Catholicism is the second largest religious tradition in the United States at roughly 25% of the country's population. One of the untold stories of the 2016 election is how Catholic lay leaders used the new and alternative media to fly under the radar screen and, in key battleground states, swing the Catholic vote Donald Trump’s way.
The establishment media pundits all claim to be experts on elections and politics, but Donald Trump’s 2016 “surprise” victory exposed just how little knowledge they really have.
And their post-election coverage has been as bad or maybe even worse, by promoting the racist idea that Donald Trump won solely on the votes of rural white people – especially white Evangelical Christians. In reality, Trump’s victory was not based on a huge turnout of white Evangelical Christians. Trump booked 81 percent of the self-described Evangelical Christian vote, although he did improve slightly upon Mitt Romney’s 78 percent, and to take nothing away from the efforts of my Evangelical friends, those votes were for the most part concentrated in states where Republicans typically win.
Trump won by what one might call “a victory of increments” in key states that relied upon adding new voters; disaffected traditional Democrats and increments of other demographics, such as AfricanAmericans and Hispanics, and especially Catholics, to build a new Republican-voting coalition. Bottom line: Of the more than 120 million votes cast in the 2016 election, 107,000 votes in three states, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, effectively decided the election.
How did this happen?
I assure you it was not by chance, and in the first of this three-part series I will explain the strategy, issues and numbers that resulted in Catholic voters making an 11-point swing from Mitt Romney’s results to Donald Trump’s results. Well before the campaign reached its final phase, a broad coalition of Catholic lay leaders recognized that
Hillary Clinton was an existential threat to religious liberty, and to traditional Catholic values and Biblical teachings, such as the right to life and the definition of marriage.
The question was how to get the message out, at a time when the Church hierarchy has mostly abandoned preaching these values, embraced fallen away Catholics, such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, who actively and publicly campaigned against the Church’s teachings, and when the Church itself had been corrupted by billions of dollars of government money flowing into Catholic Charities and other Church organizations?
The answer from this unofficial “Catholic Caucus” was a strategy that relied upon the new and alternative media to bypass the establishment media, the Trump campaign and the Church hierarchy to take information about Hillary Clinton and her views on issues of concern to Catholics directly to Catholic voters. Joseph Cella, Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, Brian Burch of Catholic Vote, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Matt Schlapp and Mercedes Schlapp, Gov. Sam Brownback, Ed Martin, Dr. Deal Hudson, Rick Santorum and many other Catholic lay leaders offered advice and counsel and used their own channels to independently tell the story of just how damaging to religious liberty and traditional Catholic values a Hillary Clinton presidency would be.
In the first section of this article, I covered the strategy that was developed to swing the Catholic vote against Hillary Clinton. In this section, I will cover the issues that were key to making the strategy work. The Religion News Service on October 3 reported poll results of likely Catholic voters. In a one-on-one match-up, Hillary Clinton led that poll with 46% of the Catholic vote. Donald Trump was close behind with 40%.
Catholic lay leaders opposed to Hillary Clinton were undeterred by those numbers – if anything they told us this election was winnable. It was close enough to be turned around overnight. The key to shifting the Catholic vote against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump was to reach individual Catholics, and Catholic women in particular, with specific information and facts the media refused to report.
Here are just a few examples of the facts we thought could turn the election, if Catholic voters got them:
Speaking before the 2015 Women in the World Summit, Hillary Clinton issued a warning to Christians that remains mostly unreported by the mainstream media:
". . .deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed."
In other words, if Hillary Clinton becomes President, expect investigation, penalization, and even the criminalization of our Catholic beliefs and values to be made official government policy. And during the third debate, while the media wanted to make a big deal out of Donald Trump’s use of the term “bad hombres” and his refusal to say in advance that he would accept the outcome of the election, the most dangerous statement of the evening as far as Catholics were concerned was uttered not by the
voluble Mr. Trump, but by a cold and calculating Hillary Clinton.
In the very first segment of the debate, Mrs. Clinton framed her vision of America, and particularly the role of the Supreme Court as one of deciding, “What kind of rights will Americans have?” Mrs. Clinton framed those rights to be protected and expanded as “women's rights” the “right” to an abortion and “the rights of the LGBT community,” none of which are enumerated in the Constitution, but have been established by judicial fiat.
