Monday, September 29, 2008

Ethical Escapades in an Electoral Epoch

So I’ve got writer’s block and the political climate is particularly rank and invasive into every aspect of life right now. I figure, why not, I’ll write about politics. But not about specifics.

Personally, I hate the circus that this (and the last few elections) have been. Contempt for all the candidates does nothing but grow as I read up on them and the two party system we currently have operating…well, I don’t want to start about the garbage the “Parties” have gotten us into over the last decade and a half.

Let’s detach ourselves emotionally from the rigmarole polluting our good citizens ears and take a somewhat Socratic look at political ethical theory.

One of the very interesting things I find in my conversations is the Party Line (you know, the bullet list of Officially Supported Policiestm that they demand you follow when you sign on) and how much it requires someone to fall in.

Let’s elaborate. Say, for argument’s sake, someone believes very strongly in the immigration, taxation, death penalty and environmental policies of the Democratic Party, but is also a devout Catholic who firmly disbelieves in abortion. That doesn’t jive with the Party Line. Here’s where the ethical quandary jumps up. Now of course, a knee jerk reaction might be that its just one issue, it can be overlooked for the sake of solidarity during an election year. I think that’s the easy, unthinking way out. Its simply turning a blind eye to an issue by our hypothetical voter.
So, the issue now comes down to what is more ethical? Can someone turn a blind eye to one issue for the sake of some electoral “greater good,” but if so, how much does that one value matter to the voter? Something like abortion isn’t a small matter; much like war, death is involved. Which is the greater value: the individually held belief or a grander scheme? And even then, which is the grander scheme? Supporting a candidate for election in the hope of (whatever) change or a defined “sanctity of life” issue that theoretically oversteps political boundaries. Tough question, isn’t it?

At this casual stage of examination, I see three options available to our ethically interested pro-life hypothetical voter (or EIPLHV). The first is a simple disavowal of any pro-abortion candidate. Bit of a hardline stance, one might argue. Still, a move like that takes (hopefully well-thought out) conviction , and for the voter who makes that decision, sticking to it with consistency is an admiral slap in the face of Party conformity. The reasoning is clear behind it. The issue really matters to our EIPLHV and they have the stones to stick to it, regardless of whatever “The Man” may want otherwise.

Option two: Swallow the bitter pill of moral guilt and go along with something our EIPLHV finds wrong. The reasoning here is also clear. The EIPLHV looks at the list of issues and chooses to vote in favor of the quantity of agreed issues. Arguments of greater good are raised. After all, if the candidate follows through on all of the promised campaign promises (I apologize for venturing into fantasy land, but it is a hypothetical situation after all), then our voter could say that it was worth it. But was it really? If the abortion issue is so important for our voter, isn’t this a lot like selling out? An excuse, or worse, a lie told to allay one’s guilt? It may smack of realpolitik, but it doesn’t sound particularly ethical, does it?

The third option: Building off of option two, the EIPLHV closes their eyes and pulls the lever for a candidate they agree with on all the issues except one very important one but doesn’t want to sell out their morals. If that is the case, then shouldn’t the voter become more involved in the civic process. Now, I’m not talking about running for office themselves necessarily, but a vote is in some ways like an investment in a candidate? You, along with however many million other people, put that candidate in office. Makes you something of a shareholder. If the shareholders in a company don’t like something, they make it known, yes? Why should the shareholders in the biggest company of (the government) all hold their tongues when they don’t like something? Isn’t that part of the democratic ideal? It’s a compromise option, our anti-abortion voter chooses to support a pro-abortion candidate, but ethically, are they not obligated to seek a discourse in the hopes of changing the candidate’s mind? If the voter feels that strongly about the subject to agonize over the election, then it certainly shouldn’t end on polling day. A responsible candidate should be willing to discuss such important matters of ethics, much as a responsible voter should be willing to raise those kinds of issues.

I’m sure there are other possible paths for our hypothetical voter to travel down, but I’m tired and this was just a thought exercise anyway. This is meant to be a rhetorical venture anyway, so I’m not coming to any kind of definitive answer. I’m not a Democrat, so its not even my problem.

Actually, if anyone gets anything out of this, I hope it’s a more active self-examination of the Issues that matter to them in this heated political climate. Voting just because some shadowy “Party” tells you to is not only lazy, its irresponsible, unethical and undemocratic. If you agree with a Party, good for you, great. Just remember that you’ve got the voting power, not them. Just because they want you to vote for something does not mean you should automatically obey.

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