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Dude, where’s my proportionality?

Letter to the Editor | Monday, September 8, 2008

Catholics commenting on American politics often point out, correctly, that a faithful Catholic may only vote for a pro-choice politician if the following two criteria are satisfied: 1) The Catholic is voting for the politician in spite of the latter’s support for permissive abortion policy, not because of it, and 2) There are “proportionate reasons” to support the pro-choice candidate over his rival. In other words, in the 2008 presidential election there must be some good quality that the pro-choice candidate (i.e. Barack Obama) possesses that is so good that it outweighs his support for abortion-on-demand. So once we’ve agreed that there are circumstances in which a Catholic may in good conscience support pro-choice politicians, the next question is, how can this reasoning be applied to Barack Obama’s candidacy? Is there a reason to support Obama that is so powerful that it outweighs his abortion-rights zealotry?As far as I can tell, the answer is no.Some supporters point to Obama’s foreign policy judgment. Yet, one could argue that Obama’s opposition to the troop surge of the last year and a half was a pretty spectacular misjudgment on his part. And, anyway, it seems to me that no matter who is president, America’s Iraq policy will be a gradual withdrawal over the next few years.Obamaniacs might rejoinder that Obama has a superior energy policy and that energy is the central economic and national security issue of our time. But Obama’s tepidity towards nuclear power (among the “greenest” of energy sources) and offshore drilling isn’t very reassuring.Some people are enamored of “Obamanomics” (mostly because the word has a nice ring to it, I think). But is a massive expansion of the federal government really all that attractive to Catholics who believe in subsidiarity (or even balanced budgets, for that matter)?Lastly, there’s that intangible quality that Obama seems to possess. Isn’t he the candidate of change and hope? Maybe he would be able, through the force of his personality, to usher in a new Era of Good Feelings, during which a united citizenry will root out all forms of injustice. But if you look at his actual record, you will see that he is actually a fairly typical career politician, unwilling to challenge the corrupt status quo in Chicago politics, unwilling to challenge the demagoguery of his own powerful local preacher (until, after many, many years, public opinion forced him to), unwilling even to vote yes or no on many issues, instead choosing to vote “present.” If he didn’t shake things up in Illinois or in the Senate, what evidence is there that he is an effective agent of reform?Perhaps there is a good that he would promote that would outweigh the great evil that he would perpetuate by protecting Roe v. Wade and otherwise expanding abortion “rights.” But I have yet to hear what it is. The next time a Catholic Obama supporter says that abortion isn’t the only issue in 2008, the correct response is, “Well, what selling point does Obama have that outweighs his moral blindness on abortion?” Good public speaking ability isn’t enough.

Gregory BarrseniorKnott HallSept. 7