When I say that I think it is wrong to vote for a Presidential candidate who supports the murder of innocents, including John McCain, people often respond as if they haven't heard what I said. A fairly typical response is that if I expect "perfection" in a candidate there will never be a candidate I can support, as if I had said that a candidate who would answer "no" to the question "does this dress make me look fat?" would be disqualified by taking that position. Lying is, after all, intrinsically immoral. But somehow "doesn't support the murder of innocents" has come to be equated with perfection in our politics.
There is a message in there for those who can hear, it seems to me.
As Evangelium Vitae tells us, there is a very basic contradiction at work when government officials support the killing of the innocent. Protection of the innocent from murder is fundamental to what a legitimate government is. A government which actively pursues the murder of the innocent is not merely doing something wicked: it is negating its own essence, destroying its very reason for being, indeed destroying its own being.
When we vote in national politics, what we are primarily doing - irrespective of what we think we are doing - is expressing our civic loyalty, our affirmation of the legitimacy of the governance which emerges from the election. My individual vote or deliberate abstention, as I have observed to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, is simply not going to affect the outcome of this election. Basing a moral choice on the idea that my vote can change the outcome is lunacy.
What my vote or abstention will affect is me: as a concrete act of civic duty it will express and even change the kind of citizen I am, and the nature of my commitment to the common good. When I am voting for a good politician - not a perfect politician, but one who at least minimally does not support the murder of the innocent - that is a good thing. When I vote for a politician who supports the murder of the innocent, I have contradicted every legitimate proportionate reason there might be to vote in the first place.