Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Hillary, Obama & Catholics — A Response to Deal Hudson

Deal, thank you for participating in Casting Stones this week.
I wanted to respond to your post about the Catholic vote. Clearly, Hillary is doing much better among Catholics than Obama is, but I’m afraid that I don’t buy the notion that it’s because of her “clearly outlined social justice message.” What about her social justice message is more Catholic than Obama’s message?
Obama and Clinton are ardently pro-choice, pro-gay-rights and practicing Protestants. I get why Obama might not appeal to Catholics, but I don’t get why Hillary does. What characteristic or position can you ascribe to Obama that isn’t shared by Hillary? Surely you’re not suggesting that Catholics are less likely to support a black, are you?
The article you referenced, printed in January, boldly predicted that Obama would not be able to carry any religious groups other than African Americans. It turns out he has, in state after state, carried the small religious sect called Protestants.
I, for one, believe that neither Clinton nor Obama have done what it takes to run strong with Catholics in November — that is, offer up some culturally conservative issues. Bill Clinton appealed to cultural conservatives in 2000 by calling for more cops, welfare reform and a national service law that would allow people to earn colleage aid by doing community service. In 2004, he offered up school uniforms and the V-chip (to help police your kids’ TV shows). He married his economic populism with selective social conservatism. Obama and Hillary have not.

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David G.

posted April 28, 2008 at 10:49 pm

I am late to the party (fray?), but I’d just second what Steve Waldman said here in response to Deal. I’m sure race is a factor–one that works both ways. But teasing it out is notoriously difficult. Hillary’s appeal to Catholics has been parsed many ways, most intriguingly that she reminds older white Catholics of the nuns who taught them in parochial school. Hmmm…
What doesn’t cut it is the explanation that Obama is somehow more pro-choice than Clinton, who has been portrayed for the last 16 years as the most “pro-abortion” Democrat who ever lived. I don’t, however, think that Hillary’s appeal among white Catholics means Obama is doomed to lose the Catholic vote in November should he win the nomination. (Unless of course Hillary goes nuclear.)
One interesting religion factor to my mind is that Obama is a member of a black church in a white denomination (UCC) whose members largely support his candidacy, as Steve noted. Black churches are, however, alien to the vast majority of Catholics, and Obama’s rhetorical style is foreign to Catholis even as his message is more in tune with Catholic social justice positions than either Clinton or certainly McCain.

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John C

posted April 29, 2008 at 6:53 am

Steve is obviously in the tank for Obama. Steve, maybe it is because Hillary appeals to hard working people who are looking for answers to issues, not dreams. Maybe they are looking for some one they relate to, not some one who will belittle them as being bitter and for their beliefs in God and gun ownership. Maybe because Hillary does not have a “Rev” Wright. It is not racism as you would like to believe. Maybe it is just a plain old belief in personal responsibility. Some thing Obama did not exhibit when dealing with Rev, Wright. Steve, you are trying to make an issue complicated and devious, when it is really quite simple.

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