CUA's Panel on the Catholic Vote

We had a panel discussion at Catholic University yesterday on the Catholic Vote in the 2008 election. You can see it on C-Span by clicking here.

The central question was this: Is there a "Catholic vote" anymore and, if so, what will drive it in the 2008 election cycle? The different panelists had their own opinions on this question, but the one point of consensus was that we don’t really know yet and won’t know until we get the exit polls on election night. There are a lot of shifting templates in the geography of this election, some of them tectonic like the historic tension between white, ethnic Catholics and African-Americans, and some of them ephemeral like how much Sarah Palin spent on her wardrobe.

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One of the biggest questions is whether or not young people will turn out. There is convincing data to show that young Catholics, and indeed most young Americans, break disproportionately for Obama. Young evangelicals remain more firmly entrenched in the GOP column, but they are the exception not the rule. While pollsters and statisticians are understandably wary of high-end projections of youth turnout, which we have seen before but it has never quite panned out, I think this year will be different. Young people know that this year they can make history. Voting for Al Gore in 2000 would have set the country on a far different course from the one George W. Bush has taken us but no one at the time felt that voting for Gore was "taking part in history." If Obama wins, all Americans (except the racists) will have to feel good about the fact that race was no impediment to his attaining the highest office in the land. Even if you think his policies will be a disaster for the country, breaking down racial and ethnic barriers is an undeniably good thing and an undeniably American thing.

There was a great deal of discussion about the abortion issue and how it will play. After the panel, a young woman came up to ask me if I knew that Barack Obama intended to increase the number of abortions in this country. She was bristling with hostility. I said during the panel that I think one of the reason Obama has to deliver on his pledge to find common ground on abortion is that so many of us are tired of the two sides shouting at each other, and part of his political persona is that he can be a bridge builder. And, if he wins, we pro-life Democrats must keep his feet to the fire on his pledge.

The emergence of Catholic Latinos as a critical voting bloc was also a focus of much attention. They are the fastest growing demographic in the entire electorate and they are already decisive in such key swing states as Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. If the next president delivers on humane immigration reform, he will earn the loyalty of the Latino vote for his party for a generation.

Catholics this year will lean blue like the rest of the country but they remain a distinctive voting bloc, with different cultural reference points, different historical family narratives &c. For too long Democrats ignored this distinctiveness, but Obama seems to get it. It may help him get to the White House and, even more, it may help him build a governing coalition once he gets there.

Michael Sean Winters

 

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9 years 12 months ago
With Catholic liberals fawning all over Obama now, even after he has made clear his intention to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, to pay for abortion with federal tax dollars, and to appoint only commited supporters of Roe v Wade to the Supreme Court, on what basis can they rationally expect that Obama will not fulfill all these promises? The notion that liberal pro-lifers will exercise any sort of influence over Obama after he is elected, or that he would take seriously any threat by them to bolt if he continues to be a loyal minion of Planned Parenthood, is a very bad joke.
9 years 12 months ago
Mr. O'Leary-- What Republican propaganda are your friends hearing from the pulpit? Can they cite instances where a priest specifically endorsed a particular candidate I highly doubt that they have actually heard a Republican endorsement, but I do think they have heard what the Bishops' Faithful Citizenship asks of them. This is what I took from it: it is never permissible to vote for a candidate because of their pro-choice views and to vote for them at all demands a serious proportionate reason, not partisan loyalty. This is clearly intended for all Catholics-- whether check D, R, or I on their voter registration. They may have also heard from the pulpit about the Freedom of Choice Act, which codifies Roe v. Wade as federal law that supersedes any state restrictions on abortion and overrides the Hyde Amendment that prevents taxpayer funding of abortion. This is the Act that your candidate has promised will be the "first thing" he signs into law when he is in office. I'm writing in a third-party candidate, so don't worry, I haven't bought into the "Republican propaganda". But I do wonder how your pro-life convictions stand up against the aggressive policies promised by Sen. Obama and his (largely) Democratic colleagues to extend abortion "rights". I hope you have not equally given in to Democratic Propaganda.
9 years 12 months ago
I have some devout Catholic friends who have quit going to Mass until the election is over. They won't any longer subject themselves to Republican propaganda from the pulpit and people standing outside the church passing out Republican pamphlets, all in the name of being pro-life. I am pro-life. That's why I am voting for Obama. I will always be mystified at the American Catholic bishops and at the good Catholic I know who have been taken in by Republican propaganda.
9 years 12 months ago
I am a Catholic Latino. If a humane immigration policy is ever put together, it will probably be done by the Democrats. Latinos know this. I am voting for Obama on the chance that our violent immigration system finally comes to an end. Whoever helps these immigrants will get the Catholic Latino vote for a very long time.

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