top of page

Voting Matters: The Battle for the Soul of America

I don't think I know of a single person who would deny that voting matters. In our Democratic Republic, we have a chance to participate in the governance of society. We have a chance to make our political opinions known. We cast a vote and hope that our view, our vote, will be in the majority.

It's quite hard to be true to the Consistent Life Ethic in voting when neither party is entirely consistent. We are shouted at from all sides: abortion is the most important issue, or economics and the underlying causes of abortion are the most important issue, or that war policy is the most important, or sometimes even that healthcare is the most important. And it's vital that we have these conversations – because, in the end, what we are fighting for is the soul of America.

But perhaps you misunderstand my meaning: though our vote matters for the outcome of our elections, it matters infinitely more to the moral and ethical well-being and formation of our own souls. When we vote, we are perhaps one of 20,000 votes in our local elections, or one of 2 million votes in our state elections, or one of 120 million in the national election. While our votes cast might mean a drop in the bucket in making the difference between one politician taking office or another, voting itself as a moral action has the power to change the landscape of our own souls for better or for worse.

As someone who adheres to the Consistent Ethic of Life, I look for politicians who both comprehend and work to protect the life and dignity of every human being. Knowing that the respect for the human person isn't negotiable or based on circumstances or abilities, I vote for measures and representatives that will oppose legal abortion, slavery, capital punishment, euthanasia, torture, embryonic stem cell research, unjust war, abuse, and all forms of violence that threaten members of our human family.

But, of course, that's not how our political field looks these days. I find people on both sides of the political spectrum compromising for the sake of a candidate “who has a shot at winning” or even just for the pleasure of voting for someone instead of doing a write-in. I know of pro-life leaders who have led bully-like campaigns to insist that we, as pro-lifers, must fall in behind the major Republican candidate. I also know of people who claim to be Consistent Life Ethic supporters who have cast unabashed votes for politicians who support abortion.

Neither of these strategies is truly consistent in its respect for the voters, nor the interconnectedness of life issues. The longer we compromise just to get a candidate who might represent our perspective on one issue of human rights, the longer it will be until we can actually get a candidate who stands for our holistic voice. The pro-life movement has been trailing along after whatever Republican candidate is the “most popular choice” instead of standing on principle and refusing to be bought with a token nod to pro-life values. I'm not saying that the candidates have to be perfect, but let's understand that our vote has a far greater capacity to affect us as moral individuals than it does to affect the political state of our nation.

I have only voted in a national election twice in my life; considering I'm only 26 years old, I've only had two chances. The first election was in 2008. I was 19, and I had supported a candidate who seemed to be quite consistent in regard to life issues; he (Ron Paul) opposed unjust war, torture, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research. But he was not the Republican Party's candidate on Election Day. I certainly would not be voting for a candidate who supported the right of a mother to have her child killed. I was very uncomfortable with John McCain's policies on supporting pre-emptive war and his mixed record on abortion – but I sucked it up and toed the line that I’d been told I must.

I cannot properly describe the sinking feeling I had after I submitted my vote. I felt dirty and disingenuous. I had done what I'd been told to do because I wanted to be a True Pro-Lifer(TM), but I hadn't followed my conscience. I hadn't adhered to the whole of my principles. I promised myself that I would never do it again. So in 2012, when faced with Mitt Romney and Barack Obama as the two major choices, I thought and prayed and researched. I knew I wouldn't be voting for Obama, but could I, in good conscience, vote for Romney? Mitt Romney not only stood for hawkish policies on war and torture, but he didn't even have a solidly pro-life foundation. He stood for life, except in the cases of rape, incest, and the life and health of the mother. As many pro-lifers know, the “health of the mother” exception is one that can be twisted and used for nearly any reason. I opted, after much consideration, to do a write-in vote. I didn't vote for anyone who supported abortion, nor unjust war, nor torture, nor embryonic stem cell research. I voted my conscience and it has affirmed in me the principles for which I stand instead of watering down my message.

After an experience recently where certain folks have attempted to co-opt my voice, I found it especially salient that I didn't toe the line in 2012. My voice is my own: my principles are those of a consistent respect for each and every human being, and in the end, my vote cannot be bought.

We should not leave our principles at the door when we decide for whom we are voting. You shouldn't leave some of your conscience outside when you cast your ballot. But I'm also not saying you should never ever vote – ever. Just understand that compromising on your principles eventually can and will catch up to you. Voting, as a moral action, can chill your soul to the truth of human dignity in all circumstances if you get too caught up in the popularity contest or the partisan mudslinging.

So, can you do anything other than vote for politically-negligible write-ins when election time comes around? You can, but you can't just say that one of these issues doesn't matter. What does that mean in terms of the moral compromise that we take on when voting?

The issues that should be most important to us as voters are the issues of legal aggressive violence: those instances where our government has sought fit to legalize, sanction, and even subsidize practices of aggression. I would posit that the gravest moral issue that we take on when voting is elective abortion. It takes over 2,900 human lives each day – the most of any issue of violence or health in our nation – and it is seen as morally acceptable and is enshrined in national law. The use of unjust war practices (like pre-emptive war, nuclear armament, and torture) are an important, but perhaps secondary consideration, especially when we consider the causes and side effects like the proliferation of the military industrial complex, PTSD, military suicides, and homelessness of veterans. Next we might consider embryonic stem-cell research (legal federally), capital punishment (legal in most states, but in decline), and euthanasia (legal in some states, but potentially growing).

Financial issues tend to be more widely disputed even in the field of economics, so I will just say that no matter which way we vote, we must do so with the intent to help our fellow man, even if we disagree on how that goal is best attained.