Don’t Give Up on Politics
Monday , October 30, 2006
by Father Jonathan Morris
This week is all about politics, like it or not. Most don’t. After all, there’s a lot not to like — scandal-based ads, poll-driven platforms, and plenty of spineless, self-serving candidates.
The temptation to throw in the towel is great. But we know what to do with temptation — give it a boot.
The stakes of this midterm election are too high to leave in the hands of others.
The men and women who serve the country in the House and in the Senate wield real power because their decisions affect real people.
My dad had a great phrase: “As bad as they are, right now, they’re the best we’ve got.”
While Dad wasn’t trying to philosophize, his practical wisdom was based on solid ethical underpinnings. The principle is this: it’s OK to vote for someone simply because he or she is less bad than the next guy, or gal.
In ethics, we call this kind of moral choice “tolerance of evil.” It means that under certain circumstances it is morally acceptable to choose an imperfect candidate, party, or legislation. By doing so, we are not approving what we consider bad, but rather we are putting up with a certain amount of evil in order to achieve the greater good.
This kind of decision-making requires a hierarchy of values. Not all issues are of equal importance, and some things can never be tolerated. For example, it would never be acceptable to vote for a lawmaker who promises to bring back the slave trade, even if he or she has a great plan to help the inner city poor.
In a two-party system like ours, ethical decision-making should also take into account the factor of partisan control. If I vote for this candidate and he or she wins, how will it affect the balance of power in Congress? In turn, how will these decisions affect important issues like the ratification of judges?
Those are the principles. Making it practical is not always easy.
Here’s my recommendation for this week. Focus your attention on candidates and issues that will appear on your ballot. Tune out the rest. Then, make an educated choice based on your answers to these two questions:
1 — Which candidate’s platform best represents my most important beliefs?
2 — Do I trust the candidate of this platform to carry out his or her promises?
The best way to determine trustworthiness is to look at the candidate’s record, both professional and personal. Is there consistency? Has this candidate changed his or her opinion on fundamental issues? If so, has he or she offered a compelling explanation?
One last piece of advice as we make our way through a week of political sludge is this: the quality of our leaders reflects, to some degree, the moral state of our country. We get what we deserve. If you are fed up with poor choices, invest your time and talent in making America a better place for our future leaders to learn and live. The best place to start? At home with the family, once again.
But whatever you do, don’t throw in the towel on politics. It’s a temptation…and we know what to do with temptation — give it a boot!
God bless, Father Jonathan