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Both Campaigns Set Their Sights on Catholic Voters
“…you've got a lot of Catholics in the middle… Independent Catholics are sometimes described as quintessential swing voters. Many feel conflicted. On social issues they're pulled toward Bush. On economic and social welfare issues, they're pulled to Kerry and the Democrats." [Newhouse News]

Debra Murphy's Homepage

Democrats for Life
Democrats who advocate for life, from beginning to natural death, including, but not limited to, opposition to abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia.

"...advocates broad ownership of property and capital within a society. Features of our modern economic systems that derive at least in part from the Distributist philosophy include cooperative enterprises, microenterprises, income tax deductions for interest paid on home mortgage loans, Employee Stock Ownership Programs and credit unions, this last being undoubtedly the largest and most important legacy of the philosophy." [Just Peace]

John Paul, the Great—The Misunderstood Pope, by Debra Murphy
Media pundits who've been harping all week on the Pope’s ‘strict adherence to traditional Catholic morality and doctrine’ have it wrong. The fact is, John Paul II forged one of the boldest reconfigurations of Catholic theology in centuries.

Pretty as a Picture: A Review of the Therese movie, by Debra Murphy
The 'Thérèse' movie is as pretty as a Thomas Kinkaide painting—and that’s the problem. Thérèse Martin’s spiritual battle against ravenous emptiness was anything but pretty.

The ‘American Way’: Family and Community in the Shaping of American Destiny, by Allan Carlson
“Carlson concludes by arguing that, despite the half-hearted and partially successful attempt of the Reagan administration to again forge a link between the American identity and healthy family life, much bolder measures are necessary if American culture is again to be put on a family- and community-centered footing.”  [Amazon.com]

Writer proposes pro-life plan for the Democratic party
“I am confident that the Democrats could create a policy that the Republican Party, for all of its pro-life rhetoric, has to my knowledge never offered. Kerry could offer a guarantee that any woman with an unwanted pregnancy would be assisted by the federal government, perhaps in league with faith-based initiatives…” [CS Monitor]

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Bush vs. Kerry, or Holding My Nose in November

For ex-Democrat, non-Republican Catholics like me, it’s time for that quadrennial exercise in masochism known as 'the lesser-of-two-evils vote.'

Debra Murphy

Here we are again, at the height of our nation's quadrennial exercise in masochism—that mother-of-all slick advertising scams known as a Presidential Campaign. I doubt even late-night TV's Ron Popiel could have fabricated more marketing-of-useless-products mischief than what the American people, forced to choose between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, are being subjected to in lieu of genuine political options.

Oh, for the good old days. In the midst of the Republican soybean fields of downstate Illinois, I was raised by two die-hard Democrats who had experienced, by way of the New Deal and the WPA, the difference government could make on the daily lives of average citizens. But by the time I was an adult, the Democratic Party had begun to shift its primary focus away from meat-and-potatoes issues of social justice, to Big Government support of an increasingly un-mainstream ideological platform that had more to do with social engineering than with social justice. This shift was epitomized, of course, by the Democratic Party's fierce embrace of pro-choice feminism, with all its attendant pieties, from gay marriage to abortion-on-demand, from surrogate parenting to stem-cell harvesting to Orwellian bans on "hate speech."

Choose your poison: Big Government Post-Modernism or Big Government Corporatism?
But I knew I could never be at home in the Republican Party, either. Although ostensibly pro-life, the GOP has remained, as ever, the party in the pocket of Corporate America. (And the bigger the corporation the bigger the pocket, not to mention, pocketbook.) Sure, the Republicans toss us pro-lifers a tasty morsel now and then. I rejoiced mightily when Bush signed the ban on partial-birth abortions; but as an increasingly convinced supporter of small-is-beautiful Catholic social teaching, I remain haunted by Eisenhower's prophecy about the Military-Industrial Complex, for which Dick Cheney could serve as poster boy. There was nothing for this ex-Democrat, non-Republican to do, in our lesser-of-two-evils bi-partisan mess of a political system, but turn (gag) Independent.

But I still have this November problem. I've never been a political junkie. Worse, a B.A. in History was just enough study to convince me that the Law of Unintended Consequences will operate in full vigor during the next administration, however clever we think we are in choosing the best candidate. For a while, I even toyed with the possibility of casting a protest ballot for a third-party candidate. But after investigating all the third party options this year—there is no Distributist Party of America, alas—I realized I couldn't even "make a statement" with a throwaway third-party vote. A close reading of the Directory of American Political Parties was one of the more depressing experiences in my recent memory.

