PIC makes SIV Fail-safe!
Though Single Issue Voters - SIVers - try to plough through logic like a gas-guzzling SUV, the safer, more reliant Priority Issue Clusters - PIC - is the correct route for every Catholic voter to take in placing a priority on morality. No cluster buster can beat PIC!
"Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernadin's "seamless garment of life" concept has been used by both many Pro-Death and Pro-Life proponents to justify their positions. Pro-Death advocates argue that just as one thread cannot trump a whole garment, so too abortion cannot trump other issues as important for voting consideration. Pro-Lifers, on the other hand, argue that just as one cannot wear some threads in a garment and avoid others, so too one cannot pretend to wear only that part of a garment one favors, but must either not wear or wear the whole garment. In other words, some issues are so transcendental that they trump all other issues, and one cannot escape that reality by focusing on selective issues or voting for Pro-Death candidates because of some other lesser issue. By referring to the abortion situation as a form of SIV or pleading for consideration of all issues at any expense, these clerics are actually undermining the teaching of the True Faith."
Amid all of the debate and controversy regarding how much weight voters should give candidates' positions on various issues, an old tune is now being played with greater vigor than ever. That tune is an old jingle called Single Issue Voting (SIV). The more one examines this concept, however, the clearer it becomes that this supposed "problem" is not as radical, destructive, or ignorant as the liberal left and the forces of New Order thinking would have us believe. Yet, it is still a problem. However, there is a better idea to solve this "problem:" a fail-safe method of notifying and assuring Catholic voters. This I will develop in this column after first identifying the inevitable pitfalls of the SIV method only.
The initial bias in the media and New Order's approach to SIV is quickly found in their definition of what SIV really is. Most of the time, they define SIV as voting for a less competent candidate over a more competent candidate merely because of one issue.
This is an inaccurate, biased, and over-simplified definition of what SIV is really about.
Beneath this slanted view of SIV are the notions that SIV is a symptom of ignorant, simple, extremist, and radical thinking. The rationale tells us that anyone who votes based on a single issue is either too stupid to think about more than one issue at a time, or too narrow-minded to fairly assess candidates on all issues or a cross-section of issues.
This negative definition also implies that the more significant or debated a single issue might be, the more likely that said issue will be determinative only to clueless fools who can think of nothing else. In other words, anyone who opposes a candidate merely because of his or her Pro-Death stance is likely to be a simple-minded, foolish, clueless, out-of-touch excuse for a citizen who cannot chew gum and review political issues at the same time. It is argued that our society is too complex to be reduced to a single issue, and that the only way to stay in touch with that complexity is to be willing to consider many varied issues in evaluating fitness for office because anyone in office will have to do the same. By focusing the discussion of SIV as a function of individual choices of like options, this common definition indirectly patronizes the single issue voter while likewise equating all of the options which that voter faces.
The fairer and more accurate definition of Single Issue Voting sees this phenomenon as simply giving veto power to any single issue in considering one's vote. Instead of portraying SIV as some form of induced cerebral blindness, this second definition simply argues that SIV means one considers all issues, but gives some greater weight than others. Obviously, this second definition is laced with proportionalism, which implies that judgments should be a function of equal, fair balancing of equal concepts, issues, and courses of action. The problem with proportionalism, of course, is that it ignores the fact that some issues are more critical and important than others, and that therefore the issues balanced are often not equal from the start. I examined proportionalism in a recent piece entitled Politics, Proportionalism, and Perdition. Simply put, proportionalism is choice strategy effectively used in non-moral situations which involves juggling various options on a cost/benefit basis. However, this strategy is completely ineffective with regard to effective and accurate analysis of moral situations since it ignores the fact that some acts are inherently evil and cannot be accepted under any circumstances. Proportionalism is at the heart of current notions that voting for a Pro-Death politician is acceptable if one does so for other reasons and not because one favors that Pro-Death policy. The problem with this view for the loyal, true Catholic, of course, is that it still allows people to rip an innocent child apart as another statistic of choice!
As is the case with many destructive trends and habits these days, the clergy's hand has had as much to do with spreading this negative view of SIV as anyone else's.
In fact, SIV is everywhere demonized by clergy claiming that such voting violates the Christian duty to informed, balanced, fair consideration prior to voting. These bishops and cardinals have constantly attacked and warned against SIV, encouraging Catholic voters to consider all issues before making a final judgment.
The American Catholic Hierarchy has clearly lost its way in this regard, either ignoring attacks of SIV against fellow Catholics, or sometimes publicly disavowing such voting. The familiar push toward greater unity, cooperation, and issue inclusion at the expense of fighting for tradition, decency, structure, and order tells us that most if not all of today's clergy is content to sell out its faith in return for media spots, popularity, and so-called peace.
