Saturday, October 31, 2020

Will Catholic Voters Choose Morality and Reject Trump?

American Catholicism has had a rough time over the last twenty years as the clergy sex abuse scandal has often garnered headlines over and over again and younger generations leave religion entirely.  Gallup found that church attendance has dropped more among Catholics than among Protestants and that decline in church membership has been greater among Catholics: twenty years ago, 76% of Catholics belonged to a church; now, 63% do. Part of the exodus of the younger generations has been driven by the Church's anti-gay stances and the perceived hypocrisy of churchgoers.  Now, with the 2020 election Americans have an opportunity to redeem themselves and support Joe Biden and reject the immorality that Donald Trump embodies (don't expect such redemption to be exhibited by evangelicals).  A piece in Politico looks at the potential for Catholics to desert Trump and, with luck, insure that he loses on November 3, 2020.  Here are article excerpts:

Four years after Catholic Americans helped seal Donald Trump’s come-from-behind victory with a flood of support in the industrial Midwest, they could deliver his defeat on Tuesday.

In the closing days of the 2020 race, polls have shown Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a steady lead among Catholic voters, one of the most consequential voting blocs this presidential cycle and a demographic the Trump campaign is counting on to deliver all-important toss-ups — like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio — to their side on Election Day.

[T]he state of the Catholic vote four days before the Nov. 3 election underscores the immense challenge the Trump campaign has faced in its year-long attempt to lock in religious voters who appear inclined to support Biden — despite approving of the president’s job performance — out of sheer frustration with Trump's personality and concerns over the division his presidency has sowed.

A mid-October survey by EWTN and RealClearPolitics showed Trump with a 47 percent approval rating among Catholics, but only 40 percent support when respondents were asked who they would vote for if the election were held today. Ditto for a Marquette Law School poll released last week where Trump’s job approval rating (52 percent) among Wisconsin Catholics exceeded their support for his reelection (48 percent).

“If he loses, it’s because people who otherwise support him are just sick of it all,” said one adviser to the Trump campaign. “It’s because of voters who kind of like Trump, but ‘just can’t take this anymore.’

It’s a concern that is particularly salient among Catholic voters in Pennsylvania and the Great Lakes region, where a cultural kinship with Biden, a practicing Catholic himself, has put the president at a disadvantage. And it’s a conundrum some of Trump’s allies begrudgingly admit could sink his shot at a second term.

“Half of Biden’s advantage right now is the shift among Catholics, who are facing a push-and-pull effect. Trump has pushed them away with his gruffness and extremism, while Biden pulls them in because he’s a white Catholic himself who speaks authentically about their shared faith,” said Ryan Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University who has been tracking data on Catholic voters in the Trump era.

[T]he polls tell a different story about Catholic voters’ satisfaction with Trump’s policy achievements and his handling of the issues they're prioritizing as the election closes in.

Only 29 percent of non-Protestant/Catholic voters said they somewhat or strongly agree that Trump “keeps his promises,” according to a POLITICO-Morning Consult survey conducted after the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., last Thursday. The same survey also found that Catholic voters trust Biden more on the economy, jobs, health care, the coronavirus, race relations and public safety — suggesting the president’s opposition to coronavirus-related church lockdowns, which he and his campaign have billed as a threat to religious freedom, and his law-and-order message have failed to attract Catholic voters as much as Biden’s approach. In Wisconsin alone, a state where one in four religious adults identify as Catholic, 53 percent of Catholic voters disapprove of his response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Marquette Law School poll.

If exit polls show Trump in the low 50s with white Catholics in Pennsylvania, it’s game over for him there and Michigan and Wisconsin,” said Burge.

Part of the reason for Biden’s success in pulling a considerable portion of Catholic voters away from Trump is that his campaign has been more intentional in trying to do so than Clinton was in 2016 and many of his Democratic primary opponents were this cycle. The former vice president has invoked his faith in speeches about the coronavirus pandemic, racism and economic equality, made a point to pursue outreach to religious communities and is widely seen as more virtuous than Trump, particularly among Catholic voters. In September, the Biden campaign unveiled an initiative aimed at driving turnout among progressive Catholic voters and courting cultural Catholics in the Rust Belt who tend to overlap with the blue-collar workers both the former vice president and Trump are after.

On Thursday, Biden published an op-ed in the Christian Post discussing the “abiding principles” that have guided his career in politics — principally the Christian commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

“It has become too easy in recent years to define our neighbors as ‘others‘ rather than children of God and fellow Americans. It has to stop. We have to strive harder to come together, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is the work we are all called to by God,” Biden wrote.

But even if Biden carries the Catholic vote on Election Day and chips away at Trump’s grip on white Catholics, there is one group that remains an unknown factor this cycle and could come to the president’s rescue: Hispanic Catholics . . . . “Hispanic Catholics are interesting because they are more culturally conservative than white Catholics on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage and with the Supreme Court, I think that’s a check for Trump with the Hispanic Catholic vote,” said Burge.

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