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Mass organized boycott

I indicated in a thread now well below that I have a lot of suspicion about the “take my ball and go home” mentality that prevails among many conservatives when it comes to electing our rulers. The detached observer can easily discern the self-regard and impatience from which it often springs. Such an observer will be struck by the impression he receives of folks who feel themselves quite fully entitled to politicians of virtue and probity. Alas, history does not disclose many examples bearing this out. You might live your life without ever setting eyes on a upright man in politics.

Part of the disagreement derives, no doubt, from differences concerning the nature of civic obligation. Does civic obligation apply with force sufficient to overawe, in most cases, the dictates of personal principle? Or do the latter constrain the former sufficiently to induce a wise reluctance to vote at all in many elections?

While I tend to subscribe to the Buckley Rule, so named for the late William F. Buckley’s dictum to support the most conservative candidate who is electable, I am cognizant of the necessity of unpacking what, precisely, one means in a given context by “electable.” The idea is susceptible to imposture like few concepts in democratic politics.

Endeavoring to avoid any impostures, allow me to set forth one form of electoral protest that I could definitely get behind: mass boycott. It appears that of both major candidates in the upcoming election, it will be true to say they have affixed their executive signature to health care bills that coerce the conscience of Roman Catholics by obliging them to underwrite contraceptives.

Now imagine the effect of a widespread and firm unity of Catholics in a determining not to cast a vote for either man.

Let it be proclaimed from the parishes and read out at mass: In good conscience no Catholic may cast a vote for either major party candidate. My children, you can’t vote in this election. Now that would turn a few heads.

Certainly the election could proceed without them; very probably a president would still be elected; nonetheless, a man taking the Oath of Office bereft of a single Catholic vote would do so under some considerable stain of bewilderment and anxiety. The boycott would surely bulk as big a story as the inauguration.

If even half of American Catholics, who normally voted diligently, joined the boycott — why, it would reduce to marvelous ruins every polling model, every worn-out cliché, every bad bit of babble that gets passed off as election commentary. What is the voting pattern for PA shorn of all its orthodox Catholics? How votes Colorado without all the pressure of Catholic orthodoxy preached and flung out in defiance by Archbishop Chaput, now of Philadelphia? I don’t know. And neither do you. This is a protest worthy of name. The touch of rampart and revolt thrills me.

So the day the Church calls for a boycott of elections, this Protestant will sign on without a lick of regret. But until then, I’m sticking with Buckley.

Comments (19)

The term "electable" to me means "capable of getting the most votes". The true test of "electability" is an election. The problem is that we've let the powers that be in this country redefine "electable" to mean "who we want you to vote for". Looking at media coverage and listening to party officials in this primary season, it has become fairly obvious to me that one candidate has been chosen and one candidate has been black-listed. It's not because that candidate is unelectable but rather because the powers that be don't want you to vote for him. So he's marginalised. If you never hear his name, then he must not be electable - right?

I say vote for the candidate who best represents YOU. If he/she gets elected, then he/she was electable. IOW, don't let someone tell you beforehand who is electable and who isn't. Vote your conscience.

Catholics should not have to hold their nose and vote, indeed no one should. I stand with you in your boycott of the two chosen candidates (but for different reasons). I will write in my candidate's name or vote for him third party (if the convention goes like I think it will.)

Let it be proclaimed from the parishes and read out at mass: In good conscience no Catholic may cast a vote for either major party candidate. My children, you can’t vote in this election.

Paul, I think you have to get a grip on reality. The Church that used to issue orders like that is long dead and buried.

Chucky, I understand the main post to be saying that Paul does _not_ intend to boycott the two candidates unless the Catholic Church (or, presumably, a similarly large and influential body) calls a widespread boycott of the election.

It's also a supremely moronic policy for conservatives to "sit one out" in a country where the next ballot is pre-configured based on the voting record of the current election. If every conservative came out and voted for a third party candidate, they would ensure that the next election would see that third party automatically on the ballot. Thus the third party would not waste precious resources on a futile ballot drive petition, but actually doing real electioneering.

Such an ad hoc tactic would naturally ensure a leftist landslide, since leftist CINOs long ago abandoned the notion that the teaching of the Catholic Church on faith and morals is binding. Obedient, believing Catholics stay home: all other, c'mon out and vote for Obama again!

The pretext for the tactic implies that violations of conscience clauses pose no problem for Protestants; or even that Protestants are so fractured that a "Protestant voice" as such no longer exists. Either may be so; if I were still a Presbyterian I might want to take a very slight umbrage at the implications.

Some of you folks appear to have some difficulty with the subjunctive mood in grammar.

To be clear, I do not expect, anticipate, predict or otherwise await a mass boycott of the presidential election. As far as I know, no one in a position to effect such a thing has even proposed it. Nor do I have any reason to imagine that the current US Catholic leadership is even contemplating it.

Can't believe I missed the pun in the title until I re-read this this morning! I admit that your scenario is thrilling and just plain fascinating to think about, although it is sadly extremely unlikely.

