I’ve spent a lot of time on Politics here lately, for a blog called “Catholic Diatribes.” In my opinion, everything in life can be, and indeed should be, viewed from a lens of faith. It need not be the only lens, but it should be part of the equation. In our world, but in particular the country of the United States, we are overly consumed with politics.
Politics can be very difficult to be viewed through a lens of faith. And even when attempted, two people can come to startlingly different conclusions. I won’t re-hash the debate about how a good Catholic can vote for Hillary, but I’ve discussed it before. I never have, and will never understand, how a person of faith can ever support a pro-abortion candidate, among other problematic moral issues.
I do think there is a legitimate struggle with Catholic and other Christian voters who do not plan to vote for Hillary, but who also cannot move all the way to the idea of voting for Trump. While I’ve argued here that no matter how much it may stink, we have no other reasonable option. It might be different if there were a viable third party candidate who extols the virtue we all seek in our public servants from a Christian worldview. That candidate does not exist, at least not in any of the four top candidates who are picked up by the polls. And if you aren’t even registering, the you realistically do not exist and casting a vote there is no different than a no-vote.
So, ignoring the Christians (I exhibited great restraint not putting quotes around that, but still couldn’t not mention that I had great restraint, so I guess it’s only a bit of restraint) who are voting Hillary, we have those who are voting Trump, not voting at all, or voting for a Third party candidate. I’ve heard some people say they are voting Gary Johnson “just to send a message.” Egad. This is stupid if you are a social conservative. Because the only message that says is that you want social issues removed as issues from the GOP platform. People need to think a little bit about the message they are actually sending before they do it.
Things get trickier when you move to Catholic politicians who actually are Catholic. Take Paul Ryan. As a bit of an aside, one of the things that really bothers me is how personal everyone seems to take things that politicians say, do, and how they vote. Paul Ryan is a good man. He is a man of faith, and he is a man of character. Now, he ticks me off sometimes because I think he tries to find a viable political solution while maintaining certain principles, and I think he’s doing what he thinks is right. But I don’t always agree with him that he’s right. In fact, there are many times I don’t agree with him. But is he the kind of person I want in Congress? Absolutely.
Paul Ryan is a man of legit faith, in my opinion. We Christians should not demonize him over budgetary policy and tax policy. We Christians should push back with issue-oriented arguments, but still muster respect for him. As Speaker of the House, he has a lot of responsibility, and I trust that he does things that he believes are in the best interests of the country. I don’t always agree that it actually is, and I am sick of compromise in many areas. And I’l get angry with him from a logistical level. But I don’t hate the man, and neither should anyone else.
Most recently, Paul Ryan has attempted to walk the tightrope between not supporting Trump while not unendorsing Trump. I think if we look at this from the Christian perspective, we can be honest and understand the desire to do this. Despite my continued call to vote for Trump, it is not because of anything particularly favorable towards the man. It is entirely due to the worse alternative, and the fact that I must judge my choice at this point not on character but on a presumption that the probability he will do certain things I align with far outweighs the probability that the other will do anything at all that I align with. And, in my opinion, a man like Paul Ryan should have the clarity of mind to say exactly that. I understand not wanting to campaign with Trump. But most certainly he is smart enough to find a way to make this situation work.
Politically speaking, it is my belief that his attempt to navigate this situation is, at best, not helpful to his cause (which is keeping the House Republican) and is at worst an unmitigated disaster. There are very few people who are going to vote for down line GOP candidates because Paul Ryan has told people to distance themselves from Trump. It’s just not a realistic expectation. However, there is a great possibility that anyone who distances themselves from Trump will get a bunch of “kiss my you-know-what’s” from his ardent supporters and jeopardize their races. Paul Ryan’s move here, which may have been both principled and a political strategy, is simply a horrible mistake and could prove costly.
If it’s costly, I suppose they’ll blame Trump. It’s not as though Trump is helping matters and he could certainly handle this better. But Ryan had to know going in that Trump doesn’t care who he chastises. This may be an immature response, but it is not unexpected, which still places the ultimate culpability on Ryan for kicking the dog in the first place.
I empathize with Ryan. I am sure it is difficult being asked to not only support verbally, but to also campaign with someone who you find distasteful. It is a moral dilemma. But there had to be a better way of navigating this. That horse has left the barn, which is regrettable.