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.