Looking Back at Election Day

The 2012 campaign is over, and the dust is settling.
After asking me how our recovery from Hurricane Sandy is going, most folks these days then inquire about how I think “the Church did” on election day.
Such a question usually triggers a mini-catechism lesson from me, as I reply that, actually, “the Church” wasn’t on the ballot, and the election was hardly a referendum on “the Church.” The Church, I go on, was founded by the one who stated that “My kingdom is not of this world,” and whose members consider the statement of St. Paul, “We have our true citizenship in heaven,” as inspired by God. The Bible’s caution, “Put not your trust in princes,” would today probably be rendered, “Put not your trust in politicians.”
All true enough, and, in a genuine way, this attitude gives us a benign indifference to politics and elections. We “seek first the Kingdom of God,” not the power and platforms of worldly politics.
But this “indifference” is tempered by the fact of faithful citizenship. We are, as a matter of fact, very concerned about matters in this world, precisely because God has revealed truths about the human person that have serious implications for people of faith. So, yes, while we are much more passionate about heaven than earth, about the teachings of Jesus and His Church than the platforms of any party or the promises of any candidate, we do have a duty to bring the values of faith to the political process.
Did we, Tuesday a week ago?
The data is still coming in, and will be months in arriving and being interpreted. But, once again, it seems as if “we won some, we lost some.”
One issue of deep concern to Catholics and many, many others is the defense of marriage from those who would presume to redefine it to suit contemporary movements (e.g., divorce on demand, “trial” marriage, or “same sex” marriage.) Up until this election day, 32 states had given their people the chance to “redefine marriage” (an oxymoron for us), and 32 said no! (Some states took a more sinister route, ignoring a referendum, and allowing the legislature to tamper with the definition.)
The news last election day was not as bright, as the dilution of the essence of marriage won in three states. So, it’s 32-3. But, there’s no denying that the “winds are changing.” I’m told that the results were close in those three states, and that the exit polls showed that people of faith voted not to redefine marriage.
The death penalty is another issue of concern to those who believe that the promotion of the dignity of the human person and the protection of human life is the normative guide in our voting. Here again the results were not positive. The electorate in California had the chance to reject this lethal and unjust penalty. The Church in California did its best to preach the “Gospel of Life,” but apparently was less than effective. The referendum lost.
Better news in Maryland, where the Church was true to our birthright of advocacy for the immigrant, and was part of a coalition very successful in pushing for the Dream Act, allowing immigrant children to attend college; and a ray of sunshine in Massachusetts, as Cardinal Sean O’Malley led a strong ecumenical and community based effort to defeat euthanasia.
It gets touchy when we try to analyze the presidential election with the lens of faith. Some assume that the re-election of the president was a setback for people of faith. That may be an exaggeration. There is no denying that the president and his party are on record in promoting guidelines that gravely intrude upon religious freedom, and in their desire to expand unfettered access to abortion at all stages. These two issues are of towering import to people inspired by the principles of human dignity and the sanctity of life.
The polls show that Catholics voted for the president, but that such support was lower than four years ago; and that Catholics who attend Sunday Mass regularly heavily supported his opponent. These statistics would support a contention that Catholics do indeed let their faith have a say in the politics.
Of course, through the eyes of faith, neither candidate was perfect, as no political leader ever can be.
Some general impressions and worries do seem dominant 10 days later:
• Thank God we are citizens of a country where campaigns and elections occur peacefully. Not every country, tragically, can say that.
• While we may be weary of conflict over political issues, even within the household of faith, it at least shows that we Catholic take our citizenship seriously, and do try our best to let the light of faith illuminate our political decisions.
• I do worry about campaigns that let candidates off easy when it comes to substantive content on urgent issues, concentrating instead upon soundbites and caricatures.
• I am concerned about the lopsided influence of well-oiled PACs, funded by the rich on both sides. (The bishops in the state of Washington report that they were outspent 12 to 1 in their attempt to defend marriage; Cardinal O’Malley tells us that his opponents, promoting euthanasia, had all the money they needed for ads.)
• I worry that the Democrats have gone from wanting to keep abortion “safe, legal, and rare” to the party that wants abortion at every stage of pregnancy, with no defense at all of the baby in the womb, completely funded by the government.
• I fear the Republicans have turned their backs on immigrants, succumbing to the old American curse of nativism.
• I’m concerned about a growing sentiment in our country that turns John Kennedy’s lofty challenge on its head, as more and more now chant, “Ask not what I can do for my country, but what my government can do for me.”
• I worry about the popular wave of branding people who want to protect the life of the baby in the womb, and defend marriage as traditionally understood and given, as narrow-minded bigots trying to “impose” their outmoded views on others.
• And I fear the dictatorship of the self: those on one side who insist that my money, my property, my income are all mine, and I have no duty to others, especially the poor; those on the other side who claim that my body, my urges, my sexual preferences, my life, my choices are supreme, and will not be subject to the common good. (Even to the right to life of the baby in the womb).
When all is said and done, we plod along, knowing that this side of Gabriel’s trumpet, we’ll never have a perfect setup, that Christ is our King, that “we have here no lasting home,” and that faith and the freedom to live it out is the greatest protection of all to the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of life.