The rights Mrs. Clinton said she wished to curtail, such as religious liberty, are all enumerated in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. And that one short statement posed as a question, “What kind of rights will Americans have?” summed up for many conservative Catholics what was at stake in the 2016 election. In a Hillary Clinton administration, God, the Bible and the First Amendment would be replaced with government-approved "values" like diversity, political correctness, normalizing homosexual marriage and
dictating how, when and where Americans could openly practice their faith.
The evidence to make that case was plentiful.
The Clinton emails made public by WikiLeaks revealed how Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta created front groups specifically to undercut Catholic bishops and subvert the Church's authority.
A Clinton presidency would declare war on the Christian faith and Hillary Clinton was easily the most pro-abortion candidate ever to run for President.
Clinton said that she wanted to eliminate the Hyde amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars being used for abortions.
Hillary Clinton was such an extreme advocate for abortion that she refused to entertain the idea of late-term restrictions.
In 2003, Hillary Clinton voted with 32 other Senators against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which prohibited doctors from knowingly performing an "intact dilation and extraction" which involves causing a breach birth and then extracting the infant's brain and collapsing its skull. These were facts Catholic voters - especially Catholic women - needed to know, but the liberal media wasn't about to report even a fraction of Mrs. Clinton's record on issues that matter to Americans of faith, and especially Catholics. As the unofficial “Catholic Caucus” had decided early on, if Catholic voters were going to learn about Hillary Clinton’s record on the issues it was going to have to come through the new and alternative media.
FedUp PAC, which I founded and Chair, played a key role in helping get the message out to Catholic voters, swing Catholics to Donald Trump, and deny Hillary Clinton the presidency. FedUp PAC sent 3 million emails and oversized post cards to Catholics in 14 key battleground states detailing vital information the biased liberal media were deliberately withholding about Hillary Clinton’s anti-Catholic, anti-religious liberty agenda.
The campaign was designed to get “the most bang for your buck.” For example, each of our FedUp PAC anti-Hillary letters, postcards, and internet ads were seen and shared by an estimated 1.6 other voters (more than 6,000,000) as they were passed on by their original recipients. Other Catholic lay organizations and leaders sent out millions more. We also reached millions of Catholic voters with powerful online ads with the same message… and the results of our efforts were stunning.
President-elect Trump soundly defeated Hillary Clinton and won the Catholic vote by a margin of 52 to 45 percent, and won 8 of our 14 targeted states in the process.
That is a big turnaround from 2008, when Obama won 54 percent of the Catholic vote, while McCain took only 45 percent, and from 2012, when President Obama won the Catholic vote by a margin of 52-48 percent and beat Mitt Romney in 13 of those 14 target states!
This victory was no accident.
We were able to wage a tight and targeted direct marketing campaign aimed squarely at voters in those key states that were still very much up for grabs as Election Day approached. And the results speak for themselves. In the top four battleground states Trump won Wisconsin (where 31 percent identify as Catholic) by 22,177 votes. In Pennsylvania (where 27.4 percent identify as Catholic) Trump won by 67,416 votes. In Florida (where 26 percent identify as Catholic) Trump won by 134,000 votes and in Michigan (where 23 percent identify as Catholic) Trump won by 10,704 votes.
George Marlin, author of the book The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact, pointed out in an August 16 opinion piece for Newsmax that practicing Catholics could make the difference in the Rust Belt battle ground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. "If the Rust Belt states are closely contested in November," Marlin observed, "the one or two percent difference that practicing Catholics can make will determine which person will be sworn in as president on January 20, 2017."
George Marlin was right, and I am proud that FedUp PAC was one of the organizations that recognized that fact and built a uniquely effective campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton by informing and turning out Catholic voters in key battleground states.
Richard A. Viguerie is the chairman of ConservativeHQ and is often called the "Funding Father of the conservative movement." He is the author of a number of books on politics and the conservative movement,. His latest book is TAKEOVER: the 100-year War for the Soul of the GOP and How Conservatives Can Finally Win It.