Catholic vote

Pete Buttigeig: What You See Is Not What You Get

Deal W. Hudson

March 31, 2019

Mayor Pete Buttigeig of South Bend, Indiana is a full-blown relativist. He views the world through the lens of multiculturalism, historicism, gay rights, and radical feminism.

Buttigeig hopes to secure the Democratic Party nomination in order to become President of the United States. If elected, there would be no First Lady. He married his partner Chasten Glezman in June 2018.

His candidacy is showing traction, as Buttigeig puts it, “There’s this intangible energy you can just feel when I walk into a room.”

Like Bill Clinton, Buttigeig attended Harvard and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Like Bill Clinton, he speaks well, dresses conservatively, and has sizable charm. And also like Bill Clinton, what you see he is not what you get.

Like Barack Obama, Buttigeig opposes laws forbidding partial-birth abortion. In spite of allowing newborns to be killed, Buttigeig believes in “inclusion and love”! For Buttigeig, love means ignoring Scriptural teaching that “reflect the moral expectations of the era in which they were recorded.”

I wonder where Buttigeig stands on “Thou shall not kill”? Do we toss that out too? Sorry, I forgot, Buttigeig already tossed that out by supporting partial-birth abortion.

His reason? Buttigeig worries “the involvement of a male government official like me is not helpful.” I’m not sure why maleness should preclude us men from objecting to killing babies at the moment of birth.

An Episcopalian, Buttigeig also ignores the scriptural teachings on marriage and homosexuality as a product of the past. My gut tells me being in a gay marriage will help him get the nomination. If the Democrats can’t elect the first woman president, they would settle for the first gay president.

Charles Kaiser writing for The Guardian describes a plausible scenario which pro-life Catholics should take seriously:

Is it too much to imagine that America could elect a gay president? I don’t think so. If the disaster of George Bush’s administration was sufficient to elect the first black president, I believe the catastrophe of Donald Trump could be just enough to put the first openly gay man in the White House. Especially a man like this.

The new ultra-liberal leadership of the Democratic Party would be ecstatic to have a gay nominee. They’ve thrown any notion of truth out the window, especially if it benefits Donald Trump.

Case in point, another Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, refused to recognize the devastation of Venezuela by President Maduro and support the global effort to legitimize Juan Guaidó.

If elected President, Buttigeig hopes the United States will take the lead on LGBT issues. In the same interview, Buttigeig accuses the Trump White House of dividing the country with “white identity politics.” He promises a “political rhetoric to make people feel big-hearted.”

I guess the protection of innocent babies isn’t part of feeling “big-hearted.”

As mayor of South Bend, Buttigeig has been a leader in denying the rights of pro-life groups. He used his veto power to negate a zoning decision of the South Bend city council allowing a pro-life organization to relocate to property next to an abortion clinic.

That’s the kind of “inclusion and love” we can expect from Buttigeig if he’s elected President.

Buttigeig has made it clear he will talk about his faith on the campaign trail. He believes there is a “Religious Left” which will help him get to the White House. That’s the same crowd who backed Hilary Clinton to the hilt on the issue of immigration.

From a Catholic perspective, Buttigeig can count on the Nuns on the Bus,AmericaCommonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter. No doubt ninety percent of the Notre Dame faculty will pitch in to help.

Having watched Buttigeig interviewed, what struck me the most what his calm response to challenging questions. Buttigeig doesn’t depend on the histrionics of Bronx Congresswoman of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to make his point. This will earn him the attention of a public tired of the screaming.

We are tired of far-left politicians flailing us with hardly-repressed anger and hardly-disguised accusations of bigotry. Buttigeig knows this, and his communications strategy is to get his foot in the door just by projecting a nice-guy image.

Make no mistake, this is a nice guy who wants to strip America of a moral legacy that he considers outdated. He will use as excuses his sensitivity to the ways whiteness and maleness have “misshaped” our cultural attitudes.

Buttigeig promises “inclusion and love” for everyone who agrees with his pro-abortion and pro-LBGT agenda. The rest of us will be dismissed as “divisive” and “puritanical.”

At present, Buttigeig is enjoying the “intangible energy” he feels walking into a room of supporters. Buttigeig, if nominated, will find the waters less calm, and his earnest conviviality will be tested by encounters with less infatuated voters.