Many clerics in this country and nations like South Africa have even gone as far as proclaiming that SIV is seldom a wise voting choice and that it is wrong to state that abortion is so morally important that it should be a single voting issue, defeating all other issues as voting determinant.
Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernadin's "seamless garment of life" concept has been used by both many Pro-Death and Pro-Life proponents to justify their position. Pro-Death proponents argue that just as one thread cannot trump a whole garment, so too abortion cannot trump other issues as important for voting consideration. Pro-Lifers, on the other hand, argue that just as one cannot wear some threads in a garment and avoid others, so too one cannot pretend to wear only that part of a garment one favors, but must either not wear or wear the whole garment. In other words, some issues are so transcendental that they trump all other issues, and one cannot escape that reality by focusing on selective issues or voting for Pro-Death candidates because of some other lesser issue. By referring to the abortion situation as a form of SIV or pleading for consideration of all issues at any expense, these clerics are actually undermining the teaching of the True Faith.
By releasing false or confusing comments in this regard, people like Cardinal Ratzinger and Andrew Greeley are destructively creating the impression that SIV is wrong because it ignores or denies traditional American fairness and open-mindedness.
An Old Reality and a Current Hypocrisy
Despite arguments to the contrary, the fact is that SIV has always been with us and probably always will be. People have minds, souls, agendas, and concerns which focus on certain pet issues over others. Slavery, women's right to vote, labor rights, war, the cold war, economic issues, for example, have all shared the "key issue" spotlight from time to time. Also, research shows that most voters tend to focus or cluster on certain areas of concern over others.
On top of all of this, liberal organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NOW, and homosexual rights groups always focus their attacks on opponents based on single issues such as Pro-Choice, gay marriage, women's freedom, etc. We have all seen how otherwise perfectly competent candidates for office or judicial appointments have been turned back by the liberals solely because of their Pro-Life, Anti-Homosexual, or Anti-Feminist positions. In other words, SIV becomes an evil only when applied to Pro-Life voters, where it is used to paint these voters as ignorant, narrow-minded, divisive, superficial, unrealistic fools. SIV suddenly and magically becomes benign when it is used by liberals to mobilize their forces.
The utter hypocrisy of complaints against SIV is best shown by hypothetical examples which use the liberals' own weapons against them. Suppose a highly qualified candidate with outstanding ideas and initiatives in mind revealed himself to be an unmitigated racist. According to the liberals' own SIV criticism, it would be wrong for anyone to vote against an obviously competent and honest politician simply based on one issue…..possible racism. Despite this wrong, there is no doubt that liberals and others would fight to remove this candidate from office based on merely that one issue. When feminists cry out for their agenda, do they not merely focus on one or a few issues to get their point across? How about public school teachers? I do not believe that these educators are stirred to a fever pitch and encouraged to merely review 27 other issues!
Are homosexuals stirred to a rabid pitch by speeches focusing on healthcare, public transportation, and pollution? Of course not, for they are stirred by speakers pushing them to vote in a certain direction. If an otherwise excellent candidate for president declared that he believed African-Americans should be slaves again, for example, his political career would be over and most would vote against him based on one issue… racism and prejudice! We therefore see that SIV is acceptable and even desirable when the single issue is one supported by those in power or influence.
Toward a Clearer Answer
Based on the above realities and concerns, I suggest that voters tend to prioritize certain issue clusters over others and then vote according to their personal views and beliefs on these clusters. Five such possible clusters would be moral, economic, social, international, and character.
- Moral… This cluster includes abortion, euthanasia, cloning, separation of church and state, etc.
- Economic… This cluster includes jobs, the economy, unemployment, inflation, taxes, and the budget
- Social… This cluster includes housing, education, the elderly, the homeless, poverty, healthcare, social security, welfare, and government programs
- International… This cluster includes war, relations with allies, peace efforts, trade, etc.
- Character… This cluster includes honesty, qualifications for office, courage, charisma, personal appearance, poise, assertiveness, and judgment
I believe that voters prioritize the above five clusters in their mind, and then tend to vote according to who they agree with on their top clusters, especially their number one cluster. Voters who mainly or only care on who will help them put bread on the table will tend to overlook abortion, relations with Europe, honesty or education as long as they see their choice helping them on the job front. Parents concerned with their children's education and jobs will focus on who favors their concerns in the social and economic areas.