For instance, as much as I like many of their positions on assorted issues, the Greens are as pro-choice as the Democrats, roast 'em, and the Libertarians are as goofy on the "lifestyle" issues as Gavin Newsom. Ditto all the Socialists and Trotskyists, who still spew old-line, hard-line Marxist blather as if 1989 had never happened. The "pro-life" extreme Religious Right parties, meanwhile, when not outright white supremacist or neo-Nazi, nevertheless give off a scent of John Birch-y anachronism, like those "family values" satellite TV stations that broadcast nothing but re-runs from the 1950s. I mean, what did the 1950s give us but the 1960s?

I suspect I’ll be voting for the devil that I know rather than the devil that I don’t know.
I've never been so close in my life to not voting in the presidential election at all—surely a cop-out and a sin for a conscientious citizen of any persuasion, religious or political. So, beyond sending a few bucks to Democrats for Life, I'm back to participating, it would appear, in that other quadrennial exercise in masochism, the one known as "the lesser-of-two-evils vote." What'll it be this year, Deb, choose your poison: Big Government Post-Modernism or Big Government Corporatism? Since both parties have gone a-whoring with the empire builders of every utopian persuasion, which gross national product should Empire America market to the unsuspecting world in the next four years? Madonna or Wal-Mart? Chemical abortifacients or chemical pesticides? Planned Parenthood or Planned Obsolescence?

In the end, seeing as how the worst of the damage has arguably been done on the international front—Lord, make it so!—and a Kerry administration in perpetual flip-flop would serve us little better in tidying up the ham-fisted Bush-Cheney mess in Iraq, I suspect I'll be voting for the devil that I know rather than the devil that I don't know, in hopes that Dubya may finally bring forth that longed-for but possibly mythical creature known as a pro-life Supreme Court. Were that miracle of grace to occur (and assuming that "four more years" don't push us even further down the road towards a cataclysmic Clash of Civilizations), I might actually end up looking on this campaign as one of the less objectionable.

I suspect, however, that the best thing I will be able to say about the November 2004 election, come November 2008, is that it gave us jibjab.com.

One thing for sure, when I complete that ballot in November, I'll be holding my nose.

And crossing my fingers.

And praying.

A lot.

August 18, 2004

Debra Murphy has written articles, with her husband Daniel, on family culture and spirituality for the Catholic press in the U.S. and the U.K. Her short story, "Yardsticks," won the 1998 Kay Snow award, and appeared in the Winter 2002 issue of "Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion." Debra's debut novel, "The Mystery of Things," will be published in December 2004 by Idylls Press. She lives in Oregon with her husband and six children.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

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11.01.04   beckisb says:
I just found this web site, and I just read this article. It is the breath of fresh air I have been waiting to inhale since this election race began. I'm a Catholic, registered Democrat who absolutely despises the stance both the Republican and Democratic tickets take on certain issues. I'm surrounded by hard core Republican friends and hard core Democratic coworkers, so I'm often caught in the middle with no place to call home. It's so nice to know I'm not alone in my feelings and concerns, and that I'm not the only one who thinks neither party or candidate offers a true and consistent representation of how the issues should be handled. Thank you for your profound, eloquent, articulate reflection of what I've been experiencing in my own heart this entire campaign. And by the way, I'm thinking this Joe Schriner guy might just be the write-in candidate I've been looking for. I was going to write in Martin Sheen's character from the West Wing as my protest. It's nice to have an actual guy who is truly running!

09.16.04   metameta says:
At least you can say about Bush is that he doesn't claim to be Catholic while voting diametrically opposite to what his faith teaches. Check out this site, Kerry Wrong for Catholics, on Kerry's anti-Catholic record:

