Thoughts on a Disappointing Debate: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 36)

To update those of you with whom I’m not Facebook friends (my FB friends are already WELL AWARE, given that I dominated many of their feeds Wednesday night), I indeed watched the second Republican debate.

Sigh.

Unlike my giddy reaction to the first debate, this one left me feeling kind of deflated.

—1—

Mostly because I’m just so tired of this Donald Trump thing – can’t we please get some folks to drop out of the race (thank you, Rick Perry!) so the not-Trump vote isn’t divided fifteen ways?

I would love to see the Republican field coalesce into four or five distinct choices so that the campaign (and future debates!) can become more productive and informative.

—2—

I also think that CNN did a terrible job of hosting the debate. For one thing – three hours? Why in the world did it need to last that long and how in the world did it not manage to cover more matters of substance given that it was so. flipping. long?!

For another thing, what the heck were they thinking, taking up time with stupid fluff questions on what candidates’ secret service code names should be and who should be on the $10 bill?

And most of all, why did they even bother having moderators? With all the “moderation” those people provided, they might as well have flashed big signs to the candidates instead:

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—3—

So overall, yes, I think the thing was a mess. An embarrassing, mostly unhelpful mess. I’m not against candidates challenging each other during debates – I think a healthy back-and-forth can be informative. But that’s not what we got Wednesday night. We got too many candidates on a stage for too long, where they were too often prodded into the presidential campaign version of a cockfight.

—4—

But it wasn’t entirely unhelpful.

I do think it served to clarify a few of the candidates somewhat. Carly Fiorina, who pretty much stole the show, came across as poised, competent, smart, and strong. Marco Rubio, who stayed so much above the fray that you could hardly tell he was there for half the debate, cemented his respectable (even presidential) image with some well-executed policy talk. John Kasich helped us to remember compassionate conservatism. Chris Christie firmed up his middle-class, regular-guy image.

—5—

Jeb Bush recovered a tad from his poor performance at the first debate, proving himself a little more energetic than we’d thought, but still just as much of a standard (boring?) establishment figure as we knew him to be — except maybe for his (Compassionate! Thank you, Jeb!) talk on immigration and his (pretty amusing) confession that he smoked pot as a teenager.

Ted Cruz and Scott Walker tried hard, but I think they’re competing for much the same constituency as Donald Trump and as far as I’m concerned, that ship has sailed, guys.

I hardly noticed Rand Paul at the debate – but maybe that’s just me. And I tend not to pay much attention to Mike Huckabee. (I’m sorry – my fault – I just see him as entirely unelectable, so I turn my attention elsewhere.)

I think neither of the two frontrunners going into the debate – Donald Trump and Ben Carson – gained anything by their performance there. They were who they are – one bombastic and ignorant, the other gentle and ignorant (sorry, friends-who-love-Carson). But I doubt either disappointed their supporters: They turned in the performances expected of them. I just don’t think they’re likely to grow their share of support more than they already have. They’ve peaked. (There – I said it. Feel free to call me wrong should/when the poll numbers prove me so.)

—6—

So like I said, while the first debate left me energized and excited about the official kick-off of the presidential campaign season, this one left me feeling deflated – almost weary of the whole thing already.

I sure hope some of the Republican candidates drop out soon – I’m ready for this thing to move on to its next stage.

—7—

I’ve got to end on a better note than that.

Wednesday night, because the debate started at 8pm Eastern, my boys weren’t yet in bed. They were in their pajamas, waiting for bedtime stories because Daddy was busy putting the baby down. (I’d made a desperate plea for him to do all of bedtime because I! had! to! watch! this! debate!)

They were initially very unhappy with my choice of television channels, but then seemed sort of interested in the idea that those people up there all wanted to be president.

“I want to be the president when I grow up!” said the oldest.

“I want to be a baker,” said the younger.

