Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Someone asked me to post on “when there are not any goodcandidates in an election, should you pick the lesser of two evils orabstain from voting?” I responded, “What’s wrong with Ron Paul” and he came back, “The question is a general one. It does not pertain to the presidential election in particular.”

I haven’t read “The Serious Catholic’s Guide to Voting” in a while, so maybe my thoughts here are heresy, but here is my hip pocket answer: It depends, but in general, pick the lesser of two evils.

As the old saying goes, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” In the words of St. Thomas More, “What you cannot make perfect, make as little imperfect as possible.”

On the other hand, a strong argument could be made that there are non-negotiable issues.

But what if everyone in the field has the same bad stance on a nonnegotiable issue? Suppose all the candidates support euthanizing every child with Attention Deficit Disorder. Are you prohibited from voting? What if they all have this stance, but all but one also has the stance that experiments should be done on these children first and without pain killers? Would the principle of double effect come into play (i.e. in voting for the one, you are voting for children not being the subjects of experimentation and not for euthanasia)?


Rodak said...

The problem is with the whole system. The candidates who are to a certain extent acceptable to the fundraisers who will bankroll them are made before the voters ever go to the polls in the primaries. The monied elites fund both sides: there is your "lesser of two evils" where it really counts. The rich hedge their bets when they ante up. In the end, the rest of us get to vote for their first choice, or their second choice.
We need public funding of elections. We need candidates and legislators who are beholden to nobody, other than the people who voted for them.

Anonymous said...

In the pre-internet days it was extremely difficult to find voting records and candidates other than those supported by the monied elites. The Ron Paul campaign has proved that with the power of the internet behind them, grass roots can wildly succeed. Public funding of elections...I don't think so.

But if there truly are no viable candidates, then rather than vote the lesser of two evils, I think I'd vote third party or write-in, which is a morally acceptable option according to Fr. Stephen Toracco's voter guide, which was endorsed by Father Pavone during the last presidental race.


Rodak said...

The fact that one can receive grassroots money over the internet doesn't come close to solving the problem. You notice that even though he has tons of money, Ron Paul is not a serious candidate. He has no chance of winning. Public funding of elections would allow for the grassroots establishment of viable third, fourth, and fifth politicals parties. And the presence in Congress of multiple parties would allow for coalitions to form and the issues that the people sent those men to congress to represent to have a better chance of becoming law.

Double D said...

I see your point Civis, Benjamin Franklin in "Moral Perfection" declares a speckled axe is best. You'll never get a perfect axe but you may grind away all of the metal trying to make the axe perfect. His point is basically the same as More's.

One friend suggested that you may come to a point where you should write your own name the ballot. Not sure I agree 100% with this friend but perhaps Cheerio's third party or write in candidate are possibilities.

How often do you vote for candidates not because you love the candidate himself/herself, but because it is morally wrong to vote for the alternative?

Should you at times vote for the lesser of two evils rather than the ideal candidate who doesn't have a shot of winning? For example, there is a morally tolerable candidate "A" who is not ideal but has a reasonable chance to be elected over candidate "B" who is on the wrong side of all nonnegotiable issues. Candidate "C" is ideal but is only pulling 1% of the vote. Are there times when you should vote for "A" rather than "C"?

Civis said...

Rodak, Anonymous, and Double D,

Thanks for commenting.


Anonymous took the words out of my mouth RE Ron Paul’s fund raising. How is public funding better able to get a grassroots campaign going than private donations? I mean legal tender is legal tender. But, aside from that, “public funding” sounds like the opposite of grassroots to me.

As far as grassroots go, since you are not a Republican, I can excuse your ignorance of the freakin bad ass grass roots organization Ron Paul has—If you would have been there to vote for convention delegates you would have seen what I’m talking about.

Ron Paul has money and he has grass roots. What he does not have is attention from the main street media. But “Ain’t that America?” We have a free press.

Double D,

Good points/questions all. Your question, “Should you at times vote for the lesser of two evils rather than the ideal candidate who doesn't have a shot of winning?” I have struggled with this one in the past. Don’t know if it’s right, but I’ve come to the point where I am sick of politics as usual and I vote my conscience more often than go with the lesser of two evils. Many reasons for this. One of my biggest beefs is that 99% of the time any candidate has a shot. Everybody said that Ronald Reagan was a flake and couldn’t make it.

Alex said...

