Governor Stupak?

One of the latest noteworthy political rumors is that Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) is considering a run for Governor of Michigan. A Stupak victory would be a decisive pro-life victory for Michigan and drastically change the abortion policies promoted from the state’s Governor’s mansion.

Democratic Representative Bart Stupak, a leader of a drive to toughen anti-abortion restrictions in President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul bill, said he is “seriously” considering running this year for governor of Michigan.

Stupak told reporters last night he is “really concerned where we’re going as a Democratic party of Michigan,” and “I may very well be the strongest candidate because, as you know, I don’t do everything my party tells me.”

He said his independence, shown in the health-care debate by his insistence that an overhaul bill clearly ban federal dollars from being used to pay for abortions, “works well” in a general election contest.

Still, he said he won’t join the gubernatorial race if a “heavy duty” primary battle develops for the Democratic nomination. In such a case, his opposition to abortion rights would alienate too many voters.

“You have a small number of people who vote in a primary and they’re not necessarily pro-life people,” said Stupak, 57.

Michigan Lieutenant Governor John Cherry earlier this month announced he wouldn’t run for the top job, leaving Democrats without an obvious frontrunner. Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, is barred by term-limit laws from running again.

Representative Pete Hoekstra, 56, is among several Republicans vying for the seat.

If Stupak joins the race, it would force Democrats to defend a House district that includes Michigan’s entire Upper Peninsula, an area generally friendly to Republicans. Stupak, a former state trooper first elected to Congress in 1992, was the driving force behind abortion restrictions included in the House’s draft of a health-care bill that now threatens to delay a final agreement.

Stupak said he will make his decision on a gubernatorial run in the coming weeks, saying he needs to first gauge opinion in parts of the state outside his district.

22 Responses to Governor Stupak?

  • I am a Catholic and a Democrat. Yes, a Democrat, a pro-life Democrat. I am not the only one. I am searching for a group within the Republican party who are anti-death penalty. Do they exist?

    I see much publicity saying you can’t be Catholic and pro-choice. I agree. But I can’t find anything saying you can’t be Catholic and pro-death penalty.

    Ah, to have a totally pro-life party would be a blessing.

  • Cathy,

    This is an argument as unfortunately common as it is mistaken.

    Abortion and capital punishment are not on the same moral level.

    Abortion is murder – it is the slaying of an innocent human being. It is intrinsically evil.

    The death penalty is, under certain circumstances, a just and necessary means of protecting society. It is not intrinsically evil. It has only been declared immoral under conditions in which it would be possible to serve the same end by a different penalty, such as life imprisonment.

    No Catholic is obliged to morally oppose the death penalty.

    CCC 2267: “the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor”

    Unfortunately too many Catholics believe that abortion and capital punishment are equivalents. They are not, not now, not ever.

  • Joe, I must disagree with you on capital punishment.

    Innocent people are convicted of crimes. That is a fact. Here is just 1 story: http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/12/16/florida.dna.exoneration/index.html

    The Catechism states “if this is the only possible way…” Capitol punishment is not the only possible way in the USA. We do have life imprisonment.

    The passage you quote says to me to choose any possible options that avoids taking a life. Pope John Paul II agrees:”Pope John Paul II has declared the Church’s near total opposition to the death penalty. In his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life) issued March 25, 1995 after four years of consultations with the world’s Roman Catholic bishops…” Here is a link to the story:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/angel/procon/popestate.html. From there you can link to his encyclical.

    Even persons who “deserve” to die are God’s children. Taking away a criminal’s life also takes away his chance to reconcile with God, to repent. We can not assume to know the potential of a person for repentance. Norma Corvey the Jane Roe of Roe vs Wade became pro-life and Catholic.

    Yes, abortion is the evil slaughter of innocents. A criminal may be evil and when he dies may spend eternity in hell. Our only job is to lock him up to keep him from doing more harm. He is God’s child and God will judge him.

    I sympathize with wanting to make a distinction between abortion and the death penalty, but that involves making a judgment on who deserves to live and die. Only God can do that.

    Neither of these issues is always completely black and white. But here in the USA it would be completely possible to eliminate the death penalty and still keep our citizens safe. That is what the Church teaches, now and always.

  • Cathy,
    You are wrong in what the Church teaches. Unlike abortion, the Church’s teaching regarding the death penalty requires a prudential calculus. Life imprisonment is not a perfect answer to capital punishment. You do realize that each year predators with life sentences rape and murder other prisoners. In addition, many murders are ordered from prison. The idea that locking predators away will always keep others safe from them is simply mistaken and naive. Reasonable Catholics can differ as to capital punishment.
    I oppose capital punishment in the US and am a Republican. But I can appreciate why some may view it as necessary in unusual instances.

