in something of a panic about it. Would we have been able to pass that legislation without Republican leadership?

As Exhibit B, we should note that the judiciary, bad as it is, could be worse. Thanks to Republicans, we have at least some justices who are sympathetic to our concerns about life and marriage and willing to rule in favor of academic or religious freedom. Beyond this, recent losses on the marriage front shouldn’t cause us to forget the many successful campaigns the Republicans have waged within the last decade to protect traditional marriage. In short, it’s really not reasonable to doubt at this stage that the Republican Party is the best available political organization through which to pursue pressing social goals.

It’s understandable that religious conservatives would feel irritated given their (often accurate) perception that they are not respected in mainstream political circles, and that their views get less attention than their numbers would warrant. At the end of the day, though, pouting is the quickest and most effective way to slide ourselves into irrelevance.

The truth is that faithful religious people are reviled by America’s liberal elite precisely because we have a vibrant, functional culture of our own, which doggedly resists liberal attempts to co-opt it. Moreover, the cultures we have built can boast precisely those goods (a strong marriage culture, high birth rates) that are most desperately needed in our society, as even liberals have begun to appreciate. The best way to increase our political influence, therefore, is by persuading the Republican Party that they would do well to tap into that cultural energy rather than hiding it under a bushel. We can only do that if we remain engaged with our political allies, summoning as much grace and optimism as we can in what is admittedly a trying time for conservatives of all stripes.

Politics is rarely edifying, and not everyone is called to labor in the political vineyard. Even those who are called to this work allow themselves occasional breaks from the relentless news cycle, so that they can restore their sense of perspective. What we should not do, however, is allow our disdain for the fallen world to overflow into a kind of self-righteous eagerness to vacate the field, removing ourselves to cultural “bunkers” in which we can live out our personal convictions in private.

It is perilously easy to give up on a world as depraved as ours, taking pleasure and pride in the superiority of authentic Catholic culture that we hold in our mind’s eye. Of course we should endeavor to build our own homes and communities around such a vision, but at the same time, we should recognize the peril of total disengagement. As we saw with the recent Arizona religious liberty bill, people are not easily moved to respect the integrity of lifestyles that they do not understand, or beliefs that they have been taught to regard as irrational and bigoted. People who consent to live in bunkers tend to be annihilated in the long run. For our children’s sake, and for the sake of our country and compatriots, we must labor energetically to ward off such a grim future.

Quote: I think that there is valid points in the article about not necessarily withholding our support for a party that is closest to Catholicism (In this case the GOP is better than the Democratic party) yet the truth is that the GOP Republican party is getting less and less Christian and is becoming quite similar to the Democrat Party in various aspects. I think it is time to either reform the Republican party to make it more conservative, or make a new party itself that has more Catholic values and stands more for Christianity.

On a side note I like the idea of what various people are saying in the comments below the article about limiting these constant Bishop Conferences that are wreacking the faith more than doing good. This reminds me of the LA Religious Conference that is held on the Anaheim Convention Center where I live. Stopping these conferences is probably the best thing to do.

I think it would be great if real Catholic conferences or organizations started that clearly state what the Church teaches, in all aspects, such as about society, culture, labor, teachings, and so on. One that teaches more the true Church teaching of Christ the King rather than a false notion of religious liberty


(Could you cite and link to the source of this column?)

Anyway, I absolutely disagree that one must either vote for the Republican Party or "disengage." He's presenting a false dichotomy from the get-go. There ARE other Parties out there, and if people would stop treating elections like big horse races and stop voting on the guy they think "will win" or "has a chance to win," we could get someone in office who much better fits the Catholic view of things. If I had a nickel for every time I heard things like "Buchanan can't win" or "Ron Paul doesn't have a chance" -- followed by "so I won't vote for them; I'd just be throwing my vote away," I'd be rich. But that sort of thinking is exactly what the powers-that-be depend on. Keep doing that, folks, and NOTHING will EVER change (this all assumes they count our votes in the first place, of course. I think we have to act on the assumption that they do though I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing is just bread and circuses).

The problem with all this is that the media ignore the few good guys out there running for office. I've seen here, in local politics, a man whom I know is a good, solid candidate who's for States rights, getting the Fed out of our business, etc., who's a sincere Christian to boot, and who got major applause every time he gave a speech or engaged in a debate (which most everyone says he always won!), who ran on the Libertarian ticket and got nowhere because he was either ignored or because the media made it be known he "had no chance." I saw the same thing happen with Ron Paul, who was at the debates, but may as well have stayed home for all the camera time he got.