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I think I’d worry more about following the first path than the second.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Please stop over to Kelly’s to check out the other Friday Quick Takes.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

Thoughts on a Disappointing Debate 7QT36

What This Catholic Wants in a President (And How the Candidates Measure Up) – Part Four

Welcome to Part Four of my oh-so-exciting (ha!) series:

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I’d intended for today’s post to cover the remaining of my “hot” political issues: Immigration, foreign and military policy, the economy, the environment, and education. But when I realized that the immigration issue had become a real stumbling block for me to write about (especially now that The Donald has released his immigration plan) – because it’s just so complicated and touchy, and because I consider it so consequential to our political future – I knew I needed to tackle it separately. Therefore, today’s post will be on immigration alone. I’ll cover the rest of my “hot” issues next week.

For an introduction of the series and an explanation of how my Catholic faith has influenced my political outlook, please see Part One.

For a discussion on some of the qualities I want in a president and a few of the broad issues that impact the more specific, controversial issues (like the one in this post), please see Part Two.

For my positions on the “hot” issues of: A social safety net, abortion, religious freedom, and capital punishment/euthanasia/assisted suicide, please see Part Three.

For my thoughts on how the presidential candidates (of both parties) measure up to my (unreasonably high) standards, please come back next week and beyond for parts Five through however-many-I-get-to.

(Mostly) Hot on the Hot Stuff: Immigration

As I noted in Part Three, I tend to run pretty hot on the social issues. They’re where my Catholicism really comes to bear: I’m for a social safety net for vulnerable populations, against abortion, for religious freedom in the workplace, against capital punishment, for immigration, against euthanasia, and for an active foreign and military policy that aims to resolve conflicts and protect persecuted communities. On a few other issues – the economy, the environment, and education – I guess I have a vague, limited opinion, but I’m just not too wrapped up in them. You can’t be hot on everything.

But immigration – immigration is most definitely an issue that gets people hot. Just look at Donald Trump and the success he’s riding due (in part) to his attacks against illegal immigration, most especially that which comes from Mexico.

Look too at those who railed against the arrival of Eastern European immigrants in the early Twentieth Century, Irish in the Nineteenth, and German in the Eighteenth. This fear of immigrants, this railing against immigration, has always been with us.

(Let’s pause to note, Catholic readers, who the undesirables were in each of those generations: largely Catholic Germans, Catholic Irish, and Catholic Eastern Europeans. And who are our Twenty-first Century boogeymen? Largely Catholic Latinos. Hm.)

I want no part of it.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a pretty comprehensive outline of my thought process on immigration. Rather than re-create the wheel, I include the bulk of that piece here. It’s my case for why conservatives should reconsider their positions on immigration reform and how politicians should treat it more honestly.

1)      People have always moved. (Diving right in to the looong view here.) Through all of human history, people have moved from place to place seeking food, better living conditions, and more freedom. They have fled famine, war, and persecution. They always will.

2)      People deserve a chance to protect and provide for themselves and their families. There are still plenty of places in the world where hunger and war abound. There are even more where corruption or drought or poor economic conditions stymie individuals’ abilities to provide their families with an adequate living. I would move to a different part of the world if doing so would protect my family and secure my future. You would too.

3)      Things change. My family has lived in my state for over 10 generations. The first ones came here in the 1630’s, the last came during the American Revolution. Other than being of Native American ancestry, I’m about as “native” as you can get. But in reality, my family lives in a very different place today than it did in the past. Our state has changed visibly since I was a child; it has changed dramatically since my parents were children. Not long ago, it was largely agrarian with a few long-settled, urban centers. It was the kind of place where the same handful of family names were seen, time and again, on businesses and place names and headstones.

Today it is mostly populated by people who came from someplace else. They came from different parts of the country and far-flung parts of the world. They drove massive development. They brought their own foods and languages and preferences and opinions. They are making this place their own. Never mind the families whose names still grace the towns and street signs. We have, in a sense, been relegated to the past.

But you know what? These newcomers became our friends and eventually, our family. (I, for one, married one of them.) They built businesses and gave us jobs. They brought their skills and came to work for us. In some communities they drove up costs to the point where we can no longer afford to live there. But they also drove growth in ways that have benefited us all.

