Today's Catholic Vote

Bill Gallagher

Hey Kari, ok if I add one question to the Punditology Challenge?

Will Barack Obama win the white Catholic vote?

I think that's one worth asking because, as Chris Cirilla of the
Washington Post pointed out last week, since Nixon got elected in
1972 with a majority of the white Catholic vote (wCv from now on)
the candidate who wins a majority of the wCv wins the White House.

Working backward that's Bush, Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Reagan,
Carter, Nixon. Can you say "bellwether"?

Back in September it looked like the majority of the wCv was going
John McCain's way. He lead Barack Obama by 13 points. But by mid-October, according to the Pew poll, Obama had taken an eight-point lead. That's a 21-point swing in one month.

This tells me that any unease among these voters about Obama's
stands on social and spending issues was erased by the sorry state of the economy. Many of them will never, ever vote for a pro-choice candidate. But more of them will look at the candidate "wholistically" and see where he or she stands on a variety of issues.

There are 47 million Catholic voters so it's hard to generalize about the wCv. Only lately have the pollsters started to distinguish between white and non-white Catholic voters. Non-white, mostly Latino, Catholic voters tend to vote Democratic heavily.

The wCv is far less predictable and the very fact that a majority of white Catholic voters have backed the winner in the last eight Presidential elections seems to indicate that they think for themselves and haven't done the ballot-box bidding of political bosses or bishops since before the Depression.

I was the moderator at a panel discussion in August that featured representatives of the McCain, Obama, Jeff Merkley and Gordon Smith campaigns. The woman from Catholics for McCain went right for the jugular, trying to paint Obama as the abortion lobby's best friend in the Senate. She may have thought since the panel was sponsored by a group of Catholics that she was preaching to the choir.

Instead, tempers flared and it was all I could do to calm down those who defended Obama. Then the pro-life people attending started grumbling. So much for a monolithic wCv. The last time there was anywhere near consensus on a Presidential candidate was in 1960. That year JFK, the first Catholic president, got 80% of the wCv. ONLY 80%?!? For comparison purposes, the polls I'm seeing right now show Obama with 90% of the Black vote.

The reason I think Obama wins the wCv is because it twice went to Bill Clinton. His stands on social issues pretty much match Obama's. When he won the wCv the first time the economy was in the tank and an unpopular President named Bush was in the White House. Even though the wCv went that Bush's way big time in 1988 (Bush 57% - Dukakis 43%), four years later millions of those votes went to Ross Perot instead. This shouldn't surprise anyone, there are more Independents (41%) than there are Democrats or Republicans in the wCv. So it wasn't that Clinton did better than Dukakis. Turns out Perot really appealed
to the wCv. By the time he stood for re-election though, Clinton grew his share of the wCv to 48%.

So, I think Obama will win the entire Catholic vote easily because of strong support from Latino voters who make up a third of all Catholics in America. He'll also manage to take the wCv. But just barely. 51% - 49%.

  • (Show?)

    Bill, I was thinking about demographics, too. I think the Catholic vote is a big one. Others I'm looking at are women, rural voters, and white evangelicals. 2004 results (CNN exits):

    Women, 54% of total Kerry - 51%, Bush 48%

    Rural, 25% of total Kerry - 42%, Bush 57%

    White Evangelicals, 23% of total Kerry - 21%, Bush 78%

    If he can make gains on these groups, along with Catholics, it not only is good for his performance today, but suggests that the GOP coalition is in big trouble.

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    I certainly look forward to the further breakdown of the monolithic white Catholic vote, particularly as demonstrably misogynist, racist, homophobic and scientifically illiterate older Catholic men (think David Reinhard, or the five aging white Catholic thugs on the U.S. Supreme Court) eventually shuffle off to the nursing home...

    Thankfully, most of the younger Catholic parents I see at my son's public elementary school don't swallow the supernatural claims of Catholicism. They're still "culturally" Catholic, but they support equality for their gay and lesbian friends, back evidence-based science education, and want health care options (including contraception, family planning services) available for women.

    And many are finally realizing that continued cultural and financial support for the church actually harms others. I think we are entering an era of shrinking social acceptance for an organization based purely on supernatural claims to legitimacy - especially one so thoroughly clueless about basic human biology that it represents a clear and recognized danger to the most vulnerable in our society...

