State Interests in the Primary Process

Friday, April 13, AD 2012

I’d like to post a question that reader G-Veg sent to me regarding states and the primary process.

Cursory research suggests that the most common reason cited for states running Primaries is to avoid fraud.  This is certainly the reason cited by Progressives in Teddy Roosevelt’s time for campaign reform.  While not strictly focused on Primaries, 19th and early 20th Century Progressives made huge strides in dismantling political machines.  (Interestingly, at least in Pennsylvania and New York, primary contests have been paid for and managed by the state for as far back as I could research on line.  In Pennsylvania, for example, election officials ran primary contests at least as early as Lincoln’s election and there are records of New York City primaries for Mayor going back to 1850.)

Research suggests that we’ve been doing state paid for and managed primaries for quite some time with almost no thought as to whether there is even a legitimate state interest in the contests to begin with.  I suggest that there is no legitimate interest and that state patronage is both unconstitutional and irrational.

First, I’ll note what we all know: that we have a “Two Party System” by default, not law.  The Constitution of the United States makes no mention of the country’s political makeup or character.  That reality gives particular significance to Washington’s warnings about factionalism.

Second, the argument that State sponsorship controls fraud is, itself, a farce.  It does nothing of the kind because the “back room deals” Progressives sought to control continue to rule the process.  It seems like a well-intentioned but failed experiment.  It is an expensive one too.  In Pennsylvania, for example, a statewide election, whether primary or general, costs a touch more than $1 million (2010).

Third, even if State sponsorship controlled a host of ill effects like fraud, disputed outcomes, and mob selections of candidates, the state has no interest in contests.  So what if Party X chooses a union bullied candidate or one purchased lock, stock, and barrel by monied interests?  Party X can do what it wishes.  They can select by heredity if they want to.  As long as there is a robust general election, how candidates get on the ballot is largely irrelevant.

Fourth, state paid for and managed primaries force out of elections many millions of qualified citizens because there can never be more than two “real” parties as long as the coercive powers of the state are used to keep alternatives marginalized and disenfranchized.  Surely the state has an interest in promoting greater levels of public service among the citizenry and anything that discourages such participation should be overhauled.

For these reasons, I believe that states should stop paying for and managing primaries.  I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Personally I don’t think there’s much under the constitution that would allow the federal government to get the states out of elections, and any large-scale attempt to get the states out of the business may only enhance the power of the two-party system.  But I’d like to hear thoughts on this.

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11 Responses to State Interests in the Primary Process

  • Do away with party registration. Let’s have real parties that you have to join (as opposed to ticking a box on a form). Thus only dues-paying members get to vote on who will be a candidate according to its own rules.

    This will never happen of course, but it’s fun to imagine what rules the parties might come up with

  • At least from my reading of the Constitution, we don’t even need to have primaries. There is nothing in the Con itself that prohibits anyone, assuming they meet the qualifications, from being on the ballot (at least not in the Con itself) or writing in whomever you please. But then, I don’t see anywhere in the Constitution where we (joe citizen) actually elects the President/ Vice-President. This is left to “electors” appointed as each state legislature directs. Theoretically, these electors could choose whomever qualifies for the office, even if the citizenry had never heard of him or her.

    The practiced reality, of course, is quite different. There is probably not a very practical way of doing it without state involvement with primaries, and I don’t see how it would improve things anyway. TV coverage and advertising is what makes candidates, so whatever system you have, you still need money backers and party apparatus, and that is where the corruption comes in.

  • This seems a very interesting concept, though I might be reading G-veg’s proposal incorrectly. The idea that the primary process is just a way of winnowing down the selection of candidates into just two major candidates does seem a bit of a waste when situations like the one we had this year happen that the “major party candidate” is not at all the one most people in the designated “constituency” is excited about. To have multiple national conventions selecting candidates to go up against each other in a presidential election that really pits all the candidates against each other seems interesting. I’m not a history buff in the least. How was it done in earlier presidential elections? Who selected the party representatives? From what I can recall it seems that at most there were only ever 4 candidates vying for the presidency, but I don’t know how they entered the race.

    I’m all for saving money and making the elections even more representative of the national population and not having to settle so often on the “major party candidate.” I just don’t know exactly what it would look like. Nor, as you say, Paul, how it would start to happen. Again, not a history buff (though I would like to be).

  • I am confused. If you don’t have a primary then what do you do? Just not have an election? Sorry – but that makes no sense.

    The point of the primary is to find out who is going to represent that party – what could possibly be wrong with that?

  • The point is not that there should be no primaries but that the State shouldn’t be in the business of determining who the candidates for parties are. The State shouldn’t pay for and manage the selection of party candidates and should confine itself to overseeing the General Election.

    Consider that there are several dozen third parties in the US. The Libertarian Party is probably the best known but we have a Green Party, a Communist Party, and a Constitution Party as well. Set aside, for a moment, any feelings you may have about the ideologies of these non-main stream political parties.