The point: Catholics and other paleo-con types need to do their homework. Ignore the media, research who's running, spread the word about any good ones, and then vote their CONSCIENCE -- i.e., don't treat your vote as if it's a bet ("Hmmm, well this guy just 'can't win', and this guy could, even though I dislike about everything he stands for. But he does say THIS one good thing, so I'lll vote for him so this other clown doesn't get in." Keep that sort of thing up if you want, but don't even go around wondering why things never change!)

(04-08-2014, 10:59 PM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: [ -> ](Could you cite and link to the source of this column?)

Anyway, I absolutely disagree that one must either vote for the Republican Party or "disengage." He's presenting a false dichotomy from the get-go. There ARE other Parties out there, and if people would stop treating elections like big horse races and stop voting on the guy they think "will win" or "has a chance to win," we could get someone in office who much better fits the Catholic view of things. If I had a nickel for every time I heard things like "Buchanan can't win" or "Ron Paul doesn't have a chance" -- followed by "so I won't vote for them; I'd just be throwing my vote away," I'd be rich. But that sort of thinking is exactly what the powers-that-be depend on. Keep doing that, folks, and NOTHING will EVER change (this all assumes they count our votes in the first place, of course. I think we have to act on the assumption that they do though I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing is just bread and circuses).

The problem with all this is that the media ignore the few good guys out there running for office. I've seen here, in local politics, a man whom I know is a good, solid candidate who's for States rights, getting the Fed out of our business, etc., who's a sincere Christian to boot, and who got major applause every time he gave a speech or engaged in a debate (which most everyone says he always won!), who ran on the Libertarian ticket and got nowhere because he was either ignored or because the media made it be known he "had no chance." I saw the same thing happen with Ron Paul, who was at the debates, but may as well have stayed home for all the camera time he got.

The point: Catholics and other paleo-con types need to do their homework. Ignore the media, research who's running, spread the word about any good ones, and then vote their CONSCIENCE -- i.e., don't treat your vote as if it's a bet ("Hmmm, well this guy just 'can't win', and this guy could, even though I dislike about everything he stands for. But he does say THIS one good thing, so I'lll vote for him so this other clown doesn't get in." Keep that sort of thing up if you want, but don't even go around wondering why things never change!)

sorry I thought I had posted the link.
http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/the-p...engagement

I agree with your take on it. The sad reality is that many Republicans have dissented from Church teaching in one way or another, just as the majority of Democrats have. Anything that will win them votes. Thomas E Woods once stated that nowadays you don't know which one is the stupid party and which one is the evil party. The worst thing he says is when both parties come together in bipartisanship to create something that is both stupid and evil at the same time.

During the presidential election a priest from KOC (Knights of Columbus) stated on EWTN that it would be best for Catholics to simply not vote in the upcoming election. He had Mitt Romney and Obama in mind. I personally don't think this is the best advice, although I could see where the priest was coming from. He simply meant that we had two bad candidates. It would have been a lot better if someone voted for Ron Paul than simply not vote in the election. Just as you stated a lot of people have the mentality that we should not vote for these candidates as it will simply be a wasted vote and we could have used this vote for someone who could have actually won. I too hate this mentality and it is a mentality that many people have.
I disengaged after I saw how "business as usual" was the order of the day in politics and when I saw that there are very few principled politicians out there and even fewer that could make any appreciable difference should they get elected. After the 08 elections I basically tuned out and stopped voting or paying attention and, barring some sort of really convincing reasons why I should get back in the game I intend to sit here apathetic and idle when it comes to the three ring circus of lies,compromise and evil that is politics.
(04-09-2014, 10:17 PM)formerbuddhist Wrote: [ -> ]I disengaged after I saw how "business as usual" was the order of the day in politics and when I saw that there are very few principled politicians out there and even fewer that could make any appreciable difference should they get elected. After the 08 elections I basically tuned out and stopped voting or paying attention and, barring some sort of really convincing reasons why I should get back in the game I intend to sit here apathetic and idle when it comes to the three ring circus of lies,compromise and evil that is politics.

I understand the sentiment -- but do urge you to vote nonetheless for one of those "very few principled politicians out there" when the opportunity comes up (once in a blue moon, ha). One "Dr. No" CAN do a lot! And if you get two "Dr. Nos" -- that could lead to three, then four... It has to start somewhere (or not at all).

As I've said, I'm not in the least a fan of democracy (I'm a monarchist), but we gotta play the hand we've been dealt. To use a poker metaphor, if it doesn't cost you anything to play that hand (in terms of the metaphor, all you have to do is pull a lever), then you'd be nuts to fold. This assumes, though, voting one's conscience -- i.e., for one of those principled few -- as opposed to "horse-betting" or voting for the "lesser" of two evils, which, when it comes to the American system's Democrats or Republicans, are really the same evil party, bought off by the same people. Really, I think voting for the so-called "lesser of two evils" in the American system just encourages the bastards. But it might even be worth it to vote for some random third Party just to make a statement. If we're going to get stuck with a Republicrat, then let him take the Oval Office knowing he's only got 15% of the American people behind him because everyone else split their votes among the other Republicrat, the Libertarians, the Greens, the Constitutional Party or what have you -- ha!

