In recent weeks, the founder and chairman of Focus on the Family Dr. James Dobson, has generated a lot of discussion with his public announcement that he will support a third party candidate if the Republicans nominate Rudy Giuliani or anyone else who is pro-choice. Although I agree with Dr. Dobson’s principled stance on family and life issues, in this case he could not be more mistaken. Ironically, it is our common ground that causes me to say this.
Both Dr. Dobson and I believe we have a moral obligation to participate effectively in elections. We must use our votes to advance virtue and to hinder evil, insofar as government is able to do so. Hence, given the grave evil of legal abortion, we must work to elect people who will limit and abolish this practice. Both of us believe that such considerations must be the beginning and heart of our thinking rather than electives to be included as convenience allows. Where we differ is in our understanding of the nature of politics.
Christians despise the word “compromise” because it connotes yielding on our principles. This is appropriate in the realms of theology and ethics, but politics is not theology. It’s politics. We must accept that the choice to participate in democracy is the choice to share decision-making with people whose ideas we can’t stand. Thus, the very essence of politics is compromise, and, unless we believe that democracy itself is contrary to our principles, our goal must be to advance as much of the common good as we realistically can.
Therefore, we are obligated to vote for the person who is closest to the ideal, even if he is quite far from that ideal, as long as we have reason to expect he will be better than the alternative. This is precisely the situation in a hypothetical choice between Senator Clinton and Mayor Giuliani.
On a pro-life 1-10 scale, I desire a 10. Clinton is a 2. She affirms abortion and supports it in many circumstances, regardless of her mouth saying otherwise. Giuliani is a 5. He personally opposes abortion, but thinks it should be each woman’s decision. Whereas Clinton is truly pro-abortion, Giuliani is truly pro-choice.
The key consideration for us is the Supreme Court. When it comes to political impact and justices, Giuliani might turn out to be anywhere from a 3 to an 8. He is close friends with Justice Scalia and has said he would eagerly support nominees in the Roberts-Alito-Thomas-Scalia mold. If so, then how would he differ from a truly pro-life President? Surely there is more to the life issue than just such nominees, but the key is to keep in mind how he might compare with Senator Clinton. And here the contrast is stark.