The National Catholic Review
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One of the more unfortunate features of the 2012 presidential campaign is the prospect that neither Republicans nor Democrats will examine their own rigid ideology or acknowledge their failure to address honestly the crises of our time. Both parties, driven by the rhetoric of extremists, have staked out a tiny piece of political territory where they have invested all their energy. For Mitt Romney, every problem will be solved by lower taxes for the mythical “job creators” and cuts to government programs. For President Obama, it has become even more constricted. Despite the vaunted rhetoric, the only thing he seems steadfastly committed to is the “social agenda” of his most liberal base.

For someone like me, who voted “the hope” in the last election, it is more than disappointing to realize that reasons to vote for President Obama have dwindled to two. First, he is a likable man and good role model. Second, and more chilling, is revulsion at the thought of being in even a remote way aligned with the president’s “enemies,” who slanderously have accused him of the highest duplicity. (The latest charge from the likes of Sean Hannity and some Christian groups is that Obama will stage an assassination attempt and declare martial law before the election.)

Others too voted “the hope” the last time. But they also seem to have drunk the Kool-Aid. Among Democrats, except “Democrats for Life,” any criticism of the president’s policies and decisions seems to have been quietly suppressed. Thus there is little chance that serious voices will be heard to challenge our present policies. In fact, some Democrats act as if it is a betrayal to bring up questions like the following.

What will be the upshot of Obama’s expanded use of drone missiles and the horror they bring to innocent people? Is this, like targeted assassination and torture, our own rewriting of the rules of war and the principles of a just war? At the end of May, The New York Times ran an extended article with the title: “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will.” Are Democrats proud of a president with the will to kill? Or are they giving the president a free pass on policy that would have them screaming had it been attributed to George W. Bush?

Why did the president make no demands on the titans of Wall Street after he told them, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks?” Instead, they were showered with billions of dollars, no strings attached. One does not have to be an economist to be deeply troubled by the president’s response to our economic crisis. Instead of “shovel-ready jobs,” we were given a “trickle down” theory pushed through by the same financial managers who ran Bush’s presidency. No wonder there is little room for the likes of Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz in an administration where now everyone seems to be a “free market fundamentalist.”

In the health care crisis, why was “single payer” taken off the table from the start? A strong case can be made that universal minimal coverage is the only way our health care system can be salvaged—with a tiered system that people can buy into as a special premium. And yet, this option was not even used as a point of leverage. Despite the mounting evidence of increasing unnecessary medical procedures and costly diagnostic tests, the only actions taken are those that profit insurance companies.

These are complicated issues, but Democrats seem willing to ignore them all for the sake of a second term for the president. But if the president is re-elected (and he is absurdly construed as a “socialist”), socialized medicine will never be given a hearing, nor will the present pathologies in our military and economic policies be addressed.

Democrats say that Republicans are “in the tank” for a rapacious capitalist ideology. Republicans say that the Democrats are “in the tank” for liberationist secular ideology. Maybe they are both right. And perhaps the best response is to reject both parties in this race to elect the best president money can buy.

I have been warned that a write-in vote is a vote for Obama. I have also been told that it is a vote for Romney. Well, it is also a vote against both of them. It may show, perhaps, that I am out of step with the American zeitgeist and its vaunted view of its political wisdom. A likely worse fate would be to fall for it.

John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., is a professor of philosophy at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.

Comments

2073113 | 7/2/2012 - 7:08pm
Rev Kavanaugh seems to have a case of "buyer's remorse", while trying bravely to paint a positive picture.

One line stands out:

"First, he is a likeble man and good role model."

We can no more say that President Obama is a likable man than we can of anyone we've never met.  Our only image of him is what we see on the nightly news - and on countless magazine covers.  One might as well say that John Malkovich (for one) is a terrible man, based on his movie roles.  In fact, he is quite civilized, and would make an excellent dinner companion.

And, unlike Obama, he wouldn't confiscate the knives and forks right after the meal ("Latinos Forced to turn over knives and forks at Obama event": "Secret Service required that there be no knives at the tables and that the forks be rounded up before Obama entered the room.")

I have no idea what sort of role model he might be, for the same reason - we know only the image, not the man.  But the image we know is a President - of the most powerful country - bowing and scraping to foreign dignitaries.  That's not my idea of a role model.

More than that: we do not elect a President because he's "likable".  I, at least, prefer competence, and a vision that will lead us toward a stronger future, not a weaker one.  His standing in the lastest polls tell of his "fall from grace".

