(The Morning Call - Saturday, 9/27/08)
It's nearing election time again and we are beginning to see the same sort of analysis that we've seen for the past couple decades when it comes to Catholic voters. Catholics were once overwhelmingly Democrats, associated as they were with poor immigrants, workers' unions, and the like. Over the past couple decades, however, they have become divided almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
Last week, in the Yahoo headlines, we were told that McCain has received a recent jump over Obama. A few nights before that, McCain and Obama appeared before an evangelical pastor to speak about the relationship between faith and politics, among other things. One can't help but wonder if McCain's performance in that debate is to account for this recent jump.
To go back to the Catholic vote, unlike their evangelical counterparts, Catholics have an enormous body of "social teaching," which, in many ways, fits better with the Democratic platform. Catholics do not easily separate theology and economics. And yet, Catholics are increasingly voting Republican.
This has led many to suggest that such Catholics are "one-issue" voters: They vote, that is, for the candidate who is opposed to abortion on demand. I do not wish to debate the merits of this. I, like many Catholics, have extreme difficulty voting for either a Republican or a Democrat. Republicans have become the party of big business, while Democrats have become the party of rich celebrities.
But, I would like to say one thing about "one-issue voting": Abortion is not an isolated issue. Those who condone the taking of unborn human life are saying something about the nature of that life. They are saying that it is ours to do with as we please. They are saying that human life, which we did not make and cannot make, (without existing human life), is no different in kind from things which we do make and can own. There is a principle here, and Obama's insistence that his policies will actually reduce the number of abortions does not get to it. The principle that human life is ours to do with as we please is an enormous one, with enormous and scary implications.
Many of us Catholics are itching to vote Democrat. However, until the abortion issue is addressed at the level of principle, the Democratic Party is making it almost impossible.
A spike in McCain's ratings after a highly publicized television discussion about religion and politics? Is legalized abortion so important to the Democratic Party that it is willing to risk losing yet another election to a big-business, war-hawk Republican?
Rodney Howsare is an associate professor of theology at DeSales University in Center Valley. He lives in Allentown.
Press Release: What factors make Catholics decide who to vote for? | Posted on: 9/27/2008
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