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NDVotes panelists address voting questions

| Tuesday, October 4, 2016

With the impending reality of the upcoming presidential election, NDVotes hosted a panel on Monday night in the Geddes Hall Coffee House called “Should ND Vote?” Patrick Deneen, the David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies and Daniel Philpott, professor of political science, aimed to explain their answers to this question as part of Voter Education Week. 

Deneen said he would not tell a person not to vote.

“I’m not going to argue tonight that you shouldn’t vote, and voting is a waste of time,” Deneen said. “If I were an economist, I would tell you all the reasons why voting is not a good use of utility maximization. I’m not going to make those arguments.”

Deneen said Alasdair MacIntyre, the Rev. John A. O’Brien senior research professor of philosophy emeritus, wrote an essay explaining why a person would choose not to vote this November.

“MacIntyre regarded the fact that we continuously have bad choices put before us … choices that are daunting or lacking [is] not an accident,” Deneen said. “We merely have instincts that the system has unsatisfactory choices.”

Deneen said these bad choices are founded in human nature.

“The reason that we continue to have unsatisfactory choices is not just because our primary system is broken or the various people that get involved in politics are insufficient or undesirable,” Deenen said. “It’s that the very system itself is used to unacceptable choices, because of fundamentally mistaken commitments … grounded in mistaken understanding of human nature and, in some sense, if we had a different system entirely, we might have some more decent and supportable candidates.”

Deneen said he, however, did not fully support this idea.

“I want to stop momentarily and avoid my assigned topic on whether or not [Notre Dame] should vote and just ask — or at least suggest — the following into consideration, which is whether or not this is the right debate to have or the right question to ask when we think about citizenship,” Deneen said. “If MacIntyre’s right, the problem doesn’t just lie in the system, the problem doesn’t just lie in our politicians — it lies in our citizenry.” 

Deneen concluded with a final explanation of his views on citizenship.

“We should challenge the ways we think about citizenship and think about the ways we can exercise citizenship in [a] way that if we were deprived of our common enterprise with other citizens, it would be … as if we were taking away half of our lives,” he said. 

According to Philpott, the Church encourages voting. 

“That’s actually how the Church views it; it’s a noble thing to participate in politics,” Philpott said. “It’s a hard thing not to participate — it would be a wrong thing not to participate.”

Phillpott said American Catholics reflect the population as a whole.

“They’re really not so different from Americans at large,” Philpott said. “However, when pollsters start to factor in not only if you identify as Catholic, but whether you go to Mass, you start to see some differences from the general public. It’s not that going to Mass is the critical thing — it what we would call a proxy for a more informed Catholic faith.”

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