I reject using carefully-chosen, extreme examples of his oppoents (Hannity &c).  Further, KC, I could provide a list of 100 Tea Party websites where there is not a single reference to any "nefarious plan".  I could also provide a list of over 100 liberal and left-leaning websites that include public statements calling for the deaths of President Bush and many other conservatives.

I submit that "Democrats seem willing to ignore them" [complicated issues] because they are unthinkingly committed to the Left, to Obama's grandiose socialist vision for America, and that any opposing argument, however small, puts cracks in their strongly-held position.  For such a mind-set, any alternative represents a mistake (cognitive dissonance) - something which they cannot and will not accept.

At present, Obama is interested in only one thing: the November vote.  He will do anything to bring that about.

A write-in vote is not an option.  For one thing, it and the few other similar votes will not be counted.  If anything, I would push for a "none of the above", which, if there were enough, would call for the campaigning to start all over again.

Recall that it was Ross Perot, in 1992, who got Clinton elected.  And, as John D. Fitzmorris points out, Nader in 2000.  (As we say, win one, lose one.)
john fitzmorris | 7/1/2012 - 9:34pm
The only problem with John's approach is that this election is a choice, surely a choice between evils, but nonetheless a choice between two alternatives. There is no third alternative. Remember Ralph Nader in the 2000 election. That Quixotic campaign definetely elected Geroge Bush and brough to power his Neo-Con Cohorts who plunged us into a devastating, brutal and immoral war that poured innocent blood and treasure into the sands of Iraq. In this case, a no vote will lead to the election of Mitt Romney, a prospect that no lover of peace can tolerate. The same neo-con who brought us Iraq will stalk back into D.C. and there will be another war this time with Iran and the consequence will be incalculable. Romney's election will result in economic policies that will see further accumulation of wealth in the hands of a fewer and fewer people and we all know the consequences of that.

No, john, I can be with you on this one
Eileen Gould | 6/26/2012 - 5:47pm

Democrats are in total disarray, including you, Father Kavanaugh. To encourage write-ins is to ignore Mary Collingsworths' comments re the beliefs underpinning the true Democrat and the beliefs underpinning the true Catholic (the Beatitudes.) Many Catholics, formerly Democrats, (and my own Irish relatives) deserted the common man with the advent of the GI Bill and became Republicans. They never anticipated being deserted by the 2%ers and fallling like a flat tire.




All Democrats and smart Republicans too had better vote for President Obama. THEN, concentrate on getting a candidate like Warren Buffet. America is due for a great man to show up. Just as the Catholic Church was due for Pope John XXIII.




I completely agree with everything Craig McKee of Hong Kong says. Please see his eloquent comment above to which I have nothing to add other than to stress that a write-in vote that would tilt the election to the Tea Party Republicans and cast the dwindling middle-class further into poverty. This utterly frightens me (not for myself at 86 but for my "fellow Americans".)

John Campbell | 6/25/2012 - 7:42pm
I too am troubled and conflicted on the choices and the current state of the parties, but I am determined to vote nevertheless. (I am converted to independence of both parties.) As I recall, two third party candidates came close in my memory - Anderson and Perot. But it seems sure that regardless of anything else the next Presdent will be either Romney or Obama, so withholding a vote will have no effect except to negate your positive vote for whichever candidate you would have chosen. There is nothing new, in our lifetimes, to an unpleasant choice between two candidates who seem to represent extremes - both parties represent one or another engine of death in our culture. The horror is somewhat attenuated by releance on the separation of powers - no single branch has the power to shift the entire force of government to one direction, and we can hope that the public might become more enlightened about Congress and the courts, and that some forms of process reform may become more feasible and the small minority of the absolutely daffy obstructionists will become less effective. Of course it would also help to have a more participation oriented USCCB with more credibility, but that does not seem to be in the cards any time soon. Please keep writing, even in your frustration, and we all must keep praying with our hearts regardless of the obstacles and horrid uses of language.
Christopher Hite | 6/21/2012 - 5:35pm
Ed Gleason makes a point-there is a difference between the two parties and their adherents. For proof, read no further than Ed's post.

With the arrogant certitude of a conservative, Ed simplisticly designates all morally correct attributes to Republicans, and of course, the morally bankrupt ones to Democrats. Ed demonstrates his complete ignorance on the European financial situation by blaming left leaning individuals for the crisis while ignoring the reality that it was the unregulated, vulture capitalism represented by Rmoney and the rest of the GOP establishment that led to Europe's current woes.

