A Catholic Vote Does Exist


My colleague Jody Bottum argues that despite the recent national attention, a Catholic vote does not really exist. Catholic voters follow the same pattern as those of other faiths: the more religious they are, the more likely they are to vote Republican; and the less religious they are, the more likely they are to vote Democrat. The thesis sounds good.

But I don’t think it’s true. While experts define the Catholic vote in many ways, I define it as a vote that mirrors the social teaching of the hierarchy, especially the American bishops: culturally conservative, economically populist or liberal, and moderate to liberal on foreign policy. Think of the late Bob Casey Sr., governor of Pennsylvania, as the beau ideal politician for the Catholic vote. Casey is not alone. Many Democrats in the House of Representatives have followed his lead, if not as many as in years past.

Jody, I think, has no real counter-argument to the existence of pro-life Democrats and their constituents. They show that a Catholic vote does exist. It’s just a regional phenomena rather than a national one, confined to the Mid West and parts of the East. These are Reagan Democrat bastions: they will vote for pro-life Democrats for Congress, but vote Republican at the presidential level partly because its nominees are anti-abortion. (Shameless plug alert: My book explores this theme in greater detail). As I wrote a few months ago,

Whatever their ideology (“social justice” or “social renewal”) or degree of religious observance (ex-Catholics, cafeteria Catholics, and confession-going Catholics), some Catholics vote as a bloc. You can see it in the votes of pro-life Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the voting patterns of regions such as southwestern Pennsylvania. What else besides Catholicism explains the pro-life votes cast by Democratic congressmen from South Boston, Rhode Island, and southwestern Chicago?

If there was no Catholic vote, these pro-life Democrats would be Republicans. But they’re not, so there is. Just ask any national political strategist.

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13 thoughts on “A Catholic Vote Does Exist

  1. [...] has a fairly distinctive profile. As Mark Stricherz of (appropriately enough) CatholicVote.Org has argued, such voters are more likely to be “culturally conservative, economically populist or liberal, [...]

  2. [...] Stricherz at Catholicvote.org defines it as that which “mirrors the social teaching of the hierarchy, especially the American [...]

  3. faithful democrat says:

    If pro-life Democrats were in the majority in the party, they would fill more higher level posts. It’s not a matter of not being allowed as claimed above. How many Log Cabin Republicans rise to the upper echelons of the GOP? Consider what happens when they do as in the case of Richard Grenell, who recently resigned as foreign policy advisor for Mitt Romney. At least pro-life Dems aren’t hounded out of their own camp.

  4. Mike Gannon says:

    If there was no Catholic vote, those pro-life Democrats would be pro-choice Democrats.

    We can look at the way a legislator acts in office, as opposed to what he or she says on the campaign trail, to take a truer measure of where their convictions lie. The only time when these so-called “pro-life Democrats” vote for any pro-life measures, the vote is either symbolic (doesn’t actually do anything to further the pro-life cause) or inevitable (doomed to success or failure regardless of which way these representatives vote, in which case the party leadership frees them to cast votes that will look good back home). In any vote with significance, the putative pro-lifers fall in line behind their pro-abortion party masters. Clearly pro-life principles do not matter as much to these legislators as does keeping and holding power.

    Even with this unthinking obedience, “pro-life” Democrats are never allowed to reach the upper echelons of the party leadership. Those positions are reserved for “right-thinking” pro-aborts. So one cannot even argue that they are being “good soldiers” and trying to work their way up the ranks in order to change the party from within. The only incentive for Democrats to continue to label themselves as pro-life is to win votes in areas with a) Catholics who vote based on identity politics (publicly proclaiming pro-life principles allows these Catholic Democrats to maintain the illusion of faithfulness to Church doctrine) and b) liberal and moderate Catholics who are nonetheless genuinely pro-life. Sadly, in today’s political arrangement, these Catholics are left without a party that would truly represent their views, and so the prospect of a pro-life Democrat appeals to them.

    The Church has never existed easily with the world, because like Christ, she is in the world without being of the world. And so, when faithful Catholics participate in civic affairs, introducing Christ and the Church into the secular political dialogue, it creates conflict and can at times spawn such odd creatures as the pro-life Democrat.

  5. faithful democrat says:

    Marcy Kaptur vs Dennis Kucinich: Do you think the results of this recent election further bolsters your thesis or might other factors have been equally or in combination more significant in determining Kaptur’s victory? I am actually going to seek out your book and read it, so you might also consider that a minor victory of sorts. Still, I think that the Catholic vote you are talking about is quite small but look forward to considering the numbers you put forward to substantiate your argument. You might be on to something in certain electoral pockets, but it doesn’t seem to apply overall.

  6. Bob Fox says:

    Simple question.

    Should Catholics who plan on voting for Obama be self-excommunicated if they do so?

    1. Randall says:

      Simple answer. YES.

    2. Everett says:

      Simple answer: It’s complicated.

    3. Christopher Martin says:

      Yes. This is because by voting for this man they are implicating himself in his support of moral crimes . . . non-negotiables such as abortion, contraception, stem-cell research, etc.

      1. Andre Friedmann says:

        The phrase “support of moral crimes” is a fabulous locution.

        And the Church’s leaders should invoke this phrase often, should hammer this phrase home to the electorate. Whenever US citizens see and hear the bishops, the phrase “support of moral crimes” should roll off the bishops’ tongues. It’s a phrase the bishops should use often when persuading the electorate. The bishops should stay focused on this message. It will impress the electorate.

      2. Andre Friedmann says:

        The phrase “support of moral crimes” is a fabulous locution.

        And the Church’s leaders should invoke this phrase often, should hammer this phrase home to the electorate. Whenever US citizens see and hear the bishops, the phrase “support of moral crimes” should roll off the bishops’ tongues. It’s a phrase the bishops should use often when persuading the electorate.

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