Immigration and the Golden Ticket

Deal W. Hudson

February 24, 2019

In the last decade, the topic of immigration has become as divisive in the Catholic Church as the issue of abortion. Like abortion, immigration is now at the center of national politics—it was the centerpiece of the 2016 presidential election. The election of 2020 promises more of the same debate but more fierce in tone and, also, more significant for the future of our nation.

Some argue that the principle of solidarity should inform a public policy that allows immigrants to enter the United States with only a minimal challenge at the border. The USCCB has consistently taken this position as stated in “Welcoming the Stranger: Unity In Diversity” (November 2000). The Bishops’ “call to solidarity” calls for the utilization of all governmental and church services to provide total care for immigrants who cross the border whether or not they cross illegally. In “Welcoming the Stranger,” the Bishops explain it this way:

“Without condoning undocumented migration, the Church supports the human rights of all people and offers them pastoral care, education, and social services, no matter what the circumstances of entry into this country, and it works for the respect of the human dignity of all—especially those who find themselves in desperate circumstances. We recognize that nations have the right to control their borders. We also recognize and strongly assert that all human persons, created as they are in the image of God, possess a fundamental dignity that gives rise to a more compelling claim to the conditions worthy of human life.” (Emphasis added)

In other words, although the Bishops recognize the right of a nation to control its borders, they trump that right with a “more compelling claim.” That claim is nothing less than persons are created in the image of God. Possessing the imago Dei, persons can claim “the conditions worthy of human life,” meaning enter the United States freely and receive all the goods and services “worthy” of their human dignity.

If the need for secure borders and national security is overridden by the created nature of each person, one wonders how far the Bishops want to extend this as a principle. Does the imago Dei get people released from jail?

If the imago Dei is a “Golden” ticket enter the United States illegally and remain here illegally, then the imago Dei is being made the enemy of the rule of law. Without laws, human solidarity is impossible. Solidarity demands order and respect for lawful authority. Look at countries like Mexico where the rule of law is ignored and see the human misery that results. This is a very dangerous principle to put in place.

The Catechism teaches that persons should be subject to the governmental authority that “seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it” (#1903). Why, then, are those who support secure borders, even the building of a protective wall, so quickly accused of contradicting the principle of solidarity? In other words, it’s the prerogative of the government to create and enforce laws consonant with the common good of society.

The more specific question is whether the Bishops consider the present immigration laws as “morally licit” when immigrants are stopped, questioned, and housed before the U. S. government makes a decision about admitting, or not admitting, them to the country. From all that I have read and heard the answer is ‘no.’

What we see right now at our all-too-porous southern border is beginning to resemble Mexico: sex trafficking, drugs, crime, gangs, not to mention potential terrorists. The Catechism recognizes the necessity of laws to regulate immigration:

The common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense. (Emphasis added, #1909)

The Bishops’ statement also brings us back to passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the obligation of wealthy nations, “to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin” (Emphasis added, #2241). Who decides the “to the extent they are able”? Answer: Our Congress and President working cooperatively to weigh national resources against the needs of immigrants.

The Bishops, as they often do, are attempting to influence both lawmakers and voters to regard our nation as able to provide more resources than are doing. With all due respect, they are not in the position to know the requisite facts regarding the nation’s resources. They do, however, know better than anyone what the Church can do at the diocesan and parish level. I’m certain they would not want politicians judging their use of resources.

The Catechism makes it clear whose job it is to make these prudential judgments: “Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions.  . . . ” (Emphasis added, #2441).

The Catechism, at least, states that a nation’s laws should me obeyed by persons, regardless of their imago Dei.

So Much for Dialogue: Cardinal Tobin Talks Past Trump

Deal W. Hudson

January 31, 2019

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin published an opinion piece in the New York Times about “The ‘Ethics’ of Trump’s Border Wall” (January 30, 2019) Tobin’s argument is presumptuous, accusatory, and riddled with factual errors. In that way, it’s no different from most of what we read and hear from liberals who attack President Trump.

Tobin starts by asking if the border wall is moral. In his conclusion, he admits, “A wall itself is not immoral,” but can be immoral if “it can be constructed for an immoral purpose.”

