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decisions, decisions ...

By Diogenes (articles | Oct 31, 2007

Remember the counter-behaviorist paradox called Buridan's Ass: the hypothesis that a donkey placed between two equidistant bales of hay would starve, because the exactly counterpoised stimuli of attraction could give him no cause to go for Bale A rather than Bale B?

Your Uncle Di thinks this equipollent attraction explains the journalistic silence -- well, near-silence -- on the part of progressive Catholics regarding the Democratic primary campaign. The Lefties just can't make up their minds which of the two front-runners is more adorable, and so they stammer in a confusion of delight. All their ideological Christmasses have come at once, issue by issue, with both candidates playing the role of a cheerfully bountiful Santa. Abortion? Obama: check; Clinton: check. Sodomy? Obama: check; Clinton: check. 1950s Central European party control? Obama: check; Clinton: Czech. If you're a self-described Catholic of the Anna Quindlen stripe, what's there not to like?

If the usual demographic allegiances operate according to form, there'll eventually be a split along class lines as the primary campaign heats up. For Democrats on hourly wages (in general), race trumps gender; for Dems on salary (in general), gender trumps race: recall who lined up behind Anita Hill and who behind Clarence Thomas during the latter's confirmation hearings. From the GOP point of view, perhaps the best-case scenario is that Hillary wins the nomination after a bloody primary, and that black voters in the key swing states, disheartened by the loss of their man, stay home next November and thereby hand the victory to the Republican.

Which brings us to the unappetizing question of the Republican field, a kind of anti-Buridan dilemma. In this case the Catholic voters are repelled in equal measure by the likely nominees and numbed by an equilateral disgust. Abortion? "Next question, please." Sodomy? "Next question, please." Second Amendment rights? "First I've heard there was such a thing ..." Faced with the choice between a Hillary Giuliani and a Rudy Clinton, the question becomes whom we shall send to curse the tents of Jacob, not how they were better blessed. A very tough call. For us Catholics, what we need is not Buridan's Ass, but Balaam's.

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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