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


Bitten By A Tiger: Huckabee Must Pay For Unauthorized Use Of Song
Former Arkansas governor and Religious Right favorite Mike Huckabee has not been having a good year.Huckabee won the Iowa GOP caucus in 2008 and......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Trump Meets Man Who Inspired 2011 Terror Attack Deadlier Than Orlando Shooting
"It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet" -- President Barack Obama, June 13, 2016,......
By Bruce Wilson (2 comments)
Terrorism as a "Marketing Method"
On the same day in 2011 during which he single-handedly blew up and shot to death 77 Norwegian citizens (mostly teenagers) and injured an......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Let's Can the Name Calling about Islam
President Obama rose to the occasion in the wake of the horror in Orlando. The president made clear in a speech on June 14th......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
50 Shades of Patriarchal Grey
In what must be one of the worst public relations disasters in university history, wealthy donors to Baylor University recently took out a full......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Pious Proclamation Panned: Iowa's Governor Goes Around The Bend With Bible-Touting Document
Some elected officials have a bad habit of releasing official proclamations lauding the Bible, Christianity or religion generally.We at Americans United find these proclamations......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Unreasonable Argument: Sometimes What Everyone Knows Just Isn't So
Over the weekend, a group of atheists, humanists, agnostics and others held a "Reason Rally" in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.Thousands......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
Above The Law?: Ala. Chief Jurist Demands No Accountability
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is in legal hot water again and has no one to blame but himself - but, as usual, he......
By Rob Boston (11 comments)
Thomas More Was No Patron Of Religious Freedom
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is preparing to kick off its annual Fortnight for Freedom. This year the two weeks of......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Falling Starr
Reports from around the nation are reporting Ken Starr, President of Baylor University, has been fired as head of the Baptist school.  Other stories......
By wilkyjr (7 comments)
Bluegrass Bonanza: Ky. Theocrat Loses Grip On Statehouse Seat
Political news of late has been dominated by three people - Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. They've certainly provided good copy, but......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
Political Piety Panned: We Don't Need A 'God's Party'
Every few years, a political pundit comes along and proclaims that the Religious Right is dead or on the verge of dying. I started......
By Rob Boston (7 comments)
Trump Campaign Tied To 2nd White Nationalist Party Leader
Even as Donald Trump seeks to tack to the center, and leave behind his earlier, wildly controversial statements on Hispanics and Muslims, mounting evidence......
By Bruce Wilson (4 comments)
Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party has Consequences
Those of us who write about the Religious Right and related matters often find ourselves wishing that we were wrong. Back in 2011 we......
By Frederick Clarkson (9 comments)
No Moore, Please: Ala. Chief Justice May Be Removed From The Bench
Word broke late Friday night that Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, may be on the verge of losing his job......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)

Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (1 comment)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (6 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (3 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (4 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (9 comments)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (10 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (8 comments)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (9 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (5 comments)
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 (3 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 (14 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 (7 comments)
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 (10 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 (11 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 (7 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.