At heart, I am a rural, small-town girl. I love my family, I am interested in our history, and the biggest part of me wants to live in a place where both are obviously present. It wants to live amongst people who share my values and my tastes. That’s just how I’m built. But things change. The old kind of community of my fantasies (and my family’s past) isn’t here anymore. I can let that frustrate and sadden me, or I can find the good in the way things have become. I choose to seek out the silver linings. I choose to cultivate that part of myself that rejoices in new experiences.

Yes, immigration will change our country. It has many times over. And yes, I can understand how that is an uncomfortable, even frightening prospect for some people. Sometimes I feel it too. But things change. At the end of the day, we can’t stop change from happening. We can only control how we react to it.

4)      Laws change. The United States is a nation of immigrants. All of our ancestors, at some point or another, came here from someplace else. The vast majority came in the past 200 years. It seems to me that most of us have this idea that our own families arrived in careful consideration of American immigration law. That they waited their turn and filed all the proper applications and did everything By The Books. But that’s just not the case. The kind of complicated immigration system we have today is a product of the past few decades. Until the 1920’s, American immigration was wide-open to almost all Europeans. Nearly everyone who arrived at Ellis Island was approved for entry. In the wake of World War I, immigration laws became more restrictive. Later, they became much more complicated.

Today, immigrants gain legal entry to the United States in three primary ways: (1) through the sponsorship of a close family member, (2) through the sponsorship of an employer, and (3) through the Diversity Lottery, which is designed to favor immigration from countries less well-represented in the first two avenues. People from countries that send a lot of emigrants to the United States via family or employer sponsorship are ineligible to apply for the Diversity Lottery. In 2013, people from the following countries are NOT eligible to apply for the Diversity Lottery: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

So if I’m from England or Canada or Mexico or the Philippines and I don’t have a close family member or a prospective employer in the United States to sponsor my immigration, I can’t go. There is no line to wait in. There is no application to fill out. There is no such thing as “legal” immigration for me.

This is entirely different from the system under which my ancestors – and most Americans’ – came to the United States. Our ancestors had wide-open ports or lines at Ellis Island. They had a chance to seek their fortune in an entirely new land with no one to depend upon other than themselves. That system simply cannot be equated to today’s.

To inject a little humor here, I’ll add that when I used to testify on immigration matters, I would tell legislators (truthfully) that my last ancestor to arrive in America was a Hessian soldier paid to fight against the Americans in the War of Independence. And I’d quip, “How much more illegal can you get than that?”

5)      Families matter. It is right that people can sponsor close family members to immigrate into the United States. But the system should be better at ensuring that sponsorship actually results in a successful and timely family reunification. As it is, the immigration system is so backlogged that reunification can take years. It can take five years for a legal permanent resident to bring his or her spouse or minor child into the country. It can take twenty years for a U.S. citizen to bring his or her adult sibling here. (Here is an interesting story about efforts to bring over the adult children of Filipino veterans who fought for the U.S. Armed Services in World War II.)

The family is the most fundamental unit of society. It’s just basic human decency to allow spouses, siblings, and parents/children to be together. Can you imagine having to live without your spouse or small child for five years? Your siblings or adult children for a decade or even two?

6)      Skills matter. It is also right that employers can sponsor workers who will bring vital skills and knowledge to their companies. There should be more of this. There should also be more opportunities for entrepreneurs to come and establish their own businesses in this country. The United States’ success has, in large part, been due to our entrepreneurial spirit and our culture of encouraging ingenuity and innovation. We should unabashedly pursue the immigration of people who will feed that spirit and culture.

7)      The labor market doesn’t lie. When millions of people can come into the United States and find work despite their legal ineligibility to do so, it is proof that the labor market can support them. At the same time, it is understandable that low-skilled Americans would be fearful of competition from an influx of similarly-skilled immigrant workers. I have sympathy for those in that position. But I am also hopeful that higher numbers of legal workers would encourage more entrepreneurial activity, more business, and better opportunities for all.

8)      Long borders will never be 100% secure. The U.S. border with Mexico is nearly 2,000 miles long – just about equal to the length of the East Coast. It goes through deserts and rivers, remote areas and urban ones. And that’s just the Mexican border. Undoubtedly, border security can be improved. Even just fully-funding current programs would help. But insisting that immigration reform wait on complete border security is another way of saying reform should never happen.