This is very interesting because a friend and I were having this same battle just a few weeks ago. We are both very conservative folks with him being a little more than I. We were discussing the moral decision of a non viable 3rd party candidate that happens to agree with our moral stance. I honestly don't think that on the basis of being held accountable by the Almighty, neither of us are wrong on what our ultimate decision would be. He would absolutely vote for someone that has not a chance in hell of winning than to vote for someone that could be the lesser of two evils. I on the other hand think that is nuts and pretty much a wasted vote. If I know that my ultimate candidate (c1) cannot win and I have to choose between that person (c1) or another (c2) that can defeat the most evil one (c3), then my vote goes to c2...easily. I feel that by voting for c1, then I may as well not vote at all and I am handing the victory over to c3. Remember Ralph Nadar...bless his heart (he he). That can easily happen again and I don't want it to happen on my side of the fence.

And I am glad Civis brings up the darling media. I can honestly say that the media will determine who ultimately runs for President. They also have somewhat of a say on who actually wins. They are very good at what they do and very sly. Example of this is Ron Paul. He has killed a few of the more popular (former now) candidates in the primaries but one would never know that because the media has crapped on him since the beginning. Well, that is my 3 cents.

Rodak said...

With public funding there is a pot of money. To become eligible to get a share of the pot with which to run a campaign, you must get x-number of legitimate signatures on a petition. Your prospective constituents--the grassroots--circulate your petition. They may be Green Party people. They may be Libertarians, etc. The point is, that, if they get the signatures, you will have as much money--exactly as much money--to run your campaign with as does every other candidate. So you can't win by buying more media time and getting more name recognition. You can only win by selling your ideas to to the public. The activists get you on the ballot, and then you have to promote your agenda to the rest of the electorate. That is real democracy.

Rodak said...

Two other things I would do to promote democracy would be: 1) limit the campaing season to x-number of weeks prior to Election Day, which would be a national holiday; and 2) legislate x-number of hours of free TV time to each funded candidate, so that the candidates can spend the bulk of their tax-funded campaign treasuries on travel and staff salaries, and on the production of TV and radio spots, rather than on media time.

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

I must say that I agree with Rodak, especially on limited public funding. This would indeed allow someone that is not wealthy or someone with no real business contacts to run for public office. As of now, the folks you see are puppets for big money interests. I would go even further with it and say eliminate all lobbyists from DC. How about that one Civis? I think they corrupt politics more than anyone...even the lobbyists that agree with my stance on issues. All they do is bribe politicians one way or another. It must stop.

Rodak said...

It would be more difficult to eliminate lobbyists than it would to reform election law.
The right to petition the government, blah, blah, blah, is constitutionally protected. While lobbyists probably cannot be completely eliminated, surely their activities could be better regulated.

Civis said...

The thing that has made me more inclined to vote for a candiate who does not seem to have much of a chance--or one of the things--is that I think a lot of red-blooded Americans are not getting the leaders they want because they are buying in to the "he does not have a prayer" BS. Alex, you beloved Fox news is worse for this than anybody else, especially your beloved Sean Hannity.

RE Lobbists: As the Police used to sing, "There is no political solution to our trouble evolution." Getting rid of lobbyists won't get rid of bribery. If you don't like the way lobbyists are pressuring government, form a counter lobbying group.

Anonymous said...


I certainly agree with you that the "he hasn't a chance of winning" canard is BS. If everyone who voted the lessor of two evils (which is still an evil - Ron Paul) because the clear moral choice candidate didn't have a chance, then he'd have a damn good chance.

If rodak will review my post about the "pre-internet" days, he'll note that my point was not *just* about funding - it was about the ability of the man in the street to dig out voting records and find out how likely a candidate is to keep his campaign promises. It's also a nifty way to see if the candidate speaks consistently to all groups rather than altering his message for special interest groups.

But even without the internet, I can't see how public funding of elections woud prevent corruption. Until human nature changes, we'll have corruption regardless of the system; the solution is not another system but a moral revolution.

Rodak said...

What you are both ignoring is that the "bribery" to which I refer--both in the case of lobbying as it now exists, and in the case of campaign financing, is now perfectly LEGAL. It's institutionalized. The corporations first pick your candidates for you and then tell them what to do after they're elected. If the candidates cross their big donors, they don't get the $$ the next time they have to run for reelection. If they don't take the lobbyists $$ and then do what the lobbyists want, they don't get the $$ the next time they have to run for reelection.
You get to vote for whomever the money decide to give you the choice of.
If that's the way you like it, that's what you will continue to get.

Double D said...


Are you suggesting doing away with all private funding of campaigns and replacing it with higher taxes to publically fund campaigns? I personally don't want to pay for the campaign of every crazy person who thinks he or she should be president. Do you? Donors would not give large amounts of money if they knew it would be split between all of the candidates. Then with less funding the options are either raise taxes or each candidate gets less which means we make uninformed voting decisions about who our president and other leaders will be. I can't see how public funding would work.