    So - confusion in the monolithic Catholic ranks is an excellent sign. And maybe someday we can turn some of the nicer buildings over to the McMenamin brothers!

  • Maliz Shambaza (unverified)

    We have great breaking election coverage here:

    Also Bill OREGON, I agree with you Catholics are clueless. Alah also knows this and the time is near. We vote Obama and hope you enjoy our site

  • (Show?)

    Nice touch of irony OregonBill.

    The thing about the McMenamin brothers taking over some Catholic buildings. You know their father was a prominent Catholic humanitarian/activist here in Portland for years, right?

    As for taking over Catholic buildings. In Ireland every town has a couple of vacant churches. They're Church of Ireland. The English tried to force that religion down the throats of the Irish but it didn't work.

    Here in Oregon in the 1920's they passed some of the most vile anti-Catholic laws in America. Priests and nuns were forbidden from wearing religious garb in public.

    So there's a precedent for your intolerance and sweeping generalizations but the Catholic church isn't going anywhere and neither is the variegated Catholic vote.

    BTW - what's it mean when someone is "culturally Catholic"?

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    Also Bill OREGON, I agree with you Catholics are clueless. Alah also knows this and the time is near.

    Ahhh...but the Flying Spaghetti Monster can take your Allah, Maliz (and those multiple pagan Catholic gods so beloved of wCv's - Jesus, Mary, "The High Holy Vapors," and all those saints!) He's supernatural and faith-based, too, but at least he lets you have a healthy adult relationship. And eat complex carbohydrates. And say yar!

  • Jiang (unverified)

    Call me naive, but I think most Catholics are at least closet Obama supporters. Holdover from John XXIII.

    I'm off to Bangladesh to help the cricket infrastructure. I'll be back in four years to see what you all have done. Just in time for December 23, 2012! Appropriate.

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    BTW - what's it mean when someone is "culturally Catholic"?

    That's a good question. These parents often describe themselves that way, to explain why they still occasionally go to church, and are familiar with various saints and stories...

    But so many are "lapsed" - they don't believe in Papal infallibility, transubstantiation, a tripartite deity (with maybe a fourth offshoot in Mary? And more in saints?) - the supernatural assertions leave them cold.

    For example, these days we can actually distinguish wine from blood...

    And they often viscerally dislike their association, as Catholics, with the gay-bashing and misogyny of so many of their elders, particularly the men. And the awful harm all those lonely, sexually repressed priests continue to commit in our community, and in just about every other.

    I've heard several say they can no longer put money in the collection plate, because they know it's used to hire lobbyists to campaign for selective disenfranchisement of gays and lesbians, or to restrict medical options for women. And many are at public school because they want their kids to learn about science, and the real world.

    I think there is a generational sea change occurring here - I really do - that older wCv don't get at all. David Reinhard is used to a more protected cultural space, where the blindingly obvious (you have zero evidence for your beliefs, half your priests and bishops are poorly closeted gay men, Galileo was right) was always impolite to notice...

    But not anymore.

  • Lou (unverified)

    I am most concerned with the WCPRV---White Catholic Pennsylvanian Racist Vote. There are lots of them.

  • Francesco Bernadoni (unverified)

    BTW - what's it mean when someone is "culturally Catholic"?

    Abused by people that think their religion makes them above the law. See Mormon.

  • Ryan M (unverified)

    I always love when the conversation on BO turns to religion. Oregon Bill is an anti-Catholic crusader (bigot) and honestly has turned me off of BO for the most part. I'm not going to defend my religion here and the people in my life who are practicing Catholics or myself b/c I feel it is pointless, but suffice to say that if progressives want to bring most Catholics back into the fold, conversations like this one are not helpful. Also, what if Oregon Bill just substituted "Muslim" or "Jewish" in his anti-Catholic diatribes?

    And Oregon Bill, don't bother responding - I know what you will say and I'm not going to respond anyway.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    It was the "Kennedy Catholics", reasonable people, like the ones at Holy Family, who helped Obama win Oregon. And the USA.

    You could say they helped Obama "smoke" angry, ol' Grampa!

    Cigarette, Herr Doktor?

