October 21, 2019

The Alabama Republicans’ Dilemma

Judge Roy Moore

The special election in Alabama is over, with Democrat Doug Jones having defeated Republican Roy Moore, but the dilemma faced by Christian Republican voters remains a fascinating case study in ethical decision-making.

The contrast between the candidates’ positions on the issues could not have been sharper:

Jones supports abortion, stating “I fully support a woman’s freedom to choose what happens to her own body. That is an intensely, intensely personal decision that only she, in consultation with her god, her doctor, her partner or family [can make], that’s her choice.” Moore opposes all abortion, as well as any federal funding of its chief provider, Planned Parenthood.

Jones opposes repealing Obamacare, calling any such efforts “a nonstarter.” Moore supports repeal, claiming that the program amounted to “socialized medicine which will ultimately lead to loss of quality and affordability of heath care, as well as a loss of access to the latest medical technology.” Instead, he argues, “businesses should receive tax credits for employee health care coverage, and health insurance should be available between the states for competition and quality care,” with churches and charitable groups expanding their services.

Jones favors more gun control—“We need to make sure we shore up the National Crime Information System, the NCIC system for background checks, to both keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but at the same time, cut down on error so that law-abiding citizens can get those.” A strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, Moore opposes the expansion of background checks and of the assault weapons ban.

Jones supports LGBT rights, saying “We’ve got to protect them. Absolutely. They were wrong to get rid of those Title IX Rules . . . and wrong to ban transgender [sic] from the military, just wrong, wrong, wrong.” Moore opposes LGBT rights. In his view, “Homosexual conduct should be illegal.”

Jones opposes “tax breaks for the wealthy, which seem to be in [the current] bill overloaded,” as well as being “troubled by what appears to be ultimately tax increases or no tax cuts to the middle class.” Moore supports the tax proposal, believing that all tax levels should be reduced and that the deficit should be reduced and the budget balanced.

In a typical Alabama election, given the candidates’ positions on the issues, the Republican would have won handily. But this election was very untypical because more than eight women alleged that he had tried to date them and/or touch them inappropriately when he was in his thirties and they were teenagers.

The moral dilemma for Christian voters was whether (a) to vote for a candidate who was plausibly alleged to have made sexual overtures to underage girls when he was a grown man, (b) to vote, instead, for a candidate who approves of destroying innocent male and female lives before birth, (c) not to vote at all, which would abdicate their responsibility as a citizen, or (d) to “write in” another person’s name, which would be little different from not voting at all.

In other words, for Christian voters there was no good choice, only several bad choices, yet they had to make a choice. How should they have dealt with this dilemma? The question is a very practical one and cannot be adequately answered by theoretical musing. Unfortunately, a good number of Christian commentators talk around it without offering a meaningful answer.

I submit that the most responsible action for Alabama Christians would have been to determine which campaign issues were of the highest moral importance, then to compare the candidates’ positions and decide which candidate would be likely to support the Christian viewpoint on the most important issues.

If I were an Alabama voter, I would have reasoned that Roy Moore would have been unlikely to commit the heinous offense he was accused of in the future, but given past behavior in public life, would support Christian values in the Senate. On the other hand, it is almost certain that Doug Jones would (and given his win, will) base his votes on liberal views that are at odds with mainstream Christian values. I would therefore have, as the saying goes, “held my nose” and voted for Roy Moore.

Copyright © 2017 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Written by
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

VINCENT RYAN RUGGIERO, M.A., is Professor of Humanities Emeritus, State University of New York, Delhi College. Prior to his twenty-nine year career in education, he was a social caseworker and an industrial engineer. The author of twenty-one books, his trade books include Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America and The Practice of Loving Kindness. His textbooks include The Art of Thinking and Beyond Feelings, both in 10th editions and available in Chinese as well as English, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, and A Guide to Sociological Thinking. His latest book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America's Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, is available at Amazon and in bookstores. Professor Ruggiero is internationally recognized as one of the pioneers of the Critical Thinking movement in education. Earlier in his career, he published essays in a variety of magazines and journals, including America, Catholic Mind, The Sign, The Lamp, and Catholic World.

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Written by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero
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