09.08.04   johnxteresa says:
This is a great thread. The opening line of Human Lover's post really sums up our faith. “Our Church is rich precisely because it is an integration of all aspects of human life, a full theology.” This is well said. Our faith truly is multidimensional. It's worldwide and two thousand years deep. This article by Debra Murphy is kind of funny but really demonstrates a big problem for serious Catholics. Her article gives a general description of both parties in terms that Americans informed by their catholicity can relate. I don't really disagree with anyone here. I tend to agree with Lubac's post. The right to life is fundamental, and there is no room for compromise. All other issues are secondary to that. And I couldn't agree more that once we win this battle, the war for life is not over. There will never be an “omega point” unless the Lord returns. Our war is against materialism. Whether the subcategory is fascism, marxism, socialism, or capitalism, materialism seems to be the big overarching philosophy that plagues us Catholics. We will always be at war with it. There are a lot of misguided, yet well meaning Catholics who see materialistic solutions to social problems as somehow doing God's work. They allow their politics to influence their Catholicism. I agree with Lubac's criticism, that the vote really isn't a hold your nose exercise. The peculiar institution of abortion undermines our society. Its existence makes the right to life the pivotal issue of our time. If you doubt this go view a late term abortion on Father Pavone's site priestsforlife.org. How anyone can support this evil is beyond me. Although I agree with Lubac, we can't take a flat two dimensional approach to social problem. The full scope of social justice is a big deal that cannot be ignored. We Catholics have to resolve these problems. We have to inform society, because we truly do get the politicians that we deserve. Politicians thrive on misery, and operate out of expedience. Politicians are the ones who use the lesser-of-two-evils criteria to sustain their political lives. Perhaps Mrs. Murphy should rethink such a utilitarian criteria to decide her vote. Maybe it's better if she said that I am voting for life, instead of holding her nose. Perhaps it's time as Catholics to let our religion influence our politics, rather than our politics influence our religion.

08.30.04   human lover says:
Our Church is rich precisely because it is an integration of all aspects of human life, a full theology. We are the Body of Christ. And just as the hand cannot say to the eye, 'I don't need you,' so we cannot ignore the aspects of our Church's teachings that we think we may not "need." There may be no good choice for President here, and if Catholics want to base their vote on a few issues which they deem most important, they certainly have that right. But the Holy Father does require us to examine our faith as an Integrity, that voting on one issue does not exhause one's responsibility to the common good. There is a new website, www.votingcatholic.org, by the Catholic Voting Project which pits the records of Bush and Kerry against more than 50 policy areas discussed by the USCCB in Faithful Citizenship. I think this is a more helpful way to consider voting, and gives credit to the richness of our Church than a simple 'litmus test.' You may decide you only want to base your vote on a narrow range of issues. I am inspired and informed by the totality of Catholic doctrine, including the radical notions of loving your enemy and the last becoming first.

08.24.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
Michael,Excellent comments. If Kerry were to get elected this November, he would join a stellar group of the wealthiest Presidents in our history (Washigton [Federalist], LBJ, FDR, JFK). You are correct: as imperfect beings we must base our choice on our Catholic beliefs. Bush may stutter (like Madison), seem naive (like Carter), lisp (like Jefferson) or ignore all noun/pronoun-subject agreement, but, he does the right (and righteous) thing. He acts to stem the (ongoing) threat to Christianity and western culture. I write of militant Islam.He visits (how many now? three times?) our Holy Father and listens to his concerns about Catholic issues (right to work, immigrate, right to life, stem cell research, Israel-Palestine). I do not recall Clinton or any Catholic member of his administration seeking guidance or opinions from the Holy See.Politics is about religion because it is about culture in all of its manifestations. I choose not to see certain movies, listen to or buy certain types of popular music, not read certain magazines or books because of what I believe. As an American this is my constitutional right. As soon as an issue becomes part of the political process, it enters the purview of my faith. And I must respond (desiring to avoid the 'neither cold nor hot' allusion of Christ's) accordingly.Many Americans want their President to be 'sexy' and telegenic. To speak in that sugary patois of the slick snake oil salesman of the Plains in western lore. Sometimes the truth is black and white. Sometimes issues (such as nascent, unborn life) are beyond logic and 'individual's rights.'And sometimes the man who does the right thing, acts the right way and seeks to improve the world (through the dismantling of dictatorial regimes and fascist fundamentalists) is characterized as a buffoon with ape-like ears and a penchant of grammatical sillliness.But he's getting our (family of 7) votes this November. Keep up the good thoughts, Michael.Jonathan