    You look like you need one.


  • RW (unverified)

    Abt White Catholica Penn Racist Vote - ask Thomas Civiletti to talk about that. He is not one, but he has the rest of the moniker - raised in a Sicilian, Catholic, larger than small family with roots in PN and on the east coast. HE has a superior ability to parse internal dynamics, subtle characteristics. And escaped the Black Hole that that particular acculteration could represent. I think his family did a J-turn and were intelligentsia instead. Narrow twist of fate and a sweet escape.

    I encountered a very racist, homophobic, pro-war, anti-immigrant asshole sharpening his teeth in clakc cty midway through the evening... not one thing he said was based on reading deeply, questioning HIS bias, expressions of applying the rage and disappointemnt and investigation across the board to both candidates/all parties. It was focused, unreasoning, rationalized as opposed to intellectualized. And it had an evil flare.

    I felt ill when I finally departed the observing area of the vote count. I know plenty of spiritual people, have close ties to a few religious. Sadly, a lot of injured people hang out at my particular brand of religion/spirituality and rant against the xians the same way the xians rant against them....

    I learned a lot about where I am not in "right" relation last night - that man spewed bitter rage against ME, never knowing that some of the people he was "gonna do something about" are me. .... I did try to alert him that at least one category of human "we have to do something about" was me, but he was so deep in his ranting, he did not hear my quiet "disclosure". heh.

    I do not like wholesale hating against anyone. It's stupid. It is anti intellectual. And it creates damage.

  • Lynn B (unverified)

    I think OregonBill should go to therapy, and quit posting this intolerant garbage .

    Remember the Berrigan brothers? Sister Helen Prejean? Dorthy Day? St. Maxmillian Kolbe? "Hate is not creative".This from the German death camps. What major denomination SUPPORTED gay rights even under the prior Pope?

    I am not a "pro-life" activist, I hate abortion but its a matter of conscience. I am pro-lfe--anti-death penalty, anti-nuclear weapons, anti-domestic violence . I am pro-family--pro-universal health care, pro-women's rights. Catholicism (look up the definition of catholic ) is a big tent . Its bigots like Oregon Bill who are responsible for the poor showing state wide. The founder of my religion said judge not, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit prisoners. I hope the party as a whole continues to do this important Christian and Catholic work, and we will forget insensitive comments about McMennamins .

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    I'm not going to defend my religion here

    Because, apparently, you can't. All you can do is hurl insults.

    I'd never vote to amend our state constitution to selectively restrict basic civil rights for any American. But your church, with the money you give it, worked hard and successfully to do just that.

    And why? Because a three part invisible supernatural creature who impregnated a human woman (apparently ignoring the presence of her steady boyfriend) thinks we shouldn't eat fish on Fridays and believes lesbians are bad?

    No wonder you have no defense..!

    Thankfully, many younger, more educated "Catholics" are starting to figure this out...

  • Leo (unverified)

    Just a comment about those that do not want to defend their religion. If your religion--catholic, protestant, jewish, muslim, other-- is something that is personal, the way you live your live etc, you have no need or expectation or duty to defend your religion. It is your personal business and I for one will always defend your right not to defend it. However, if your religion is being used to direct public policy and laws that directly affect others, then you do have a responsibility to defend your religion. People can not have it both ways: Leave me alone its my personal religion, but oh by the way, my religion says you can't do this that or the other thing.

    I am someone who grew up catholic, spent my life in catholic schools, entered the seminary, marched against abortion, etc etc etc. I am not using BO, like Ryan is accusing some, to bash catholics. I am using BO as a place for people who want to use their religion--no matter what that religion is-- to affect other peoples lives---whether that is limiting the rights of gays and lesbians or women's rights or other.

  • Leo (unverified)

    One more thought on Lynn's statement:

    "The founder of my religion said judge not, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit prisoners."

    The founder of your religion was a very bright man---and I agree with that statement 100%. It is the "other work" of religion that deserves to be debated. Where does the founder of your religion say that his church has a right to take away the rights of someone else?

