The Battle For American Catholic Voters

(AP Photo)

In light of President Trump’s recent visit to Vatican City, one thing has become increasingly clear: Democrats want the Catholic voter demographic.

It’s a battle that has been going on for some time. Catholics make up 22 percent of the U.S population. Since 1932, the candidates they have supported have almost always won the popular vote — the only exceptions being Presidents Eisenhower and Trump.

One of the most interesting things about the Catholic voter demographic is, unlike other demographics and despite clearly defined religious doctrine, they do not vote as a bloc. In fact, the Catholic voter demographic is sharply divided into two sub-demographics: white Catholics and Hispanic Catholics.

While President Trump won the majority of the votes from Catholics this election, 52 percent to Clinton’s 45 percent, his win of the group was largely due to white Catholics. 60 percent of white Catholics supported him while 32 percent backed Clinton. The trend is flipped for Hispanic Catholics, with 67 percent for Clinton and 26 percent for Trump.

Much of the battle for American Catholics, up until this point, has tied to the large influx of immigration from largely Catholic Central and South America. Mexican immigrants alone, which according to the ACS made up 27 percent of the United States population as of 2015, hail from the 2nd most Catholic country in the world. A 2014 Pew Research Poll reported that 81 percent of adults in Mexico considered themselves to be Catholic.

90 percent stated they were raised Catholic, which may mean that even if they don’t practice the faith, the cultural values that come with it may be deeply ingrained within them. It was a demographic many in the GOP thought could be grabbed by 2016 hopeful Marco Rubio. Many believe that the way to draw more Hispanic voters to the GOP is making them aware of the similar value sets between the Republican Party and the Roman Catholic Church.

While the Republican Party continues its battle for Hispanic Catholics, Democrats have been fighting a war behind the scenes for white Catholics. This is done by attempting to paint the Catholic Church in a more liberal light and focusing on carefully selected words from the Pope and choice doctrine from the Church.

News outlets and social media were quick to jump on the image of a sullen-looking Pope Francis with President Trump, using it as an example of the Holy Father’s disapproval of the President. One need only see a similar picture from the Pope’s meeting with Barack Obama and John Kerry to see it’s common for Francis to make this face, and it isn’t reflective of his current company. The way the image has been used may seem trivial, but it is a perfect illustration of the way the left-leaning media has chosen to present the leader of the Catholic Church.

For example, rather than mention the Olive Branch medallion gifted to President Trump by Pope Francis, articles instead focused heavily on the document on climate change, stating it was a personal “dig” at President Trump. This is categorically false. The document in question, the environment-heavy Laudato Si’ is one of three documents the Pope gives to all the world leaders he meets with, the others being the Amoris Laetitia (focusing on love in the family) and the Evangelii Gaudium (focusing on the joy of the gospel).

Also noteworthy, the Laudato Si’ does not focus solely on “climate change.” Rather, the document is an overarching plea to take care of the Earth, reading more like a general anti-pollution manifesto than a climate change study in the vein of Al Gore, as many have been led to believe.

Often, Pope Francis is presented as an “anti-conservative,” trying to make the Church more liberal. Indeed, Francis is on the “progressive” side of a growing traditionalism vs. progressivism divide within the Church. However, the media doesn’t cover his conservative teachings like they do his more liberal statements.

The attempt to paint the Church as “anti-Trump” went as far as the media playing up an apparent feud between the two leaders over Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border. While it is true the two leaders share differing opinions on immigration policy, the fact remains that, generally, the teachings of the Catholic Church more often line up with the beliefs of American conservatives.

Pope Francis’s views on border security, and towards refugees, are not Church teachings as they are personal beliefs. Many who are uninformed on the nature of the papacy believe everything the Pope says is automatically the official Church teaching. This simply is not the case. Popes come from different political leanings and often hold different views than their predecessor, but these new views are not automatically law.

On the other hand, issues such as abortion are more deeply ingrained in the faith, and remain, regardless of the ideological leanings of the Pope. Recent Catholics in high political office, such as Democrats Joe Biden and John Kerry, have come under fire from American Catholics for their failure to support key teachings in their political careers, such as the sanctity of all life. In 2012, Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley attempted to block John Kerry from receiving Holy Communion due to his pro-abortion stance. Likewise, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke personally denied Kerry the Eucharist for the same reasons.

It is for these reasons that, in hopes of gaining the majority of the Catholic vote, Democrats and the left-leaning media have attempted to take a softer approach to covering the Church. Rather than focusing on the issues where the Church lines up with the Republican Party (that is, most of them), they instead try to present it as an institution “evolving” to a more “progressive” institution. On the one hand, this may be a way to quell the concerns of liberal Catholics, who otherwise may let the conflict between their religious beliefs and liberal leanings push them further to the right. On the other, the approach may be a way to make American Catholics believe the Democratic party is perfectly in line with their beliefs, when in fact the truth is much more nuanced.

The battle for American Catholics is likely to continue, and perhaps not in the way one might think. Recent studies show that young Catholics are far more traditional in their beliefs, which may lead to a new upsurge in Catholics voting Republican. Many believe this is a response to what they see as the left feeding secular beliefs to young people as a sort of surrogate religion. Having Melania Trump, a Catholic, as the First Lady could potentially affect the President’s focus on primarily Catholic issues. One thing is for sure, American Catholics are going to be very important in the years to come, and the side that wins them over could dominate American politics for years to come.


Source: Red Alert Politics

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