Sunday, November 9, 2008




In the week that has passed there have been enough analyses of the vote to know now that 54% of the Catholic vote went for Barack Hussein Obama, enough to elect him. For a heterodox priest such as Father Thomas J. Reese, S.J. this was wonderful news and he wrote in the post from the ON FAITH Blog of the Washington Post (appended below) with obvious joy that the 54% figure was an rejection by those Catholics of the leadership of the few bishops who had dared to speak out directly or indirectly against the Obama candidacy.

I doubt that the Catholics who voted for Obama did so in conscious defiance of the bishops; more likely they voted, as did so many other Americans, because they were infected with the virus of Obamamania. Further research will be necessary to determine the reasons more accurately.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, writing in the Wall Street Journal (also appended below) had a different take on the religious vote. Significantly she pointed out that it was the religious voter combined with the black voter that was responsible for the success of the vote for the constitutional amendments banning gay marriage which passed in three states that went for Obama.

I would like to point out to Republicans that they will probably have great difficulty electing Republicans, either to the White House or to Congress, if the Republican Party continues to alienate Hispanic voters on the subject of immigration reform. Granted that it is a most difficult problem to solve, still Republican rhetoric which casts all Hispanic immigrants as criminals and seeks to punish them only drives Hispanic voters, the majority of whom are Catholic, into the arms of the Democrat Party.

A lot has to change, both for the Catholic Bishops of the United States and the Republican Party if Barack Hussein Obama is not going to win reelection in 2012 by an even wider margin than he did on November 4, 2008.

- Leo Rugiens


Catholics Go For Obama

Posted by Thomas J. Reese, S.J. on November 4, 2008 10:07 PM


Catholic voters ignored the instructions of a group of vocal bishops and delivered 54% of their vote for Barack Obama as president of the United States. These bishops, led by Archbishops Charles Chaput and Raymond Burke, argued that abortion was the most important issue in the election and that no other issues outweighed it. As a result, they argued, Catholics could not vote for a pro-choice candidate.

Although these bishops were a minority of the U.S. bishops, they received much attention in the media because other bishops kept silent or simply referred people to their 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The silence of the majority gave the impression that the vocal bishops were speaking for all the bishops.

Some media outlets estimated the number of vocal anti-Obama bishops at 50 or more. I do not trust these numbers. Some of the bishops included in the tally only spoke out against Nancy Pelosi when she gave an interpretation of Catholic teaching, with which they disagreed. Others simply repeated what Faithful Citizenship said, that abortion "is not just one issue among many." The document also said, "As Catholics we are not single-issue voters."

Most Catholics ignored the bishops who told them not to vote for a pro-choice candidate. Hispanic Catholics, who are touted as the future of the church in the United States, voted overwhelmingly for Obama and white Catholics split their vote between the two candidates. The laity repudiated Archbishop Burke's description of the Democratic Party as the party of death. They clearly agree with what the bishops said in Faithful Citizenship: "Church's leaders are to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote."

For Catholics, as for other Americans, the economy became the dominant issue in the election. Few said that abortion was the most important issue. In addition, the anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Republican base chased Hispanics away from the Republican Party. Joe Biden, an experienced Catholic senator with working-class roots, helped top of the ticket with Catholics much more than did Sarah Palin, the ex-Catholic evangelical governor of Alaska.

The abortion debate was significantly altered during this election by the presence of prominent pro-life Catholics, like Douglas Kmiec, supporting Obama. These lay persons countered the claims of the vocal bishops by arguing that Democratic educational, social and economic programs would do more to reduce the number of abortions than Republican calls for legal restrictions. They did not say that abortion was unimportant, rather they pointed out that attempts to criminalize abortion had failed and had little chance of success in the future. These pragmatic pro-lifers wanted results not rhetoric.

Also helpful was the willingness of Obama to talk about abortion as a moral issue and about programs to reduce the number of abortions. This allowed groups like">Catholic Democrats to argue in support of Obama.

New to this election were non-partisan groups, such as Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, pushing the full agenda of Catholic social teaching. They were able to counter groups that presented a narrower list of non-negotiables.

A closer look at the exit polls should be as discouraging for left-wing Catholics as for right-wing Catholics. Catholic voters did not embrace either the conservative non-negotiables or the church's preferential option for the poor. They were concerned about themselves and their families.

Will the abortion debate rise up again in four years at the next presidential election? A lot depends on President Obama and the Democratic Congress. If they push through the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), then they will have betrayed their pro-life Catholic supporters. This will make it nearly impossible for these people to support them again. On the other hand, if they make a priority the enactment of an abortion reduction bill, then it will be more difficult for the bishops and the Republicans to portray the Democrats as the pro-abortion party.