    Why are they any less deserving of State sponsorship than the Democratic or Republican Parties?

    As it stands, the State pays for and manages what is, in essence, a party activity. The result is that the State uses its coercive powers to reinforce the extra-constitutional requirement that one be a member of one of the two main parties if one is to hold elective office. Indeed, since only members of the two main parties can get elected due to State manipulation of election laws and administration of voter registration, the State determines their citizens’ vote.

    If the disenfranchised were in a protected class, the very same actions would be acknowledged by all three branches of government to be unconstitutional. Since the disenfranchised are those with different political views, we allow it.

    The result is the same, the victims are different.

    What if we were to say to the two main parties (I acknowledge here that this a theoretical point since the only way to make this happen is for the representatives of the two major parties to voluntarily cede power) “you may place whomever you wish on the ballot and may arrive at your choice by whatever means you wish but the State will not pay for it and will not manage it”?

  • For what it’s worth, not that G-Veg is arguing for the abolition of primaries, but the current system is of a recent vintage. At least in terms of the presidential nomination process, primaries did not become the almost exclusive means of nominating presidential candidates until 1972. There had been primaries held for many decades before then, but the system was a combination of open primaries and closed party conventions, and the nominees were decided at the national party conventions. I’m not necessarily advocating a return to the older way of doing things myself, but am merely pointing out that primaries are not the only way to determine nominees.

  • “The point is not that there should be no primaries but that the State shouldn’t be in the business of determining who the candidates for parties are.”

    it’s not the ‘State’ that decides. It’s put up to the people of that state to select.

  • I am really ignorant about this. I did not know the state controlled the primaries. i thought that the parties did– in State A, the State A Repubs would control the A Repub primary. Not right?

    re: state paid for and managed primaries force out of elections many millions of qualified citizens because there can never be more than two “real” parties as long as the coercive powers of the state are used to keep alternatives marginalized and disenfranchized.

  • My understanding is:

    1) Party members in that state fund the primaries.
    2) Citizens, not the State, elects who they want representing their party during the primaries by a fair vote.

  • I think G-Veg is being rather punctilious in his complaints. The expense of primaries is a trivial component of state and local budgets, a legal architecture is necessary for allocating ballot access, and the distinction between generic voluntary associations and ‘official’ parties is observed in other countries. It would not surprise me if you could demonstrate that primaries were a contributor to the development of a sterile political duopoly, but I will wager you there are two or three stronger vectors.

    1. We have an unadulterated first-past-the-post electoral system.

    2. There are social and cultural cleavages in American society, but the manifestation of them in particular persons tends in our own time to be strongly correlated. People who are on side A in one nexus of disputes also tend to fall on side B in another nexus of disputes, so you have a political party which promotes both.

    3. Sheer inertia.

    Several modifications:

    1. Supplement the election of legislators single-member district constituencies. Each party would nominate a reserve list of at-large candidates in addition to its district candidates. The sum of votes received by its candidates in all constituencies compared to the sum of votes received by all candidates in all constituencies would determine the number of seats the party received in the legislature. From that total, you would subtract the number won in district contests and then fill in the remainder from the reserve list. The reserve list could be constructed from the party’s unsuccessful district candidates. Simply rank-order the party’s unsuccessful challengers according to the ratio of votes they received to the ratio of votes received by the winning candidate in their district and then rank order behind them the party’s defeated incumbents according to the same metric.

    2. Relax the requirement that districts be equipopulous, develop a practice manual for the construction of districts which delineates impersonal rules for the construction of districts, and devolve any residual discretionary decisions over district lines to panels of local trial judges. You do not need precisely equipopulous districts, and it is (I would submit) better for particular counties and municipalities to be represented as integral wholes. What you need is to avoid systemic over-representation of certain interests in one election cycle after another. (As used to be the case in apportionment of state legislators).

    3. Require at the very least rotation in office for legislators. No one serves more than eight years in any bloc of twelve.

    4. Adopt a practice of ordinal balloting for all competitive elections. Have voters rank-order the candidates on the ballot rather than simply casting a ballot for one to the exclusion of the others. Count ordinal ballots as follows:

    a. Tally the first preference votes of each candidate
    b. Take the ballots of the candidate in last place and distribute them to the other candidates according to the second place preference of his supporters.
    c. Rinse and repeat until one candidate is left standing.

    5. Have local authorities classify each district as ‘competitive’ or ‘non-competitive’ in anticipation of each election. A ‘non-competitive’ district might be one represented by a given political party for at least 20 of the previous 24 years. Because district-boundaries change, authorities will have to construct a simulation of representation by looking at who represented the various components of the district in previous districting schemes.