That explains why Tobin spends his 800 words struggling to explain why President Trump is operating with an “immoral purpose.” Just what does he count as evidence for proving the President’s immoral purpose?

First, the bishop writes, we must consider the wall’s “effect on humans.” OK, but for the sake of argument, Tobin narrows that down to the possible “harm” to immigrants and refugees at the Southern border of the United States. And, oh yes, let us remember they “are equal to us in the eyes of God.” I’m pretty sure President Trump would agree with this statement—in fact, he hasn’t said anything to the contrary.

Tobin worries that a wall would repel immigrants to “more remote areas of the desert or mountains, possibly to their deaths.” It seems to me if those immigrants were smart enough to view the US as a place where a better life might be had, they wouldn’t suddenly become stupid and head for the desert.

Then Tobin says something very perplexing. He claims since the mid-1990s nearly 8,000 migrants “have died in Arizona and parts of Texas since the construction of the San Diego and El Paso sectors of the wall….” Scratching my head, I want to ask the bishop how he can blame the wall—they died on the other side of the border, in the US!

Tobin then describes the recent immigrants from Central America who, as we have seen, have been organized into caravans of thousands. He argues they are “in compliance with our domestic and international laws” when, pay attention to the wording, “they cross the border and ask for protection.”

That’s true. However, the purpose of the wall is to keep them from crossing the border. Those who successfully cross, whether legally or illegally, are being treated according to the law.

Tobin recognizes this, noting a wall would present them from crossing the border, which he calls “their right under law.”

Wrong. No one has a legal “right” to cross our border. Their legal rights begin when they succeed in crossing. The only group that has ever been granted the right to cross US borders are Canadian-born Aboriginal citizens according to the “Jay Treaty” of 1794.

I agree with Tobin when he says we should seek “more humane ways to achieve border security” through technology. But Tobin has something different in mind, such as “additional legal avenues for entry and policies that address the factors pushing migration.”

In other words, change the law.

At this point, Cardinal Tobin argues we must look “at the intent of someone who wants to construct a wall to determine its morality.” What he claims next about President Trump is factually wrong and morally presumptuous: “In this case, it is clear that Mr. Trump wants to deny entry to anyone crossing the southern border, even those who have a right to cross and seek protection and are no threat to us.”

“Clear?” It’s not clear to me or the millions of American who voted for President Trump. When has the President even hinted that he wants to end all immigration at the Southern border? I’ll tell you: Never!

When anyone attacks a public figure, who he does not know, about that public figure’s “intent,” we know it’s personal.

Tobin wants to indict President Trump’s personal moral character. Somehow the bishop has seen into the President’s heart and knows he intends to keep anyone from entering the US from the South.

And having claimed this, Tobin doesn’t stop: “Mr. Trump is not acting with concern for the impact of the wall on their lives, including those of children, who would remain subject to danger.”

Just how does Cardinal Tobin know that? Is he the new Padre Pio, a reader of souls?

For some reason, unexplained, the bishop adds that the wall will have an “adverse impact” on the environment, causing harm to “wildlife and vegetation.” True, the wall will cast a long shadow in the morning and late afternoon, blocking the full heat of the sun.

Whether this is a welcome respite for plants and animals could be debated, but environmental arguments don’t belong in this column.      

Tobin castigates the “Remain in Mexico” policy that keeps immigrants outside the US until their hearings because “that could keep them vulnerable to organized crime for months or years.”

Other than the fact that some illegal immigrants have brought crime to the US—the M13 gang from El Salvador—Tobin doesn’t mention anything about the responsibility of other countries to protect their own citizens from harm.

If you want to address “root causes,” as Tobins suggests, why can’t the US help these nations shut down their organized crime?   

Tobin makes another broad claim, that the President wants “to rid the United States of as many immigrants—legal or otherwise—possible.”

He cites as evidence the ending of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and doesn’t mention the the district court decision that determined that DACA was very likely “unconstitutional,” because Congress never passed it, or that the President recently offered Democrats a plan to reimplement DACA permanently in exchange for border wall funding.

