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voter bruce frohnenIt seems that more people than usual are thinking of sitting out Election Day this year. This is hardly surprising—nor is the sentiment entirely new. Americans are much less likely to vote, as a percentage of the population, than most democratic peoples. This tendency is not without its logic—indeed, an at times compelling logic. But it is a logic each of us must question as November 8 approaches.

A good friend of mine, George Carey, was for decades a professor of Government at Georgetown University. He never voted. As a matter of fact, he did his best to convince anyone who would listen that they should not vote, either. He was no mere conspiracy theorist, convinced that “they” would steal any election. Rather, he was a realist. He would point out that voters come in packets of millions in the United States, that one vote almost never makes any difference in any election, and that a national election involves much less than meets the eye, because it means voting for one person or program out of two, with neither generally meeting with one’s overall approbation.

George was a brilliant man, and his argument has much to be said for it. Not only is it true that one marginal vote rarely counts for much in any mass democracy, but, as important, the leaders of both parties generally do their best to please their mass constituencies as little as necessary to maintain their own power. More generally, of all the duties incumbent on citizens to fulfill, from obeying the laws, to raising good children, to defending their country at need, voting is by far the most abstract and least effective for maintaining a good society. One shows far more virtue, and effects far more good, by being active in one’s church, as a parent, and in the variety of associations that make up most of our lives, than by pulling a particular lever on election day.

So why vote? I for one do not always vote. When I do not know the issues or persons involved in a local election (as when I have just moved to an area) I abstain. When, as in more than one instance in the past couple of decades, I see no meaningful difference between two candidates, usually at the federal level, I have been known to cast a protest vote for some third party candidate I know will not win.

I assume many conservatives, especially people of faith, are considering either staying home or voting for some third party candidate this November 8. I certainly understand their frustrations. But, while I have taken this route in the past, I will not be doing so in this election. Why not? Because, while every election brings out claims that we are “at a crossroads” as a nation, this time I actually believe that we are one presidential choice away from a point of no return.

After this election, if we make the wrong choice, the republic we cherish will cease to exist. The right choice comes with dangers and no guarantee of success. The wrong choice most certainly will end any reasonable chance of restoring ordered liberty for generations to come. The wrong choice will replace our republic with a fully institutionalized third-world autocracy; rule by decree—no doubt gussied up with some simulacrum of electoral politics—will turn our freedoms into shadows of their former selves and turn the associations that are the only places in which we can lead decent lives into wholly owned subsidiaries of the federal government. All of us will be forced to toe the line of political correctness throughout the public square, fully enter into the culture of death in our public and commercial life, and consign our religious lives to a purely private sphere in which we may quietly pray, provided we do not allow our faith to “infect” our public conduct.

Such claims may seem overwrought, but people of faith in particular know that the last seven years have been a disaster for public morals, social institutions, and private life. And yet many of us feel genuine pressure to cooperate with those who seek to maintain the ever-more-radical politics under which we have lived for some time. They have been made to feel guilty (racist, homophobic, and especially, unforgivably sexist) for even thinking of opposing the new regime that has emerged under President Obama—the most radical president in American history.

Many people, including me, have been taken aback at revelations regarding Donald Trump’s statements about women, as well as the swarm of charges regarding his conduct toward them.  I will not take any time addressing the timing or likely veracity of any of these charges. It is enough for me to note that this man has led, in public, a life of flamboyant sin. His adultery, his crass language, his greed, his “livin’ large” attitudes have been wrong and degrading to himself and others.

Yet I will be voting for him without hesitation; perhaps not with great enthusiasm, but without hesitation. And it is not just a matter of forgiveness rooted in his protestations that he is a changed man. Such forgiveness can play only a small role in a decision affecting the common good. Much more than this, my decision has to do with the relationship between politics and culture, and how (it seems quite clear to me) the candidates would govern.

Politics should be far less important than faith, family, and everyday life. For most of American history, politics was a limited pursuit aimed at protecting families, churches, and local self-governing associations. Moreover, until recent decades most Americans understood that good politics are dependent on decent culture, not the other way around. Unfortunately, it is this understanding that is being twisted and used, especially against people of faith in this election.

Christians in particular are rightly appalled at some of the things they have heard from and about Mr. Trump. They believe his presence in the White House will send a message of support for bad opinions and immoral conduct. But the “unfit for the presidency” argument has been cynically aimed at stirring deep passions in an attempt to short-circuit our moral reason. We must not allow great distaste at one man’s flaws to blind us to different flaws which, while on the surface perhaps less distasteful, go to the heart of how the other candidate would actually govern. Everyone knows that both candidates have deep moral flaws. One of them has been accused of moral failings he promises to avoid in future, and which our political system can guard against. The other has repeatedly been shown to have martialed the mainstream media, foreign governments, and even our own FBI, to engage in a whole range of corrupt practices intentionally undermining that political system and shows no inclination to decrease such activities.

Ideally, we would be choosing between two highly moral persons, each of whom is arguing for a rational means of pursuing the common good. But this is not the choice we face. And it is no good claiming that we should choose neither. Even if either the Libertarian or Green Party nominees had some chance of success, they both offer deeply flawed visions of society rooted in hyper-individualism and/or extreme statism destructive of meaningful associational life. For people of faith to vote for either of these candidates, or none, is to bolster the candidacy of Hillary Clinton—the candidate least expecting, hence least dependent on their support.

