Saturday, November 17, 2007

More on conscience and politics

I don't want to make this a partisan post, but I probably will not succeed. So, let me state up-front that when it comes to electoral politics among Catholics we agree on ends, but we sometimes differ as to means, which simply boils to down to the exercise of prudent judgment. Of course, we must avoid doing evil that good may come from it, or, put in a more recognizable way, ends do not justify means. We must also always seek to do that which is good and avoid that which is evil.

I think it a fair assessment, using recent history as our guide, to state that Republicans have sought, though often half-heartedly and ineffectively, to restrict abortion and Democrats, by-the-large, but with some exceptions, have sought to expand it. However, I think this an over-simplification that does not reflect a recent shift in the politics of abortion, as regards both parties, with Democrats becoming more willing to oppose the unrestricted abortion license and Republicans not feeling compelled to continue seeking bans and restrictions on various procedures, especially in their flirtation with Giuliani. By politics of abortion I am not using politics as a pejorative term, but as a way of answering Aristotle's question, posed again recently by Fr. Neuhaus.

The hot topic of abortion, to which I add those of the environment and marriage, is easy fodder for the cannons of cynical politicians of both parties, who shamelessly pander to the party's faithful while seeking nomination. Needless to say, in an age of party non-affiliation, neither the Democratic nor the Republican faithful are reflective of the citizenry at large- this is why tri-angulation, Dick Morris's (in?)famous strategy, is now the strategy of all presidential aspirants, though they must all reject the term tri-angulation. As in all things, there are exceptions, one in each party: Tom Tancredo and Dennis Kucinch. It is because these candidates have the courage of their convictions that we know what they really stand for and it is because what they really stand for is known that they won't, thankfully, get the nomination of their respective parties.

It has been a Republican electoral strategy for years to pay lip service to restricting abortion and defending marriage, while using this as a cover for their more unpalatable enterprises, defending the horrible status quo vis-à-vis health care, reckless foreign policy, undertaking highly quetionable military actions, and being fiscally irresponsible to the detriment of the common good in ways that benefit the rich and corporations and widen the gap between the rich and everyone else. The Democrats, for their part, have all too readily played the perfect foil by taking extremely radical stances on abortion, marriage, and the environment, the latter of which they use in much the same way Repubicans, heretofore, have used abortion, to pick just three.

I think with the 2006 elections, however, the Democrats learned something, which the Republicans are now in danger of jeopardizing by flirting with nominating the personally opposed, but in-favor-of-the-unrestricted-abortion-license Mayor Giuliani. The lesson Democrats seemed to have learned is that U.S. citizens, who are nothing if not pragmatic, favor placing restrictions and bans on abortion. In other words, short of rape, incest, and the life of the mother, citizens of our land do not like abortion. Of course, as Catholics, we are morally opposed to abortions in cases of rape and incest. Therefore, at least to my mind, this is where "the art of the possible," comes into play. It also bears noting that the partial birth abortion ban, which was thankfully upheld by the Supreme Court, was passed in a fairly bi-partisan manner.

Democratic candidates for president in this election speak far more carefully about abortion. An article that I introduced into a thread over on dotCommonweal gets it about right. It is by Dennis O'Brien, it appeared in America magazine entitled No to Abortion: Posture, Not Policy. O'Brien, at the behest of Peggy Steinfels, also posted on the Commonweal blog.

One final observation is that when one looks back on how successfully the Republicans have reduced the definition of being pro-life to mean only opposing abortion and how they have wielded abortion as club, both against pro-choice opponents and against Christian voters, in order to keep them in line and voting Republican, it is difficult to see how they can possibly maintain credibility and nominate Giuliani with a straight face and tell us that, in the absence of a Republican candidate who opposes abortion, it is now alright to use proportional reason when voting, especially since in the past all the argumentation has been of the absolutist variety, with an eye toward turning millions into single issue voters.

All of this before getting to the vexing issue of fetal stem cells, the harvesting of which seems to enjoy bi-partisan support, whereas human cloning is opposed by a majority in both parties.

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