The Catholic Influence on the 2008 Election?
Becky of Just a Girl in Short Shorts posts this fair and balanced observation of the Catholic influence in next year's election:
Will Catholics Elect President Huckabee?
The principal of my Catholic High School had this old, yellowed picture of John Kennedy hanging in a prominent place in her office. Until I got older I didn't get it. I guess it is hard for a kid to appreciate the transcendental shift in the universe that occurred when the country selected the son of an Irish Bootlegger, as the Leader of the Free World.
There has not been a Catholic president since then, and I wonder if it makes a difference these days. I have never personally experienced any discrimination on account of my religion. While there may be a bit of prejudice in some circles, I don't really think there is any overt discrimination against Catholic laypersons, except maybe in the most Klanish corners of the Old South. Of course, the priesthood has their own problem, and it is as much with Catholics, as it is with every other person who is not a NAMBA supporter.
But, I am wondering if a Catholic candidate can count on getting most of the Catholic vote, simply on account of them being one of the faithful. I am sure with JFK, support was much like Notre Dame football frenzy. But the Catholic Church which helped elected Kennedy is a memory even more distant than the dominance of Fighting Irish football.
While Mitt Romney can count on virtually all Mormons, it is a novelty for them. And of course, Mormon votes are quite insignificant compared to Catholic electoral strength
Catholics comprise almost 30% of electorate. And if you look at all recent presidential elections, they are the ultimate swing vote. As the Catholic vote goes, so goes the election.
Formerly, coming from immigrant urban backgrounds, Catholics tended to vote Democratic. But all that has changed. Just ask John Kerry, the last Catholic to be nominated for the presidency.
Of the four Catholics currently asking for a lease on the White House, the one who seems to have the best shot is Rudy Giuliani. But Rudy has one of the big problems that plagued John Kerry, and a few uniquely his own.
Even though it might not be fatal, the twice divorced, proponent of abortion and unrepentant tomcat has a problem, even with young Catholics.
Most younger Catholics are not terribly devout, but still don't like abortion much (even those who are pro-choice), and put a premium on some semblance of sexual morality, no matter how hip they may be.
Of course, with older and more conservative Catholics, Giuliani's position on abortion is an insurmountable stumbling block, made only more slippery by his slimy morals. They are unlikely to take advantage of any ecclesiastical wiggle room which the American Bishops may have bestowed on voters.
To the extent Catholics matter in the Republican primaries, Giuliani can not count on any significant vote. His nominal Catholicism can not even partially remove the stain of his reproductive ideology with conservative Catholics.
In fact, they will probably jump on the rocket candidacy of Mike Huckabee ( though there does remain Catholic distrust of fundie intolerance, but they got over it for George Bush). Huckabee should be able to win over the supporters of former candidate, and socially conservative Catholic, Sam Brownback. Though there was that matter of the nasty little anti-Catholic whispering campaign started up by some of the Baptist minister's followers.
The abortion issue might sharpen the distaste of younger Catholics, but they are more distressed that Norman Podhoretz is Rudy's foreign affairs adviser. And if they perceive Huckabee as another neo-con in sheep's clothing, he's not going to get their vote either. It is possible that a number of young Catholic Republicans might end up throwing their votes to Ron Paul.
Assuming a Giuliani nomination, in the general election, conservative Catholics will console themselves that at least he will be fighting the Muslim infidels more vigorously than the Democratic appeasers. However, despite residual hyper-patriotic neo-Americanism, there is widespread dislike of the Iraq War from top to bottom in the Church. But in the end, it will most likely come down to the hope that Rudy is more likely, than Hillary or Obama, to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who might overturn Roe v. Wade.
Younger and more liberal Catholics, putting less significance on the abortion issue, and it being pretty much a wash between the candidates anyway, will tend to go with the Democrats, who espouse a repudiation of Bush's foreign polices and promise a kinder and gentler nation.
But in the Southwest there is a another issue at play.
Arizona is reddest of the red and it doesn't really matter. And in California there are probably not enough of these swing voters to either put it in or take it out of the Blue column.
ut, a large number of Catholics in the swing states of New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada are of Mexican descent, and Giuliani's prospects would depend mostly on which Rudy showed up in the general election: the old sanctuary mayor, or the border cop of the primaries.
But, all and all, it seems that Giuliani's Catholicism will be of little significance.
If either party nominated a Catholic who was pro-life, pro-immigration , big on national security but committed to toning down and correcting neo-con excesses, endowed with a bit of social consciousness, a family values guy and could at least publicly keep their pants on-- they would be able to get the imprimatur of Catholic voters.
And if the past is any indication, be elected president.
Obviously, there ain't one of them guys around.
But, though he is not Catholic, the closest fit is Mike Huckabee. He is pro-life, a family values guy, but one who seems to have a social consciousness, has no neo-con baggage, and his humane positions on immigration are actually one of the criticisms his hard ass Republican opponents have been throwing at him. The new Republican Rock Star does seem to be doing a bit of a flip flop to appeal to the Nativist mentality, but I suspect he would drift back closer to his true beliefs in the general election.
It seems that is what some Catholics are already thinking.