Staying home in November is not an option

Here’s a seemingly gratuitous notification, but humor me for a moment: I won’t be voting in November for either of the major nominees for President.

This comes to mind as I overhear a news channel’s talking head asking a pollster about the people who reject both the GOP and Democratic presumptive nominees – “what if they all stay home in November?”

Stupid question, Mr. Talking Head. A better one: What will those people do down-ballot?

#NeverHillary, #NeverTrump. I am a firm believer in the value of defensive elections – voting for mediocre Candidate A in order to block the election of awful Candidate B, if necessary – but that’s not the situation this year. Instead, to my aging pro-life eyes, there are two titanically, epically unsuitable people slugging it out for supremacy.

What’s left is damage control. And that’s why staying home in November is not an option.

What builds the political firewall against a president who wants to protect the abortion industry, or one who is indifferent to the right to life? A Senate that will say no to pro-abortion judicial nominees; a House that takes the power of the purse seriously; elected officials at state and local levels who promote policies that respect the right to life as something inherent in every human being and who allow life-affirming ministries to flourish.

One presidential candidate is very free with the epithet “loser.” I’m not looking forward to the policies that will come from an executive branch led by such a man. Medically vulnerable people, people with disabilities, the preborn, the dying, the condemned, the refugees: where would they find an advocate in a White House occupied by someone who’s quick to label “losers”?

And then there’s the other major candidate, who thinks abortion is health care and who has no problem with compulsory public funding of abortion providers. She’s a fan of Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, and she’s been unwilling to defend the rights of dissenting women like the Little Sisters of the Poor. In her world, no human being has any right to live until someone else grants that right. No one has ever asked her to explain the difference between human rights and humanly-granted rights.  Come to think of it, let her opponent ponder that one.

In my lower moments, I’ve thought that these two candidates ought to run on a single ticket, perhaps with the slogan “what difference at this point does it make?”

Neither of these presumptive nominees has earned my vote. It’s for precisely that reason that I refuse to be a bystander next November. The down-ballot races – all those contests below the “President” line – will affect the extent of the damage a President can wreak.

I’m mindful that apart from any defensive effect, the down-ballot races are important in themselves. I’ve spent enough time at the State House to know that.

I’ve already had some lively offline exchanges with people of good will whose views of the presidential race differ from mine. I’ll say this much to everyone who asks me “but what about the Supreme Court?!”: (a) while I know one candidate is sure to pack the Court with abortion advocates, I have no confidence that the other candidate won’t; and (b) the U.S. Senate can be a firewall, unless it decides to be a rubber stamp. So by the way, this year’s Senate race bears close attention.

To all those who are as repelled as I by the presumptive presidential nominees of the major parties, I say be of good cheer. Vote in November. Skip the top line, and then vote with gusto in all the other races, having done your homework about your choices.

But don’t stay home. Discouragement is for losers, if you’ll pardon the expression.


 

#FITN: how about asking about the mandate?

#FITN: that means First in the Nation, as in first-in-the-nation Presidential primary. We use the hashtag with pride here in New Hampshire. Potential candidates are already swarming, including some Democrats (rumors of Secretary Clinton’s inevitable nomination are a tad premature). I attend candidate events when I can.

At five events recently, during Q&A, I heard the same question asked in almost the same words. A different person asked the question each time; two of them actually read it off a card. Coincidence? Nah. The cards were a giveaway. The well-organized questioners all wanted to know what the candidates would do to stop “the corrupting influence of money in politics” that is wielded by corporations. What that means is “are you willing to overturn the First Amendment in order to get rid of the Citizens United decision?” But this isn’t the forum for that discussion. I’m simply noting the coordinated questioning.

One other thing is brought up at every candidate Q&A I’ve attended, although in a less-scripted manner, and that’s Common Core. The candidates know they have to have some kind of response ready.

So where’s the demand for an answer to any of these question?

  • What are you going to do about the Obamacare contraceptive mandate and its threat to religious liberty?
  • What’s your take on the Hobby Lobby decision?
  • What do you think of last week’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of Notre Dame University, which is seeking exemption from the mandate? As a Catholic institution, the University wants no role in providing benefits like contraception and abortion-inducing drugs through health insurance policies for students and employees.
  • Do you even know what the mandate is? Do you understand it’s not just a Catholic thing? The owners of Hobby Lobby identify as Pentecostals, for example, and the owners of Conestoga Wood Products (whose case was decided with Hobby Lobby) are Mennonites.
  • Must a business owner give up religious liberty rights under the First Amendment in order to offer Obamacare-compliant health insurance?
  • For any candidate who’s a fan of the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, here’s another one: where in the Constitution is there a right for a woman to have birth control paid for by someone else? How does that supercede the First Amendment?

I’m also listening for any candidate who says that by choosing not to be involved in employees’ birth control decisions, an employer is “making health care decisions for employees.” That’ll help me narrow down my list of candidates to consider.

So where are the half-dozen or so voters – that’s all it would take – willing to follow the candidates around New Hampshire and ask about the mandate? Catholics who take Church teaching seriously have the most at stake, given their numbers and the number of health care ministries they administer. Or are we (yes, I’m Catholic) going to stay under the radar and just hope that we’ll get a President who’ll fix the mess?

As the saying goes, hope is not a method.

Will first-in-the-nation voters ask the right questions about the mandate, or will they let candidates get away with avoiding the issue?