  • “I am searching for a group within the Republican party who are anti-death penalty. Do they exist?”

    I don’t think there’s an actual group of anti-death-penalty Repubs, but there is one current GOP candidate for governor of Illinois, Dan Proft, who has an interesting take on this issue.

    Proft said recently that the current “moratorium” imposed originally by Gov. George Ryan (a Republican) and continued under Blago and Quinn (both Democrats) is unconstitutional and should be lifted. However, he also says he opposes the death penalty, would push for legislative abolition of the death penalty and as governor, and would exercise his clemency powers on an individual basis (something he would clearly have the legal right to do, as opposed to imposing an indefinite blanket moratorium on all executions) to prevent anyone from being executed.

    Proft is pro-life and conservative on other economic and social issues as well. However, he has 6 — count ‘em, 6 — better known opponents in the GOP primary (which is only 2 weeks away) and little if any chance of winning.

    As noted above the anti-death penalty moves in Illinois actually began with a Republican governor (Ryan) but unfortunately, he proved to be crooked as a dog’s hind leg — he’s currently in federal prison — plus he was more of a RINO when it came to other issues.

    So yes, anti-death penalty Republicans do exist. And going back to the original topic of this thread, I am extremely glad to see that pro-life Democrats like Stupak exist.

    I believe and have said before that encouraging a pro-life presence in the Democratic party ought to be the number one political priority of the pro-life movement as it will insure that the movement survives the inevitable swings of the political “pendulum”.

  • Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey is also pro-life and anti-death penalty.

    Re: Stupak. I’ll vote for him in a heartbeat if he runs. The Republican candidates aren’t objectionable by any stretch, but I’m a big fan of the Yooper.

    BUT–I hope he doesn’t run. The facts on the ground aren’t good for the Democrats right now. Sure, Cherry was uniquely vulnerable as Granholm’s Lt. Governor, but the fact he flamed out so badly is a bad omen for the Dems. Stupak might be able to beat Hoekstra, as west siders don’t always play well state wide (“if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much”), but I think Cox beats him fairly easily.

  • Back to the issue at hand. I am conservative (Catholic) who lives in Michigan. I would vote for Stupek.

  • I admire Stupak tremendously. Under other economic circumstances, I’d vote for him in a heartbeat. But, if I lived in Michigan, I’d be voting for a candidate who was pro-life AND who can take the state in a new economic direction. I don’t know if there’s a Republican who fits the bill or not. But I’m not sure Stupak has what it takes to improve the business climate in Michigan.

  • I’m just curious what that new economic direction would be. The major industries in the state are collapsing, which means the tax base is shrinking even while the demand for social services is skyrocketing. I don’t think the Governor, whoever they are, will have that much flexibility. Granted, it depends on who the Republican candidate is, but do you really think they’ll have some sort of magic solution that Stupak won’t because they have an (R) next to their name?

  • Just for clarification: Catholics are not obliged to oppose only intrinsic evils.

    The Church lays out strict conditions, under which, capital punishment would be licit. However, if each of those conditions are not met, then it is valid to say that each application of capital punishment is extrinsically evil and immoral.

    We don’t get to ignore certain evils because the act of evil is not evil in and of itself. Prudential judgment, in my view, has become some sort of smoke screen for moral relativism on non-intrinsic evil issues because to some, not all, every position seems valid for a Catholic as long as there is something of a “Catholic spin” to their rhetoric.

    Matters of prudential judgment are not intrinsically evil and it thus follows that we are not automatically to be excluded from communion because of our position on any given issue. This says nothing about whether certain judgments are in error or others are more consonant with the tradition of the Church.

    In the United States, I happen to think it is hard, if not impossible, to apply the strict conditions put forth by the Church and still find capital punishment permissible. Others, I’m sure, will disagree with me.

    At the end of the day, we all will be held accountable on Judgment Day and I sincerely hope for mercy on those I feel are terribly wrong on this issue; I’m also just as hopeful for that same mercy for myself if I so happen to be wrong.

  • One last thing — I’d vote for Stupak in a heartbeat.

  • Amen. I also pray for mercy and enlightenment.

    I am encouraged by this discussion.

    Peace and Blessings

  • “… but do you really think they’ll have some sort of magic solution that Stupak won’t because they have an (R) next to their name?”

