Most of us are regular folk, just trying to carve out a connected, contented existence in this life. Our voting values reflect this desire. I am prolife, as my church dictates, from natural conception to natural death. This means that I am anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-euthanasia, anti-death penalty. It also means I support extensive and immediate environmental reforms, affordable healthcare, government assistance, open and just immigration laws, social security, medicare, public education, civil rights, equal rights and paying my fair share of taxes to help this nation function.
I bet most of you are a lot like me, with a wobble to the right or left on certain issues. Which means you’re in the same pickle as I am—it’s damn hard to vote. The candidate who reflects my values does not exist.
How do we vote? Historically, my church has encouraged me to value the sanctity of the unborn as primary to all other life issues. But the anti-abortion candidate is not always pro-life, sometimes glaringly. Also, abortion rates are down and the threat to the environment is universal.
This is where Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego entered the conversation in a speech he gave in January.
You can read the whole thing—but here’s how he breaks it down:
Life issues ARE primary. And after years of doing not enough, the threat to our environment (and therefore our very existence) is equal to or more threatening than the evil of abortion. They must be considered equally.
But since the candidate who will legislate as both anti-abortion and pro-environmental reform does not exist, we have to add the other life issues to the scoreboard: abolition of the death penalty and euthanasia, open and just immigration and refugee reform, protection of worker’s, civil and religious rights, assistance for the poor and hungry, promotion of marriage and family, nuclear disarmament and the protection of religious liberty.
Even this is not enough. We do not vote issues or parties into office, but people. We cannot afford to ignore the person for whom we cast the vote, no matter how aligned we are with their politics. And this consideration is three-fold.
First, we must admit that our national discourse is dysfunctional, and as a result our government has done very little good in the name of all Americans. Our nation family requires healing, which in turn requires compromise. To true patriots, who believe in the rights of all Americans and not just their own interests, it then becomes essential to select a bridgebuilder, someone who can reach across the divide and craft collaboration.
Second, they must have the same principles we try to instill in our children: truth, integrity, honor, discernment and reflection. These principles are demonstrable, and should therefore be evident.
Third, they must be competent: Mentally, emotionally, spiritually and in statecraft. They all have resumes. It is our responsibility as moral voters to research our choices.
This can work. Even though it may mean voting for someone with whom I do not completely align—by using these guidelines, I can make a better, more faithful decision.
Lastly, we have to refuse to participate in the spectacle. When John McCain and Mitt Romney were running for President, they were running against my candidate and, caught up the rhetoric and vitriol that is our national election, I saw them as other and enemy. Although I know that my votes for Barack Obama were faithfully sound, in hindsight I see that either of these men would have also made fine leaders, by Bishop McElroy’s standards and my own. Our presidents and presidential candidates have not always been persons of integrity, but we know what men and women of integrity look like. They build bridges, unite others, seek compromise, speak truth, reflect, apologize and are humble enough to admit they do not have all the answers.
This soundness of soul and spirit is what we should seek in a leader, and what we deserve from someone who earns our vote.