I write on the day before Super Tuesday, but my reflections here pertain to the entire election season of 2012, and in fact, of every election cycle.
If you look at the writings of the Catholic Church regarding political responsibility, you often see reference to what is important to “Catholic social teaching” and a “Catholic conscience.” And, of course, that is important to understand, especially for Catholics.
But it is important for us as Americans to also understand the American basis of our social conscience and political responsibility, and, moreover, for us as human beings to understand the purely human basis of the same things.
We are Americans, and as such, we have the right, duty, and privilege to take part in a political process that gives us a voice, not only in who will be elected, but also in who will be on the ballot. Hence, primaries and caucuses are as important to participate in as the general election. To fail to participate in elections is to cheapen the precious freedom, not only given to us through the commitment of our Founding Fathers, but preserved for us through the commitment of the brave men and women who have fought and died for our country. So many of them went to war; many did not return. Many are still in harm’s way today. The least we can do to honor their sacrifice is get out of our house and vote. The least we can say in the pulpits is that “it’s Election Day and we should vote.”
As Americans, moreover, we acknowledge the Creator as the source of our right to life, a right that the government exists to secure (see the Declaration of Independence). So I have less and less patience for anyone who is going to dispute in any way that the protection of human life is and will always remain the fundamental issue for the political community — and this applies to every election, every year, on every level of government. Again, this flows from what we know as Americans, not just as Catholics.
Then there is the purely human dimension. With all due respect to the Church to which I belong and to which I am loyal, it is from my human nature and the commonsense embedded in it that I come to the conclusion that we have an abortion holocaust on our hands, and that nothing else is taking more life than this act of violence. The alarm going off in the minds of millions (mine included) over abortion was not set off by the Church, nor can it be turned off by the Church. And that alarm, for so many of us, is primarily what impels us to go to the voting booth, both in the primaries and in the general election.
Ultimately, the motivation to be politically active is not so much about philosophy, theology, or morality as it is about arithmetic. What’s counted in the end is not opinions or reasons, but votes.