    Yeah, that’s it, John Henry. I think the Republicans who helped contribute to the national mess we’re in have some magic economic formula. Mine was not a partisan point. In fact, I even stated that I wasn’t sure there was a Republican running who fit the bill.

  • “Joe, I must disagree with you on capital punishment.”

    Cathy, you cannot disagree. You can either assent to or dissent from the teaching of the Church, but you can’t invent her position for her.

    “Capitol punishment is not the only possible way in the USA. We do have life imprisonment.”

    Under the present circumstances, yes. The point is very simple: there are some circumstances under which the death penalty is permissible. There are NO circumstances under which abortion is permissible. They are not the same. They cannot be equivocated.

    “Taking away a criminal’s life also takes away his chance to reconcile with God, to repent.”

    This is false. Everyone has a chance to repent. I am fairly certain that few criminals have been executed in Christian countries in the last 2000 years without being given ample opportunity to repent, up until the moment of execution.

    Whatever the shortcomings of earlier societies, they always recognized this fundamental duty.

    “I sympathize with wanting to make a distinction between abortion and the death penalty”

    Your sympathy is not required.

    “but that involves making a judgment on who deserves to live and die”

    It is not about that. The legitimate use of the death penalty is about protecting society, no more, or less. Yes, we do have the capacity to judge what is in the best interests of society. It is not about “punishment.” Those politicians who support the death penalty out of a belief in deterrence, for instance.

    Because of what the Popes have said in recent years, I will assent to the immorality of the death penalty under the present circumstances – though I am not certain that one is obliged to vote against it in the one way is obliged to vote against abortion.

    But I will not equivocate it with abortion, ever. The deliberate destruction of an innocent child will never be on the same moral level as the execution of violent criminals and sociopaths, which may be necessary to safeguard the common good.

    “Neither of these issues is always completely black and white.”

    Abortion is always black and white. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand the Church’s teaching on abortion.

    “Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral.” (Pope John Paull II,Evangelium Vitae, 57)

    The use of the word “innocent” is key; this ex cathedra teaching comes not long after JP II has made clear that his position on capital punishment is that while the necessity for it may be rare, it may still exist – and we cannot forsee how society will change in the future. He does not include it in his ex cathedra teaching. Therefore when you say,

    “. But here in the USA it would be completely possible to eliminate the death penalty and still keep our citizens safe. That is what the Church teaches, now and always.”

    You are simply wrong. The Church does not “teach” that conditions in the USA or anywhere else will always rule out the death penalty. It teaches – it suggests, not ex cathedra – that when and where possible, the non-violent means of correction be used.

    It is important to read the encyclical. His lead-in to the ex cathedra teaching on abortion is:

    “If such great care must be taken to respect every life, even that of criminals and unjust aggressors, the commandment “You shall not kill” has absolute value when it refers to the innocent person. And all the more so in the case of weak and defenceless human beings, who find their ultimate defence against the arrogance and caprice of others only in the absolute binding force of God’s commandment.”

    In other words, it does not have “absolute value” when applied to criminals and unjust aggressors. Our obligation is to first look for a way to settle a problem without violence – not to become pacifists.

  • As for the “change in direction”, I’m not talking about a partisan “change”. I mean that states like Ohio and Michigan need a complete paradigm shift. It’s hard to put into words, but as someone who moved to Ohio from Virginia (and Texas before that), I just don’t see the same sort of can-do spirit of innovation that you see in the political leadership (from both parties) in those states.

    In my view, Rep. Stupak doesn’t seem like the sort of person who would change that (and, again, I don’t know that anyone from either party in Michigan represents that sort of change).

  • Cathy,

    Here at The American Catholic I know of at least two writers that are Democrats and pro-life.

    As for being Republican and anti-death penalty, not sure.

    But for me, though I’m not a republican, I do generally vote for republicans on the national level and I am anti-death penalty (though I respect the opposite positions of others and see many good merits for being an advocate for the death penalty due to certain circumstances.)

  • It is probably arguable that to be successful in helping the state turn itself around economically a Michigan governor needs to not be in the pocket of the unions — but I’m not actually sure what Stupak’s union stance is.

    I would certainly strongly consider supporting Stupak, however, if he was running in my state — just in that I think that standing up to his party in the way he has on abortion should be rewarded.

  • Yeah, that’s it, John Henry. I think the Republicans who helped contribute to the national mess we’re in have some magic economic formula

    Well, I’m just curious about your reasoning. You wrote, “if I lived in Michigan, I’d be voting for a candidate who was pro-life AND who can take the state in a new economic direction?” What policies do you think are necessary that Stupak doesn’t or won’t support?