Because we live in a constitutional republic, which, as established in the constitution, is a winner take all system, one must absolutely vote either Republican or not at all.  Either way you go, there are moral issues at hand.  My opinion is that not voting is the greater sin.

But, I'll leave this with my favorite quote.  "It's difficult to be a good Catholic and a good Democrat.  One always suffers at the expense of the other"

(04-10-2014, 05:28 PM)Jaegermeister Wrote: [ -> ]Because we live in a constitutional republic, which, as established in the constitution, is a winner take all system, one must absolutely vote either Republican or not at all.  Either way you go, there are moral issues at hand.  My opinion is that not voting is the greater sin.

But, I'll leave this with my favorite quote.  "It's difficult to be a good Catholic and a good Democrat.  One always suffers at the expense of the other"

It doesn't follow that because we live (theoretically) in a constitutional republic --- which is in reality an oligarchy posing as a pseudo-democracy -- and it's "winner takes all" that we have to vote Republican or not at all. There are other Parties, and if the Republican Party is, in fact, despite what they yammer about, as evil as the Democratic Party, then it makes no sense to vote for them. Really, the chance to vote between Hitler and Stalin is a no-win proposition, and I can't imagine it being a sin to refrain from voting for either. But thank God that's not what the reality is in the US (I'm talking about our voting in itself. Whether our votes count is another matter, as is the fact that the media focus only on The Two Big Parties and ignore the rest, etc.). Theoretically anyway, if the people and the Electoral College vote for a 100% Catholic candidate, that candidate would win, and I think Catholics should vote their consciences, with the assumption that our votes count (even though they may well not count), and not treat elections like a big Kentucky Derby.

Voter: "Well, Mr. X the Great can't win, so I'll vote for Mr. Y the Less" self-fulfilling prophecy if everyone votes the same way Voter: "Gosh! I guessed right! Mr. Y DID take office. So, what do I win? And can I trade it for what's behind door #2?" - Mr. Y the Less doing absolutely nothing to restore the Constitution, honor subsidiarity, rein in the Fed, return abortion to the States where other murder laws belong and so we have a chance of getting rid of it, etc. - Voter: "Woe is us. Things never change unless they get worse!" - D.C. al Fine, and looped

True, we do live in an oligarchy.  But then, living in an oligarchy is much preferable to living in a democracy, which is simply 2 wolves and a sheep sitting around discussing who to eat for dinner. 

That being said, let's take the example of Ross Perot.  I liked everything Ross Perot had to say.  He was really a one issue candidate, but it sure was an important issue.  But I didn't vote for him, though many of my friends did.  After Clinton won that election, I put the blame squarely on the backs of the people who voted for Ross Perot.  Yes, I do think Perot was a better choice than Bush, but he couldn't win.  And when I say, couldn't, I mean, not possible. The party system is as much a part of our body politic as the constitution.  Maybe a political scientist reading this can step up and explain why third parties never win, can't win, and only come into existence based on one or a few specific issues, with the hope that they can force the minority party to change it's position.

So, Ross Perot, the most successful third party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt, caused Bush to lose and Clinton to win. What did Clinton usher in?  An era of immorality not seen in this country since the 60's.

Teddy Roosevelt, and his Bull Moose third party split the Republican vote in 1912, and allowed Woodrow Wilson, perhaps the MOST evil president, (or at least the most dim witted and manipulable president) in the history of the country).
(I liked Roosevelt's policies better than Taft's but I still would have voted for Taft)

So, in these two examples, sin and immorality and injustice prevailed, all because people who had the best intentions, threw away their vote and allowed the worst candidate to win.

There are lots of other examples of less influential third parties, (you might point to Ralph Nader in 2000, which would wreck my thesis because Gore would most certainly have been worse than Bush, but then only lefty lunatics vote for Nader).  Invariably, when conservatives don't vote Republican, they lose and their values lose in the public sphere.

Imagine how much better the world would be if Wilson had never been president.  Or Clinton. 

Now, for example, I live in Massachusetts.  Most of my vote choices come down to one candidate who wants to kill all the babies, and another candidate who only wants to kill most of the babies.  So, maybe it is sinful to vote for either.

In politics, at least in our form of government, you must work within one of the two main parties at the time, and get that party to move it's positions.  Anything else is a waste of time.  And I prefer our form of government over a parliamentary form.  See Italy for a prime example why.