The Catholic Choice
The responsible Catholic wanting to remain faithful to his or her faith must first choose the moral cluster as the priority hurdle for candidates, and then favor those candidates whose moral positions are consistent with the true Faith's teaching. If a candidate fails on this moral cluster, there is no point in continuing on to cluster two since the candidate has failed to qualify for the voter's main area of concern. It is imperative that anyone claiming to follow the Word and Will of God Almighty place the moral cluster as the initial litmus test which must be passed before any other hurdle is even reached. Single Issue Voting, then, should really be Priority Issue Cluster voting, in which I rank what is important to me and then evaluate candidates progressively ( not collectively) according to this order. Just as a student must complete grade school before starting high school, my candidates must satisfy my 1st Issue Cluster before I will evaluate them on my 2nd Issue Cluster, and so on. Basically, I will choose the candidate who gets farther on my "issue road". This is much better than merely balancing all clusters equally, without accepting that some will be more important to me than others, as the proportionalist New Order encourages us to do.
A Step Above
Priority Issue Cluster (PIC) voting is a step above Single Issue Voting because it incorporates the reality that people tend to vote based on personal concerns with the reality that each of us is concerned about different things in varying degrees. While SIV implies a superficial, narrow-minded focus, PIC demands a more comprehensive review of issues while accepting differing individual preferences and concerns. Priority voting thus allows for personal agendas while accepting that most voters do vote from a defined pool of issues important to them.
Why the New Order and Liberals Fear Priority Voting
The New Order and liberals hate the concept of Priority Voting because they want to infuse as much proportionalism and relativism into the voting process as possible while being able to attack Pro-Life voters as being Single Issue Voters and therefore ignorant, narrow-minded, etc. Priority Issue Cluster Voting is consistent with the ideas of respecting individual voting freedom yet creates the structure wherein morality can be inserted as a key focus in voting.
The New Order obviously dislikes this opportunity for morality to be a player in voting patterns through Priority Issues Voting. Despite the fact that liberals live on notions of freedom, they tend to abhor freedom when it is used against them or contrary to their agenda. SIV is a convenient tool which liberals can use to demonize the Pro-Life voter despite the fact that most liberals are single issue voters on such things as abortion, feminist and sodomite rights, and cloning. They do not have the same weapons with PIV. Thus they are hung out to dry, wilting on their own words.
The issue of Single Issue Voting has increasingly been used as a tool to demonize and patronize the Pro-Life voter and possibly other types of voters as well. The argument asks us to consider that our society is too complex to be reduced or judged by a small group of radical right wing spiritual extremists. The liberals want to have it both ways. On one hand, they want a more diffuse and varied issue pool in order to promote their proportionalism and relativism. On the other hand, they tend to zero in on single issues such as abortion, homosexual rights, feminist rights, and cloning when it is convenient to their agenda. In addition, liberals use SIV as a double edged standard against Pro-Life voters. The voter who votes against John Kerry only because of his Pro-Death position is considered an ignorant, extremist, narrow-minded single issue voter destroying everything sacred about a complex democratic society. The voter who votes in favor of John Kerry only because of his Pro-Abortion, Pro-Homosexual, Pro-Feminist, or Pro-Cloning positions, however, is an informed, intelligent, strategically sophisticated voter!
The concept of SIV is an oversimplified and inaccurate one. It is not realistic to expect every voter to juggle 10 issues in deciding who to vote for. A more realistic model says that as voters we tend to cluster our issues around such areas as morality, the economy, social issues, international issues, and candidate character. We then focus on that cluster or perhaps those two clusters most consistent with our view of things, and then vote for the candidate who is more closely connected with our positions.
In a way we are more single cluster voters than single issue voters. The loyal Catholic must choose morality as his or her primary cluster, and in that vein vote for the candidate who is most consistent with his or her views on central morality issues such as abortion, homosexual rights, etc. The radical, liberal, leftist, feminist, sodomite forces will tell society that Catholics and Christians are simple-minded SIVs in that our voting plans begin and end with Pro-Life issues. The more accurate model, however, is that Catholic and Christian voters should place morality as the first hurdle in their consideration.
The evaluation of any candidate should begin, not end, with their moral convictions and choices. The New Order dislikes this idea of putting morality first since it knows that any candidate failing to meet that morality standard will go no further in our voting process. At the end of the day, the issue which should trump all others for the loyal, practicing Catholic should be morality positions which incorporate most of those sins - abortion, sodomy, euthanasia, cloning, etc. - which cry to Heaven for vengeance.
Editor's Note: Heaven is once again under attack by those who would seek to ignore and overthrow God's majesty and authority. Gabriel Garnica, educator and attorney, submits regular insights and commentaries to remind and help guide readers toward a deeper and more assertive faith. Touching on topics and issues ranging from personal faith, doctrine, education, scripture, the media, family life, morality, and values, Gabriel's notes are music to traditional ears but unpleasant tones to those who have bought into the misguided notions so prevalent and spreading in today's Catholic world.