  • I was making a general point, John Henry, that, while being pro-life is a necessity for someone to receive my vote, it is not sufficient in the economic climate we currently “enjoy” here in Ohio and Michigan. But I guess it’s only liberals who can vote the economy in addition to (or, rather, instead of) life issues.

    I may have Stupak all wrong, but my impression is that he is an old-time labor Democrat. You know, the ones who are pro-life in addition to being pro-union economic liberals. The pro-life part is great (and has earned my undying respect and gratitute – not to mention rave reviews on numerous occasions: see http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/search?q=stupak), but being beholden to unions, in my opinion, ain’t going to cut it in this economic climate. But even beyond that, Stupak doesn’t strike me as, for example, a Mark Warner “the state is open for business” type. That’s what Michigan (and Ohio) desperately needs, in my opinion.

    I could be completely mistaken in my impression regarding Stupak and, if so, I withdraw my economic concerns about him. All things being equal, he’d be a slam-dunk to receive my vote.

  • Well, what rubbed me the wrong way was the way your comment seemed to casually dismiss Stupak as not presenting a ‘new economic direction,’ when he hasn’t even announced he’s running, much less championed specific economic policies as part of his campaign platform. It wasn’t (and isn’t) clear to me what informed your opinion when you wrote “I’m not sure Stupak has what it takes to improve the business climate in Michigan,” other than the fact that Stupak is a Democrat and his opponent would be a Republican. I don’t have any issue with the broader point that you will take into consideration other factors given two pro-life candidates. At the same time, I think it’s better for the pro-life movement and for Catholics in public life as a whole if both parties have prominent pro-life politicians. A pro-life Democratic, Catholic governor of Michigan would be a very healthy thing, in my view, for the pro-life cause and for Catholics in public life more generally. I have no great affection for the Democratic party or for unions; but I am impressed by Stupak.

    But I guess it’s only liberals who can vote the economy in addition to (or, rather, instead of) life issues.

    I occasionally get that impression too.

  • “… what rubbed me the wrong way was the way your comment seemed to casually dismiss Stupak as not presenting a ‘new economic direction,’ when he hasn’t even announced he’s running, much less championed specific economic policies as part of his campaign platform. It wasn’t (and isn’t) clear to me what informed your opinion when you wrote “I’m not sure Stupak has what it takes to improve the business climate in Michigan,” other than the fact that Stupak is a Democrat and his opponent would be a Republican.”

    Well, given that I also expressed doubts that the Republican field was any better, I’m not sure how you reached that conclusion. I admire Stupak tremendously. But my impression (again, which could be mistaken) is that he is not the sort of economic game changer that will achieve the sort of “paradigm shift” that I mentioned above to get Michigan on its feet. But, you do have something of a point: given that I am conservative (but NOT a Republican), I will profess that I don’t see the sort of economic policies that Democrats in this part of the country generally call for as being the answer to Michigan’s (or Ohio’s) woes. Unfortunately, many of the Republicans in this part of the country – who are also caught up in the same can’t-do mentality and are also beholden to entrenched interests – aren’t much better.

    We have our own gubernatorial election here in Ohio, and it is something of a slam dunk for me because the incumbent, Strickland, is a pro-abort while the challenger, Kasich, is pro-life (unfortunately with the usual “exceptions”). But I also see (again, perhaps mistakenly) Kasich as someone who MIGHT (and I emphasise “might”) be an economic game changer for this state. If the challenger were an entrenched-interest Taft clone, I’d be much more likely to find a 3rd party alternative or sit at home.

    The fact is that this region of the country is facing some frightening economic realities. While the rest of the country is suffering from 10% unemployment, this region is facing around 20% unemployment. My own county very recently had the highest unemployment rate in Ohio, and we currently face the highest foreclosure rate in the state.

    This part of Ohio is directly impacted by what’s going on in Michigan, so – even though we have no electoral say in the outcome – we are quite invested in what happens there. I will happily eat crow if Stupak runs, is elected, and is able to make this region business (and thus employment) friendly.

  • Thanks for the clarification, Jay. Apologies for misreading you. It seems to me that economic recovery in Michigan or Ohio will primarily depend on macroeconomic factors beyond the control of either governor (I think their effect is marginal), but I may be wrong, and I certainly hope either way that Michigan/Ohio recover as soon as possible.

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