Rodak said...

Double D--
"Every crazy person" would not be able to run, because they wouldn't have sufficient supporters to acquire the requisite number of signatures on petitions to qualify for the funding. That number should be quite high to ensure only serious candidates, with serious grassroots constituents would qualify for the funding and the airtime, etc.
You are paying for the candidates' campaigns now. It's just that it's indirect, so you don't notice it. (You pay for everything done by corporations.) If you contribute directly to a candidate, you are paying for him twice.

MRSP said...

Hey all,

This is interesting.

Father says we have to choose that which would lessen evil. Clinton
is pro abortion and says so and McCain is an imperfect pro lifer, so
we are obligated to vote for McCain.

See questions 8 and 9.

If I understand #9 correctly, Father is saying:

If I have two pro life candidates, I can choose either one. I can
choose to vote for the lesser pro life candidate if it will lessen
the evil of the pro abortion candidate. So, it isn't just a matter
of who is the best pro life candidate but the double effect of saving
lives and lessening the evil effects of abortion that need to be considered.

Do I have this correct?

To write in a candidate, wouldn't a support a viable pro life
candidate (McCain, as imperfect as he may be) and it won't lessen the
evil of Clinton as a pro abortion candidate. I agree the difference
between or choices is minuscule but nonetheless, there is a difference.

Correct me if you read Father's teaching differently.


MRSP said...

I know the thought is what determines a viable candidate. As much as I hate to say it, our culture is horrific. After watching primaries prior to Super Tuesday and the Super Tuesday primaries, it appears Ron Paul is not going to get the support needed by the majority, to get elected. He probably could get the majority of conservatives and Christians but those groups are no longer the majority of the culture.

I see this election, for Christians, as a lesson in curbing the effects of evil. Sadly, the majority of people in the American culture don't want to adhere to what is right, good or admirable. McCain is the tool that we have that may slow down the decay of the culture but even then I don't see much of a change. God works in mysterious ways, so one never gives up.

MRSP said...

LOL, on a roll.

I don't think as Christians we can decide not to participate in this election because we don't like the choices in candidates. That would be sin by omission. Here is my reasoning. If participating in an election will slow down the decay of the culture and save lives, then we must participate in hopes that good can occur. If we think that participating in the election will cause harm, then I can see where one could not vote. As long as McCain's choices of good (pro life) out weighs his poor choices (fiscal decisions, the surge, etc.) then we support and encourage him in the good choices and try to dissuade him in the poor choices.

The questions we need to pray about are:

Does his pro life stance outweigh his stance on the surge?
Does his pro life stance outweigh his stance on the interpretation of the Constitution?


Mag said...

Father also says that it is licit for us choose either to vote for a pro-life candidate who seems to have no chance at winning, or to vote for the leading candidate who is not perfectly pro-life. I will vote for Ron Paul if I have to write his name in and my reason for that is that not one baby is going to be saved if McCain is elected. His "pro-life" stance is too weak, he plays politics too craftily, and he does not have the same opportunity for supreme court appointments that Bush had. If pro-life voters would unify in voting for Ron Paul by write in (or by third party should he change his mind about running on a third party ticket) the upcoming Republican defeat would be overwhelming and would send a much clearer message to the party. I also sincerely doubt that McCain could defeat Hillary; therefore, the Republican defeat in November will not send a clear message as to the strength of the pro-life movement. Nor will it send a message about the moral and fiscal outrages of the "war".

mrsp said...


Why do you think McCain's pro life position won't save lives? It certainly will slow the process more than an the aggressive pro abort position of Clinton/Obama. I agree his position is not perfect but it is better than the alternative option given to us byway of the dems.

Concerning writing in RP on the ballot. I hold the position that a writein ballot for a candidate that has very little chance of winning, is actually voting for the Dems. That is not to say that a person shouldn't watch and be attentive to RP as the months roll along, but as of today, it appears even a writein campaigm won't give RP the republican nomination for president. He would need to get at least 90% of the remaining delegates. Seems unlikely.

Again, the problem is not with RP or any conservative for that matter. It is the culture. It is dominated by liberals and if we do nothing then the libs win by default. We, as conservatives, need to vote smart. Of course to decline to vote at all is a vote for the dems and a vote for RP, at this point, is a vote for the dems; however, a vote for McCain is at least a possible slow down of the decay of the culture in some areas.

I do agree that if voting for a candidate is a violation of your conscience, then you cannot do so.