confusedIf we are faced with the choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as presidential candidates an increasing number of Catholics are saying, “What do I do? Both of them are awful! Do I vote with two hands–one to hold my nose? Do I have to vote? Isn’t a vote a participation in evil?”

This is what our bishops say:

We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life, especially those of God’s children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable. We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue–or lack thereof–is a judgment not only on them, but on us. Because of this we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest.

This page at EWTN offers more detailed guidance on the duty to vote.

It will still disturb many people to vote for a person they cannot trust and who they think will bring about a great evil simply to vote “against” someone they consider even worse.  Along this line of argument people could vote for either Hillary or Donald as the lesser of two evils. It would be a toss up.

Some  will say, “I’ll vote third party or write in my candidate.” Of course that is likely to be at best a wasted vote, or at worst, a vote for the person you’re trying to vote against. Furthermore, when you consider the realities of the American electoral college in the election of a president things become even more complicated.If your state (like mine) will most assuredly elect a particular candidate, then your vote against that candidate is a wasted vote anyway.

Others would contend that it is wrong to vote on purely utilitarian and tactical grounds and that any vote for a scoundrel is wrong, and they should therefore not vote at all in order not to participate in evil.

There is a way forward for people of conscience. I call it the Amish option. I may be wrong about this, but I understand that the Amish only vote in local elections. They believe that a vote for any presidential candidate or major political party is a vote for evil because they all support (either explicitly or by doing nothing) the deadly status quo of abortion, war, capital punishment, abuse of the poor and privilege of the rich. For them any vote for the “big guys” is not only a wasted vote but a sin. In the present conditions it’s difficult to disagree with them.

They exercise their civic duty, however, on the local scale. They get involved in local politics and they vote in local elections. This solution seems a sensible way forward. It also has the advantage that on the local level you might actually accomplish something. At the local level you might just clean up a little bit of corruption. At the local (and I include state) level you might just elect someone who can help get things done which will make life different for the ordinary people at the local level.

This idea also chimes neatly with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity which teaches that initiatives should be taken and problems solved at the lowest level possible.

It also has the advantage that you, the voter, might actually feel that you are doing something positive and practical. You are exercising your duty as a citizen and making your voice heard at a realistic level, and this will  help you feel more confident and hopeful about things really getting done.

Does a Catholic HAVE to vote for Hillary or Donald–or any of the candidates for that matter?

I don’t think so.