Battling for the Catholic Vote
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 02:18:29 PM EST
Will Catholics Lean Right or Left in '08?

Over the past two decades, Catholic voters -- once consistent supporters of the Democratic Party -- have been heavily courted by the Republican Party.

In the 2004 presidential election, Republican organizers, together with a cadre of high-profile neoconservative Catholics, focused on winning Catholic votes by forging an alliance with conservative evangelical Christians based on two hot-button "culture war" issues: abortion and same-sex marriage.

In that year's presidential election, President George W. Bush received 52 percent of the Catholic vote, up from 47 percent in 2000, to John Kerry's 47 percent.

Two years later, however, Catholics, who compose a 67 million-person slice of the U.S. population, favored Democrats by 55 percent to 45 percent, according to National Election Pool exit polls. The Religion News Service reported that Catholic voting patterns varied by state, but the overall shift significantly helped Democrats in such big states as Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Are Catholic voters heading home for the long term?

'Catholics do not heed the bishops on many issues,' says Jon O'Brien of Catholics for a Free Choice  

During the 2006 campaign, Democratic candidates appeared to be more comfortable talking about their religious beliefs; attempted to broaden the "values" debate to include poverty, health care, the environment, and care for those with AIDS; and devoted significant resources to countering the Republican Party's well-established Catholic project.

"Some people posit that the Catholic vote is influenced" by statements and declarations of the Catholic bishops, Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, told me in a telephone interview. In fact, O'Brien pointed out, "Catholics do not heed the bishops on many issues." On abortion and same-sex marriage, for example, "Catholic voters' [opinions] tend to mirror those of the general public."

"Like the rest of the electorate, Catholics resonate most deeply on bread and butter issues, health care, minimum wage, etc. The abortion issue is way down the list of issues of concern. In general," O'Brien added, "Catholics do not care as deeply about the hot-button issues of same-sex marriage and abortion as conservatives would have you believe."

For the greater part of the twentieth century, U.S. Catholics were loyal Democrats. In recent elections, however, Catholic voting patterns became largely indistinguishable from the general population. "And for the last quarter-century, conservative Catholics and white evangelicals have increasingly voted Republican, making opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage their top political issues," Religion News Service pointed out.

The Catholic vote in 2008 will be "very important", the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and former editor of America magazine who writes and comments widely on Catholics and politics, told me in an e-mail.

"Catholics have voted for the winner in every election since 1932, except in 2000 when they voted for [Democratic candidate Al] Gore along with a majority of U.S. voters, but the U.S. Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bush. The Catholics are the most important swing vote."

Reese also noted that immigration ranks high among the concerns of Hispanic Catholics, "and the issue is driving them away from the Republicans".

Prior to 2006, the Republicans' multi-year organizing effort to woo Catholic voters paid off in part because, working hand-in-glove with conservative foundations, it sought, found and funded a number of Catholic neoconservatives who became key spokespersons for the Republican Party.

Deal or no Deal

By 2004, with Deal Hudson, an editor of the conservative Catholic magazine Crisis, at the controls, the Republican Party's Catholic project was firing on all cylinders.

Then the National Catholic Reporter broke a story that forced Hudson to the political sidelines.

Ten years earlier, Hudson had left a professorship at Fordham University to take over the helm at Crisis. Unknown at the time, his departure from Fordham was not voluntary as had been widely reported. Hudson was forced to resign after university officials discovered that he had been involved in sexual activities with an inebriated young coed.

The 2004 revelations forced Hudson to resign as chair of the Republican National Committee's "Catholic Outreach" effort, and from Crisis as well. Despite the Hudson scandal, the mission of the Catholic Team has remained the same, "to continue the realignment of Catholics as members of the Republican Party," according to the Republican National Committee's website.


Democrats reach out to Catholics

U.S. News & World Report recently reported that before the 2006 election, Democrats began organizing a Catholic voter project that aimed "to reverse the wilting Catholic support Democrats had seen in 2004."

In light of the results of the 2006 midterm elections, which saw Democrats take control of both the House and Senate for the first time in more than a decade, the party is "now waging a multi-front offensive to shore up what was once a bedrock constituency," U.S. News pointed out.

The Democratic National Committee hired its first director of Catholic outreach, has a special organizing link for Catholics on its website, and will supply state parties with Catholic voter lists before the Nov. 4, 2008 election.

These days, although no longer a political kingmaker, Deal Hudson continues to try and convince Catholics to cast their lot with the Religious Right. On his website he is peddling a new 5-CD set called "The Truth About the Religious Right," which he claims will give listeners "every fact" they "need to expose and refute the Left's attacks on Christians in politics." Hudson maintains that "an attack on the religious right is actually an attack" on faithful Catholics.