08.22.04   alexander caughey says:
If the result of the November election produces a result that elects Bush or Kerry, then we should have no reason to blame the two candidates, for American society is producing the sort of candidate that society is able to muster in order to fit into the position of not being able to wear the sort of responsibility that comes with occupying the White House, for the following four years. That society is responsible, should enable us to focus on our own inadequacies, so eloquently displayed by Bush and Kerry. When do we stop blaming the political parties and their respective candidates, when they are nothing more or less, than the manifestation of society, in its appetite for more wealth and power?That many rush to condemn, one party or another, for there woeful shortcomings in serving society, should remind us all that society is failing itself, by producing the sort of candidate that is unable to serve society with the sort of policies and leadership that is needed to transform society into a model of serving each other, rather than serving the selfish wants of a variety of powerful and influential pressure groups. It is time for all the indignant righteous to surrender their personal agendas and create conditions in their own lives, that will enable all who are in need, to benefit from our input into helping them by restructuring our society so that it can better respond to all who are in need of justice, fair play, fair wages, humane health care, freedom from crime and right to be treated in equality with all who are citizens of the United States of America.Until the time arrives in our life, when we yield our life to the greater good, by sacrificing our own view of living, to the needs of those who are unable or are denied the rights and privileges that we enjoy, we can expect nothing but the end product of our own greed and indifference, to the needs of all who are in real need of our focus and assistance.

08.22.04   lubac says:
There is this massive confusion even among well-read Catholics that making the choice between the Democratic and Republican parties in general or the vote this November in particular is a choice between two evils. However, authentic Catholic teaching provides clear guidance on the matter. This is from Christifidelis Laicis # 38:"Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition of all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination." Contrary to the assertion by Debra Murphy in her article, the upcoming election is definitely not a choice between "Big Government Post-Modernism or Big Government Corporatism". There is simply no proportion between the two that would allow the deficiencies of the two parties to be spelled out in the same breath. The choice is radically and unequivocally between a whole-hearted embrace of the culture of death on the one side, and a realistic (and valiant) stab at the culture of life on the other. The pro-life efforts of the Bush administration have not been mere "tasty morsels now and then." If pro-life Catholics are not thrilled by the results, always on the look-out for that "mythical creature known as a pro-life Supreme Court", a positive clue would be the sheer venom and hatred expressed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL at the policies of this President. He must be doing something right to get evil entities all riled up against him. The practical results of cutting off the global funding to Planned Parenthood may not be easy to quantify explicitly, but then since the struggle is against the "powers and principalities" one should look for more spiritual (and therefore more intangible) consequences. If the goal is nothing short than the re-orientation of a murderous culture (enthusiastically embraced by the Democratic Party), one would also be advised to stop fantasizing about a "mythical creature known as a pro-life Supreme Court" as if that were the omega point of the pro-life movement.The Republican Party is not (obviously) the Kingdom of God on earth, and we are not going to vote for the Vicar of Christ in November. Republican failures and deficiencies seem to be of the mundane human varieties; there isn't a murderous ideology fueling its drive as with the Democratic Party. As Christifidelis Laicis says, _unless_ the right to life is defended, all other social concerns are _false and illusory_. That pretty much guts all possibility of an authentic Catholic vote for Kerry this November.michael

08.20.04   joncn says:
Thanks PJC64 for your suggestion of Joe Schreiner. He sounds like a very appealing candidateAll the good stuff that attracted me to Kucinich, but none of the far-left junk.

08.20.04   pjc64 says:
Has anyone out there heard of Joe Schriner? “Average Joe,” as he self-deprecatingly terms himself, is a former journalist and drug counselor who has been running for President since 1996, traveling the country in an old RV, interviewing ordinary citizens about their needs, dreams and aspirations.The man is basically a walking representation of Catholic social doctrine. He’s 100% pro-life. He’s a daily communicant. He supports family unity, social justice, subsidiarity, volunteerism, modestly circumscribed foreign policy, Third World debt relief, voluntary simplicity, conservation, farm development, respect for the environment, reparations for past wrongs and equitable distribution of the world’s resources. No hypernationalism (isolationist or imperialist), no laissez-faire ideology, no utopian social engineering, no radical individualism, no radical collectivism. Admittedly, some of his program seems as quixotic as... well, as quixotic as an underfunded private citizen running for President of the United States, but I guess that just comes with the territory.Check out his website: http://www.voteforjoe.com. If you don’t fall in love with this man, you’re made of stone.That said, I tend to agree with Debra Murphy about her vote — which will be cast in muddy-purple Oregon, where votes count. While Dubya has few plusses; Kerry, as far as I can tell, has none. As for me, here in midnight-blue Connecticut where our votes are basically worthless, it’s Average Joe all the way.

08.18.04   Godspy says:
For ex-Democrat, non-Republican Catholics like me, it’s time for that quadrennial exercise in masochism known as 'the lesser-of-two-evils vote.'

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