Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kmiec's question, and other things . . .

At Michael P.'s suggestion, I surfed over to the Commonweal blog for David Gibson's post on "abortion and the Catholic voter".  I have to admit, I'm not sure there's all that much to be said or done, or much movement to be expected, on the "Catholic voter" question.  We are where we are, and that's where I expect we'll stay.  Still . . .

It seems to be a premise of many of these "for whom should Catholics vote?" discussions that "on every issue that matters, other than abortion, the election of Sen. Obama will actually yield meaningful policy actions that are edifyingly in concert with the Church's social teaching, while the election of Sen. McCain will actually yield meaningful policy actions that are distressingly in conflict with the Church's social teaching."  But, this premise is false. 

It is false because it ignores, or at least downplays, the political, social, cultural and economic realities that will almost certainly prevent dramatic changes with respect to most matters, and so it overestimates the "good" stuff about an Obama administration that, it is proposed, outweighs the "bad" stuff.  It is also false because Sen. McCain's views (or, more precisely, the policies likely to be pursued by his administration) on a number of matters -- not just abortion -- are, in terms of consonance with the Church's social teaching, preferable to Sen. Obama's.  Or, so a faithful, reasonable, informed, non-duped, non-Republican-hack, Commonweal-and-First Things-reading Catholic could conclude.  It's a sad thought, but . . . I'm not sure that productive conversations -- even among friends -- are possible so long as this false premise is assumed.

David Gibson's post is a discussion of this New York Times piece -- read my colleague Gerry Bradley's analysis of the piece, here -- which quotes my longtime friend Doug Kmiec as urging Catholics to ask, "not ‘Can I vote for him?’ but ‘Why shouldn’t I vote for the candidate who feels more passionately and speaks more credibly about economic fairness for the average family, who will be a true steward of the environment, and who will treat the immigrant family with respect?’”?  (I assume Doug is not talking here about Gov. Romney, the previous object of his enthusiasm?  Sorry.  Couldn't resist.)  Put aside, but just for now, the facts that it is not at all obvious that Sen. Obama's "feel[ings]" -- on anything -- are more admirable than Sen. McCain's, that Sen. McCain's record on environmental "stewardship" is a responsible and reasonable one, and that Sen. McCain -- who has taken real political risks supporting fairness for immigrants, while Sen. Obama (feelings and all) has not yet served out a full term in the Senate -- would not "treat the immigrant family with respect".  For what it's worth, here's a possible answer to Doug's question:  Because Sen. Obama voted against a law banning the killing of infants that survive abortions, he voted to filibuster Justice Alito (in a context where the leading arguments against the nominee involved his vote upholding abortion regulations) and would probably nominate judges and justices who, though entirely competent and decent, would have misguided views on religious-freedom and church-state matters, he opposes school choice, he would roll back the faith-based initiative, and his election means the certain passage into law of the awful Freedom of Choice Act.  He looks great when he raises his chin, and some of what he says -- when he is not thundering in support of abortion rights -- sounds nice, but that's just not enough.  For me.  For what it's worth. . . .

On an entirely different matter . . .   I've been vacationing in the Pacific Northwest, am returning to "Michiana" tomorrow, and can report that (a) Whistler is beautiful and (b) the Kautz route up Mt. Rainier was -- for this aging law prof, anyway -- too hard.  Back to the drawing board . . . .


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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