Tobin also laments the change in Temporary Protected Status. He doesn’t mention TPS was created to help refugees to enter the US from countries where conditions have become extremely unsafe. The recent changes under this administration only extend to Yemen, Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador, and are not intended as permanent.

If anyone doubts Cardinal Tobin has made this personal, read this:

The way in which Mr. Trump has argued for a wall also is instructive. In trying to secure funding, he has cast all immigrants as criminals and threats to national security by spreading misleading and inaccurate information about them.

As a rhetorical flourish, this is overkill and weakens his argument. He goes on to accuse President Trump of “lies and smears,” yet that is precisely what Tobin is doing to Trump.

Then Tobin makes this factual claim: Trump “fails to point out that immigrants commit crimes, including violent ones, at a much lower rate than [US] citizens.”

What Tobin says is factual, if his two cited studies–reported by the Washington Post–are true. Except for “gambling, kidnapping, smuggling, and vagrancy,” immigrants were convicted of far fewer crimes than native-born residents, according to the Cato Institute 2015 study. I think this fact should become more prominent in the public debate. It surprised me.     

Cardinal Tobin ends with the example of the Berlin Wall, “which prevented millions in the Soviet Bloc from seeking freedom in the West.”

He also could have mentioned the wall built by Israel to lessen terrorist attacks, which it has, from the Occupied Territory of Palestine. Also not mentioned was the 14-mile wall built south of San Diego over twenty years ago. This wall succeeded in lowering illegal immigration from 100,000 per year to 5,000.

Then there are the great walls of history: The wall of Jericho recorded in the Book of Joshua; Hadrian’s Wall; and the Great Wall of China. Each did the job it was intended to do: protect those who built it from harm.

The Vatican Wall is sometimes laughed at when brought into the discussion, but should not be. It was built 39 feet high during the 9th century as a barrier against Muslim pirates who attacked from Southern Italy, which they controlled.

All this makes the point: When danger threatens, who blames the potential victim for building a wall?

To tell the truth, the bishops have shown little or no concern for border security. A common argument against border security is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2441): The “first duty” of the government is not to protect its citizens but,

to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the human person. Persons have the right to immigrate, and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, especially financially blessed nation.

What bishops, like Tobin, often forget is that what the Catechism calls the “second duty:” “to secure one’s border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good” (2441).

The language of the Catechism will startle those who have been listening to the bishops on immigration during the past few years:

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially concerning the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

If only bishops like Tobin would embrace the wise balance of the Catechism’s social teaching rather than ranting about the horror of the Wall.

That’s why there are two duties, to make sure that generosity does not become a danger, or that national security does not close our open arms.  It’s the responsibility of President Trump–and a Catechetical mandate–to “enforce the law for the sake of the common good.”

Catholics and the GOP: an Uneasy Fit — my op-ed from the Los Angeles Times — January 23, 2000.

Catholics make up the largest single religious denomination–65 million–of any kind in this country. They also make up one-third of the electorate in a presidential election, approximately 30 million. Yet in more than 200 years, a Catholic priest has never served as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In December, an 18-member bipartisan committee verbally expressed a preference for Father Timothy O’Brien, a political science professor at Marquette University, for the job of House chaplain. Yet when Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt met to decide who to nominate as chaplain, they chose a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Charles Wright, over O’Brien. There were charges of anti-Catholic bigotry, and when Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), a highly respected Catholic, raised the same question, Catholics took notice.

This controversy comes at an awkward moment for the GOP. Leading presidential contender George W. Bush has demonstrated a strong pull on the decisive Catholic swing vote. Our Crisis magazine polling indicates that up to 40% of the Catholic vote–12 million–can shift parties in presidential elections. The Democrats would like nothing better than to undercut Bush’s appeal by adding anti-Catholic prejudice to the list of moral complaints they aim at Republican conservatives.

The full House will vote on Wright later this month, and the Democrats appear ready to contest it. If they raise the issue of anti-Catholicism on the House floor, they will be touching a deep nerve among this nation’s Catholics.

