Monday, February 25, 2008

How the Catholic Left Will Tackle McCain

In an update to my previous post, I linked to something Deal Hudson wrote (in response to Joe Feuerherd's column also linked in the previous post) regarding how the Catholic left will attack John McCain. I think what Hudson wrote merits a post of its own:
... Most importantly, it argues that McCain may have a pro-life record, but he will not accomplish anything on this front as president because it is not really important to him; therefore, Catholic voters should feel no special attraction towards his candidacy.

The last argument, about McCain's pro-life record, has been popping up lately among many Catholics close to the Democratic Party. This angle should be taken very seriously by the McCain campaign. If it gains traction, the huge contrast between Obama and McCain on life issues will be obscured by the debate on 'how pro-life would a President McCain be?" Catholic voters looking for a reason to ignore the abortion question will have found it.
Hudson is correct. Of course the Catholic left will tack this way in order to try to convince faithful Catholic voters that McCain doesn't share their strong convictions on abortion so they might as well vote for the other guy who - "apart from the life issues" - is otherwise "a Catholic natural". And of course the McCain campaign should take such a charge very seriously.

After all, those of us on the "Catholic right" have been questioning McCain's commitment to social conservative issues and to the pro-life cause for years. We've argued time and again that McCain has shown himself insufficiently concerned about the issues that we care about most. In fact, just yesterday, our buddy Regular Guy Paul made this very argument against McCain. So, if the Catholic right is doing it, of course the Catholic left is going to adopt this strategy to try to move at least some of us into the "D" column.

Furthermore, such an effort against McCain will fit right into the strategy already adopted by some on the Catholic left to try to convince Catholic voters that the GOP as a whole has failed to move the pro-life agenda forward. It's complete crap, of course, but when John McCain is your nominee, and he's shown antipathy toward carrying water for the pro-life cause, the Catholic left's argument suddenly becomes a little easier to make.

This may be one of those times in which a GOP nominee moving to the right on an issue to shore up his base (i.e. by working to convince them that he is a strong pro-lifer who would advance the pro-life cause) could actually help him in the General Election.

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4 Comments:

At 2/25/2008 11:11 AM, Anonymous m.z. forrest said...

The Catholic Left seems to organizing rather weakly. I think you are very prescient in cautioning against being a loose cannon on the issue considering that some of the criticism is coming from the right. I think Prof. Kmiec, who I wasn't really familiar, was one of those who was mistaken for being a lefty. I won't really get into Mr. Hudson on this one.

There was a Loyola prof who wrote an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday that is I believe fairly representative of the Catholic Left. In many ways the Catholic Left is struggling to address the abortion issue in an intellectually coherent manner. I think they have largely failed at this, and some would claim that is because the goal cannot be reached. I tend to think that in the end it would be possible to reconcile a vote for a pro-abort, but I haven't come up with decent logic to back the view. It seems that the standard line of attack is that the abortion issue is unimportant. Many are fallaciously analogizing to Aquinas's allowance of prostitution to defend this view. At some point I'll have to prove this assertion.

 
At 2/25/2008 11:39 AM, Anonymous M.Z. Forrest said...

I didn't realize the Tribune had taken down the firewall. Here is the opinion piece:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-bishops_thinkfeb24,0,1465124.story

 
At 2/25/2008 12:03 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

Thanks for the link to that Tribune piece, M.Z.

I will agree with the author's assessment that the Bishops' document is "far more balanced and nuanced than its critics acknowledge". It certainly is that, and I'm not sure how a supposedly informed Catholic like Joe Feuerherd could miss that.

However, the author of the Tribune piece also resorts to the same old either/or fallacies about pro-lifers:

"So what is the best way to reduce abortions? The liberal approach, providing for legalization and social services, or the conservative approach, focusing on legality?"

In fact, most of us probably favor some combination of outlawing abortion as well as providing a social safety net. There are also those who, while not in favor of an outright ban on all abortions, do favor overturning Roe v. Wade so that social policy can be made via the democratic process rather than through the courts, allowing for at least some restrictions to be enacted.

"Let God judge her, not the criminal courts"

In fact, most of us probably do not favor a law that would imprison a mother who has an abortion, but rather would focus on making it illegal for "health care providers" to perform abortions.

"But isn't it fair to ask how many lives President Bush has saved by his opposition to gay marriage and abortion?"

In fact, the rate and number of abortions have fallen during the Bush Administration. How much is due to Bush policies? I don't know, but his policies certainly haven't contributed to an increase. But this is also a red herring. If abortion is the taking of a human life, then it should be treated as what it is: homicide.

 
At 2/25/2008 12:24 PM, Blogger Jeff Miller said...

Besides it is the same tactic they always use. Remember the Catholic Scorecard that managed to make John Kerry and some others the most Catholic of voters in the Senate?

They always seem to conveniently forget what then-Cardinal Ratzinger said on the subject.

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

 

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