Ed then sprinkles us with nuggets of wisdom on Catholic social teaching being in-line with Republican thought, thus ignoring decades of demonizing of the poor by those on the right of the political spectrum-you know, just like Christ would have done.

Ed uses the word "nonsense" at the beginning of his ramble. I think in retrospect it fits his thesis well. This is exemplified once again by Ed's can't be wrong attitude: "We have a spending problem." He fails to mention that we spend it all on our morbidly obese military, something the modern Republican warrior would never deign to cutting. Again, the Ed's of the world take that time honored Christian approach: blame the poor.

In conclusion, the conservative right is more than out of touch with notions of Catholic social teaching and social justice. What's worse is that Ed Gleason and his ilk know this yet they continue to cling to their antiquated notions and perpetually shower us with the most predictible propaganda that cable news can cook up.
Michael Lynch | 6/21/2012 - 2:26pm
There certainly is plenty to complain about with the current Administration.
The Democrats inability to keep the Republicans from filibustering every single thing that has been proposed and passed that can help this country is NOT the fault of the Democrats or President Obama.
The choice is not between 2 evils as supposed.  One side got 5000 plus Americans and thousands of others killed for a lie.  I do not consider that a choice between 2 evils.
You can have your own opinions but not your own facts.
CAROL LOUREE | 6/19/2012 - 8:55pm
Voting for neither is unproductive, equivalent to staying home from the polls. Why not suggest an alternative strategy that makes sense, or at least clarifies the issues. If single payer health plan is the only viable and practical approach, present it to the platform committees, and possibly there will be dialogue.
JAMES SULLIVAN | 6/19/2012 - 11:43am
First, what makes Obama a good role model?  Such a general statement, John.

A blanket statement ahead: under Obama many American people (other than from NY and CA) FEAR the government - they distust him and his associates(Plough and Axelrod) because they always do an end-around (healthcare, immigration); there is always something shady and it seems they rejoice in being crafty, not in leading with inspiration.  That is why people like Hannity and many conservatives believe he and his followers set up the stage for Act I, Act II and Act III.
Thomas Rooney OFS | 6/18/2012 - 12:03pm
I also voted for "change" in 2008 - mostly fearing a President McCain fatal heart attack, if you get my meaning.

And I'm unsure who will get my vote this time around.  A 3rd party or write-in is looking more and more plausible.  Thank you, Fr. John, for helping to give voice to my (and I suspect many others') dilemma.
J BLISS | 6/18/2012 - 10:23am
For an intelligent Conservative point of view try the Bill Bennett Morning in America
radio program . Can reach all day
RICHARD KUEBBING | 6/17/2012 - 12:00pm
Well written, Fr Kavanaugh.  Our politics may diverge but our current assessment of the state of politics in the USA converge.

I fear for the future of the country and the world.  Few if any of the current world policies are sustainable even in the middle term.  The crises in Europe show some are failing in the short term. 
Craig McKee | 6/17/2012 - 10:14am
This essay sounds like it comes from the ivory tower keyboard of someone who has the "luxury" of not having to find a job to put food on the table, pay a light bill or a mortgage on an underwater home, provide gifts under a Christmas tree, change diapers on an elderly parent, or provide health care for a family. Those kind of people don't have the "luxury" of wasting their vote on a write-in cuz it makes sense intellectually or cuz they've lost hope!
E.Patrick Mosman | 6/13/2012 - 8:07am
"For someone like me, who voted “the hope” in the last election," is the mantra for all who voted for the "blank slate" candidate, urged others to do likewise and refused to even check or comment on his lack of accomplishments or his background on which all media outlets were complicit. Any attempt to have a open discussion, especially with academics whose position enabled them to provide expert advise and counsel, was met with contempt and often charges of racism. And now Father Kavanaugh, one of Obama's early supporters from academia is proposing to essentially vote "Present"  Obama's favorite position on most issues during his political career, the ultimate in "Buyer's remorse"
James Richard | 6/11/2012 - 6:17pm
President Obama's problem is that when he took office, he had Nancy Pelosi and the extrem left of the democrat party in control of the house.

When Obama wanted the government option in the Health Care bill, it was Nancy Pelosi and the democrats in congress who removed it. He lacked the political clout to control them.  Same was true with their spending agenda. He went to Nancy Pelosi and asked tha they reign in their spending. Again, not having the political clout, he could get them to watch out for the American taxpayers.