The Democratic Party was the traditional home for most Catholics until the late 1960s when a slow migration into the conservative movement and the Republican Party began. Today, Catholics make up the largest single Republican constituency, about 31% of the party. Yet the size of the remaining swing vote indicates hesitation and discomfort about the fit of Catholics into the GOP. Our research indicates that Catholics who are in basic agreement with the conservative social values of the GOP often are turned off by the harshness of Republican rhetoric, a preoccupation with economic matters and vituperative attacks on government programs aimed at the needy. In short, Catholics remain unconvinced of Republican compassion.

The selection of the House chaplain gave Republicans an opportunity to reach out to Catholics and to refashion the image of a party frequently portrayed as in the clutches of the religious right. Instead, the House leadership provided Democrats their opportunity to begin recapturing a generation of Catholics grown accustomed to voting for the Republican Party. Democrats can paint a picture of a WASPy party hopelessly out of touch with–even intolerant of–this nation’s religious diversity.

Democrats won’t find it hard to persuade such old Catholic left-wingers as Father Andrew Greeley, who recently opined on CBS’ “The Early Show,” that any Catholic who is a Republican is “probably” in a state of mortal sin. When host Bryant Gumbel expressed disbelief, Greeley explained: “Republicans tend to be the party of the affluent, the self-righteous, the haters and racists.” Extreme as it may be, this attitude pervades a significant minority of Catholic voters and tinges the fears of the Catholic swing vote.

In a January 3 letter to William A. Donohue, president of the 350,000-member Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Armey explained that his decision to vote for Wright over O’Brien was because of “Wright’s interpersonal skills and pastoral experiences” versus O’Brien’s 22 years as a professor of political science. As Armey told me, he never focused on the denominational ties of the three candidates but on their qualifications to be a pastor to House members.

The political turmoil and Catholic backlash following the selection of Wright came as a surprise to the House leadership. It shouldn’t have. The GOP has gradually become the home of more Catholic voters whose social conservatism is closely intertwined with their Catholic identity. The voter concerns that bring Catholics closer to the GOP are directly connected to issues informed by their Catholic faith. This includes not only the defense of life but also the general social decay caused by the decline in morality.

The blunder of the GOP leadership was not the result of anti-Catholic prejudice, but of lack of awareness of where Catholic voters are moving and why. Armey’s deliberate inattention to the religious affiliation of the three candidates tells the story. The GOP doesn’t need to examine its conscience, but rather to start doing its homework on Catholic America.

Dominant-Issue Voters

Deal W. Hudson

Several Catholic leaders have recently commented that Catholics should not be “single issue” voters, meaning that they shouldn’t vote exclusively on the abortion issue. I agree. But it’s not necessary to be a single-issue voter to give the life issues the priority they deserve. Catholics should be “dominant issue” voters.

The Catholic Church proposes a vertical—not horizontal—list of moral and social issues for political consideration. The life issues—including abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem-cell research, and cloning—are at the top of that hierarchy. These issues should be considered dominant in determining how to vote for two simple reasons: First, the protection of life—the right to life—is a moral principle that sits at the foundation of morality itself. And it’s one of the three foundational rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. There could be no right to liberty or happiness unless there was a living person in the first place.

Second, the Catholic injunction to oppose abortion is unqualified: Individuals are not required or allowed, to make prudential judgments of the principle to a specific case. Appeals to private “conscience” cannot override this infallible teaching. In the Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Public Life, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger writes:

In this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good.

Opposition to abortion, therefore, binds every Catholic on pain of mortal sin; it admits of no exceptions. There is no question, then, that as the dominant issue, a politician’s position on abortion qualifies him or her for the Catholic vote. From the perspective of the Church, not all the policy positions taken by candidates are of equal importance. Catholics, by understanding themselves as dominant-issue voters, can preserve the hierarchy of values at the core of Church teaching while not ignoring the legitimate spectrum of issues important to political consideration.

Furthermore, by understanding the dominance of life issues, Catholics will overcome their confusion about the difference between moral principle and prudential judgment. Unlike the admonition against abortion, most of the general principles proposed in Church teaching can be implemented in a variety of ways; it’s simply a mistake to assume—as the left often does—that one kind of implementation is more “Catholic” than another.

(The bishops’ conference issues dozens of policy recommendations every congressional session on issues ranging from broadband legislation to minimum wage and partial-birth abortion. Unfortunately, the average Catholic doesn’t discriminate between simple policy recommendations made by the conference and doctrinal statements and often wrongly assumes that they have equal authority.)