9)      We should encourage immigrants to invest themselves in this country. I want people living in the United States to feel like they have a stake in its success. I want people to feel a connection to their communities. I want them to work hard, start businesses, pay taxes, buy houses, volunteer, report crimes, and help their neighbors. We encourage investment when we enable families to be together, when we bring people out of the shadows of illegal immigration, and when we provide people with an opportunity to someday become citizens. It is a terrible idea to legalize a person’s immigration status without providing them a path to citizenship. That sends the message, “We want your labor, but we don’t want you.”

In sum, I’m in favor of immigration reform. But not just that – I’m in favor of more immigration. I understand why some oppose it and I’m sympathetic to (and even naturally inclined to share) their concerns. But this is not an issue that’s going away. No fence or deportation camp or wacky/disturbing proposal to enslave those who come here illegally will deter desperate people from taking a chance on the USA.

As long as people who are oppressed or impoverished place their hope in the United States, there will be those who wish to immigrate. And as long as would-be immigrants see no legal avenue for coming into our country, they will pursue illegal ones.

We would do better, I think, to reform our immigration system wholesale:

We should improve our system of processing immigration applications, etc. so that wait times are cut, families are reunited, and those who are eligible for legal immigration don’t forgo it in favor of a quicker (illegal) route.

We should open the legal immigration application process to all people regardless of their nationality. (Note that I’m not saying that every application should be granted – I’m just saying that all people should be allowed to apply. Or at least given a chance to enter the lottery.) If people saw that there was actually a line for them to legally stand in, they may be less willing to take a chance on entering the country illegally.

We should take more seriously the priorities of reunifying families and attracting talented, innovative individuals.

We should provide a way for those currently in the U.S. illegally to make their status legal. Require clean records, make them pay a fine and taxes, and send them all the way to the back of the so-called line – but give them an option.

That — that practicality, that honesty about the realities of the current (messed up) immigration system, that kind of focus on designing a better one for the future — that’s what I want in a president.

See you back here next week to discuss a few more things I want.