  • Lynn B (unverified)

    Bill I never mentioned your religion-probably not Roman Catholic

    If you substituted "synagouge" and Jewish or "mosque" and "Muslim" this would be inflammatory and intolerant. Because you pick on a Christian denominatio its Ok to ridicule a central belief? I don't care if you belive it, I would not ever say " some camel herder with a child bride" or " aguy with magic glasses reading a rock" because it ridicules a central belief for another person.

    I have been a 100% supporter of gay rights , donate time and money for HIV patients, personally support gay marriage and voted for it, since it allows love and committment for all of us. I am not personally responsible for the 30-50 million Roman Catholics nor for the church hierarchy. Do we bring all the alleged sins of Jeremiah Wright down on Barack Obama? I hope not. White Catholics are being frozen out by the preconceived notion we are "ignorant" as well as conservative . Read your own words again .

    How do you know I gave money to my church? I did, but the political non-tax deductible arm gets nothing . Lets see, I bought groceries and food and actually personally deliverd and selected furniture for an Iraqui refugee family, I donated for the immigration rights rallies in CA , I donated blood, I checked BP at the senior center and the homeless shelter, all through my church . Reprehensible, indefensible, and intolerant activities all of them . I chose the school for my kids that taught evolution and used a"liberal" set of social studies books.

    As for education --I did use my academic scholarship to get two bachelors , one in a social science and one "terminal " degree .I am "adjunct" faculty at one of our two fine state universities in the College of Science

  • LynnB (unverified)


    Bill Gallagher's comments are thoughtfuul and appreciated.. We are not a monolith, most of us "Kennedy Catholics" or "McGovern Catholics" have much more in common with the dems whose policies truly respect life than the republicans.

  • rw (unverified)

    When I lived in OK, both Tulsa and tiny little communities, Catholic Charities went far out of their ways to feed and clothe hungry and poor people. And in NV, there WAS no infrastructure for those living on the edge. It was Catholic Charities gave my Cheyenne relations a turkey and food for that holiday in their little no-electric or water trailer out in the Pine Nut hills in the winter....

    And no preaching, either. JUST real charity.

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    If you substituted "synagouge" and Jewish or "mosque" and "Muslim" this would be inflammatory and intolerant.

    I freely add them. I agree with Leo (see above) - if you want to use patently ridiculous, indefensible, faith-based, supernatural musings to, say, restrict basic constitutionally protected rights for your fellow man, then you'd better be prepared to defend them.

    And it won't be pretty. Because they are rationalizations for prejudice, with no basis in fact.

    Do we bring all the alleged sins of Jeremiah Wright down on Barack Obama?

    Obama, to his credit, left his church.

    If I actually belonged to an organization that, for example, routinely brutalized the most vulnerable in our society, dumbed down science education, and lobbied for restricted access to health care options for women, I'd be out the door as well.

    You should be, too. The church loses its power to harm others, by inflicting it's utterly baseless "magic glasses" beliefs (holy water?), when parishioners finally say "enough!" "I am not going to keep propping up efforts to deny basic civil rights to my neighbors, friends, family by attending, funding and supporting this church."

    And it's happening, too.

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    How do you know I gave money to my church? I did, but the political non-tax deductible arm gets nothing .

    Can you really give money to a Catholic Church, yet still avoid donating to church political efforts? Somehow...I doubt it.

    But I certainly don't argue with your efforts to help others.

    As for science education... the academic dean at Central Catholic (a nun) tells me that they teach "all theories of origin" in their high school biology classes. Woo woo. As a parent, I definitely prefer my kids to learn about the natural world.

  • A Real Mexican't (unverified)

    Catholic Charities went far out of their ways to feed and clothe hungry and poor people...

    And no preaching, either. JUST real charity.

    This is the Catholic mindset. First, you question nothing of the Church's Magisterium. Then you turn, see the effects, and are inspired to charity. No question it's real charity.

    The point is, those people are only there and suffering because the Church steadfastly preaches that you will be damned for all eternity if you do not believe that the ONLY function of sex is reproduction and that any attempt to have sex while preventing procreation is a mortal sin.

    And don't split hairs with me about rhythm, I have a degree in Canon Law and it is permitted as a technical exception, which exemption will expire. The more common reality is of abusive Central American males raping their wives who are told by these same loving clergy that they are damned if they don't and damned if they do use birth control. Literally.

