April 4, 2005


Bush Hasn't Won All of Pope's Flock (Maura Reynolds, April 4, 2005, LA Times)

In the fall, President Bush accomplished a feat that eluded him in 2000 by winning the majority of votes cast by Roman Catholics. This week, he is expected to become the first U.S. president in history to attend the funeral of a pope.

Some might read Bush's inclination to fly to Rome as a transparent attempt to court Catholics, a constituency in the cross hairs of strategists seeking to expand the Republican electoral base.

But for all the praise the president has lavished on Pope John Paul II in recent days, the relationship between the two men and their politics was tense and complex. And for all the attention paid to the role of social conservatives in Republican politics, the "Catholic vote" is still up for grabs.

"Both the pope and the president have indeed had an impact on socially conservative Catholics becoming more Republican," said Mark J. Rozell, an expert on religion and politics at George Mason University outside Washington. "But the non-churchgoing or occasionally churchgoing still don't identify with the Republican Party."

In his comments after the pope's death, Bush emphasized the pontiff's support for the "culture of life" — a phrase the president borrowed from the pope and uses to refer broadly to specific positions on abortion, euthanasia and marriage. [...]

[A]lthough John Paul espoused views that both Democrats and Republicans could claim, his promotion of conservative bishops and cardinals had the effect in the U.S. of emphasizing one side of his teachings over the other.

"The indirect result was to give strength to the social-issue conservatives within the church hierarchy, and that led more-traditionalist Catholics to vote for President Bush and Republican candidates on the social conservative issues," said John C. Green, an expert on religion and voting patterns at the University of Akron in Ohio. [...]

Perhaps equally important in enlarging Catholics' role in Republican politics has been the decline in anti-Catholic views among many Protestants.

Until President Reagan sent an ambassador to the Holy See in 1984, the United States did not have formal relations with the Vatican. Though Protestants were once suspicious of Catholics and emphasized doctrinal differences, activists on social issues now embrace Catholics as allies.

"Universally, there's a feeling this pope was a man who shared our values…. He was a bulwark against communism … he was a bulwark for life, he was a bulwark for the sanctity of marriage," the Rev. Pat Robertson, the Southern Baptist televangelist, said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition."

"Protestants don't give the same deference to Mary that the Catholics do, but that's something that we sort of put aside," he added. "We don't dwell on that point of difference."

The inroads still to be made are why a Catholic like Jeb is the ideal 2008 nominee--he'd pick up PA & the rest of the industrial Midwest that eluded his brother after John McCain played up Bob Jones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 4, 2005 9:26 AM

My best net buddy is a retired Irish Catholic nurse whose late husband was Polish. Very devout.

Until she came on the internet, she subscribed to The Nation, The New Republic and most every other left-wing publication around including, in the past, newsletters from Izzy Stone and Noam Chomsky.She never considered voting Republican.

Until I was 11, my parents were Congregationalists. Then we become Unitarians. But politically, I born conservative. My first vote was for Nixon (no conservative but McGovern...brrrr).

Today she has adopted my politics and I'm close to
converting to her faith--both in large part due to what we have learned on the internet.

Posted by: David at April 4, 2005 10:16 AM

the non-churchgoing or occasionally churchgoing still don't identify with the Republican Party.

In other words, if you count the Catholics who actually believe, Bush won an even bigger majority.

Posted by: Timothy at April 4, 2005 12:52 PM

After the PBS Frontline program on the Pope last week (probably a repeat) I think more will be voting Republican. The program was pretty fair until they got to "liberation theology" in S.A. when PBS bared their leftist sympathies.

Posted by: Genecis at April 4, 2005 2:53 PM