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The Hessian Barracks in Frederick, Maryland, where my most illegal ancestor was held after his capture at Yorktown.

~~~

Just as I have for Parts One, Two, and Three, allow me to close by clarifying two points. (I may do so at the end of each of these posts.)

  • 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 next week for Part Five!

What This Catholic Wants in a President (And How the Candidates Measure Up) – Part Three

Welcome to Part Three of my first-ever series:

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Today’s post covers some of the “hot” political issues that I care most about. I had been hoping to cover all such issues in this post, but long enough is long enough. So today you get: the Social Safety Net, Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Capital Punishment/Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide. On Monday (updated to correct to next week, at some point), I’ll cover the remaining issues on my list: Immigration, Foreign and Military Policy, The Economy, The Environment, and Education.

For an introduction of the series and an explanation of how my Catholic faith has influenced my political outlook, please see Part One.

For a discussion on some of the qualities I want in a president and a few of the broad issues that impact the more specific, controversial issues (like those in this post), please see Part Two.

For my thoughts on how the presidential candidates (of both parties) measure up to my (unreasonably high) standards, please come back next week and beyond for parts Five through however-many-I-get-to.

(Mostly) Hot on the Hot Stuff

Alright, now that I’ve gotten past those general, boring, impacts-everything-else issues, how about we get into the juicier stuff?

I tend to run pretty hot on the social issues. They’re where my Catholicism really comes to bear: I’m for a social safety net for vulnerable populations, against abortion, for religious freedom in the workplace, against capital punishment, for immigration, against euthanasia, and for an active foreign and military policy that aims to resolve conflicts and protect persecuted communities.

On a few other issues – the economy, the environment, and education – I guess I have a vague, limited opinion, but I’m just not too wrapped up in them. You can’t be hot on everything.

— Social Safety Net —

First, a decidedly un-Republican thing to be for: a social safety net that helps vulnerable populations actually move forward with their lives. And by “vulnerable populations” I mean the chronically poor, the mentally ill, the addicted, the disabled, and the (practically, if not officially) orphaned.

This is an issue (or rather, a collection of issues) I never knew much about until I worked with it/them. (I used to lobby on poverty-related issues on behalf of the Catholic Church.) There’s so much to the topic that I could write an entire series on it alone, so I won’t try to be exhaustive here. (Lengthy, perhaps – but not exhaustive.) I’ll just make three general points:

One, there are fewer resources for help than you think. I can’t begin to tell you the number of phone calls I’ve fielded from those in need, or whose loved ones were – and I didn’t even do the actual work of trying to connect people to resources. I just lobbied on such issues.

Just lost your job and need a few hundred dollars to tide you over with the rent so you’re not evicted? Sorry – our state’s rental assistance program is teeny tiny and not accepting any more applicants. And eviction prevention programs are so specific that few people qualify for them.

Need longer-term help with the rent because you can’t find a job that pays enough for you to stay afloat in this expensive housing market? Sorry, there’s a seven-year waiting list for Section 8 in your county.

Need a place for you and your kids to stay tonight because you’re (rightly!) trying to get away from an abusive home? Sorry, neither your county nor any of the neighboring ones have a public homeless shelter. And though the Church does operate two women & family shelters in this metropolitan area, both are full, with waiting lists.

Have an adult child showing signs of serious mental illness for whom you want to get help? Sorry, we can get him admitted to the hospital for a day or so, but we can’t do anything else.

Have a child suffering from addiction? Sorry, private rehab programs are expensive and public ones are mostly full.

On public assistance already, but want to take a better-paying position so you can move up the ladder at work and build a small savings to eventually by a car (so your job options won’t be limited by those accessible via public transportation) or put down a rental deposit on your own apartment or just have a little cash in the bank for emergencies?  (You know – the things that would enable you, ultimately, to not need assistance?)  Sorry, if you make any more income you’ll lose your assistance entirely. Same if you start saving. You’d better just stick with that lower-paying job so you don’t end up worse off than you are now.

(Sorry for the length on that last one – it just had to be said.)

The truth is, most of those living in poverty or experiencing other serious hardships have very few options for help. Government programs are often insufficient, understaffed, and restrictive. And though private, charitable programs do wonderful work, their resources (and therefore efforts) are more limited than anyone would like.

For all the complaining we hear about entitlements, most government assistance programs for the poor are not entitlements, meaning that when they’re full, they’re full. They’ve no obligation to take you. Entitlement programs (like Food Stamps), in which any eligible person must be served, are the exception and they’re limited to very specific purposes. Political talk about how large entitlements are and how very much of the budget they consume primarily reflects the size of the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. (Of which only the third is exclusive to the poor.)

For many who live in poverty, the odds are simply stacked against them: difficulties related to housing, transportation, education, health, family life, and criminal backgrounds often conspire to make self-improvement literally impossible. And poverty aside, even most middle-class families are ill-equipped to handle the costs associated with addressing severe mental illness, addiction, or disability.

Two, the government is the most effective way for us to collectively support people in need.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could depend on our churches and charities and families and neighborhoods to support those who find themselves in a bind? Absolutely. All of the above do good, important work. But they don’t do nearly enough of it for us as a society to be able to depend upon them alone. Many churches and charities struggle from declining participation and donations. (Note: If you don’t already, please give to your local Catholic Charities!) And many families and neighborhoods, sadly, are not equipped to help their most vulnerable members. Some – the really dysfunctional ones – already do them more harm than good.

