I hear that Richard Viguerie, the renowned conservative political consultant, described McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin to be his running mate as “perfect.” As a matter of unalloyed political calculation, I’m sure he’s right. McCain cannot win without support from the pro-life moral constituency. Given his abandonment of pro-life principle, he cannot get that support on his own merit. Support from supposed leaders of the moral constituency wasn’t getting the desired results. Their endorsements and fallacious arguments couldn’t stand up to the truth about his actions. Given the facts, these leaders were simply destroying their own credibility. Since his own record belies any attempts to portray him as pro-life, the choice of Sarah Palin allows him to run on someone else’s. All his supporters have to do is convince the moral constituency to forget that they are voting for John McCain and act as if they are voting for Sarah Palin. McCain can’t be too comforted, however, by the knowledge that some of them are trying to make their point with whispered references to McCain’s age, and the likelihood that his early demise would bring his running mate to the Oval Office.
Be that as it may, McCain’s political calculation is not hard to understand. The restive elements of his base may be placated, while some unhappy Hillary Clinton supporters (who prefer making gender rather than racial history) may be tempted to help put a woman in the on-deck circle for the White House. All in all that’s not a bad day’s work. It’s also not hard for me to understand why the supposed leaders of the moral constituency are breathing a bit easier. Though they must know that the moral ice they’re on is dangerously thin, with only two months until Election Day they may be able to skate over it fast enough to get by.
As a matter of cynical political calculation, all is well. If that is the only standard to judge by. Of course, the leaders of the moral constituency profess a higher standard. Many of them explicitly claim that they are guided by the Scripture, and especially the words and example of Christ. I wonder what they say in light of this admonition in St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (a Christian community suffering at the time from the very type of corruption that is threatening to destroy American liberty).
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)
With these words in mind, their first concern should be for their sister in faith, who may be risking her moral and spiritual integrity by placing herself under the authority of someone who has provably abandoned God’s will on the most fundamental moral issues of our times. Perhaps they have not given much thought to the yoke involved in accepting the office of vice president. At the very least, it implies a pledge of personal loyalty to the president with whom you serve, a pledge that means nothing if it does not extend to situations where you disagree with his decisions. What happens when President McCain joins forces with the pro-abortion Democrats to remove restrictions on research that involves destroying embryonic life? If Vice President Palin speaks out publicly in disagreement with the decision, she will violate her pledge of loyalty to the president. She will also risk introducing divisions into the executive branch that are inconsistent with the clear language of the Constitution. If she keeps silent, she risks giving scandal to fellow Christians in the way St. Paul warned against in his first letter to the Corinthians:
For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. (1 Corinthians 8: 10-12)
Now there may be a moral difference between satisfying the appetite for food at the spiritual expense of the faithful, and satisfying the appetite for power, but it probably weighs more heavily against the latter. Precisely because of her well-known pro-life credentials, a Vice President Palin’s silence when the moral principle of respect for life is violated is more likely to mislead those inclined to accept them, which is to say the very people McCain hopes will be influenced to vote for him because she is his running mate. To benefit him politically, she puts herself in a position to be a stumbling block to fellow believers, a position of grave danger to her own spiritual security, that is, if the words of Christ be our guide: “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!”
Yet her danger is no greater than that of the leaders who now rejoice in her endangerment because of the moral cover it gives to their support for a candidate whose positions on fundamental issues of moral principle place her under the yoke of an unacceptable moral authority. Now some may try to argue that she accepts this danger in the Spirit of Christ Crucified, but Christ surrendered to the temporal authority of the wicked in order to win salvation for the faithful, whereas she risks spoiling the salvation of the faithful in order to help those who have abandoned God’s authority win temporal authority over them.
But won’t Vice President Palin be able to prevent President McCain from making decisions that conflict with Christian conscience? I can think of no example of a morally principled, but unequally yoked, running mate who achieved this result once in office. The American republics are based upon Constitutional principles inconsistent with a divided executive. Therefore, lieutenant governors and vice presidents have no reliable say over the chief executive’s decisions and actions. This would be especially true of someone like Gov. Palin, who will enter office with no strong national constituency of her own beyond the possible influence of those supposed moral leaders whose unprincipled support for McCain has already placed them at his mercy. Unfortunately, a decided ignorance about the prerogatives and responsibilities of the chief executive is also the one glaring flaw in Sarah Palin’s tenure as governor of Alaska. When she began her gubernatorial duties, the state was in the midst of a constitutional crisis. The Alaska Supreme Court issued an opinion in favor of marriage benefits for homosexual couples, and subsequently ordered the Alaska commissioner of administration to draft regulations implementing that opinion. A clearer violation of the constitutional separation of powers can hardly be imagined. For this reason, Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman refused to sign the regulations.
Meanwhile, Alaska legislators passed a law to prevent any changes from being made that legitimized homosexual marriage in the state. Gov. Palin vetoed the law, and in effect granted marriage benefits to state employees and their partners. One of her advisers, Kevin Clarkson, claims that she did so on his advice, on the specious grounds that the law would have made permanent the changes ordered by the Alaska Supreme Court. But in Alaska as elsewhere in our republic, the Judicial Branch has no constitutional authority to carry out the laws. The executive power, which is to say the force of law, is entirely vested in the chief executive. Therefore, no regulations issued by the Alaska Supreme Court have the force of law. Where the chief executive and the legislature agree, as they did in this instance, that the judiciary had superseded its legal and constitutional boundaries, the Court’s preferred regulations were a dead letter. However, Gov. Palin’s veto gave credence to the Court’s usurpation.
During her campaign for office, she is reported to have said, “Elected officials can’t defy the court when it comes to how rights are applied.” (Anchorage Daily News, Online Edition, Aug. 6, 2006) This view vitiates the separation of powers, and would establish a judicial dictatorship over every aspect of legislation (since all legislation involves issues of rights in some fashion). Thus, through a combination of her own ignorance and advice from constitutionally incompetent lawyers, she surrendered the integrity of Alaska’s executive power in a way that hardly qualifies her to stand at the head of the line for the office of chief executive of the United States.
In this respect, Gov. Palin apparently belongs at the side of John McCain, whose record has established his disdain for the survival of our constitutional system of self-government. With respect to the McCain/Palin ticket, those of us who remain the partisans of self-government have good reason to remember another word of guidance quoted by St. Paul: “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord.” For conscience and the Republic, we must declare ourselves independent of a party system that places good people under the yoke of iniquity.