* NOVEMBER 7, 2008

Loyal to the End: Evangelicals Stay the Course

So much for the "new evangelicals."

For the past two years, hundreds of articles have appeared in newspapers across America making the claim that the old religious right was moving left and that Barack Obama, with his religiously infused rhetoric and various "outreach efforts," was leading the charge. A year ago, David Kirkpatrick predicted the "evangelical crackup" on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. "Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why Republicans Don't Have the Corner on Christ," "Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America" and "Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right" are just three of the dozens of books released since 2004 that suggested that evangelicals were rethinking their loyalty to the Republican Party and conservatism in general. The new evangelicals, just in case anyone missed the storyline, were not so backward as to vote on issues like abortion and gay marriage. They were enlightened about the environment and favored government aid to the poor.

Well, whoever these new evangelicals were, they didn't show up at the polls on Tuesday.

John McCain won 74% of white born-again Protestants' votes. And while this was four percentage points lower than George Bush's share in 2004, President Bush's re-election was "the highpoint" for evangelical support of Republicans at least since 1980, according to John Green, a pollster at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. It's become something of a cliché that Mr. Bush has a "special relationship" with his fellow evangelicals -- but it's true. And it's a little unrealistic to expect that Sen. McCain would enjoy the same relationship with them, given that he is not one of their own. But he did just as well as, if not better than, every other GOP candidate in the past 30 years. The large victory that Mr. Obama scored with most of the electorate makes it remarkable that his gains with white evangelicals were so small.

It will probably be several more days before the exit polls on voter "priorities" are released. There can be little doubt that the economy was foremost in the minds of most Americans. But Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention is convinced that evangelicals still went to the polls with the abortion issue high on their agenda. Young evangelicals may be more interested in environmentalism, but, he notes, "they would never exchange pro-life views for pro-Earth views." And Pew's Mr. Green says that evangelical support for Mr. McCain rose after three events: his performance at the Saddleback civil forum, where he said that life begins at conception; his decision to leave the party platform on abortion alone; and his choice of pro-life Sarah Palin as his running mate.

In the GOP primaries, it will be remembered, Mr. McCain was not the first pick of evangelicals. Religious leaders like James Dobson expressed doubts about his candidacy. And the evangelical segment of the Republican coalition came under fire from many on the right for overemphasizing the social issues, particularly when Rudy Giuliani's name was on everyone's lips. But in the end, evangelicals were among the most loyal supporters of the Republican candidate. In fact, they made up a higher percentage of the electorate this year than in 2004 (23% vs. 20%).

As Republicans lick their wounds over the next few months, some will ask whether the GOP coalition of small-government proponents, foreign-policy hawks and religious conservatives can be preserved. Members of the first two groups may suggest that the social issues are simply too divisive, that the party should focus on the free market at home or strength abroad. Leave aside for a minute that most evangelicals support those ideas as well. Tuesday provides plenty of reasons to believe that the culture war is not over and to suggest that social issues, instead of being blamed for the Republican loss, should be the key to the party's expansion.

Looking at the presidential and congressional results, one might conclude that the country is no longer "center-right." But when it comes to social issues, Americans have stayed center-right -- and social conservatism still has broad appeal. Bans on same-sex marriage succeeded in three states that are hardly considered bastions of cultural conservatism: California, Arizona and Florida. It is true that the initiatives that would have severely restricted abortion in South Dakota and Colorado were defeated, but social conservatives were fairly divided on whether they should press these measures, knowing that they might not withstand a Supreme Court test.

A number of commentators have noted the irony that a larger black turnout than usual put the bans on same-sex marriage over the top. But the fact that 94% of blacks in California voted for Mr. Obama and about 70% voted to ban same-sex marriage there should be more than an odd historical footnote. That the large Hispanic populations in all three states also "split their tickets" in this way should make Republicans sit up and take notice. Mr. Green says that "racial-minority Christians are among the most socially traditional" groups in the country.

According to exit polls, Mr. McCain lost the Roman Catholic vote by nine percentage points, a seven-point decline from President Bush's 2004 election. Since Catholics have gone with the winner in the past four elections, and since they are such a disparate group to begin with, it is hard to know what to make of this. What is clear is that Mr. McCain's most serious loss was among nonwhite Catholics, the vast majority of whom are Hispanic. Republicans, with all of their nativist rhetoric, have given this group little choice at the ballot box.

Mr. Bush's strategists have long argued that Hispanics, in large part because of their socially traditional views, are a natural fit for the GOP. This claim has been largely ignored by the rest of the party. The cultural parts of the platform alone won't bring Hispanics to a party that regularly threatens to kick their kin out of the country. But as Republicans head into the wilderness, they should remember to keep the faith.

Ms. Riley is the Journal's deputy Taste editor.

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