By Tim Colvin
For many faithful Catholics and Christians of all denominations, even for many Americans who are not religious, this election has painted a very stark picture: we are forced to choose between the two most flawed and disliked candidates in recent political memory. Many Americans have chosen to vote for third parties as a way to vent their frustration, while others, including myself, have decided that no candidate is fit to lead our country and have decided to not vote at all. I am particularly disappointed that I feel the need to abstain from voting, as this is the first presidential election I can participate in, but I feel as I have a greater duty to my principles and conscience.
But perhaps there is also an opportunity in this election, an opportunity for creative destruction, for new philosophies and ideas to emerge. For the past several decades it has felt like Christians have become more or less clients of the Republican Party; Republicans will take a stand (or will at least pay lip-service) to those particular issues (especially social issues) and Christians will get in line to pull the lever for the Republican candidate.
And now that the culture wars are over for the most part – gay rights and the sexual revolution are arguably, mostly settled issues – the rise of Donald Trump represents a post- culture war Republican Party, where issues of sexual morality have taken a back seat, and issues dealing with economics and immigration have come to the fore. Many faithful Christians have latched themselves, in my view wrongly, to Trump in the hope that he will protect in the battles to come over religious liberty. But as I mentioned, Trump is a candidate who sees social issues as almost second tier, and hardly ever mentions them; even on some occasions taking the side traditionally seen as liberal.
But perhaps out of the creative destruction left behind by the 2016 election, there is a chance to come up with a more Catholic, communitarian political philosophy. Communitarianism, which places an emphasis on the individual’s connection to a wider community, has never been popular in the United States, which has always preferred to have the individual as the most basic unit in its politics. There are already some on the right who have begun to retool the Republican ideology to fit a 21st century context, who see the current Republican outlook mired down in the Reaganism of the 1980s.
Known as “reform conservatives” or “reformicons,” these conservative intellectuals have a lot to offer the Republican Party, such as making the over-encumbered welfare system more pro-family and shifting the party away from its titans of industry image. Of course this revival in Christian thinking should not take place in only one party, and Christians should not feel pigeonholed into supporting just one party. There seems to be a search for a political messiah, a single leader who will save our nation from its political troubles and lead it towards salvation, but this hope is deeply misguided and hopelessly idealistic.
Not all of our problems can or will be solved by politics, and should not dare to hope that politics can deliver us from the evils of this life. I believe a Christian mindset, which accepts that man is a fallen creature, can introduce a healthy dose of realism into the political community.
Tim Colvin is a senior at Fordham University. He is currently enrolled in Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education Five Year BA-BS/MA Ethics and Society Program, and is a dual major in Political Science and Classical Civilization with a minor in Philosophy.