September 24, 2008

For Whom To Vote

I've been mentally grinding on a post about the economy, but I think I'll wait on that for a bit. This just seems more pressing, if not more immediate.

What if there were a presidential candidate who was perfect in every way, save one? He* would be perfectly versed in constitutional law, a decorated general, availed of a vast and successful executive and legislative experience. He's smart, he's funny, his policies are well-considered and air-tight and they all dovetail perfectly with your own policies. One problem: in order to extend his life, he elects to eat one innocent child a year.

Obviously this is the extension of the traditional Machiavellian conundrum. But I think it begs an important question: "What flaws in an otherwise-perfect candidate render him (or her, I guess) unelectable?" And make no mistake about it, this IS a Machiavellian equation. Because in the end, so long as someone is going to be elected, there will be flaws in that person and places where he disagrees with your own political philosophy. Positions that you hold distasteful to be sure and, increasingly of late, positions that one finds unethical, immoral and simply untenable.

For example, let's take the traditional Christian Conservative issue d'jour: abortion. On a personal choice level, the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates of both major party have claimed (or have had claims made on their behalf) to be Pro-Life... so I guess that's easy. And on a matter of policy, while McCain's Pro-Life chops are certainly questionable in comparsion to other conservatives, Obama is (somewhat evasively) Pro-Choice, so I suppose this ethical issue is fairly open and closed.

But what happens when, as is the case with... say... gun control, both candidates publicly support the same stance and privately support different stances. Obviously, there is the question as to whether or not the candidate whose personal views contradict (or at least, do not synch) with his public views will actually uphold the stance that he espouses for public policy or whether he will turn to his personal practice. On the other hand, let's suppose for the sake of argument that two candidates both agree upon a point of public policy and yet one holds a contradictory view in his personal life... should that matter? In the end, the policy will be the same... and yet, his personal life is an affront to that policy. Accusations of pandering fly and vitriolic rants about "moral responsibility" and character begin to be flung around by single-issue groups at the fringe.

For me, this whole exercise is particularly puzzling insofar as it is one of moral shades-of-grey, even for those whose morality is always in black and white. And yet, it seems to me that political advocates belonging to any given group of moral absolutists (Christian Conservatives included) do their friends and members a disservice by failing to note the obvious moral shortcomings and compromises requisite in the game of politics. Perhaps, it is, as the Wizard notes in Wicked's Oz, "There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities" and moral absolutists are, almost to a man, representative of this.

To attempt to render all of politics into simple absolutes is both foolhardy and myopic and in the end serves to muddy the waters. Moreover, it contradicts the basic Biblical truths that emphasize the sinful and imperfect nature both of mankind and of the world in which we live. While it's certainly not easy, for Christians to fail at understanding and evaluating the moral tightrope which their politicians walk and failure to make educated decisions based upon that educated viewpoint means that this demographic will continue to be mistreated and poorly served by candidates such as George W. Bush who misuse their morality in a cynical and manipulative ploy to serve their own unethical and immoral agendas.

*Obviously a female presidential candidate falls short of perfection. Obviously.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at September 24, 2008 11:25 PM | TrackBack