And please, if there are any Poli Sci people out there who can say this better than me, please speak up.

The problem with saying "you must vote Republican" on the theory that voting for a third party ensures a Democratic victory is that, in the long-term, you provide no incentive to produce better Republican candidates. Despite what we might like to believe and they like to say, the political parties DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU OR YOUR BELIEFS. They care about votes. They produce candidates who can beat "the other guy." If you want big party candidates who support your positions, then in the meantime you have to vote for small party candidates who support your positions; if enough people do this, in the long run, the big parties will get the idea. If you vote for Mitt Romney simply because he's not Barack Obama, then be prepared to be fed a steady stream of Mitt Romneys come primary season.

I have been a non-voter who has been rethinking that position - not voting is a risky proposition because it is too easily interpreted as apathy. Again, the parties care about votes and votes only. If you do not vote, then you literally do not matter to them.
(04-11-2014, 09:50 AM)Jaegermeister Wrote: [ -> ]True, we do live in an oligarchy.  But then, living in an oligarchy is much preferable to living in a democracy, which is simply 2 wolves and a sheep sitting around discussing who to eat for dinner. 

If we don't know who the oligarchs are, it's twice as bad. In a democracy at least relatively good-size percentage of our neighbors profit from the killing of a sheep; in an oligarchy like the one we've got, the top 2% profit from it, and there's no one to go after and hang from the lampposts because they're in the shadows.

(04-11-2014, 09:50 AM)Jaegermeister Wrote: [ -> ]That being said, let's take the example of Ross Perot.  I liked everything Ross Perot had to say.  He was really a one issue candidate, but it sure was an important issue.  But I didn't vote for him, though many of my friends did.  After Clinton won that election, I put the blame squarely on the backs of the people who voted for Ross Perot.  Yes, I do think Perot was a better choice than Bush, but he couldn't win.  And when I say, couldn't, I mean, not possible. The party system is as much a part of our body politic as the constitution.  Maybe a political scientist reading this can step up and explain why third parties never win, can't win, and only come into existence based on one or a few specific issues, with the hope that they can force the minority party to change it's position.

So, Ross Perot, the most successful third party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt, caused Bush to lose and Clinton to win. What did Clinton usher in?  An era of immorality not seen in this country since the 60's.

Teddy Roosevelt, and his Bull Moose third party split the Republican vote in 1912, and allowed Woodrow Wilson, perhaps the MOST evil president, (or at least the most dim witted and manipulable president) in the history of the country).
(I liked Roosevelt's policies better than Taft's but I still would have voted for Taft)

So, in these two examples, sin and immorality and injustice prevailed, all because people who had the best intentions, threw away their vote and allowed the worst candidate to win.

No one had any idea that Wilson was going to do allow with regard to the income tax and Fed crap, and I'd bet you a hundred bucks that it would've made no difference whatsoever who was in office with regard all that; the stuff of Jeckyll Island still would've gone down. That sort of thing is way, way, WAY beyond party politics. It's the stuff that goes into the making of the oligarchs we agree run this place and run "The Two" Parties.

If more people had voted for Ross Perot, then perhaps neither Clinton nor Bush would've won. That would've been a better ouctome, and that's my major point.

(04-11-2014, 09:50 AM)Jaegermeister Wrote: [ -> ]There are lots of other examples of less influential third parties, (you might point to Ralph Nader in 2000, which would wreck my thesis because Gore would most certainly have been worse than Bush, but then only lefty lunatics vote for Nader).  Invariably, when conservatives don't vote Republican, they lose and their values lose in the public sphere.

Imagine how much better the world would be if Wilson had never been president.  Or Clinton. 

Now, for example, I live in Massachusetts.  Most of my vote choices come down to one candidate who wants to kill all the babies, and another candidate who only wants to kill most of the babies.  So, maybe it is sinful to vote for either.

In politics, at least in our form of government, you must work within one of the two main parties at the time, and get that party to move it's positions.  Anything else is a waste of time.  And I prefer our form of government over a parliamentary form.  See Italy for a prime example why.

And please, if there are any Poli Sci people out there who can say this better than me, please speak up.

We couldn't have gotten much worse than Bush with his Patriot Act and his wars. I don't like having to choose between drowning and beheading, which is what acting as if there are only two Parties out there is like. Saying a third Party "can't win" and, so, you won't vote for them is looking at it all wrong. They won't win if you, in fact, don't vote for them. At some point, the categorical imperative comes in handy:  behave in such a way that if everyone were to  behave in the same way, the world would be a better place. Voting for Clintons and Bushes and Gores and Obamas doesn't make the world a better place. Voting for a Pat Buchanan or a Ron Paul at least might.

Pages: 1 2