    6. Have different nomination schemes for competitive and non-competitive districts.

    a. For competitive districts, have each political party hold a district caucus among its card-carrying and dues-paying members. They could subsequently hold a primary among their registrants according to their discretion, but that would not be a requirement. Once the caucus was complete, the party would pay a deposit to the board of elections for ballot access, refundable with a given level of performance.

    b. For non-competitive districts, have aspirant candidates petition among the party’s registrants and then pay the deposit out of pocket. All aspirant candidates would appear on the general election ballot with their party registration listed, but none would be the party’s official candidate. The practice of ordinal balloting would excise any dilemmas and perversities that might arise from the presence of multiple candidates from a single party on the ballot. This practice would replace our current practice of having party primaries as tantamount to election in non-competitive constituencies.

  • I wonder what would happen if the presidents elected by the electoral collage had to not like being president (such as John Adam) because one major problem you run into is presidents acting like tyrants such as Andrew Jackson, Bill Clinton, and Barrack Obama.

Election Day

Monday, November 15, AD 2010

Don’t worry!  We are done with elections for a while!  I am not going to start writing about 2012 already!  However, as annoying as the election commercials, mendacious politicians and all the assorted insults to our intelligence that are part and parcel of political campaigns are, we sometimes forget how truly remarkable a process it is in the history of our planet.

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8 Responses to Election Day

  • Wish I could be as sanguine about our “democracy,” but, based on presidents, legislatures and judges governing against the will of the people, I’d have to say the system is irretrievably broken. When one set of bums gets thrown out, another set replaces them. Politics in America is all about money. The more you raise the better chance you have to win. “Campaign contributions” are a euphemism for bribery and backroom deals. Corruption is rife, mendacity rules and the people, content with their bread and circuses, are not really concerned about their loss of freedoms.

    This comes after 68 years of careful observation, and is not some knee-jerk cynicism. I’m glad to be checking out soon. I don’t want to be around when America implodes from total decay and depravity.

  • Joe, every last thing you wrote, and I mean every last thing, could have been lifted word for word from newspaper editorials written in the 1790s. Your pessimism about the prospects for our experiment in self-rule go back to the very beginnings of the Republic, as does my optimism. Time, as it always does, will tell.

  • I doubt the US will disappear any time soon. It will, like many (most, all?) political systems go on and slowly decay, like some ancient ruin. Certain vestiges of self rule will remain, but those will be as unrecognizable to us as our current ones would be to our founding fathers (just look how far we’ve decayed in a short 200 years). But something will remain – whether it’s worth keeping will depend largely upon what the rest of the world (and hence, available alternatives) look like.

  • “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! — how consoling in the depths of affliction! “And this, too, shall pass away.” And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.”

    Abraham Lincoln, September 30, 1859

  • I had thouhght that phrase (This too shall pass) is in the Gospels. Not so.

    Mark 9:29-36 “… Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away …”

  • Donald, I’ve been reading too much Schopenhauer lately. I would like to try your rose-colored glasses for a day or two. Anything to cheer up this old misanthrope.

  • Schopenhauer would depress a laughing hyena Joe. I prefer Doctor Franklin:

    “Whilst the last members were signing it [i.e., the Constitution] Doct FRANKLIN looking towards the Presidents Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. I have said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.”

    James Madison

Let's find the fallacy!

Tuesday, October 13, AD 2009

Yesterday The Nation‘s John Nichols wrote a rather scathing piece about President Obama: the piece is entitled “Whiner-in-Chief” and the first line reads, “The Obama administration really needs to get over itself.”

Of course, I tend to agree with perspectives like that. 🙂  But near the end of the piece Nichols tries to argue that the country isn’t as divided as the White House thinks, and along the way, he makes a heckuva non sequitur:

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4 Responses to Let's find the fallacy!

Levin on the Palin Phenomenon

Thursday, February 5, AD 2009

As the election becomes more a matter of history than immediate emotion, it is a good time for sober analysis of what went on in the 2008 election. Yuval Levin has a very good analysis in Commentary Magazine of the phenomenon that was Sarah Palin’s candidacy. In framing the controversy he makes an interesting distinction:

In American politics, the distinction between populism and elitism is further subdivided into cultural and economic populism and elitism. And for at least the last forty years, the two parties have broken down distinctly along this double axis. The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. Republicans tend to identify with the traditional values, unabashedly patriotic, anti-cosmopolitan, non-nuanced Joe Sixpack, even as they pursue an economic policy that aims at elite investor-driven growth. Democrats identify with the mistreated, underpaid, overworked, crushed-by-the-corporation “people against the powerful,” but tend to look down on those people’s religion, education, and way of life. Republicans tend to believe the dynamism of the market is for the best but that cultural change can be dangerously disruptive; Democrats tend to believe dynamic social change stretches the boundaries of inclusion for the better but that economic dynamism is often ruinous and unjust.

Both economic and cultural populism are politically potent, but in America, unlike in Europe, cultural populism has always been much more powerful. Americans do not resent the success of others, but they do resent arrogance, and especially intellectual arrogance.

Addressing how Palin’s candidacy turned this cultural fact into a firestorm, he says:

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12 Responses to Levin on the Palin Phenomenon

  • But she’s winkin’ at you, DC, as she holds that hard-metal, big semi.

