By Deal W. Hudson
After his impressive victory in the South Carolina primary, the GOP nomination of Donald Trump is very likely. Marco Rubio may pick up some support from Jeb Bush’s overdue decision to leave the race, but Ted Cruz has established a national network of highly-energized Evangelical activists who are not wavering.
When and if Ben Carson bows out, his support will likely fall to Cruz, thus keeping Rubio from gaining very much of a lead.
Polling among Catholics nationally show Trump to be the least attractive candidate among the GOP contenders. Trump polls 43% to Cruz 60% and Rubio’s 65%. The recent testiness between Trump and Pope Francis will probably hurt him with a majority of Catholic voters while building some support among conservative Catholics disillusioned with the new pontiff.
There are several factors to consider regarding both turn-out and voting: 1) Would conservative, pro-life Catholics vote for Trump as a “lesser of two evils” when faced with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? 2) To what extent are conservative, pro-life Catholics infected by the same sense of tribulation that is fueling the Trump candidacy in the first place?
Anyone who follows pro-life Catholics on social media has seen quite a bit of talk about “not voting” at all if Trump is nominated. If that threat turns out to be real, in large enough numbers, it will impact both voter turnout and grassroots organizing, both of which the GOP will need to win the White House in November.
But if enough conservative Catholic voters share the national unrest, the “Don’t Tread On Me” spirit of Trump supporters, both turn-out and campaign activism in the GOP might absorb the losses of some pro-life voters.
We’ve already seen serious and respected Catholic and Evangelical pro-life leaders mount a campaign to nominate anyone but Donald Trump. Their efforts in South Carolina may have helped Rubio catch up with Cruz, but far more likely it was the endorsement by Gov. Nikki Haley that moved a few percentage points of the vote.
If this campaign continues into more primary states it may drive the wedge even more deeply between pro-voters, both Catholic and Evangelical, and the presumptive GOP nominee for president, Donald Trump. This is an outcome that should be weighed carefully by those leading the charge against Trump against the outcome of Clinton or Sanders in the White House.
Trump has not claimed to be pro-life in the past, but he claims to be now, and he promises to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood. Skepticism towards Trump’s new position on abortion is warranted, and even some scoffing can be understood. Yet, on election day in November Catholic voters will be faced with two choices.
One candidate will be resolutely pro-abortion and linked arm-and-arm with Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, and EMILY’s List.
The other candidate, if it is Trump, will be someone who has declared himself a recent convert to the pro-life cause. A candidate who, since his change of mind, has continued to defend his position in the face of incredulous questioning from the liberal media and the pro-life community.
A Trump nomination will send the Catholic Left, who have no regard at all for saving the unborn, into a frenzy, calling Trump unfit for Catholic support on the grounds, not of abortion, but because of immigration, particularly his promise to build a wall on the Mexican border. They will quote Pope Francis saying Trump is not a Christian, which is NOT what he said, and that he is “unChristian” for wanting to build a wall, which is what he did say.
In addition, a majority of US bishops will try to create every obstacle they can to keep the Trump campaign reaching Catholic voters. It will be ugly, a free-for-all among Catholic voters.
There’s no doubt in my mind how I will vote, as a pro-life Catholic. To hand the White House over to the Democrats for another four, or eight, years will destroy our nation’s character for at least one hundred years. This would be a disaster from which America might never recover.
Published at The Christian Review, February 21, 2016