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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

MacIntyre's "The Only Vote Worth Casting" revisited

Back in 2004, Alasdair MacIntyre wrote -- and provoked many by writing -- that "when offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither."  I didn't agree with him that the 2004 election presented such a choice, but many have suggested that the 2016 election does.

It's a reminder that Mirror of Justice has been around for a while that we are approaching the fourth presidential election to take place since MOJ started.  The idea behind MOJ (I think!) was not to be a general "commentary on political stuff by some Catholic law professors" site and instead to be a "reflections on legal theory and things legal animated by the Gospel and the Church's social teachings"; still, unsurprisingly, a lot of us have blogged over the years about the task of coming to a decision, meaningfully and faithfully informed and guided by Christianity, about voting, i.e., about how -- this side of Heaven -- to best (albeit imperfectly) advance the common good of our political community.  

A few weeks ago, in an incensed and perhaps ill-advised moment, I broke my longstanding rule against "political" status updates on Facebook and vented my post-Indiana-primary frustration that we had, somehow, settled on two "utterly loathesome, vapid, corrupt, and unworthy" candidates.  Strong language, I admit, but -- I believe -- the adjectives fit.  And, they fit (in different ways, to different degrees, and for different reasons) both of the two presumptive nominees.  So, what to do?

I've said that, at present, I intend to simply write-in Mitch Daniels for President and then vote in other races in a way that I think will, all things considered, make more likely good results and less likely bad results on the issues I care most about.  I should note that I do not agree with those who say that a Catholic is obliged to vote -- I don't think we are (we should engage with and contribute to common good of our political communities, and such engagement probably does generally involve voting -- but it doesn't necessarily).  I'm also aware that there is more than a little preening and virtue-signalling involved in saying that I won't vote for either of these two nominees because (a) who are we kidding, my vote won't make a difference and (b) who are we kidding, it must be that I have some preference between these two nominees.  Perhaps.  

I take it as a given that, if the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party is elected, then judges will be appointed, and administrative positions will be filled, and executive orders will be issued, and regulations will be imposed, and spending conditions will be attached, and the bully pulpit will be exploited, in ways and with implications that I will very deeply regret and that I think will be bad for religious freedom, the pro-life cause, education reform, pluralism, and other matters.  (I would also deeply regret the election of someone whom I hold, in terms of character, in such low regard.)  I also take it as given that if the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party were elected, while most of the foolish and even wicked policies he has purported to endorse or support would not actually be enacted, his offensive, nasty, bullying, and ignorant behavior and statements -- his coy winking at and pandering to truly disgusting online racism, nativism, and anti-semitism -- would make it impossible to have any respect for the Presidency, would threaten the country's economic and security well-being, and would make even worse the already depressingly bad state of politics and public discourse in the United States.  I suspect he would not, unlike his opponent, be ideologically motivated to fill judgeships and administrative positions in ways that I would regret -- because, after all, it's not clear he's "ideologically" or philosophically motivated to do anything -- but . . . that doesn't feel like enough.  On the other hand, and again, his opponent is also unworthy, corrupt, wrong, etc.  And so it goes.  Maybe, for this year anyway, Prof. MacIntyre is right.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink