Wednesday, October 01, 2008

In the Interim

while I'm polishing up a statement of core principles for our new political party here in Canada, here's part three of Steven Greydanus' series on voting down south:

Elections, Voting and Morality, Part 3: "

Continued from Part 1 | Part 2

SDG here (not Jimmy).

John McCain supports embryonic stem-cell research.

Although his support appears to be somewhat qualified and conflicted, and there are signs that he may be moving away from supporting ESCR, his history of consistent support for an intrinsic evil remains a grave concern in his candidacy.

No, I won't paper it over with a euphemism. In my last post I argued that 'A candidate who advocates legalized abortion, euthanasia, ESCR or human cloning gravely disqualifies himself for public service, not just for what he or she may do but for what he or she stands for.' By that standard, McCain gravely disqualifies himself for public service on at least one of those four counts.

That Obama gravely disqualifies himself on all four of those four counts certainly makes McCain the less problematic and thus preferable candidate. In my next post I hope to deal with the ethics of voting for the least problematic viable candidate, which is, I contend, always permissible. For now, I want to focus a bit more on potential consequences of a McCain-Palin administration vs. an Obama-Biden administration.

As I've said, I'm deeply skeptical of all four candidates, and uneasy about all possible outcomes. I have no strong feelings regarding which side is better equipped to lead on the economy, health care and other crucial issues.

I do suspect that McCain is better equipped than Obama to lead on foreign policy. That's not necessarily what they're calling a game-changer, though, since (a) I could be wrong (I am a political knucklehead) and (b) it is not wildly unlikely that McCain's health could impair his ability to serve.

McCain's temperament is a legitimate subject of concern. His penchant for fast and risky decisions can make him look decisive and knowledgeable and bold, as when he responded to the conflict in Chechnya; but it can also lead to mistakes.

Obama is clearly smart. Any questions I had on that front were settled on Friday night. He's also articulate and charismatic, a combination we haven't seen in a presidential race since Clinton, and before that since Reagan. (In terms of articulateness and charisma, I mean; I'm not putting Reagan in Clinton's or Obama's league intellectually.)

Obama is also inexperienced. I suspect that's not as big a deal as some might think. It may be embarrassing for a candidate to suggest that Iraq is not a serious threat, or that Chavez came to power during the Bush administration rather than the Clinton administration, or that unconditional presidential-level meetings with rogue dictators is a good idea; but hey, your advisors clue you in and you move on. I'm sure Palin would be making some of these gaffes if she were on the grid as much as Obama. The 'It's all about judgment' line is neither the whole truth nor completely wrong.

Here is something that is a game-changer for me.

Among serious concerns in our society today are power grabs by different elements within government. Several concerns in this regard have been raised in recent years regarding the executive branch, most recently in connection with the bailout effort.

Arguably the most sustained, influential and successful power grabs in recent U.S. history, as far as I can tell, is that of the judiciary.

The judicial system seems to me to concentrate a great deal of power, particularly at the top, in the hands of a small number of people who are unelected and unaccountable, who can hold their positions essentially for life and whose decisions have far more lasting impact than that of many public officials. Subsequent justices are expected, on principle, to respect previous verdicts in a way that other officials are not. There is no stare decisis for presidential executive orders, for instance.

As far as I know, recourse for abuses of power at this level, or for addressing flaws in the system in any way, are dauntingly remote. Practically speaking, about the only readily available course of action I know of is to promote judicial self-restraint over judicial activism by nominating candidates who espouse judicial restraint, i.e., originalism or strict constructionism. This is a very limited and problematic approach, but I don't see that there is any other immediately available option.

So much is this the case that a president's Supreme Court nominations may well be his most far-reaching act in office. What did Gerald Ford do in office that had rivaled the long-term impact of nominating John Paul Stevens?

The issue is especially crucial because the judiciary has been instrumental in subverting both the judicial and the democratic process in imposing the fiction of an anti-life 'right to choose.' Other grave evils highly damaging to society, such as same-sex 'marriage,' are highly likely to be imposed by judicial fiat given a judiciary with sufficient political will and lack of self-restraint.

In general, left-leaning Democratic presidents reliably nominate candidates for the Supreme Court who are reliably evil-activist. The record of right-leaning Republican presidents and the nominees thereof is, unfortunately, more mixed. We do seem to have gone three for three now, and the one before that was a seemingly unavoidable wild card. There almost seems to be a kind of corrupting influence inside the Beltway that sucks justices to the dark side. We can only do what we can do.

McCain has taken a lot of flak from conservatives for his leading role in the 'Gang of 14.' This is a complex issue and I'm not sure what I think about it. I'm not sure nuking the filibuster would have been the best outcome. And it does seem that some of Bush's lower-court nominees can reasonably be accused of conservative activism no less blatant than that of many liberal activist judges.

I oppose judicial activism in principle, not just based on of how it is used. I don't want activist conservative judges any more than activist liberal ones. I want judges who know their job description, who stick to interpreting the law and leave emanations and penumbras to the psychic readers. Give me nine liberal Supreme Court justices who support abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and so on, but who also know how to read the words on the page, and who believe that these rights should be advanced by the legislative and democratic process rather than by judicial fiat, and I'll be happy.

Certainly McCain says just exactly the right things about what kind of justices he likes and what kind of nominees he would put forward. Better still, I think McCain probably gets the principle of judicial restraint vs. activism better than Bush, who I think was more likely to go on personal trust rather than qualifications (Harriet Myers anyone?).

So I find this comparatively reassuring, though it's impossible to be entirely reassured. Knowing how much McCain loves to reach across the aisle, etc., who knows what the heck he'll actually do in office? And that's prescinding from the potential disparity between how candidates may say they'll judge and what they actually do on the bench.

On the other hand, I have absolutely no doubts what kind of candidates Obama will put forward, and get, and what kind of verdicts we will get from them.

This is the single most important issue that I think can be most confidently held in advance to represent a clear difference in outcomes based on who wins the election. It is a decisive issue for me, if not the decisive issue. I don't quite want to reduce it to 'It's The Supreme Court, Stupid,' but that wouldn't be wholly wrong either. At any rate, along with the substantial differences between the candidates on the life issues, it is a decisive reason for rejecting Obama and for regarding McCain as preferable candidate.

But what about the claim that we can't or shouldn't support a candidate who supports any intrinsic evil, even if the other candidate is worse on every fundamental issue? That will be the subject of my next post.

Continued from Part 1 | Part 2



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