    Global warming is caused by too many people living the unreflective life. Telling people that they must unquestioningly accept the sexual mores of an octogenarian bachelor is not going to inspire reflection. We are rapidly facing a choice between curbing the Church's ambitions or losing the planet. To put it bluntly, I don't care how many people you helped today. You're destroying everyone's lives while you're at it.

  • rw (unverified)

    A Real whatever you are:

    Actually, again, you bleed from the ears to objectify and lump-together. Are you saying that the South American priests who were excommunicated for questioning and standing with and for the people... are what you describe and nothing more?

    With Dems like you who needs an enemy of "our" class? You create strife and misunderstanding, obstinacy and steadfast push-back everywhere you go if THIS is the level of your discourse, your capabilities.

    And before you jump me, ask around: conservative I ain't, and even vaguely what I preach I ain't.... but if all you can do is lay about angrily, then you are part of the problem you preach to resolve.


    I do not disagree with much of what you say. I disagree with your disagreeable, absolutist tone. You are, in flipside, that which you abhor.

  • rw (unverified)

    AND, before you jump me, again: I sit in lodge with people for whom I cry for what the churches did to them on the reservations. And I remember my counselor, a Lakota woman, watching her head subtly bow and bow and bow till her eyes were on the floor and her voice had gone nearly still it was so soft -- as she recounted to a Psych of the Minority Experience class how it was to be in a government school at age five, with religion pressed upon her, boys heads shaved if they tried to run away, girls' hair cut ragged and a certain dress put on them likewise... a strong, compassionate, bright and educated woman, who will never ever lose the configurations forced upon her as a little one.

    I do not condone. But I also know that through compassion and humanity only can it change. You have to be strong enough to cry as you work for change. And strong enough to set aside YOUR righteous rage so that the soft tenacity of your vision is felt when it cannot be heard.

    Shouting is not the only way to speak. And it is, ultimately, the intonation of last resort.

  • rw (unverified)

    Oregon Bill -- I hear you and agree. And so when you hear me say I "bleed from the ears" for my friendships or relations, longterm, with fundagelicals and such... well, then you will know the work I am busy doing on behalf of that of which you eloquently do speak.

    There are many roads to the goal, and I pay dearly for the one that suits me -- they try to save my ass and my soul till I'm just staggering from it, terrible. And then, slow by slow, they begin to feel the spirit of my heart and soul and calling and also of the "justice" that is in me too... and they begin to call it "holy spirit", so that the language can make them comfortable... and then it is, through relatingness and growing respect that we then can begin to speak... though still mostly by action and deed and the like.

    We all know exceptions to the hard and fast rules. And we need to hold onto those to help keep US from getting hard and fast too.

    I can tell you that a Catholic in Oklahoma may well be a far sight preferable to a Babdist in Oklahoma -- so reference points are important, and regions, and eras too. You takes yer chances and makes yer choices and hope to gawd that you grow.

  • LynnB (unverified)

    whatever clearly no communication here. I think that 50-65% WCV is there for the dems which was the point.

    I'm done being yelled at

  • rw (unverified)

    Lynn B -- did you happen to notice I raised my voice on your behalf? It seems people only notice the negatives slings against their egos here. Me included, of course.

    But I think my new year's resolution is to return to my life of ceremony, and turn my attention to being involved and away from this. At a conference today I learend "DR" bates wants to run for Governor. I have to leanr his entire voting record to see if I think I can forgive his crass self interest in pushing for a bill that completely hid his malpractice hx from public view, very specifically. Unless someone tells me there truly is some different reason for how that legislation was structured, so I can have the true backstory, this is all I could assess upon my own analysis.

    And so I'll work with regulatory and professional organizations to deal with Quality and public policy without resorting to this... spinmongering.

    I came out for the election, and now again grow increasingly bored and irritated with the diatribe and egoistic noise here. Most of you do not wish to listen to each other or check yourselves. Just a precious few, whom I wish I could meet so I cld move my converse to private, meaningful demesnes while I go on back to what I was doing before the ramp up to the race.

    <h2>Lynn B - try to focus on those who stood up for you by broadening the picture. Either you WANT to be "injured" or you want to dialog. Talk to the ones who understand and let the dorks talk to themselves!</h2>

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