  • It’s an interesting article. I would argue that there is not one flavor of economic populism… when it comes to taxation for example, low taxes are populist aren’t they? Being unfettered by excessive government regulation is populist isn’t it?

    I would definitely agree that the deep philosophical underpinnings to modern US conservatism, sadly have been little expounded of late.

  • In retrospect, she was too soon, too late. The McCain campaign was trucking along on its own speed- designed to become as moderate and milktoast as possible when she joined the team. Then September 15- the Sunday that triggered the Great Financial Sector Meltdown. Any incumbent party would have also melted down. The vicious, borderline insane attacks by Chattering Class members should be saved by her upcoming campaign and used for political literature three years hence. Meanwhile she looks better and better each day. More tax troubles for Obamaites. Senate hearings into nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis for Labor Secretary cancelled. This after US Today reported Solis’ businessperson hubbo just settled with various gummint agencies for about 16 years worth of tax liens. Mindful of complaint by Casey Stengel when the Ol’ Perfesser managed woeful 1962 NY Mets- “can’t anybody here play this game?” As though there was conspiracy within DNC to bring our Sarah to forefront. Or more like vetting of Cabinet officials consists of rubber stamp use.

  • Interviews hurt her image — at least, I became less impressed.

  • I would argue that there is not one flavor of economic populism… when it comes to taxation for example, low taxes are populist aren’t they? Being unfettered by excessive government regulation is populist isn’t it?

    Agreed. And note, the Democrats have in turn grabbed on to “tax cuts” for “most Americans” as well.

    Actually, I doubt one could define economic populism very clearly because it’s fairly contradictory.

  • DC,

    maybe it’s easier to define what is NOT economic populism:

    – taxpayer funding of large corporations
    – taxpayer funding of activities that most people find objectionable (abortion)
    – taxpayer funding activities that most people find of little value (the arts)

  • I’d agree with that.

    And I think the following are probably populist as well:

    -Keep American jobs from going overseas.
    -Tax the rich but leave money in “ordinary people’s” pockets.
    -Reign in “Wall Street” up help “Main Street”
    -Generously fund “worthy” programs but never “waste”

  • DC,

    populism is sometimes right, as in my example, and sometimes wrong as in yours (except maybe the first one)… in my opinion anyway.

  • But having finally gotten voters to listen, neither Palin nor McCain could think of anything to say to them.

    And is that because Palin actually had nothing to say or because she was horribly mismanaged by the McCain campaign? We really don’t know yet. I agree with DarwinCatholic that if she can present the nation with a coherent worldview and vision her national career is far from over, despite the disdain of the elites. I have a sneaking suspicion that the elites won’t be looking so good 4 years down the road. Heck, we’re barely into The One’s first term and they’re not looking so hot right now. Palin is supposedly dumb and Nancy (“500 million unemployed”) Pelosi is a rocket scientist? The Dems love taxes, but apparently actually paying them is for the little people. When Andrew Sullivan’s obsessions with Palin’s uterus and Keith Olberman’s goofy swooning over The One qualify them for membership in the “cultural elite,” it’s pretty clear that the bar is set pretty low.

  • My wife and daughter are members of Team Sarah, as is my mother-in-law, a life-long Democrat. I think Palin has a bright political future, especially if, as I think likely, the Obama administration crashes and burns.
    Even she couldn’t save McCain, who, after the convention, faced an economic collapse combined with a dithering campaign to tranform him into last year’s Bob Dole. In 2012 or 2016 Palin will be able to run her own type of campaign and I think she will prove a formidable candidate.

  • Matt,

    Agreed,

    Jason,

    There should be one on the second sentence of the article. (Though I’d originally failed to provide it and added it a few minutes after publishing.) Sorry about that…

A Prayer

Tuesday, November 4, AD 2008

O Father in Heaven,

Today we stand at a crossroads, and we ask humbly for Your guidance.  We pray for the graces to discern with open eyes and a clear understanding of Your intent for us this day.  Help us to be humble, to not let overweening pride or human ideology come between us and Your holy plan.  Let not our will, but Yours be done in this election, and provide us with the strength and courage to face the future regardless of the outcome.  Let the charity in our hearts never die; may our faith in You never wane; may our hope never extinguish.

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11 Responses to A Prayer

Defend Marriage. Defend Life. Protect the Future.

Monday, November 3, AD 2008

Readers in California, please don’t forget that as you attempt to chose a pro-Life candidate for President of the US you are also being called to defend marriage by voting Yes on Proposition 8. Whether they are beloved friends, co-workers or relatives, we all probably all know gays and lesbians that we love and care deeply about; many of them may be in long-term loving relationships. But let’s not fool ourselves, a “marriage” between two people of the same sex is not a marriage in Christ. It is not love in the way Christ called us to love one another and the more we head down this path of destroying the institution of marriage, the further we move down the road to our own destruction as a society.

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11 Responses to Defend Marriage. Defend Life. Protect the Future.

