Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

How to Choose among Presidential Candidates, I

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 08, 2008

A kind reader suggested that I offer an analysis of all the presidential candidates in order to assist voters in making the right choice. Unfortunately, despite the shrill denunciations of modernist Catholics who insist that my opposition to abortion proves I am a shill for the Republican Party, I am one of the least qualified persons to make such an assessment.

Though I do have a personal friend who is running for the Senate, I tend to be woefully uninterested in politics. I get most of my own political information from people I trust who are far more knowledgeable than I. Of course, I am not referring here to the moral principles which must govern our votes. I’m very keen indeed on those. But as far as getting to the bottom of conflicting reports about a candidate’s positions, or evaluating past voting records, or assessing the best possible political strategy, well, I’m not anywhere near the forefront.

However, since the U. S. Bishops have in general not given adequate moral guidance, I’ll talk a little here about two key principles. The first principle is that serious intrinsic moral evils which can be controlled politically and which affect large numbers of people must be at the very top of the decision tree for selecting candidates. The fact is that a million persons are murdered by abortion each year in our country as a direct result of judicial and legislative action, and countless others are murdered through embryonic stem cell research and in vitro fertilization, with more being queued up for death by euthanasia. All of these attacks are intrinsically evil, and they affect enormously large numbers of people.

Now, it doesn’t take a moral genius to understand that this grave evil must take precedence in the decision tree over other significant issues such as concern for the environment, health insurance, welfare programs, or educational policy, none of which typically involve the intrinsic evil of deliberately taking an innocent life. And the same is true even for war policy, the pros and cons of which must be endlessly debated because war is not intrinsically immoral, even though it does involve direct attacks on human lives, though generally (thus far, at least) on a much smaller scale.

For this reason, the very first principle of political morality in contemporary America is that voters have a serious obligation to distinguish between candidates who support the abortion license (and its related evils) and candidates who want to reduce, restrict or eliminate the abortion license altogether. Assuming one or more candidates fall into the latter camp, a moral voter in America in 2008 will restrict his vote to this group, choosing among them based on the degree of their hostility to abortion, the viability of their plan to restrict or end it, and their expected electability. Only after assessing this is the voter justified in proceeding to secondary moral issues and personal preferences.

Of course, if no candidate falls into the group which desires to reduce or eliminate the abortion license, the voter is justified in choosing on other grounds. The point here is that if the voter can be positively engaged on behalf of the life issues, he must be so engaged. The reason is that in contemporary America nothing else comes close in its combination of human impact and moral importance. This leads directly to my second principle (see How to Choose among Presidential Candidates, II).

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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