Nobody really wants to vote for either presidential candidate. It may come down to voting for vice president.
Of course, that is not how U.S. elections work. The "ticket" is just that, so voters choose the Democratic ticket (Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine) or the Republican ticket (Donald Trump and Mike Pence.)
The objections to each candidate at the top of each major party ticket are so strong that voters may vote instead based on their vice presidential choice.
So who would be the better vice president? Each candidate has congressional experience. Each claims Catholic roots. Each fairly reflects his party's platform. It's complicated.
For the Democrats, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is pro-abortion rights and thinks the church will change on same-sex marriage. He sings in his church choir. For the Republicans, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence wants to defund Planned Parenthood, but he also tried to withhold state aid when Indianapolis Catholic Charities resettled a well-vetted Syrian family. He calls himself an "evangelical Catholic."
This week, we celebrate the first anniversary of the launch of our podcast, NCR in Conversation. Catch the latest episode here.
With Kaine in the pews on the left, and Pence in the pews on the right, which "Catholic" will get the Catholic vote?
Shall we turn to the party platforms? Each vice presidential candidate is pledged to support the platform his party presented and adopted at the convention.
Tim Kaine's Democratic platform supports embryonic stem cell research, government funding of Planned Parenthood, abortion on demand, and all manner of liberal social policies. Except for the facts about global warming, there is not much soothing reading for the bishops there. The platform promises to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which disallows the use of federal funds for abortion, and to repeal the Helms Amendment, which keeps federal resources from providing abortion outside the United States. The word "abortion" appears six times in the platform document.
Mike Pence's Republican platform opposes stem cell research, government funding of Planned Parenthood or subsidized health care that includes abortion, asks for a ban on abortions based on sex-selection or disabilities, and rails against the notion of abortion as health care. The platform is adamant that U.S. taxpayers not be forced to pay for abortion, calls for codification of the Hyde Amendment, and supports most conservative causes. The word "abortion" appears 35 times in the platform document.
Such are the differences on life issues. The rest are predictably left and right. Democrats want gun control, Republicans don't. Democrats support the menu of LGBT issues, Republicans are not crazy about the ones that seem to infringe on others' rights. (Remember the bathroom wars?)
There are genuinely sharp differences. Tim Kaine's Democrats seem to be "anything goes" folks, while Mike Pence's Republicans are starched and straight-laced conservatives.
Where to look to make a decision?
The top of the tickets are predictable memes: she tries to deflect questions about her health and her ethics; he sounds like Archie Bunker, the 1970s television character who hated just about everybody and who thought more guns would solidify national security.
So let's look at trustworthy.
We will end up with one or the other.
If the Electoral College vote somehow ends in a 269-269 tie, the presidential vote goes to the House of Representatives, while the vote for vice president goes to the Senate. The Republicans control both.
My suggestion, dear voter: leave the murder mystery aside for a day or two and read the two platforms. Her team published 51 pages. His team published 54 pages. Together, they don't take that long to read.
If you cannot choose based on candidates, even the vice presidential candidates, reading the platforms may be the easiest way to decide what you want.
[Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. She will speak Sept. 24, 2016, at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and Oct. 19, 2016, at Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Conn. Her books include Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future, Women Deacons? Essays with Answers and In the Image of Christ: Essays on Being Catholic and Female.]
Editor's note: We can send you an email alert every time Phyllis Zagano's column, Just Catholic, is posted. Go to this page and follow directions: Email alert sign-up.
Just $5 a month supports NCR's independent Catholic journalism.
We are committed to keeping our online journalism open and available to as many readers as possible. To do that, we need your help. Join NCR Forward, our new membership program.
Looking for comments?
We've suspended comments on NCRonline.org for a while. If you missed that announcement, learn more about our decision here.