Democrats Set Their Sights on Winning Back Catholics
(Hat tip: Custos Fidei)
From U.S. News & World Report:
... Indeed, having witnessed both George W. Bush's victory among Catholics in 2004 and the Catholic vote's dramatic rejection of Republicans last year, Democrats are now waging a multifront offensive to shore up what was once a bedrock constituency. The Democratic National Committee has hired its first director of Catholic outreach. The DNC is also slated to soon unveil an organizing hub for Catholics on its website, and it's planning to supply state parties with Catholic voter lists before the 2008 election. Catholic Democrats in Congress are introducing legislation to reduce demand for abortion, a top issue for the Roman Catholic Church. And some Democratic presidential candidates are already devising Catholic outreach plans. "You know things have gotten off track when a Roman Catholic candidate has to do outreach to people within his own church," says Senator Casey, discussing his own 2006 outreach effort. "But we're getting it back on track now." With Catholics accounting for 1 in 5 American voters, the mobilization could determine whether Democrats win the White House and keep control of Congress in 2008.(emphasis added)
"Catholics are ideal targets" for Democrats courting religious voters, says University of Akron political scientist John Green. Many Catholics are political centrists, unlike overwhelmingly conservative evangelical Christians. Catholics also tend to be less observant than evangelicals and so are less likely to tow the church line politically. What's more, the Catholic Church's promotion of social welfare programs and its opposition to war (including Iraq) dovetails with the Democratic Party platform.
But Catholics face cross-pressures from their church to oppose abortion and gay marriage, pushing them closer to the GOP. In 2004, a handful of Catholic bishops denounced Democratic nominee John Kerry's pro-abortion-rights position; one said he'd deny Kerry, a Catholic, the Eucharist. Kerry lost white Catholics—who make up the vast majority of the Catholic community—to Bush by 56 to 43 percent. By contrast, the only Catholic ever elected president, John F. Kennedy, won nearly 80 percent of the Catholic vote. Analysts blame Kerry's weak showing among Catholics largely on his unassertive response to the bishops' attacks.
As the 2006 election cycle got underway, a Democratic consulting firm called Common Good Strategies emerged, and new liberal religious groups like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good worked in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Kansas to prevent a few conservative bishops and the GOP from defining the "values" debate. "Before that, religious voters felt they had no place to go that was not right of center," says Network's Campbell, who helped frame affordable healthcare and opposition to the Iraq war as values issues. Common Good Strategies enlisted nuns to do phone banking, while Casey delivered a major speech on faith and politics at the Catholic University of America. He wound up winning 58 percent of the white Catholic vote, even though he was challenging Sen. Rick Santorum, an antiabortion Catholic.
"... new liberal religious groups like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good worked in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Kansas to prevent a few conservative bishops and the GOP from defining the "values" debate."
Yeah, with the aid of the editors of The Catholic Chronicle just days before the November 2006 general election. The disappearance of the story from the Chronicle's web site within hours of its publication indicates to me that Bishop Blair did not approve. Many readers of the Chronicle didn't think much of it, either.