As someone who voted for an "unelectable" third party candidate in 2008 and who may do so again this year, I would like to think there is some meaning to my vote beyond resignation. While our votes may not swing anything, or they might even help hand victory to the greater of two evils, if more people voted outside the two parties what would happen is they would start to attract the attention of those parties, wouldn't they? The parties would have incentive to try to fold this or that group of voters into their coalition with some kinds of platform changes.

Perhaps this is what primaries are for, but primaries are for members of a party and I am independent (until such time as a party appears I that I can countenance joining). I do agree with what you said that participating in a primary confers a duty to support the candidate that that primary process settles on. That's what membership means. But, in that case, joining a party would be the kind of decision we ought not to take with that American voter's "detachment," right?

I understand voting as a pragmatic enterprise, I do. But the pragmatic goals of my kind of conservative (which, in shorthand, I would call a "front porch" conservative) at this point has to be, in my estimation, either luring one of the two parties to embrace him and his compatriots, or breaking a party and replacing it. How can either of these be accomplished when we continually acquiesce and deliver our vote to the lesser-evil party?

Pragmatically speaking, the best thing to do is to rush the primaries / caucuses of both parties with people who agree with you. That is when a small, well-organized force can have the most impact.

I was astonished to see that only 12,000 Democrats participated in my state's caucus, compared to about 50,000 Republicans.

As far as I know, no one in a position to effect such a thing has even proposed it.

Paul, this sort of thing actually happens all the time in Protestant circles with the likes of Dobson, Falwell, Robertson, etc.

The premise of a called boycott couldn't happen anyway: in most states you do a write-in of someone other than a party candidate, and in many states there is a third party present: Constitution Party, Natural Law Party, Reform Party, etc. No way a church could examine all of the possibilities and say "you have no business voting for any of these" for all the different states and options.

Aside from that, I am fine with a Mass Boycott - if it is followed up with a positive act, such as the formation of a new party. If you can get 20 million Catholics (and 5 million others) to not vote, then you can get many of those to join a new party. Leaving it as "politics as usual" after the boycott in the hopes of better results next time is crazy. The people elected without the Catholics won't have any reason to cater to Catholic sensibilities in (for example) forming new voting districts, instead they will work tirelessly to permanently marginalize these newly sidelined voters.

I would agree that the choice offered by the two major parties is the choice between two evils. Many will choose to vote for the lesser of two evils. We should not acquiesce to the lesser of two evils but instead vote for a third party alternative.
The Church should teach the faithful that their is a difference between selecting between a lesser good, and selecting the lesser of two evils.


If even just 500,000 conservatives voted for third parties in their states' major elections, that would be enough to get many of those parties on the ballot next time without a ballot drive. We ought to encourage liberals to do the same. It's high time the Democratic and Republican parties were boycotted.

This topic actually brings up an interesting question: why is the right so ineffectual with boycotting in general? The broadly conservative segment of the country is at least 100 million strong, and has more purchasing power than those numbers suggest. To take one example: Hollywood. We hear endless complaints, all true, about the subversiveness and decadence of Hollywood, but then the same people nodding their heads to these complaints go out and see all the new movies. Why do we give our money so freely to people who hate us?

Chris Floyd:

I do agree with what you said that participating in a primary confers a duty to support the candidate that that primary process settles on. That's what membership means.

You may have just convinced me to leave the party I've belonged to for over 30 years because of who they'll nominate this time.

I agree also with the broad sentiment that the two party system needs to end. We the voters are beginning to exit both parties in greater numbers (as evidenced by the increasing number of independents).

The problem is that the two parties don't see independents as anything but moderates who are somewhere between both parties - so they continually water down their positions to try to attract the independent vote. Until the independents actually pick a third party (or a fourth or fifth) and join it, the "big two" won't have a clue what people really want.

If a majority of independents joined the Libertarian party for instance, both parties would immediately become more libertarian. If the majority were to join the Communist party, OTOH, both parties would start referring to their members as "comrade".

Chucky, I promise you, if America had five or six major parties, you'd still hate American politics.


There's a chance I'd hate it less though!

(Disclosure: I'm neither Catholic nor conservative [well, by the standards of this blog!], but I intend this as a friendly suggestion.)

I would urge that a boycott of the two major party candidates take the form of an organized effort to vote for some third-party or write-in candidate (who cd vary from state to state) who is acceptable to those of the movement. One advantage: This decreases the percentage of the vote won by the major candidates, including the winner, who might well be pushed below 50%. That does cast some shadow over the legitimacy of the victory, which I take it would be in line with the goals of the movement.

Some of you folks appear to have some difficulty with the subjunctive mood in grammar.

Paul, I understand the subjunctive. But my point was not that the modern church will not take such an action, or that it is not planning to, but that it simply can not. For it's just no longer in it to do such a thing. That dog won't hunt. There's no there there, as they say. You, on the other hand seemed to be placing such an action in the realm of the possible, which struck me as rather naive.

It's definitely in the realm of the possible, but well short of the realm of the probable.

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