That being said, what will Romney do if elected, with a Tea Party controlled House of Representatives?

God help us.



Marie Rehbein | 6/11/2012 - 11:12am
President Obama might have been more able to fulfill those dreams of those who had "hope" had it not been for the obstructive Congress.  Another chance for Obama necessitates replacing the right wing ideologues in Congress with people who share Obama's vision from the last election. 

Voting for a write in presidential candidate won't do nearly as much as voting for the right congresspersons and senators.
james belna | 6/10/2012 - 12:12am
Father K:

Do you care to provide a source for your allegation that Sean Hannity has claimed that "Obama will stage an assassination attempt and declare martial law before the election"? If Mr Hannity ever said anything remotely like that, it would be easy enough to provide a link to it, but I am betting that you can't and won't. Go ahead and prove me wrong. Before criticizing the honesty and integrity of the candidates, you should first demonstrate those virtues by backing up your own inflammatory rhetoric - and if you can't, then you should issue an apology and a retraction. It is the ethical thing to do.
JOHN WALTON MR | 6/9/2012 - 8:05pm
Perhaps someone with an advanced degree in psychology can opine, but the "drones" chapter of Nixon's personality and its ready embrace is emblamatic of a detached and deeply troubled personality.
Brien Kinkel | 6/8/2012 - 3:15pm
Kavanaugh asserts that President Obama "seems steadfastly committed to is the 'social agenda' of his most liberal base," then spends much of the rest of the article refuting that assertion.  Obama is not an advocate for single-payer national health insurance.  He has not hesitated to use military force to defend America's interests.  Deliberately or not he has initiated policies that are in compliance with the Republicans' mantra of smaller government. 

Obama is 'pro-choice,' however.  His position on abortion is indeed consistent with that of his most liberal base, as well as with the views of a majority of Americans. This one issue cannot accurately define Obama's "social agenda."

Obama is no ultra-liberal.  He is very much a moderate.
John Barbieri | 6/8/2012 - 2:35pm
Bumper sticker on I-95 today:
"Join the fight against organized crime. Don't re-elect anyone."

