The Election 2012 season is well underway.
Among the Church documents most important to pay attention to in this and every election cycle is Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, issued by the entire body of United States bishops in 1998. In that document we read,
“We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue -- or lack thereof -- is a judgment not only on them, but on us. Because of this, we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest” (n. 34).
Put another way, the bishops are calling us to be free, be smart, and take responsibility. We are to be free from the seductive power of empty rhetoric, seductive slogans, and campaigns based more on hype than substance. We are to be free, moreover, from a blind loyalty to a party just because our grandparents always voted for it, while we are unaware of how the things that party now stands for have changed.
We are to be smart, attentive, informed. We need to get to know the candidates as far in advance as possible, and not only hear what they say, but see how they have governed in the past, how they have shown loyalty to their principles, with whom they have associated and from whom they seek and receive their endorsements.
We are to take responsibility. The quality of those elected reflects the quality of those who elect them. We have to get engaged in the process, starting now, stay engaged, and get as many others engaged as we can. And we who go into the pulpits have to open our mouths and stop being afraid of talking about what the Church teaches regarding politics and elections.
We can begin to put all this into practice by paying attention to what is happening in the next few days. Tonight (August 11), for instance, there is a televised debate of the Presidential candidates (Fox News Channel, 9pm ET). One of the ways we fulfill the bishops’ teaching quoted above is to take the time to listen carefully to the debate. It helps us to “analyze campaign rhetoric critically” and to get to know what the candidates think.
Then, this Saturday, August 13, the Iowa “Ames Straw Poll” takes place. This is the first test of a presidential candidate’s organizational strength. The poll is given extra attention because of its early place on the election calendar. While the results of the poll are not necessarily an indicator of a candidate’s popularity in the general Republican electorate, they do tend to measure a candidate’s ability to get out the vote. Participating campaigns must identify their voters and make sure they travel to Ames, buy tickets to the dinner, and vote in the straw poll.
Other events to take note of as the election calendar progresses can be found at www.PoliticalResponsibility.com. Let’s be informed and involved!