Saturday, October 25, 2008

Get Out My Vote

I have tried to keep politics out of this blog, and I have little stomach for it in most cases anyway, but Fallen Sparrow has written another of his typcially breathtaking posts, this one about the current presidential political conflict in the context of eschatology, and it has gotten me thinking.

I will start off by saying that, unless I'm able to discern that I should do otherwise, I don't expect to vote in the upcoming election. This is not a glib choice, and is actually quite a personally painful one. As some of my readers know, I grew up in an idealistic and committed left-wing family, and the natural choice of my heart, and even of my blood -- my family has had an intergenerational commitment to the civil rights movement going back about seventy-five years, and, coincidentally, that branch of the family is based in Chicago -- would seem to be Obama. And in fact, though I'm not exactly sure what he stands for, Obama is a powerful and moving symbol to me of change, and of the hope that there might be a real chance of healing the festering racial misunderstandings and injustices that still divide our country.

I am, however, repelled by Obama's understanding of abortion rights, so I most likely won't be casting that vote. Still, I hasten to say that I think the furor raised over his stance on FOCA and the "Born-Alive" bill misses the point entirely. I am convinced that Obama, like many if not most pro-choicers, truly believes that, while abortion is a personal tragedy and even a moral scandal, the compassionate stance is to ensure that it's legal. I know, because I was on that side myself, and I can't tell you how many women I've met who say, "While I would never have an abortion myself, I think other women who need to should be able to" (I used to find that complacent opinion particularly devastating after I had my own abortion, and the question of need is perhaps the most troubling aspect of this attitude, but these are issues beyond the scope of this blog post). To call Obama (or any other pro-choicer) a baby-killer or a willing accomplice in evil is wrong and misguided, and only serves to further balkanize the debate. I'll say it again: pro-choicers believe that keeping abortion legal represents compassion towards women in need, and even towards children. If you disagree, as I do, then go out and change hearts. It's better to light one candle, etc.

Nor can I in good conscience vote for McCain, whom I used to respect but whose recent campaign has rather sickened me. To vote for the Republican ticket because of life issues would be, to quote Samuel Johnson out of context, the triumph of hope over experience. The president of the United States has virtually no say over the legality of abortion in those states, as we've clearly seen with the Bush 43 presidency. Regardless of who a President McCain would appoint to the Supreme Court, I don't believe Roe v. Wade will be overturned in our lifetimes. To do so would cause political upheaval; if the current Court overturned Roe tomorrow, there would be carnage in Congress on November 4. Does anyone seriously believe that your congressman wants to go back to his constituents and take a stand when he's finally in a position to vote on a piece of real legislation? High moral dudgeon is easy, but with a real, not sham, bill in Congress or a referendum on a state ballot, careers would be made and lost in an instant, and no one in power now wants to see that happen. And, even if Roe were overturned, abortion would undoubtedly remain legal (with some restrictions) just about everywhere.

I also think there are other criteria on which to choose the leader of the free world, and McCain fails my litmus test on most of them. Any symbolic pro-life aura reflected upon his presidency by his running mate would be seriously mitigated by his own stated support for preemptive war and the torture of prisoners.

In short, I am unable to determine who here is the lesser of two evils. I feel stymied, and, frankly, upset about sitting out this crucially important election, but at present I feel (to make another oblique Doctor Atomic reference) like Arjuna on the battlefield, who has lain down his arms and declared that he will not fight.


CGHill said...

For slightly-different reasons, I find myself in almost the exact same predicament, and I suspect I shall resolve it in precisely the same way: by choosing to support neither.

Pentimento said...

I'm really praying about this, because I dislike the disaffected position to which one is relegated by choosing not to vote. In a way, it's consciously refusing to take responsiblity for a choice which will be ambivalent and will have ambivalent results for the country. I suppose we have to accept imperfect choices and their imperfect consequences, but right now I'm in a quandary.

Anonymous said...

Ora et labora. That is, pray and work. My mentor, Russell Kirk, didn't take voting seriously. He voted for Norman Thomas in '44 and Eugene McCarthy in '76.

Nonetheless, G.K. Chesterton once noted that when a democracy executes a man, all the voters stand behind the hangman. We need to vote for justice in whatever way our informed conscience teaches us to do so.

Pentimento said...

Hi T.Q. - good to see you around! If you read my more recent posts and their comments, you'll see that this quandary erupted into a full-scale interpersonal conflict that involved grave allegations. And you'll see also that I've changed my mind about not voting.

God bless you and yours,

Anonymous said...

"pro-choicers believe that keeping abortion legal represents compassion towards women in need, and even towards children. If you disagree, as I do, then go out and change hearts."

Yes - change hearts, do not legislate. Because making abortion illegal does not stop abortion. It only harms women.