Seriously, new leadership is needed. The incumbents are not getting it done.  
Tom Maher | 6/8/2012 - 2:10pm
So isn't that what the Greeks did in their elections in May?  70% of the Greek voters rejected the two major parties that wanted to honor their bailout committments and remain in the Euro-zone?   However none of the minority or fringe parties all of whom were against the Euro-zone austerity policy came close to having a majority and probably never will.  And the ninirity oparties were unable to form a coalition governemnt among themselves becasue they were so radically different from one-another.  So now Greece is in a worse crisis than before.  And it has only a caretaker government.  A runoff election is scheduled for next weekend in hopes of one party increasing their plurality of votes around which a government might be formed.  But the look is that any of these parties will reject working with the euro-zone. Greece is real danger of going bankrupt in the near future.  Fringe  parties are a poor choice that will produce even worse political  outcomes that will in turn lead to national financial disaster.  Greece is about to be ruined by third parties. 
Clint HYER | 6/8/2012 - 1:29pm
I agree with the concept of a write in vote - My question is: WHAT do we write in?
5436984 | 6/8/2012 - 1:01pm
I am a Catholic, a Democrat, and from Irish ancestry.  There are developments in the Catholic Church that I absolutely disdain- yet I believe that I am still a Catholic.  There are developments in the Democratic Party that I totally disagree with, yet I believe I am still a Democrat.  Both of these beliefs come from an understanding that  to be Catholic means much more than following a bunch of old men who like to keep women "in their place" and wine and dine the rich for contributions; and that to believe in the Democrat philososphy most closely aligns me with the Eight Beatitides and the social teachings of Catholicism.  However, with that said, I totally disagree with the policy in our country that prohibits any citizen from becoming an elected official because they are of modest financial means.  This is totallly wrong and goes against every social justicie/equality movement existing.  There is a lot to be done both in religion and politics and it appears that not too many people are willing to do the work!
LEONARD VILLA | 6/8/2012 - 12:20pm
This essay reminds me of the moral equivalent articles you would read about in the cold war versus the Soviet Union. Flaws of the US would be pointed out sometimes serious flaws and the conclusion was drawn: a pox on both houses. That was nonsense then and it does not work now to assess the parties. As flawed as the US may be there was no moral equivalence with Soviet gulags and repression of freedom. The US then and now was the most sought-after country to live-in despite its flaws. The two parties are not equivalents. You can't be a pro-life, pro-marriage, no relativism Democrat. It's suicide with respect to party advancement. You can't practice fiscal responsibility either. Look at poor Cory Booker of Newark. The election will be about the economy. We're broke. We have a spending problem. We don't have laissez-faire capitalism and no Republican is going to establish that. While taxes are often increased entitlements are never cut. Reducing the rate of growth is not a cut despite a corrupt national media reporting this as a cut. No amount of tax "the rich" (who are the rich also becomes a polticial issue) will fix the debt and spending problem. You can't talk about things like minimum wage etc in a vaccum from this reality. Greece, Spain etc. are living examples of where the policies that have taken control of the Democratic party lead. Republicans generally have a more realistic few of where we are economically and it is not political suicide to be pro-life, pro-marriage, and non-relativist Republican. The cardinal principle of Catholic social teaching, that of subsidiarity is more likely to be practiced by a Republican than a Democratic whose default position is the Federal Government. No Fr. K, the donkey and the elephant are not equivalents.
ed gleason | 6/8/2012 - 12:19pm
Some real good news about ACA is that 6.5 million young, under age 26 were added to parents health care. Will over turning ACA reverse that and will the 6.5 million vote to keep their benefit?
Katherine Lawrence | 6/8/2012 - 11:06am
what a nice, thoughtful article. Thank you!
ROBERT KILLOREN | 6/8/2012 - 9:50am
Both candidates bring some good aspects to the table. I am quite surprised that neither has done much to attract the independent, middle of the road (which now seems skewed to the right) voters and stress those things that are more moderate in direction and scope. The vicious swings in administrations from right to left to back again may seem to balance things in the middle, but all that really happens is that the population becomes more and more bitterly divided. The result is legislative gridlock and crisis management. We are in a period that perhaps is more polarized than any other since before the Civil War. It is scary to think that had it not been for the fracture of the Democratic Party into three factions, Lincoln (Republican) would have handily lost the election with only 40% of the popular vote. A third party may be inevitable if the two parties continue to become more and more extreme, but for now we only have the two and the money is sticking with one or the other. And we are likely to see the most expensive campaign ever waged bar none. Oh, one other interesting footnote to the 1860 election... Lincoln did no national, stump campaigning. His may have been the least expensive in history. So Father John, your prediction of the winner is probably right on: the one who can pay for the most negative campaign ads will win.
ROBERT KILLOREN | 6/8/2012 - 9:50am
Both candidates bring some good aspects to the table. I am quite surprised that neither has done much to attract the independent, middle of the road (which now seems skewed to the right) voters and stress those things that are more moderate in direction and scope. The vicious swings in administrations from right to left to back again may seem to balance things in the middle, but all that really happens is that the population becomes more and more bitterly divided. The result is legislative gridlock and crisis management. We are in a period that perhaps is more polarized than any other since before the Civil War. It is scary to think that had it not been for the fracture of the Democratic Party into three factions, Lincoln (Republican) would have handily lost the election with only 40% of the popular vote. A third party may be inevitable if the two parties continue to become more and more extreme, but for now we only have the two and the money is sticking with one or the other. And we are likely to see the most expensive campaign ever waged bar none. Oh, one other interesting footnote to the 1860 election... Lincoln did no national, stump campaigning. His may have been the least expensive in history. So Father John, your prediction of the winner is probably right on: the one who can pay for the most negative campaign ads will win.
ROBERT KILLOREN | 6/8/2012 - 9:50am
Both candidates bring some good aspects to the table. I am quite surprised that neither has done much to attract the independent, middle of the road (which now seems skewed to the right) voters and stress those things that are more moderate in direction and scope. The vicious swings in administrations from right to left to back again may seem to balance things in the middle, but all that really happens is that the population becomes more and more bitterly divided. The result is legislative gridlock and crisis management. We are in a period that perhaps is more polarized than any other since before the Civil War. It is scary to think that had it not been for the fracture of the Democratic Party into three factions, Lincoln (Republican) would have handily lost the election with only 40% of the popular vote. A third party may be inevitable if the two parties continue to become more and more extreme, but for now we only have the two and the money is sticking with one or the other. And we are likely to see the most expensive campaign ever waged bar none. Oh, one other interesting footnote to the 1860 election... Lincoln did no national, stump campaigning. His may have been the least expensive in history. So Father John, your prediction of the winner is probably right on: the one who can pay for the most negative campaign ads will win.

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