Battle for the Catholic swing vote in November

politics | Aug 30, 2012 | By Martin Barillas

In 1987, Father Richard John Neuhaus published a book entitled The Catholic Moment in which he not only examined the place of Catholics and their faith in American politics but also the permanence of the friction between eternal verities on one hand, and the exigencies of politics on the other. At the conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties this year, the American public is faced for the first time with the prospect of not only two Catholic vice-presidential candidates, but also that a Mormon is running as a presidential candidate of a major party. Religion has been injected into this year’s presidential race as perhaps never before, with exception of 1960 when John F. Kennedy – the first Catholic president – was running for office.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the leading churchman of the Catholic Church in the United States, was initially condemned by mostly Democratic critics for accepting an invitation to give a blessing at the Republican National Convention in Tampa FL.  For example, Andrew Sullivan, a Catholic who self-identifies as homosexual, called  Dolan “The Republican Party Cardinal,” Margery Eagan of The Boston Herald called him an “opportunist,” and  John Gehring of Faith & Public Life said the prelate was “baptizing the Republican nominee.”  Dolan had earlier caused surprise and consternation among politically conservative Catholics when he invited President Barack Obama to the annual Al Smith Dinner in New York City, and then he later caused further confusion when he accepted an invitation to give a benediction at the Democratic National Convention to be held in September. Donohue averred that Dolan is not endorsing any political candidate, saying “He’s a man of principle; he is not involved in power politics.”
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League wrote in an editorial that Dolan’s acceptance to appear at both major political conventions shows that he is a man of principle, even while political pundits questioned his motives. In an interview with Spero, Donohue dispensed with any notion that the Catholic Church is engaged in any sort of political extremism. The voluble leader of the Catholic League noted, “Catholics had always been Democrats until about 1972 when the Democratic party turned sharply left with George McGovern.” Since then, said Donohue, Catholics have been politically “homeless” and have not yet found a niche in the Republican party even though they have grown progressively closer to the GOP.  Donohue cautioned that he was referring to practicing Catholics, rather than non-practicing Catholics who are “indistinguishable” from other voters.
At the Democratic National Convention, one of the so-called ‘Nuns on the Bus’ is to speak to the assembled Democrats before Cardinal Dolan gives his benediction. Donohue identified Sr. Simone Campbell of the Nuns on the Bus as a dissenter from basic Catholic teachings. Moreover, he said that the Nuns on the Bus are a “media fraud,” saying that there are only two nuns on the bus for any extended period. At any one time, there were never more than six nuns riding the bus, said Donohue out of the 55,000 Catholic nuns in the U.S.  Campbell, he said, has been reprimanded in the past by the Vatican.
The two parties are battling over the middle ground in the coming election, agreed Donohue, who added that Protestants always vote for Republicans and Jews always vote for Democrats. It is now, said Donohue, that Catholics are the “wild card” in the election. “Whoever gets the Catholics vote, with one exception, over the last 25 years, wins the election.
Turning to other religious matters, Donohue responded to reports that the Democratic National Convention will commence with a two-hour long Muslim prayer gathering.  The “Jumah at the DNC” is being sponsored by The Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs. The latter organization has been condemned by M. Zuhdi Jasser MD, a Muslim founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, who according to the AP said the Jumah’s  sponsors are "radical Muslims." “The leaders of this event, Jibril Hough and Imam Siraj Wahhaj are advertised as moderates. They are radicals,” Jasser said. Jasser has claimed that both  Siraj and Hough espouse “Islamist supremacy” and have “demonstrated support for radical ideologies.”  
This did not surprise Donohue, in the Spero interview, said that the Democrat’s embrace of “secularism” over the past 30 years has made practicing Catholics less comfortable in the party that they once embraced. As for President Obama, Donohue said “Reaching out to Muslims: that’s what this president does. This is the president who says, ‘When I go to speak before Georgetown University, they had better put I.H.S (ed. Note: the Latin abbreviation for By This Sign, i.e. the Cross of Jesus Christ) under a drape, they had better put the crucifix under a drape. We don’t want to have any religious symbols in public. However, what about the idea of building a mosque at Ground Zero?  That’s a good idea.’ “ Of Obama, Donohue said, “We know where he is coming from.”



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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