One final advantage to the dominant-issue approach is that it can help close the unnecessary divide between pro-life Catholics and “social justice” Catholics. There’s a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it’s threatened. The Church often employs the phrase “social justice” when addressing “the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1928).

The demands of social justice, then, begin with the right to life and end with the right to be protected from euthanasia or the temptation of assisted suicide. It’s a mistake to detach the idea of social justice from the protection of vulnerable life: The source of moral obligation to protect the unborn and to feed the hungry is one and the same—the inherent dignity of the human person.

An Evangelical Ponders the Presidency

Deal W. Hudson
September 25, 2006

If you know the name Huckabee it’s probably from the popular movie or the highly publicized weight-loss campaign of the Arkansas Governor. My wife is politically astute and very knowledgeable. When I told her I was meeting with Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, she quickly replied, “Oh, he’s the guy who lost all the weight.” The health programs Huckabee subsequently implemented also got national attention, most notably, the purging of junk food from public school cafeterias.

Gov. Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister, was in Washington last Wednesday for a series of meetings testing the waters for a potential presidential bid in 2008. I had been asked by some Evangelical friends to host a D.C. meeting with Catholic leaders and was glad to do it, given Huckabee’s pro-life and pro-family record. As a former Baptist minister myself, I was curious to see how Huckabee would connect with this town’s Catholic crowd.

As the 2008 election draws near social conservatives are restless; they have no clear choice among the leading contenders. Some Catholic conservatives are already promoting the candidacy of the estimable Sen. Sam Brownback (KS), who has established credentials on issues such as life, marriage, and stem cell research. Evangelicals, who make up the majority of the Republican religious vote, may be somewhat hesitant to support Brownback, who is a recent convert to Catholicism.

Evangelical activists have been generating some buzz around Huckabee, who capped his years as a pastor by becoming president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. He told our group that his decision to enter politics came after some public remarks by Dr. Jocelyn Elders when she was Gov. Bill Clinton’s Director of Health in Arkansas. During a legislative hearing, Elders said, “Preachers need to get over their love affair with the fetus,” and, “Preachers need to stop moralizing from the pulpit.” Clinton called Huckabee to ask whether her comments would cause problems among Arkansas Baptists. When Huckabee told him they certainly would, Clinton arranged for Huckabee to meet with Elders to work out their differences. After the two hour meeting, Huckabee went home telling his wife, “If people like this are setting the policies that affect the way our children are educated in school and shape the culture in which we live, it is time to get out of the stands and get on the field.”

Gov. Huckabee follows the pattern of other Evangelical pastors who felt compelled by hostility to religious values to run for office. Yet, Huckabee comes across very differently from Rev. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. If you didn’t know his background as an Evangelical minister, you would assume he had been a successful Southern businessman before becoming Governor. The predictable pulpit mannerisms and rhetorical fervor are muted. His manner is straightforward and disarming; he commands attention with quiet authority. In fact, he reminds me very much of his counterpart, the Catholic Sen. Brownback.

Some of Huckabee’s remarks, I admit, were something of a surprise. After recounting his journey into politics, he concluded by making the point so often made by liberals that pro-lifers don’t care for children once they are born. “I’m not sure we have much credibility,” he said, ” if we don’t care about what happens to a child “in between” birth and death.” Most of his presentation recounted his work in Arkansas to relieve poverty and homelessness, promote health, and strengthen education. (His wife, he told us, serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity.)

The Catholics at the meeting were impressed with Gov. Huckabee. None of them were thrown by his emphasis on the kind of social issues so dear to the Political Left. This was a savvy group who did not need to be assured of Huckabee’s pro-life bona fides, and who know a single-issue approach does not get a social conservative elected president.

I told the Governor during the discussion that his remarks reminded me of Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” and asked if he thinks the GOP needs to be rebranded for the 2008 election. His answer was emphatic, “We must get rid of “callous conservatism” or we are going to lose the people we need to win elections.”

In national elections, Evangelicals tend to like a little fire and brimstone, and Catholics are turned off by it. Gov. Huckabee, striking me as someone who never pounded his pulpit, may be the kind of Evangelical who can be successful in communicating with Catholics.

