No sooner had I posted A Catholic Agenda for the Next Four Years than the predictable comments started rolling in—e.g., "[T]here are many tenets of Catholicism that would forbid a Catholic to vote Romney. Single issue politics is shallow thinking"; "It is interesting that you think Mitt Romney and his Mormon beliefs are a reflection of my Catholic beliefs, or that the Republican Party is on the Catholic Church’s side."
Of course, my article had nothing to do with "single issue politics," nor did it suggest that "Mitt Romney and his Mormon beliefs are a reflection of my Catholic beliefs, or that the Republican Party is on the Catholic Church’s side." Indeed, quite the opposite: While I pointed out that President Obama's support for the intrinsic evil of abortion meant that no Catholic could vote for him in good conscience without having a proportionate reason to do so, I also stated bluntly that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney "reflected (albeit in different ways) Catholic social and moral teaching," and suggested (as I have for years) that "the only way to change the political landscape in the long term is to break out of the mindset that we must vote for the lesser of two evils, and only cast our votes for candidates whom we can positively support." (I voted for neither Obama nor Romney, just as I voted for neither McCain nor Obama, because, on the basis of Catholic social and moral teaching, I could not positively support any of them.)
Since my words were perfectly clear, why did some commenters assume incorrectly that I had supported Mitt Romney and the Republicans? The answer may be that they simply did not bother to read the entire article before commenting. That, alas, is fairly common behavior on the World Wide Web. But I suspect the real answer lies deeper: that these commenters, like all too many Americans today, both Catholic and non-Catholic, are so caught up in the two-party system that they cannot begin to comprehend how anyone can choose not to vote for the lesser of two evils.
Before I continue, let me make one thing clear: My academic specialty is political theory, and I am the executive editor of a national magazine that spills a lot of ink discussing national politics. So I'm not someone who has convinced himself, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, that a third party is going to come along and wipe one or both of the two current major parties from the political scene. It's been almost one and three-quarters centuries since that last happened; for good or ill (mostly ill), we're stuck with the Democratic and Republican parties for the foreseeable future.
So any political strategy designed to bring Catholic influence on U.S. national politics back in line with our numbers (25 percent of all votes in the 2012 presidential election were cast by Catholics, and 11 percent were cast by Catholics who attend Mass weekly) needs to acknowledge the fact that the Democrats and Republicans aren't going anywhere. But, I would argue (and have argued for years), we need to acknowledge another fact: Neither major party reflects Catholic social and moral teaching in its totality. Or, even, in significant part.
Whose fault is that? Simply look in the mirror. Catholics who understand the Church's teaching about cooperation with those who support an intrinsic moral evil such as abortion have voted, largely, for Republican presidential candidates who profess their support for pro-life principles but do nothing, once elected, to curtail abortion, much less revisit Roe v. Wade. (And who even, as both John McCain and Mitt Romney did, make it clear during the general election that they regard Roe v. Wade as "settled law.") Other Catholics, including some who do support the Church's teaching on abortion, recognize this deliberate Republican inaction and use it as an excuse to vote for pro-abortion Democratic candidates who say all the right things about torture (another intrinsic evil) and wars that two consecutive popes have opposed, yet, once elected, continue or even escalate those wars and renege on their campaign promises to end torture of prisoners.
And so it goes, election after election, with Catholic voters on both sides of the aisle becoming "sure votes" for either the Republican or Democratic Party, and both parties straying further and further every election from the sanity of Catholic social and moral teaching.
Albert Einstein, it is said (almost certainly incorrectly), once defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." That is a pretty good description of what Catholics who vote, every four years, for the "lesser of two evils" (however they may define evil) are engaged in.
And that is why I argued, in A Catholic Agenda for the Next Four Years (and in many other pieces over the last four years; see the links at the end of this article), that the only way for Catholics in the United States to begin once again to exert political influence in proportion to our numbers is for all of us to refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils, and only to vote for one of the two major-party candidates for president if one or both of them comes considerably closer than any have in decades to embracing Catholic social and moral teaching in its totality.
If you have no problem with the way American political life is developing—if 1.3 million abortions per year and unjust wars and torture are things you can live with—then keep voting as you have been, and we'll keep getting more dead and dying.
If, however, you're finally growing tired of "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," then consider another way. Work hard over the next four years, in your family, your neighborhood, and your parish, to revitalize the culture, and, when the 2016 election comes around, if neither the Democratic nor Republican candidate conforms sufficiently to the totality of Catholic social and moral teaching, don't vote for either one of them. Reject the argument that you must vote for the "lesser of two evils"; refuse to do evil, that good may come of it (cf. Romans 3:8).
If enough American Catholics were to do that, it wouldn't take long for both parties to realize that Catholics are no longer "sure votes." And at 25 percent of the electorate, we would quickly become the most sought-after voting bloc in the United States.
But it won't happen unless we make it happen.