So, we must face the choices we have. Hillary Clinton, like Barack Obama an unreconstructed 1960s radical, would continue President Obama’s politics and entrench his regime of multiculturalism, de-colonialization and radical transformation by federal decree. Donald Trump, for all his failings, has campaigned on a platform of protecting our culture against intentional undermining through the importation of members of other cultures who have no desire to assimilate. He has shown himself committed to bringing an end to the extra-legal immigration policies and cultural onslaught of Social Justice Warriors, many of them working for Hillary Clinton, who denigrate Catholics in particular as backward authoritarians who must be “freed” from their beliefs and way of life.

One candidate seeks to reduce the size and scope of government in terms of regulations, taxes, and intrusions into the lives of the people while supporting the rule of law. The other seeks to root out “institutionalized” and “implicit” racism throughout our culture. One has promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who will interpret the Constitution as its framers intended. The other has explicitly stated that she will choose justices most likely to support her own, hard left policy choices. One is pro-life. The other is an unconditional supporter of Planned Parenthood and all its most extreme practices.

Both are flawed. Neither would be my own first choice for President. But what is a citizen to do on Election Day?

I suggest the following: Go to the polls. Go into that booth and ask yourself, as a person of faith and as an American, where does your duty lie? With your feelings, or with the common interests of Americans? With the emotions put on you by a concerted effort to show the worst in a flawed man, or with a rational decision regarding what policies are most likely to bring us back from the brink of disaster? Perhaps most important, do not ask which candidate has caused you the least offense (however that calculation may come out). Ask instead which candidate is most likely to allow Americans to raise their children as they see fit, to rear them in their faith, and to defend them, and the nation they love.

No one need know how you voted. But you will know. And you owe it to yourself, your family, your nation, and your God to vote for the person your reason tells you is most likely to govern in a manner that will protect the fundamental associations of a decent, virtuous society and life.

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8 replies to this post
  1. I registered Democrat as a hat tip to Senator Sanders and already voted for Donald Trump, as absentee ballots are available.

    Four years ago I voted for Mitt Romney. If there is anyone I am disappointed and angry at, it is Governor Romney. Mr. Trump’s accusers are part of the October election festival, but Governor Romney has sorely disappointed me. I supported his candidacy because he was – like me – an entrepreneur who spent the majority of his working life in the private sector and ventured into the public sphere out of a sense of duty. He was governor of a liberal state and a moderate, conservative gentleman. These same reasons form much of the basis of my sympathy for Mr. Trump who is only over-the-top because that is the business he happened to be in (reality TV).

    This year, Governor Romney, like so many of the Republican establishment, has done a great disservice to the country by forcefully campaigning against Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

    Those Republicans who claim that it is too bad Mike Pence is not the nominee should reflect on the fact that the virtues of Mike Pence would not be displayed on the national stage if not for Mr. Trump who selected him.

    If you are Republican who supports Mike Pence but is “troubled” by Donald Trump – consider please that the selection of Mike Pence as Vice-President speaks far more about Donald Trump’s character than what some silly news network reports. Donald Trump chose a man who represents classical Hoosiers ethics, and that says a lot about Mr. Trump’s vision of what America should be.

    Just as I do not understand how the Democrats could not nominate Senator Sanders – an honest man – I do not understand how Republicans can suddenly believe the mainstream media which has cast them all as horrible people when it does so with Donald Trump.

    • An excellent post. As for why Hillary and not Sanders, I’m guessing mostly that “The fix was in”. Between herself and whoever runs that Party, the decision was made that she was going to win, period. Also, she is far more ruthless than Sanders, and the Dems probably calculated that, in today’s climate, ruthless trumps honest or ethical.

  2. This has been the most gut wrenching election year I have ever experienced, and I expect that is true for many conservatives. My original choice was Trump to attempt to allay the onslaught of the radical attack upon traditional American institutions. A couple of months ago after the GOP convention I had reached a boiling point with that party and looked to vote third party. Having seen the collusion between the FBI, Attorney General, and the Clintons; having seen the usual propaganda for the Democratic Party candidate by the Great Stereopticon; I have in the end decided to vote for Trump, my original choice to oppose all of the above.

    I do believe the only hope though is that this criminal and her cohort go the way of Nixon and that the GOP retain the House so perhaps we rid ourselves after all of the former.

  3. It’s been easy to miss, but Mr. Trump has put on one of the gutsiest pieces of courage and leadership I have ever witnessed over the last couple of weeks.

    Watch him tell the truth to power at the Al Smith Dinner as one example. Trump says, to scattered applause at the Catholic Charities fundraiser, “We can also agree on the need to stand up to anti-Catholic bias, to defend religious liberty and to create a culture that celebrates life.” Meanwhile, the archbishop sits next to Ms. Clinton, happy to be buddy-buddy with her, the night after she coldly defended partial-birth abortion at the presidential debate.

    Donald Trump is a hero and will do our country well.

  4. Given the options clearly Trump is the only viable choice. Already and as of today Clinton might be the candidate for the nations hospitalized, a symbol if you will, as she sets that example. Or she might show how to raise $millions from a horde opportunistic, foreign wheeler dealers. She might even for old times sake raffle off a piece of furniture, stolen from the WH as she and Bill glommed everything they could carry or move as they left, proceeds to go to the Clinton Initiative, net worth somewhere in the billions.
    Of course much is predicated on Hillarys health, depredation can take a toll from even the slimiest gangster.

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