Posts tagged with: presidential election

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
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In today’s Acton Commentary, I offer a brief reflection on the results of Election Day in the United States, “Politics, Character, and Competition.”

I’ve heard a lot of wisdom and a lot of foolishness in the hours since the final results were announced. The initial speeches have now been made, and we are in that in-between time, the pause of sorts between the election and the inauguration of a new president.

It’s a good chance to take a breath and exhale, to get away from the helter-skelter of a truly historic and dizzying campaign. But it is also a good chance to think hard about where we are and how we got here. Once we have an idea about those things, then maybe we can have a better idea of where we ought to be going.

What happened yesterday was important, but it is easy to exaggerate its importance in the heat of the moment. Politics remains downstream from culture even as there are feedback loops. Reform is certainly necessary, but all true reform begins with ourselves.

Acton Institute Director of Programs and Education Paul Bonicelli joined host Juliet Dragos on WZZM 13 News in Grand Rapids, Michigan yesterday to discuss the choice facing evangelical voters in the upcoming 2016 presidential election. You can watch the interview below.

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In a new article written for the Wall Street Journal, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, Fr. Robert Sirico, makes an important point regarding the integrity of Catholic politicians. While respecting the traditions and doctrines of the Catholic Church, one should not compromise or adjust points of faith depending on the institutional context. “Key doctrinal and moral rules apply to all Catholics in all contexts—in business, at home, or in elective office. One cannot “personally” oppose something while making a living advocating it.” The Catholic Church does not call members to pick and choose doctrines most convenient with one’s worldview—however this is has happened in today’s political landscape. (more…)

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Jill Stein (Green Party), Rocky Anderson (Justice Party), Virgil Goode (Constitution Party), and Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party).

When it comes to something as important as a presidential election, most Americans don’t want to vote for a candidate who will very likely lose. But pragmatic considerations have no place in the voting booth, for two reasons. First, one person’s vote almost certainly won’t impact a presidential election. Second, voting for someone we consider the “lesser of two evils” loses sight of the value of the voting process. We should, instead, vote for whomever we think is best for the office, regardless of his or her likelihood of winning. More and more voters are beginning to approach the election in this way.

Well over 50 candidates ran for president in 2012, 26 of whom had ballot access in at least one state. Ninety-eight percent of the popular vote went to just two of those candidates. The third place finisher, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, finished with just 1 percent of the popular vote.

This year is looking to be dramatically different. Gary Johnson and presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein have been receiving as high as 13 percent and 7 percent in national polls, respectively. These numbers are higher than those any third-party candidate has received in a general election since Ross Perot in 1992. (more…)

You don’t necessarily have to be a member of the Libertarian Party to appreciate it. In a new piece for the Federalist, Acton’s director of programs, Paul Bonicelli suggests that there are libertarian questions that voters of all parties should be asking. Libertarians, with a focus on limiting federal power, question the size and scope of the state and its bureaucrats, as anyone supporting individual freedom should.

Some of the questions Bonicelli offers are:

  • Does the U.S. Constitution permit the government to do this?
  • What would this power look like if it were expanded dramatically in scope or in time?
  • Does this power represent the government putting its thumb on the scales to prefer some competitors over others, perhaps based on their relative power and influence?
  • Are we acting out of fear, anger, or self-promotion?
  • Is there any evidence the government is any good at this?
  • What would your worst enemy do with this power?

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President Obama has been re-elected, and as many commentators point out, he faces a nation even more divided than when he took office.

In his victory speech, the President’s message came back to unity, how “we rise and fall together as one nation and as one people.” This comes, I should note, after a campaign that sought to demonize the rich and downplay the efforts of the entrepreneur. For those who believe prosperity comes from a full-scope appreciation of mankind, from the minimum-wage worker to the business owner, the President’s calls for national unity likely ring hollow. This is an administration that has taken a fracturing zero-sum approach to human engagement. If unity is at all possible, as the President hopes, it will require a fundamental realignment of rhetoric and policy.

Yet I am hopeful that such a realignment is indeed possible. Unlike his victory speech in 2008, the President seemed refreshingly aware of the inevitability of ideological conflict. “Each of us has deeply held beliefs,” said the President. “And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won’t change after tonight, and it shouldn’t.”

As I’ve written elsewhere, this stirring of the passions is a positive sign of social and moral engagement—what Madison called democracy’s “relief”. If properly identified and channeled, such sparring can be a boon for authentic unity should we actually recognize our disagreements and move to the dirty work of sorting things out. Ideology is important, and the first step to restoring economic confidence, whether through the investor, the entrepreneur, or the low-level laborer, will be for this administration to recognize that it has thus far led a significant segment of economic producers to feel isolated, insecure, and picked on.
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In 1977 a pro-life Jesse Jackson compared the pro-choice position to the case for slavery in the antebellum South:

There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of higher order than the right to life. I do not share that view. I believe that life is not private, but rather it is public and universal. If one accepts the position that life is private, and therefore you have the right to do with it as you please, one must also accept the conclusion of that logic. That was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private …

When Jackson prepared to run for president as a Democrat, he dispensed with his pro-life position. I’m convinced this was a grave error, but I sympathize with Jackson’s dilemma. When I was in college, I was frustrated at having to choose between politicians who defended the rights of the unborn (usually but not always Republican) and, on the other hand, politicians who supported abortion rights but who seemed ready to do so much more to help the poor.

I eventually came to see a couple of things that resolved the dilemma for me. First, I realized that a prudential judgment to leave more charitable work in the hands of private initiative was not morally equivalent to choosing not to protect the life of the unborn—was not morally equivalent, in other words, to viewing the matter as “above my pay grade,” as President Obama put it. That is, I came to realize that the decision to neglect the government’s core role of protecting the life of some of its citizens (the unborn) was vastly worse than the decision to push for less government involvement in helping the poor.

The other thing that helped me resolve my love-the-poor/love-the-unborn dilemma—and this came into focus only as I began to connect my good intentions with a study of economic history—was this: The well-intended government poverty programs from the 1960s and ‘70s have had many unintended consequences, consequences that have done much to hurt poor communities over the long-term—whether in inner cities or in places like rural Appalachia. If you believe in the sanctity of all human life, including the life of the unborn, but you hold your nose and support pro-choice candidates who support current or even increased government levels of federal spending on welfare programs, I urge you to watch this six-minute video featuring experienced Christian poverty fighters. It’s entitled “How Not to Help the Poor.”

Watch it. Pray about what you see and hear. Then allow whatever you find insightful there to inform and guide you as you discharge your duty as a citizen of a nation dedicated to the proposition that all humans are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.