A last-minute Catholic guide to the 2022 midterm elections: What you need to know
Interest in this year’s midterm elections is rising, with predictions of a record turnout in the voting period ending on Nov. 8. While a high voter turnout can be a sign of an engaged citizenry, polls this year have found that U.S. voters are deeply worried about the country’s future as a democracy, anxious about how their families can cope with a rising cost of living, and fearful of gun violence and crime.
America Media has been covering these and other issues this fall, both in America magazine and in three all-new episodes of our podcast “Voting Catholic.” The editors have put together this guide to some of the most important issues facing voters this fall, with a focus on how Catholics can make choices that respect life and consider the common good.
The big picture
As a large voting bloc that tends to occupy the center of U.S. politics, Catholics have an outsized role in determining this year’s election results, and there are a lot of unpredictable factors this year. Will Hispanic voters continue their shift toward the Republican Party? Will many Catholics split their tickets between Democratic and Republican candidates? America senior editor Robert David Sullivan asks, “Will Catholics join evangelicals in the culture war? 7 questions to understand the 2022 midterms.”
Polls this year have found that U.S. voters are deeply worried about the country’s future as a democracy, anxious about how their families can cope with a rising cost of living, and fearful of gun violence and crime.
Abortion and pro-life issues
For decades, abortion was regarded by many Catholics as a major political issue in national politics—as the U.S. bishops have put it, it was the “pre-eminent issue.” Now that Roe v. Wade has been been overturned and the issue of abortion sent back to the states, how should Catholic voters respond? In a new episode of the “Voting Catholic” podcast, America contributor Jacqui Oesterblad talks to host Sebastian Gomes about the difficulty of writing laws that protect the right to life of both mother and child, and ethicist Richard Doerflinger talks about the new political realities around abortion: “We want laws that protect the life of the unborn to the maximum degree possible. But both of those words are important, ‘maximum’ and ‘possible.’” Listen to the podcast episode or read more about it here.
Few church leaders know the impact of gun violence more than Archbishop Garcia-Siller. On a new episode of the “Voting Catholic” podcast, he recounts the day he was called from a priests’ meeting in San Antonio to minister to the families of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Tex. Reflecting on the epidemic of gun violence from a Catholic perspective, the archbishop says that guns are considered “sacred” in Texas but asks, “We are in the 21st century; do we need to defend ourselves from each other with guns? Why don’t we show to one another, in little ways here and there, that we can live as human beings and respect human dignity?” Listen to the podcast episode or read more about it here.
“We are in the 21st century; do we need to defend ourselves from each other with guns? Why don’t we show to one another, in little ways here and there, that we can live as human beings and respect human dignity?”
Inflation and the economy
This summer, the annual inflation rate in the United States hit 9.1 percent, a 40-year high. How did it get so bad, and what can be done about it? On a new episode of the “Voting Catholic” podcast, host Sebastian Gomes talks with economist Tony Annett about whether the Biden administration’s stimulus package pumped too much money into the economy, and whether there is a way to control inflation without throwing people out of work. “We need to judge all policies first and foremost for how they affect the least among us,” he says. Listen to the podcast episode or read more about it here.
A majority of Americans—52 percent—said in an August poll that the United States is experiencing an “invasion” on the southern border, and misperceptions about immigrants and crime have also made border security a major political issue this year. America senior editor J.D. Long-García recently examined the myths and realities of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border and the chances for immigration reform to finally pass Congress. As Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, says of the immigration challenge, “It’s not something we don’t have the capacity to respond to. It’s a moral call to solidarity. And as a country, we’ll be better off if we accept people with compassion and dignity.” Read “The majority of Americans think migrants are ‘invading’ the U.S. Meanwhile, suffering at the border continues.”
Also read, from the editors of America: “Politicians bus migrants. Catholics must welcome them.”
“We need to judge all policies first and foremost for how they affect the least among us.”
Climate change and world affairs
Most coverage of the 2022 elections have focused on issues directly affecting Americans, from inflation to voting rights, but the policy decisions of the United States greatly affect the entire world. America chief correspondent Kevin Clarke recently interviewed Sean Callahan, president of Catholic Relief Services, about the “perfect storm” of crises now playing out across the globe, including drought and climate change, Covid lockdowns, supply chain disruptions, worldwide inflation, and the war in Ukraine. Will the United States help to address these problems, or will we turn inward and focus only on what we can see inside our borders? Read “Catholic Relief Services C.E.O. on the alarming signs of our times: hunger, drought and war.”
The state of politics and democracy
In one recent poll, only 9 percent of respondents said that democracy in the United States is faring “very” or “extremely” well—an ironic assessment given that voter turnout has gone up in recent elections, and another poll found that 71 percent of voters agreed that U.S. democracy is now “under threat.” But is democracy in America already broken? Civil politics demands a civil discourse, but a distrust of mainstream media—and, in many cases, a distrust of each other—may be pushing us toward extremes. America senior editor Robert David Sullivan asks, “Will the midterm elections start the next Civil War? (Maybe it’s already started.)”
The leadership of President Biden
Joseph R. Biden Jr. promised not to make headlines as often as Donald J. Trump did, but the president still has the responsibility to speak to the nation from time to time on the challenges facing the country. One recent example was in Philadelphia on Sept. 1, when Mr. Biden spoke about a growing political extremism on the right “that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” America editor in chief Matt Malone, S.J., applauded the attempt but criticized Mr. Biden for lapsing into statements that appealed only to his own supporters: “By attempting to combine a statesmanlike appeal to our better angels with a partisan appeal to his policies, Mr. Biden did neither fully.” Read “Why Biden’s speech on MAGA Republicans failed,” and read whether our readers agree with Father Malone’s assessment. (Note: President Biden returned to this theme on Nov. 3, warning that “American democracy is under attack,” but this speech has so far received less attention, coming during a flurry of last-minute campaigning by both parties.)
Remember that discernment is your responsibility as a Catholic before deciding how to vote.
How to vote Catholic, according to your conscience
Catholics must consider the common good. That is what turns voting into a “sacred act,” said then-Bishop (now Cardinal) Robert W. McElroy of San Diego on the “Voting Catholic” podcast in 2020. “We need to lay aside all of the triggers that are in our society that are meant to build up the partisan antagonisms,” Bishop McElroy told “Voting Catholic” host Sebastian Gomes. “They get us all going in the wrong direction on conscience.” He added, “We let our politics become viscerally like a game, like sports. We have teams that we root for. But that is not the Catholic method of discerning voting and of citizenship.” Listen to the podcast episode or read more about it: “Bishop McElroy: Abortion is a pre-eminent issue for Catholics. But not the only one.”
And remember that discernment is your responsibility as a Catholic before deciding how to vote. In the closing days of an election campaign, individuals and groups not authorized by the church often claim to represent the only moral choice for Catholic voters; read “‘The Catholic Church is always politically nonpartisan’: Arizona bishops warn voters of groups claiming to represent the church.” And for guidance on how to exercise your own judgment, read the U.S. bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.”
For more of America’s coverage of U.S. politics, click here.