  • The only problem I foresee with an affirmative vote on Proposition 8 is that it warrants the marriage of a transgender male and a transgender female. Under Prop 8, such a “marriage” would be “valid” and “recognized” in California.

    We must be wary of accepting transgender marriages because transgender people are disgusting and morally reprehensible. Voting “Yes” on Prop 8 will promote transgender marriages and a disgusting and messy alternative lifestyle. So, an affirmative vote on Prop 8 will encourage transgender marriages.

  • Made recent trip to Southern California. Turned on local teevee news soon as the bags were dumped in hotel room closet. Assaulted by blasts of Prop 6 this and Prop 10 that and stuff from Mexico will poison children. Turned off tube, went to dinner. But glad to see the Prop 8 forces spending oodles of coin on those commercials. Did I see rumor that His Eminence Cardinal Mahony wrote check for 1 million for Pro-Prop 8 effort. A stopped clock is right 2x daily.

  • Actually, no, I’m not a “troll” (and I’m not a plumber or Joe “six-pack” either) but I am very concerned with recent Catholic support for fringe legislation, such as Prop 8 in CA and Amend 48 in CO. It seems fewer and fewer Catholics — especially bishops and cardinals — are thinking about the obvious implications of legislating morality.

    But if “Joe is a troll” has something more useful and substantive to say than just toss slanders toward fellow Catholics concerned with highly questionable legislation, then I’d be happy to hear it! The problem is that you’ve not thought about such implications; have you? Let me pose the question again: What should be done about marriage between two people who are transgender?

    Since you probably won’t be able to fill out the argument, let me. You might think that Prop 8 should be replaced with stronger language: marriage should be between a natural man and a natural woman. Of course the problem is in defining “natural,” because so many people engage in cosmetic surgery over the course of their lifetime. It would be hard to say that a person who has “whitened” their teeth is natural, because natural seems to imply something about not having engaged in some form of cosmetic enhancement. We all have done something to improve ourselves, so it seems like we cannot conceive of natural in this way.

    One might think that natural implies something about being able to bear children. Of course we’d have to extend legislation to legitimize those couples who can no longer bear children, i.e., the elderly. Also, we’d have to accommodate those couples where one or more of the spouses have health problems preventing them from bearing children. Given the way that the Catholic Church has been going recently, you may think that these folks shouldn’t marry _because_ they cannot bear children. Basically, the gist of the Catholic Church’s message has been if you can’t procreate, don’t marry. So, the view that natural implies something about being able to bear children might have greater merit among Catholics.

    The problem I tried to raise in my original post had nothing to do with accepting, endorsing, or condoning same-sex marriage (read it again if you think it does). In fact, I don’t think the state should legislate marriage. I suspect, however, that is how “Joe is a troll” took it.

    I do think there are significant problems with the Prop 8 legislation when we set aside our views of same-sex marriage. Anyone who can think for themselves (rather than relying on what they read in propaganda flyers and the liberal media) would be able to comprehend this with some careful thought.

    I’d like to hear some alternatives to Prop 8 before permitting the state to dictate what is morally acceptable and morally unacceptable.

  • Joe,

    Don’t you think the state overturning the people’s will and declaring what is moral and immoral not imposing their will on the people?

  • Tito,

    I was going to say the same thing. Isn’t the judiciary legislating morality in this instance by forcing us to accept gay marriage as a right? And besides: of course the state can legislate morality! What do you think it’s doing with all those laws against murder?

    Prop. 8 is actually pretty modest in that it makes no claim on the morality of homosexual unions or relationships. It just reinforces the definition of marriage that we already understood and didn’t need redefined by the judiciary.

    In that sense, I agree wholeheartedly with Joe — we shouldn’t even have to be voting on this kind of thing! It’s only because we’ve been put in this position by a rights-inventing judiciary that we have to do it.

  • Tito, did I rule that out somewhere along the line? I don’t think I did. I grant that activist judges brought on the current situation. But the situation has arisen and we have contend with it. To not contend with it is to give in to those commie liberal yellow-bellies.

    j. christian, I don’t think that “reinforcing a definition of marriage” has nothing to do with morality. Also, what’s the definition of marriage? I think people have a hard time accepting the definition as it is outlined in Prop. 8. Polygamists certainly will have a hard time with it, though they seem to be upholding a form of marriage consistent with Prop. 8 (you just have to add a few more women to the mix). Defining marriage in any way is legislating morality.

    And, of course you’re right that we shouldn’t be voting on this kind of measure. It doesn’t belong in a state or country’s constitution at all.

  • One can argue that the state should not be in the business of defining marriage, but since the state deals with marriages already (property rights, divorces, tax implications, etc.) and the courts in CA have not imposed a definition of marriage which is patently false, I can only see it as making it better to pass an initiative defining it more in keeping with what marriage actually is.

  • “the courts in CA have not imposed a definition of marriage which is patently false,”

    Not to nitpick, but did you mean ‘now’ rather than ‘not’.

  • Joe & J. Christian,

    I understand and appreciate your responses.

