Voting, the common good, and believing the best of others
I propose that the end of voting is the common good.
I further propose that one is morally obligated to vote in a way that they sincerely believe has a reasonable possibility of most promoting the common good.
If this is true, then voting for a third party candidate must not be done solely on the basis of who you believe is the best candidate. You may never throw up your hands and say, “I don’t like any of the candidates running, I’m writing in myself because I’m the person I agree with the most.” In other words, you may not cut off your nose to spite your face.
Note that it is NOT required that your vote be given to a candidate that actually has a chance of winning. Voting morally has nothing to do with winning. If you KNOW a 3rd party candidate has zero chance of winning, you may still vote for them **if** you believe that your vote will have some OTHER kind of effect that “has a reasonable possibility of most promoting the common good.” For example, you might make the case that you want your party to receive funding in the next election (http://www.fec.gov/info/chtwo.htm), so you are trying to get your candidate to the necessary percentage of votes so that in the next Election they have a chance of winning.
Again, note that a vote for a candidate that has no chance of winning must be justified by more than “I always vote for the best candidate.” You must justify how this vote is prudent and has a reasonable chance of success in achieving the common good. Conversely, voting for a candidate that DOES have a chance of winning must be justified by more than “I always vote for the best candidate that has a chance of winning.” Nope. Also not good enough. Sure, that candidate might be the best in this election, but what kind of long term effects might happen to the common good?
What does this mean for this election? For those saying they’ll vote Trump, I would ask you: “And do you believe that ultimately this is the best thing for the common good? What long term effects could he have on the conservative movement and the pro-life movement?” For those saying they’ll vote for a third party, I would ask you: “It is highly likely we’ll see very bad short and long term effects. Do you TRULY believe there is a reasonable chance that your vote in the long term has the possibility of having even more GOOD effects for the common good?”
Finally, I propose that yes, reasonable serious Catholics can answer these questions in different ways and come to differing conclusion about which approach “has a reasonable possibility of most promoting the common good.” This is the virtue of prudence, and prudence does not guarantee the correct outcome, it just guarantees that your process of coming to a decision was reasonable. Prudence is a cardinal virtue. Here’s another one: justice. In justice you owe it to your fellow serious Catholics to assume they are trying their best to exercise the virtue of prudence. That means you may argue vigorously with them, but you may not argue that your position on the way to vote is the ONLY conceivable outcome, and other way of voting is anti-Catholic, or pro-Choice, or exhibits any other kind of defect of character. That kind of attack, my friends, is neither just nor prudent. In the end, no matter what happens we’re all going to need some extra fortitude, and I think, based on how this election is making me want a drink, a LOT of temperance.