Welcome to my very first series!
I’m excited to be undertaking this little project – something of a departure from most of my recent posts, which have waxed sentimental on home and love and my three beautiful little boys.
Sniff, sniff. Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones.
Anyway, this series is not a departure from my most recent post, nor will it be surprising to anyone who’s clicked over to this tab.
This week you’ll be getting three posts from me on the topic:
- Tonight I give you Part One, in which I describe where I come from, politically, and explain why my Catholic faith has had a major influence on my political outlook.
- Tomorrow you’ll get Part Two, in which I’ll discuss some of the qualities I want in a president, the kind of experience I want him or her to have had, and a few broad issues (government size, taxes, bipartisan cooperation) that tend to have an impact on the more specific, exciting ones.
- Friday you’ll get Part Three, in which I’ll get into those more specific, exciting political issues – ones like abortion, immigration, the environment, etc.
Beginning next week, and going on for however long I have the stomach for it, I’ll be periodically posting my thoughts on how the individual candidates stack up to my little (okay, long) list of qualifications. I doubt I’ll get to all of them (sooo… maaany… caaandidates…), but I hope to get to most, including all of the frontrunners.
Thanks for joining me today! I hope you’ll come back to check out the rest of the series.
As a refresher to long-time readers and an introduction to newer ones, let me start by sketching out why this stay-at-home mom makes a habit of writing about politics. And Catholicism. And the meeting of the two.
First and foremost, I grew up in a political family who happened to be Catholic. (Not the other way around.)
My Granddad, who has been involved in Republican politics for most of his life, served as a local elected official through most of my childhood. My aunts and uncles served as treasurers and campaign managers on Granddad’s and others’ campaigns, and we all pitched in on election days. My childhood memories are full of political fundraisers, campaign signs, parades, and the Republican booth at the county fair. It remains rare for us to have a family gathering in which politics isn’t discussed.
In college, I majored in political science. After graduation, I worked for the federal government. Later, I worked as a lobbyist.
And through it all, ever so gradually, my Faith grew more important to me.
In high school, I defended the Church – and especially her position on abortion – from precocious friends who delighted in the debate. In college, I was exposed to devout Catholics (some of them seminarians) who were far more grounded in the Faith than I was. I was challenged by professors (representing a range of religions and political persuasions) who expected logical, well-formed arguments. I interned for an organization that represented the Church’s positions on political matters. I wrote my thesis on why and how the faithful American Catholic fits neatly into neither political party.
As a young professional, though I worked a very staid, governmentish government job, I dabbled in buzzing, what-do-you-do, who-do-you-know Washington. And I was sorely tempted by it. Ultimately, though, I found my place advocating on behalf of the Church, for the poor and the immigrant and those whose religious freedom was under threat. I remained there for over five years, until full-time motherhood beckoned.
I may be a lifelong Republican, born into a solidly, actively Republican family, but I wouldn’t say I’m your typical Republican. (As if any member of the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Tea Partyers and Pro-Lifers and farmers and Wall Street’ers can really be called ‘typical’.)
Because first and foremost, I’m a Catholic. And that designation will always mean more to me than that of ‘Republican.’
For one, my Faith forms and encapsulates my convictions on God and goodness and justice and salvation and eternity. (And really, what can be more important than those things?)
For another, political parties change their stripes all the time. What was liberal becomes conservative, what was conservative becomes populist, what was popular becomes unpopular. Polls change, trends change, issue positions slip and slide all over the place. But the Church – and the Truths she defends – they remain steady.
So if I attach myself to a thing so of-this-world as a political party at the expense of the Truths and rights and wrongs of particular issues and particular candidates – well then, I think I’ve erred, not just logically, but morally.
So I no longer go down the list and think that anyone with an (R) after their name is good enough. I no longer look for my crop of political priorities in the platform of the Republican Party.
Instead, I start with the fundamental Truth that underlies the Church’s position on most of the issues that people consider ‘political’: All human life is sacred.
All human life is sacred – no matter its age or condition or station.
That means the unborn baby at risk of abortion, the pregnant woman with no financial or emotional support, the child growing up in poverty, the black man unjustly targeted by police, the police officers who risk their lives for the safety of their communities, the undocumented immigrant, the refugee abroad, the serviceman completing his third tour, the murderer on death row, the cancer patient living out her remaining days in hospice care – all of their lives are sacred.
And I’m obliged to favor policies that respect the importance of those lives.
So that’s what I try to do. And that’s what I want ‘my’ presidential candidate to do – because yes, I want a president who reflects my values.
Why, you might ask, do I still identify as a Republican when I no longer agree to always toe the Republican line? I suppose it’s because I still want a place in our imperfect, limited political system. (And specifically, I want to be able to vote in primaries.) The fact remains that we have just two major political parties in this country and most anyone who wants to make a difference has to choose one or the other. Between the two, the answer for me is still clearly: R.
To close, allow me to clarify two points:
- First, though I prioritize the Church’s teachings in my own political decision-making, and though I used to lobby for the Church, I do not claim to speak for it. For the Church’s official positions on national-level policy questions, please see the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Some of the issues I discuss in this series will have a clear connection to those the USCCB advocates on. Others will not.
- Second, though I may hold a degree in political science, I am no political scientist. I’m a stay-at-home mom who pays a greater-than-average attention to the news. Feel free to call me out on anything you think I’ve gotten wrong.
Thanks again for joining me. I hope to have you back here tomorrow!
5 thoughts on “What This Catholic Wants In a President (And How the Candidates Measure Up) – Part One”
I so appreciate your voice! I did not grow up in a family that discussed politics much. I knew my dad was Republican but always suspected my mom’s family had been Democrats. I was married young and stayed home with our growing family. Over the years I have always felt guilty voting at all because I really had no understanding of the “issues” at hand and didn’t know how – or felt I had the time – to research and learn about them. You have beautifully articulated where I stand politically, not with a party but on the premise that all human life is sacred. As of next week I will only have 2 of our 11 children living at home. I really want to take the time to be better informed and confident the next time I enter the polling booth. Thanks for your help!
I’m so glad I can be at all helpful, Mary Ann! Honestly, I think you’ve won half the battle just by caring. Far too many people are either uninterested in or apathetic about politics/policy questions, and I think that’s what does the real harm. It can be intimidating to try to get the lay of the land and figure out how to weigh in, but caring (and paying some attention) is a huge first step!
I am definitely going to be following this political series of yours as the presidential run develops. I myself was not very interested in politics until this year and now that I want to become more aware I find that I’m not necessary sure of where to get my information. Thanks for doing this and I look forward to reading your posts with interest.
Great! I’m glad to be of some help to you!
Julie, just read all the posts in the series and really enjoyed it! I largely agree with you, though I generally vote the other way (because of a lot of what you wrote about social safety net and vulnerable populations). For me that has meant voting on immigration, education, health care, and early childhood programs — which I feel are pro-life issues because creating a society that respects and honors the humanity of all its members will lead to a broader culture of life across the board (and much of the time I feel like pro-life politics is a lot of lip service). Daughter of a Republican dad and a votes-both-ways mom who espouse the same values, so it’s interesting to me how different people find themselves led by the same values! Thanks for the thoughtful take.