    I still think that the judicial branch, being forced by liberal activists, brought this upon themselves by trying to impose their (im)morality on the state.

3 Responses to The Case For Not Voting?

  • “So vote, or don’t, but either way, don’t agonize over it, don’t raise an eyebrow at your friends and neighbors if they stay home, and don’t worry if the other side wins.”

    Do you believe that, Chris? — “don’t worry if the other side wins”?

    Do you intend to vote? If so, why?

  • Sorry, Chris, I should’ve given more of my own commentary… I don’t agree with everything Suderman says, but there is an underlying sentiment which harmonizes with my own, which is summarized by the pithy little saying that “politics is downstream from culture”.

    Do I intend to vote? Absolutely, because it’s my responsibility at a faithful citizen. Will I be disappointed if Obama wins, as expected? Of course; I think his policies are worse, all in all, particularly on the life issues. But I don’t think it’ll spell the end of our country, as some of my conservative compatriots seem to think (or at least say).

    But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    That’s my sentiment, and as noted above, it harmonizes with aspects of Suderman’s piece, which I why I drew attention to it.

    Thoughts, Chris?

  • But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    I concur: I would say it’s our culture that shapes much of our behavior; the law’s chief function is a deterrent to our vices. With respect to the predominant issue of abortion, as the Bishops stress it’s a “both / and” — pro-life legislation must be pursued but is not the end-all; rather operating in conjunction with the building of a culture that values life (and, for instance, that won’t perceive a child as merely an impediment to individual ambitions: college, career, etc.).

    Culture shapes economics as well. You know my sympathy for Michael Novak’s observation that a healthy market economy is contingent on the health of a nation’s culture and its institutions. Witness the present crisis — one can blame the “predatory lending” of “Wall Street”;
    but one cannot overlook the inclination of many on “Main Street” to commit mortage fraud, falsifying their histories to obtain houses they couldn’t reasonably afford otherwise. Plenty of blame to go around. Case in point:

    BasePoint Analytics took a look at millions of subprime loans and found that in 70 percent of cases where mortgages go bad quickly (exactly the kinds of mortgages that account for a chunk of today’s rising default rates), there was some misrepresentation by the borrower, broker or appraiser, or some combination of the three

    The health of our economy is only so good as the moral virtue of its participants.

    Likewise, a culture that sees the solution to poverty as starting with one’s self and not governmetn handouts for forced “redistribution” from the rich. We can justifiably oppose the latter (remote, abstract attempts at charity) — but our protests are in vain if we neglect to take the local and most immediate route, beginning with ourselves.

    Quick thoughts but yes, I agree.

    My main criticism of Suderman is the dismissal “don’t worry if the other side wins” — there’s a good case that a Democratic majority in Congress coupled with a ready and willing presidential administration could do a lot of damage in four years, especially on the pro-life front, that would be irreversible.

Bishop Joseph Martino: "No Social Issue Has Caused The Death Of 50 million People"

Wednesday, October 22, AD 2008

27 Responses to Bishop Joseph Martino: "No Social Issue Has Caused The Death Of 50 million People"

  • Do I detect a double standard?

    For some people, the Catholic Church and its Bishops are just a convenient tool to be used in support of their pre-existing political ideology.

  • It’s interesting that the USCCB had near universal approval, but many (61) bishops have come out to ‘clarify’ the document in their own dioceses. Do the bishops actually read what they approve?

    What is a particular issue with me is that sometimes the USCCB is treated as an alternate or parallel national ‘magisterium’. Nowhere in canon law, tradition, scripture, et al do we have a need or a proscription of an alternate magisterium.

    Is the USCCB a way that some (spine-deficient) bishops use as cover to not use their teaching position to express secularly touchy issues? I think it is used in this way by some.

  • Botean’s statement on Iraq was in continuity with the judgment of the Vatican and the USCCB, and he did not speak against the USCCB. As I said in the quote of mine you cited, what Botean did was to give pastoral weight to the view of the USCCB. Martino’s statement, on the other hand, is simply an explicit rejection of the USCCB. It’s hardly a double-standard. The two situations are entirely different.

    The real double-standard is the one I pointed to in my post on Martino.

  • What is a particular issue with me is that sometimes the USCCB is treated as an alternate or parallel national ‘magisterium’. Nowhere in canon law, tradition, scripture, et al do we have a need or a proscription of an alternate magisterium.

    The USCCB is not an “alternative” magisterium, but it is indeed part of the magisterium because it is comprised of bishops:

    “22. In dealing with new questions and in acting so that the message of Christ enlightens and guides people’s consciences in resolving new problems arising from changes in society, the Bishops assembled in the Episcopal Conference and jointly exercizing their teaching office are well aware of the limits of their pronouncements. While being official and authentic and in communion with the Apostolic See, these pronouncements do not have the characteristics of a universal magisterium. For this reason the Bishops are to be careful to avoid interfering with the doctrinal work of the Bishops of other territories, bearing in mind the wider, even world-wide, resonance which the means of social communication give to the events of a particular region.

