It is uncomfortable to watch members of each party during this presidential race forced to swallow hard as they find themselves conflicted between what they believe in their heart and party loyalty. Not wanting to be seen as undermining their candidate with critical remarks about a candidate’s poor choice or ill begotten statement, they often find themselves saluting (however weakly) something that they really don’t believe. In some cases, the response is almost overkill, with the thought that it if I “double down” (a phrase that has been overused this political season), I may sooner be able to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. I am not sure this is the best approach for a common good to emerge.
The two party system has been a hallmark of our nation for over two hundred years and acrimony between the parties is as old as the Federalists and the Republicans (now Democrats). It is said that the election of 1800 between incumbent John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson (“the ticket” was a bit different in those days) was one of the most rancorous of all time, fueled by dissenting views of the nature of the republic. Since it has long been a part of our system, we have come to accept challenges that party members experience when confronted with a standard bearer who may not be their ideal candidate. So does it make sense to double down, or might it rather be more beneficial to one’s conscience (as well as the common good) to speak clearly about what it is that we may dislike about our party’s candidate. Is it conceivable that encouraging politicians to speak from conviction rather than political expediency, may in the long run be better for everyone?
This approach has a long record of not working politically. Speak against some aspect of your party’s candidate and you will certainly undermine their candidacy, your party, and your political future. It would be naïve to believe otherwise. However, if so many in the country agree that the political system is broken, might this not be a refreshing place to start the fix? In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus speaks about the tough message that he has come to bring and how accepting that message will bring division. So often, when we listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to our conscience, we know acting upon it will probably put us at odds with others. We seem open to possibly doing this in private, but it gets more difficult in public. However, in the political world, I am always reminded of an apropos quote by the actor playing Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons: “I think that when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”
Enough of the chaos – let conscience reign!
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