instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Beyond the pale

Can there be a candidate whose positions are so evil that no one with a well-formed conscience could ever vote for him?

The obvious, and even correct, answer is, “Sure.” We can imagine a candidate running on the Dystopian Party platform, the sole plank of which is passage of a law to kill everyone over the age of thirty and use their bodies for food. There is no way to justify voting for such a candidate.

Ah, but is the physical act of marking a ballot in a certain way equivalent to the moral act of “voting for” a candidate? After all, the “risk management” and “symbolic” views sometimes see a vote as being primarily directed against another candidate.

Suppose there were two candidates for an office, one from the Dystopian Party and the other from the Atheist Dystopian Party, which advocates killing and eating, not just everyone over thirty, but everyone accused of having a religious faith as well. Isn’t it reasonable to vote against the Atheist Dystopian by casting a ballot in favor of the Dystopian, especially if polls show a statistical dead heat going into Election Day?

Well, it may be reasonable, but it’s also immoral. By construction, a Dystopian Party candidate can never be voted for. Since the ends do not justify the means, the existence of a worse candidate does not suddenly make a per se immoral vote moral, nor does it change the nature of the moral act whose physical expression is marking a ballot.

If you can never vote for an evil candidate, you can’t vote for an evil candidate ever. And, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reminds us:
[A] well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.
Which is to say, you can’t vote for an evil candidate ever.

So…how do you recognize an evil candidate? Or, in CDF terms, what constitutes a political program which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals, and what, in a representative democracy, constitutes voting for a political program?