    Taking into account that the authentic magisterium of the Bishops, namely what they teach insofar as they are invested with the authority of Christ, must always be in communion with the Head of the College and its members,(83) when the doctrinal declarations of Episcopal Conferences are approved unanimously, they may certainly be issued in the name of the Conferences themselves, and the faithful are obliged to adhere with a sense of religious respect to that authentic magisterium of their own Bishops.”

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_motu-proprio_22071998_apostolos-suos_en.html

  • Michael I.,

    First of all congratulations on your newborn child. This has got to be a wonderful and momentous time in your life.

    Second of all, don’t you think you’re clouding the issue with your double-speak (double-standard). Clearly Botean went beyond the USCCB letter. He put his own opinion and conflated with Church teaching to push his particular agenda. He has every right to do so, but it is just the same still a double standard.

  • Oh man, my bad. I wasn’t paying close enough attention and thought this was another website (American Papist). Had I known it was American Catholic I would not have replied to this post. Do accept my apologies. Won’t happen again.

  • Michael I.,

    By saying that “it is PART of the Magisterium” is to lend it the same teaching authority of the Magisterium.

    If you read Pope JP2’s motu proprio carefully it says, “these pronouncements do not have the characteristics of a universal magisterium”.

    So any teaching document that comes out or approved by the USCCB is not part of the magisterium.

  • Second of all, don’t you think you’re clouding the issue with your double-speak (double-standard). Clearly Botean went beyond the USCCB letter. He put his own opinion and conflated with Church teaching to push his particular agenda.

    Yes, he went beyond it, but in continuity with it. What he did was to give specific pastoral guidance to his diocese based on 1) just war teaching and 2) the common view of the Vatican and the USCCB on the specifics of the Iraq War. His pastoral guidance was given in communion with the judgment of the Church. What Martino did was the direct opposite.

  • Good . . . your ideological pre-commitments often prevent any contribution to helpful or honest debate.

  • Michael I.,

    Thank you for your kind comments in comparison to American Papist.

  • By saying that “it is PART of the Magisterium” is to lend it the same teaching authority of the Magisterium.

    If you read Pope JP2’s motu proprio carefully it says, “these pronouncements do not have the characteristics of a universal magisterium”.

    So any teaching document that comes out or approved by the USCCB is not part of the magisterium.

    Tito, to say that the USCCB does not enjoy the authority of the “universal magisterium” means that its teaching is not applicable to the Church as a whole, but only to the Church in the region under discussion. This is obvious, because that is the entire purpose of bishops’ conferences, to teach authoritatively in a particular context. Not every USCCB teaching has the same weight, but USCCB teaching IS magisterial teaching in the context of the united states and “the faithful are obliged to adhere with a sense of religious respect to that authentic magisterium of their own Bishops.” Amazing that you can read the same words I copied there and still say that the USCCB is “not part of the magisterium.”

  • Michael I.,

    I agree that Botean’s letter is within Catholic teaching, but so did Bishop Martino’s extended comments on his particular letter did as well.

    I guess we just disagree on the semantics and/or rhetoric that was attached to the respective pronouncements.

  • Michael I.,

    Likewise. We both read the same motu proprio but come away with different understandings of the late Pope’s document.

    I think we just disagree on what the definition and the utility of what Magisterium is.

  • I agree that Botean’s letter is within Catholic teaching, but so did Bishop Martino’s extended comments on his particular letter did as well.

    Martino EXPLICITLY REJECTED the USCCB document in his comments at a parish session on Faithful Citizenship. Perhaps you missed that part.

    We both read the same motu proprio but come away with different understandings of the late Pope’s document.

    The motu proprio explicitly says that bishops’ conferences are part of the “authentic magisterium.”

    I think we just disagree on what the definition and the utility of what Magisterium is.

    I suggest you do further study on this. The magisterium is the teaching authority of the bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome. The definition is straightforward. It could even be said to be “non-negotiable,” to use language that you could understand.

  • I was just wondering. Are they going to show this video in Churches between now and November 4th?

    http://www.catholicvote.com/

    I stumbled upon this video it by accident and I doubt if most Catholics have seen it. Also, will there be a final “push” by priests in their homilies to vote for the “Culture of Life”?

  • Don’t have much time to discuss further, but I do believe Botean — as Michael Iafrate recognized in his original praise — went above and beyond the USCCB with respect to his statement on the war.

    Cardinal McCarrick, March 25 2003:

    Q: One-third of the U.S. soldiers are Catholic. For them, this war represents a moral dilemma.

    Cardinal McCarrick: Certainly. Because of this, as an episcopal conference we have been very careful not to classify their participation in the conflict as immoral, both because we are not up-to-date on all the facts that have led to the conflict, as well as because these young people do not have decision-making power.

    For Botean this was a clear certainty, and it follows — from his perspective — that the episcopal conference’s reluctance to declare participation on the part of US Catholics in the armed forces immoral was wrong.