Hudson believes that the 2006 election cycle "saw an unprecedented assault on religious voters. Over a dozen books were released warning Americans about the 'coming Christian Theocracy.' And the media has been spinning the Republican's loss in November as America 'saying no' to traditional values voters. The truth is, the Left and their allies in the media couldn't be more wrong."

Catholics for a Free Choice's O'Brien, who is paying attention to Hudson's recent writing, believes that much of it is "wishful thinking by a [longtime] conservative operative." Conservatives "wish Catholics were motivated by their core social issues, but that is just not the case," O'Brien told me.

"Some Catholics are part of the religious right, and many conservative Catholics have similar values," John Green, a senior fellow in religion and U.S. politics at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, told me in an e-mail. "But moderate and liberal Catholics have very different political perspectives."

To the dismay of Catholic conservatives and neoconservatives, many of the issues on the table in 2006 -- the war in Iraq, health care, immigration -- that caused Catholics to come back to the Democratic Party will undoubtedly still be important to Catholic voters in 2008.

When asked whether Republicans will be able to recapture the majority of Catholic voters as they did in 2004, Green said that, "It is hard to say. Right now, polls suggests this will be hard to accomplish. But we don't have presidential candidates yet and much can change once the campaign gets underway."




Display:
Judging by the 2006 election, I sense a further return to the Democratic Party. To what degree, however, will turn on the events of the next twelve months.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 02:49:06 PM EST

If things go worse, you will see Catholics return to the Democratic Party.

by khughes1963 on Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 04:15:47 PM EST


WWW Talk To Action


On Christmas Day, in the Morning
In recent years at Christmastime, I have posted a response to the preposterous-but-malevolent claims broadcast on Fox News and elsewhere that there is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Hallelujah, Mike Huckabee, Hallelujah
Fox News personality Mike Huckabee had a defining moment in the wake of the Newtown massacre. One that as we enter the 2016 presidential......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Moses And Michele: Departing Member Of Congress Spreads More Misinformation
The Religious Right's Moses fixation continues to grow.As you might recall, the Texas State Board of Education recently demanded social studies textbooks that highlight......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Christian Right Silent about Bob Jones U Sex Abuse Report
One of the deep scandals of our time, and apparently times past, is that sex abuse, particularly of children, has been so tolerated and......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Boot These Bigoted Bans: Movement Seeks To Remove Anti-Atheist Bias From State Constitutions
Eight states still have provisions in their constitutions that either bar atheists outright from holding public office or require people to believe certain things......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
James Madison and Tax-Supported Chaplains
In light of former Sen. Rick Santorum's recent silly declaration that “the words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution,......
By Chris Rodda (0 comments)
Death to Obama; Death to "Homos"; What's Next?
When the Obama administration was young, threats against the president were common, and sometimes quite public. One notorious such incident was that of Rev.......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Rick Scarborough's America
When Stand Up Sunday was convened by Mike Huckabee in Houston it was to feature the leading spokesmen for the Religious Right agenda.  The......
By wilkyjr (0 comments)
The Republican Diversity Program... Is Working
I don't usually write directly about electoral politics, but sometimes I bring an outsider's perspective to how the inside looks to some of the......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
American Christian Right Leaders in Rome
The remarkable and growing alliance between conservative Catholicism and protestant evangelicalism was on prominent display at a recent event at the Vatican. My colleague......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Religious Supremacism on the Rise Against Marriage Equality
This is a crosspost of an op-ed I recently published at LGBTQ Nation.  -- FC Christian right undermines marriage equality with religious supremacism FREDERICK......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Author of Loathing Lincoln Explains Why Some on the Christian Right Loathe Lincoln
One under-reported result of the 2014 elections was the rise of Neo-Confederate politics in the U.S. This included the election of unabashed apologist for......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
A Catholic Theocracy Grows in Florida
Catholic Right pizza mogul Tom Monaghan and his Ave Maria School of Law are back in the news.  Journalist Eleanor Bader has a new......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
Mississippi Madness: Group Wants To Designate An Official Religion
A group in Mississippi is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to change the state constitution in several ways.The proposal put forth by the......
By Rob Boston (5 comments)
I Stand Sunday Part 2
I Stand Sunday took place in Houston, Nov. 2, 2014, motivated by the cities' mayor who subpoenaed sermons from local pastors.  The host church......
By wilkyjr (1 comment)

Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (4 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.