Huckabee won’t make any decision, he told us, until January 2007. Gov. Mitt Romney may have already surpassed him in connecting with the high-dollar socially conservative donors. But, if the Evangelical community puts all its support behind Huckabee, he will immediately become a contender. If so, the public will soon find out the Arkansas Governor is more than the “guy who lost all that weight.”

Why Barack Obama Will Not Win the Catholic Vote

Deal W. Hudson
January 7, 2008

To win the White House in 2008, the Democrats have to win back the Catholic voters they lost to the GOP in 2000 and 2004. A previous Window forecast that if the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton, she would win the Catholic vote. However, with his commanding victory in the Iowa caucus, Barack Obama may be well on his way to upsetting the presumptive nominee.

But what will his prospects be for winning the necessary Catholic vote? Recent polling and expert analyses suggest that Obama will actually have a difficult time connecting with Catholic voters.

Pew Research Center poll released last November showed Obama trailing Clinton 17 percent to 45 percent among white Catholics. Among mainline Protestants, Obama was preferred by 25 percent; black Protestants, 36 percent; and religious but unaffiliated voters, 27 percent.

It must be troubling to the Obama campaign that his level of support among white Catholics is significantly lower than among other religious voters. In fact, this was the greatest drop for any presidential candidate between his or her overall percentage and the percentage among a specific group.

These numbers did not surprise Steve Wagner, president of QEV Analytics and an expert in political polling of Catholic voters. Wagner thinks Clinton is a bigger threat to take the Catholic vote back from the GOP.

According to Wagner, Clinton’s advantage is her ability to put forth “persuasive arguments on key social issues.” Obama has yet to make these kinds of arguments. Rather, he attracts a “substantially frustrated constituency of people far to the left who don’t feel they have representation. Catholics aren’t feeling deprived.”

Wagner’s description of Obama’s following sounds much like what I have heard from politically active Catholic liberals over the years. I asked Wagner if the Catholic left would be able to help Obama: “There just aren’t many people fitting that description. Liberal Catholics are trivial as a constituency because they are so small in number.”

Wagner predicts that the only religious voting group who will strongly support Obama is religiously active African-American voters. (There was concern recently that Obama was not connecting with African-American ministers, but he seems to have picked up some important support lately.)

The underlying danger of Obama for Democrats, according to Wagner, is that he is returning to the “interest-group politics” that started in the 1970s with the McGovern campaign.

A recent book by pro-life Democrat Mark StricherzWhy the Democrats Are Blue: How Secular Liberals Hijacked the People’s Party, describes the revolution in the Democratic Party brought about by the 1972 McGovern Commission, mandating that convention delegates be selected by a quota system of race and gender.

According to Stricherz, it was the white, largely ethnic Catholic who got pushed aside in the Democratic Party when the quota system was enforced. Most of these Democrats were Catholic and pro-life; they were replaced by pro-abortion feminists.

The Democratic Party, it is widely recognized, is still trying to recover from the McGovern revolution, which triggered the steady migration of Catholics into the GOP. If Wagner is right, Obama’s politics will remind Catholic voters why they left the Democratic Party in the first place.

Another big problem Obama will have with Catholics, Wagner says, will be his brand of patriotism. Last October, Obama suddenly removed the America flag pin he has been wearing since the start of the campaign. He said it has become a substitute for “true patriotism” since the attacks of 9/11.

Catholics will bristle at the reminder of that incident, which will inevitably come up in a presidential campaign. As Wagner put it, “Catholics are patriotic, and the Obama campaign will contain implicit criticism of America throughout its message.”

I asked Wagner whether Obama, if nominated, would be able to move toward the middle, like Senator Clinton and Governor Romney have tried to do.

“Romney had four years to remake himself, but Obama will have only four months to reinvent himself,” Wagner said. “His leftish populism is not going to play in a general election.”

Wagner’s view of Obama stands in stark contrast to the opinion of many Democrats. No less than Ted Sorensen, a former speechwriter for John F. Kennedy, has heralded the junior senator from Illinois as JFK’s heir.

Kennedy won 83% of the Catholic vote in 1960. In this respect, at least, Barack Obama will be no JFK.