"Casey Democrats" - Not the Party Faithful Anymore
(Hat tip: Dave Hartline at The Catholic Report)
Mark Stricherz writes in The Washington Post:
Irmo Antonacci used to vote for Democratic presidential candidates. A son of Italian immigrants, the 80-year-old retiree lives in Jeannette, Pa., a down-at-the-heels smokestack city southeast of Pittsburgh. After dropping out of college in 1950, he got a job installing telephones with Bell Penn and joined a union. He registered as a Democrat and became a John F. Kennedy fan. A decade ago, he was the Democratic committeeman from the town's 5th ward.My Comments:
But Antonacci no longer automatically pulls the lever for the candidate with (D) beside his or her name. "I'd seen the time from where the party used to be and where the party is now accepting abortion and gay rights," he says. "And I didn't go for that."
On the lawn in front of Antonacci's one-story brick house stands a foot-high statue of St. Francis and another of the Virgin Mary, symbols of a transformation that could spell trouble for the Democrats in November. It's the transformation of a group of voters we might call Casey Democrats, after the late Robert P. Casey Sr., governor of Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1995.
Like Casey, these voters -- blue-collar and religious, often Catholic -- are liberal on economic issues but conservative on cultural ones. Where they once looked to union leaders and their fellow union members for political guidance, they now look to their religious leaders and fellow churchgoers. And in the last decade, to the dismay of Democratic strategists, they've been voting for Republican presidential candidates. According to Democratic pollster and strategist Stan Greenberg, they made up the 10 percent of white Catholics who identify with the Democrats but didn't vote for Sen. John F. Kerry for president in 2004. And if Sen. Barack Obama can't do better with the Casey Democrats, his presidential bid may fare no better than Kerry's.
The bottom line is clear: The party must woo Casey Democrats in Rust Belt and border states -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky. To win them over, it won't be enough for Democrats to hammer the GOP over the economy and the war in Iraq, as Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, did in 2004, or merely to use inclusive language and support partial-birth abortion, as Obama and Clinton have done. Instead, Democrats must address voters' real concerns about protecting families and human life, as Gov. Casey did. "Catholic voters have emerged more pro-life," pollster Greenberg wrote in a 2005 memo, "but they are very responsive to a broad initiative to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the number of abortions."
Is it any wonder these Catholic "Casey Democrats" don't vote party line any longer when Bishop-bashing groups such as "Catholic Democrats" purport to represent them and their interests?
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
"Catholic Democrats" Attack "Registered Republican Archbishop of Kansas City" for "Using Communion" to "Take Down" Sebelius
Democrats Fail to Learn Lessons of 2004 - Part 2: Why Red Staters "Vote Against Our Interests" [UPDATED]
Democrats Fail to Learn the Lessons of 2004
Attention Super-Delegates: Obama Cedes Ohio Valley?
Obama Catholics Blast Bill Donohue, Blame Conservatives for Failing to End Abortion [UPDATED]
Hey, You're Not Supposed to Say That
Rove: Hillary Over McCain; McCain Over Obama
Why North Carolina and Indiana Really Don't Mean That Much ...
Rich Lowry on Hillary the "Social Conservative" [UPDATED]
Why Is It Working-Class Whites That the Media Deems "Racist"?
Obama Campaign Seeks to Close Family Gap [UPDATED]
Dems Are Beginning to Believe They Can't Beat John McCain [UPDATED]
Obama Delegate Admits the Obvious: "Bitter" Was Indeed a Big Deal
"Mighty Casey Has Struck Out" [UPDATED]
On Disliking Obama for the Right Reasons
What Obama Really Meant Was "They're Nuts"
Obama Disses Blue Collar Voters Again: Says They "Cling to Guns or Religion" Because They Are "Bitter" [UPDATED]
Obama's Problems in Pennsylvania Mirror His Problems in Ohio
Obama Attributes Support for Reagan by Blue Collar "Reagan Democrats" to "Anger Over Welfare and Affirmative Action" [UPDATED]
National Catholic Register: "Soul of the Democrat Party Still Secular"
InsideCatholic on Democrats and the Catholic Vote
National Catholic Register on the Late Bob Casey, Sr.: "Mighty Casey and American Humility"
For Democrats, a Troubling Culture
Wary Democrats Discover a Severe "Parents Gap"