Three, simply, I believe that it’s important to help those in need. Just as simple as that: we should help those in need. That’s common human decency. But it’s also one of my calls as a Catholic. I should help the neighbor I know and the one I don’t. I should give of my time, talent, and treasure. And I should care whether the help that’s given is sufficient and effective.

In sum, I want something from a president that most Republicans are unlikely to deliver: a commitment to policies and programs that provide for real, useful assistance for vulnerable populations. If I can find a candidate who seems to fit this bill and is also pro-life, well then, he (or she) may well be my guy.

— Abortion —

Next up, the biggest of the don’t-bring-it-up-at-a-dinner-party topics, the one that’s lighting up our newsfeeds nonetheless: abortion.

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m really, very much against it. (I’ve written about it in greater detail here.) And I want a candidate who is too.*

Honestly, there is no one issue that is more important to me than abortion. I consider myself pro-life in the fullest sense of the word – I’m against the death penalty and euthanasia, and for programs and policies that help individuals attain the necessities of life. But when it comes down to it, I think there can hardly be anything more wrong in this world than ripping apart an innocent child in her mother’s womb.

Social moderates in the Republican Party advocate, quietly and not, for the Party to shift its focus away from divisive issues like abortion. But this social conservative is here to say that if you give up the stance against abortion, Republican Party, you will lose me. I already disagree with large factions of the Party on immigration and bi-partisanship and social welfare. If the Republican Party ditches its traditional commitment to pro-life policies, then I will have no compelling reason to stay.

In short: I refuse to vote for a Republican candidate for president who isn’t convincingly pro-life. And absent a dire turn of events (i.e. Trump winning the nomination), I can’t see myself voting for a pro-choice Democratic candidate either.

*I think any (eventual) law prohibiting abortion will have to include an exception for when the mother’s life is in danger. Such cases may be exceedingly rare, but politically and legally, I think we’ll have to allow for that possibility.

— Religious Freedom —

Maintaining full, real religious freedom is exceedingly important to me. As I wrote here, I firmly believe that there are no more fundamental rights than those to (life,) speech, and religion. “When I am able to speak freely, my mind is free. When I am able to worship freely, my heart and soul are free too.”

Honestly, I don’t worry that the government is about to start dictating which religious doctrines are or aren’t acceptable for churches to be teaching on Sunday. But I do worry that the government is beginning to sacrifice religious freedom to secular, liberal ideals in seemingly mundane ways: compelling religious organizations to enable their employees to be provided with contraception, requiring private individuals to provide goods and services that violate their consciences, and soon, I expect, requiring even churches to employ and accommodate (via, for instance, the rental of a church hall) individuals who flout their teachings.

I worry when so many of my friends and fellow Americans hear that the government aims to force people to do things that violate their deeply held religious beliefs and they… don’t care. Or worse, they fly to the defense of the government and demonize those targeted by it because the things that are to be done involve those most sacred of secular cows, contraception and abortion.

The fact is, there are slippery slopes all over the place. It’s quite fashionable to be concerned about government overreach insofar as it applies to email and phone records. But what about government overreach concerning what we believe and how our everyday lives reflect those beliefs?

I worry that we might not realize we’re on a slope until we’ve already slipped.

I want a president who will recognize the vital importance of real, full religious freedom and who will oppose policies that have the effect of limiting it.

— Capital Punishment and Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide—

Consistent with my desire to protect newly-conceived life, I also want to preserve the lives of the condemned, the sick, and the elderly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: All human life is sacred – no matter its age or condition or station.

As capital punishment is primarily the purview of the states and execution for federal crimes is very rare, I don’t at all expect this issue to be a focus of the presidential campaign. Nor do I expect Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide (which I wrote about here) to make waves. But on all these counts, I’ll be looking to see what hints the candidates give.

I want a president who values human life in all of its stages – who, like me, opposes capital punishment, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. Most candidates, I imagine, will not join me in that across-the-board opposition. But at the very least, I plan to avoid candidates who speak of capital punishment with relish, or who dismiss the concerns that accompany euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Alright! That’s enough for tonight. (Do you see now why I couldn’t fit all my “hot stuff” into one post?) I hope you come back Monday next week for the remaining topics in this section: Immigration, Foreign and Military Policy, the Economy, the Environment, and Education. Have a great weekend!

~~~

Just as I have for Parts One and Two, allow me to close by clarifying two points. (I may do so at the end of each of these posts.)

  • 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 next week for Part Four!

What This Catholic Wants In a President (And How the Candidates Measure Up) – Part One

Welcome to my very first series!

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President

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.

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President Part One - 1

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.

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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.

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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!

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President Part One - 2