    Botean didn’t explicitly challenge the USCCB’s statement, but he did go further.

  • I think it’s also important to be clear on Martino’s comments: Read in context (you approve of reading in context, do you not, Michael) he does not say that the USCCB document is wrong, but rather said forcefully that the USCCB document could not be used in order to undermine what he had said clearly and forcefully in his letter.

    I guess one can quibble with the way in which he chose to say that the USCCB document should not be used to undermine his teaching, but saying that he explicitly reject the document is wrong.

  • Michael I.,

    What Brendan/Darwin & Christopher said.

    Again, we can agree to disagree.

  • Cathy,

    We did post the video here on American Catholic.

    Go here:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2008/10/11/american-catholic-2008/

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito

  • We may be seeing the beginning of the end of the USCCB. Both as a formal organization and as a means of our shepherds to speak with one voice. The events of this year are pulling it apart- the presidential election, the likelihood of a radical pro-abortion advocate to the presidency, Pope Benedict’s lectureat their gathering, the babblings of Senator Biden and Speaker Pelosi. If 61 bishops have felt it necessary to make their own statements about abortion, citizenship and the like; if certain stellar prelates like Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Martino have been much bolder than their peers, the usual okey-doke collegiality may now be a thing of the past. Good riddance. The USCCB format may not work in an atmosphere where there will be- not might, will be- direct opposition by Obama Administration officials against the U.S. Church on Issue Number One. Different wars call for different weapons. The usual nuanced USCCB statement might be a popgun when bigger, more powerful weapons are needed.

  • I am not particularly a fan of the USCCB. It has ‘some’ useful functions, but in my opinion it has been a joke for quite awhile.

    It will be interesting how much tap-dancing the USCCB will be displaying if an Obama presidency materializes. How much certain bishops will speak up for Obama and not against his anti-life policies.

    The USCCB needs to reform or face futher scrutiny. A post may be forthcoming.

  • I guess one can quibble with the way in which he chose to say that the USCCB document should not be used to undermine his teaching, but saying that he explicitly reject the document is wrong.

    Indeed I am a fan of reading things in context. The “context” was a meeting about Faithful Citizenship in which a variety of views on who to vote for were expressed. Martino said that the USCCB document is “irrelevant.” I don’t see how you can say that this is not an explicit rejection of FS. You seem to be abusing the idea of reading “in context.”

    Tito and Gerard, the USCCB is not going anywhere. Paul VI proclaimed the importance of bishops conferences and JPII affirmed it.

  • Michael I.,

    I agree with you. I just want the USCCB to clear and coherent on Church teaching. Not muddy the water and drive over 60 bishops to issue ‘clarifications’ on documents.

  • Michael,

    Context means looking at more than one word. That he used the word “irrelevant” does not mean that he was rejecting Faithful Citizenship as a document. He has presented it as his judgement that there are currently no proportional reasons for voting for a pro-choice candidate — and has done so in a way which is certainly not contradictory to the structure of reasoning laid out by Faithful Citizenship. (I would disagree with some of the commenters above that there is anything wrong with FC as a document — other than being a bit discursive as a result of being committee written.)

    But I can certainly understand his frustration with people trying to use the document which he himself had a part in writing and approving against what he considers to be the obviousl conclusion to draw from it. (Just as you’ve been known to get a little hot under the collar when those who disagree with you about the Iraq War explain their reasoning via just war doctrine.) And I don’t think his words were in appropriate in that context.

    On the question of the USCCB which some of brought up above — I certainly don’t see reason to expect some sort of “crack up” for it in the coming years. Though the centuries, local hierarchies have always been pulled into the political and cultural turmoils of the day, and I don’t think its surprising that we see similar turmoils in the USCCB as they grapple with how to bring the US back towards something more resembling a culture of life.

  • But I can certainly understand his frustration with people trying to use the document which he himself had a part in writing and approving against what he considers to be the obviousl conclusion to draw from it.

    Actually, from what I understand, Martino decided not to attend the meeting at which FS was voted on.

  • Moral issues and Voting issues do not mix.
    To argue Morality, then to cleanly slip into Politics is an enormous and wrenching step that the Bishop wants us to believe is simple and easy.

    To vote pro-life is no guarantee that the candidate actually believes in the religious and moral import of the notion, nor that he has any intention of acting according to his beliefs.
    The Bishop seems to think that the label of pro-life being attached to a candidate is enough for the voter.
    An entire life does not render a voter capable of comprehending the complexities of God’s world; not to know why evil exists, not to know why we suffer; just dumb brutes pulling voting machine levers.

    Not to vote if a sufficiently adequate pro life candidate is not in the race means running the risk of allowing worse policies to become law under the leadership of elected officials with no input from voters who reflect on moral law.

    The Bishop’s letter is the product of a wondeful mind, which yet is simple to the point of dangerously allowing candidates under the label of pro life to be elected and to quite possibly foster pernicious policies against the general welfare.

11 Responses to The Lion of Pennsylvania