The Catholic Thing
Catholics and the Mid-Terms Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 03 November 2010

There’s no doubt about it. Tuesday night’s election results were historic. The Republican sixty-three-and-counting pick up in the House of Representatives is the biggest gain for an out-of-power party in a president’s first mid-term election since 1922. Even at the height of the Great Depression in November 1930, Democrats running against the policies of an unpopular president, Herbert Hoover, managed to defeat only fifty-three GOP congressmen.

As for the U.S. Senate, the Republican pick up of seven seats is the best performance since 1994, nearly doubling the the post-World War II first mid-term election average of four Senate seats gained. The national victories also translated into significant Republican gubernatorial and state-legislative gains, which are important for 2011 when Congressional redistricting will begin.

Election Day exit polls reveal that 60 percent of Americans believe the government is going in the wrong direction; 47 percent say the government is a disaster; 48 percent call for the repeal of Obamacare; and 41 percent find the Tea Party’s limited-government philosophy very attractive.

Catholics, who went for Obama 55 to 45 percent over McCain in 2008, changed direction this year: 53 percent voted Republican. This switch had a major impact on elections in the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Two years ago, a large percentage of pro-life, GOP-voting Catholics in these economically troubled rust-belt states were AWOL on Election Day. They stayed home then because they could not, in good conscience, vote for pro-abortion Obama, but they were uninspired by McCain’s anemic economic vision.

But this year Catholics came out in force and provided the votes needed to defeat one Congressional Democratic incumbent in Indiana, and four each in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Flipping these closely-contested seats was the sine qua non of the GOP master plan to retake the House, and Catholics provided the margins of victory.

The Capitol at dawn

More good news for Catholics: the likely next Speaker of the House, John Boehner, is a pro-life, practicing Catholic. Born in Cincinnati, Boehner is the second oldest of twelve children. He attended Archbishop Moeller High School and graduated from Xavier University. Americans United for Life presented the ten-term Congressman with this year’s Henry Hyde Defender of Life award.

At least twenty pro-abortion Catholics will not be returning to the House in January, including three members of the infamous Stupak Five. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) announced earlier this year he was retiring. Now two of his fellow pro-lifers who also caved on Obamacare, Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) and Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pennsylvania), were defeated by genuine pro-lifers.

When freshman Congressman Driehaus signed on to the Stupak deal to support Obamacare in exchange for the toothless presidential executive order that allegedly forbids healthcare-related abortion funding, fellow Ohioan Boehner predicted that Driehaus would not be able to “go home to the west side of Cincinnati,” because Catholics “will run him out of town.” Boehner’s prediction was right on the money. Driehaus lost handily in a rematch with former Republican Congressman Steve Chabot, who had held the seat from 1995 to 2008.

While the GOP does not have numerical control of the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with forty-seven members, will have effective control – and for faithful Catholics that’s a good thing. Obama won’t be able to run against a “Do Nothing” Republican Congress, as President Harry Truman did in 1948, because Democrats will be responsible for management of the upper chamber. And Senator Harry Reid, a pedantic whiner and deeply unpopular public figure who barely won re-election, will remain the public face of Senate Democrats – and that, too, is a good thing.

New Speaker, old Speaker, same President

On another front, New York Republicans took back majority control of the state Senate, which guarantees that another attempt to send same-sex marriage legislation to the governor’s desk for his signature will fail. This puts a serious obstacle in the way of the standard narrative that insists approval of gay marriage in liberal bellwether New York is “inevitable.”

But in terms of public policy initiatives that are of interest to Catholics, we should not expect much progress. The voters fired scores of Democrats mostly because of frustration over a growing national debt and the stagnant economy. Social issues, we should be clear, were not as much on voters minds as in the past, although in many races growing pro-life sentiment worked in favor of pro-life candidates, particularly in blue states.

The best case scenario suggests the pro-life movement will not lose ground in the next two years. The Freedom of Choice Act, which would further codify abortion and partial-birth abortion as fundamental rights, is D.O.A. A national “gay-rights” bill, which would establish a new federally-protected class based on sexual orientation, will get nowhere in the next Congress.

Patience is the key over the next two years. There is reason to hope that Obama will be evicted from the Executive mansion in 2012 and, perhaps, be replaced by a pro-life president. After all, in 2009 and 2010 Republicans won statewide elections in the presidential battleground states of Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio. Add those 92 electoral votes to the 173 John McCain won in 2008, and the  GOP is only five shy of retaking the White House.

Of course, Republicans are quite capable of ignoring the voters’ overriding wish that our legislators fix, as soon as possible, America’s fiscal and economic woes. This would be a great tragedy for many reasons, not least because the GOP would also squander the opportunity to fix the nation’s moral and social woes as well.

George J. Marlin is an editor of
The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of. The American Catholic Voter.

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Comments (13)Add Comment
written by Jack T., November 04, 2010
Where are you getting your figures from? CNN's exit polling for House races suggested that Catholics made up the same percentage of the electorate in 2008 as they did in 2010. Do you have actual polls for pro-life vs. pro-choice Catholics? It seems that the independents were the ones that helped the GOP this term, not the Catholics. Indeed you seem far more concerned about partisan politics than you do about what really matters for Catholics - the saving of souls. Should Catholics, for instance, celebrate the election of Mark Kirk - a man who supports abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and civil unions - and be saddened by the election of John Manchin - pro-life and pro-traditional marriage?

Also - I have heard several "Tea-Party" leaders say they don't know and don't care where candidates stand on abortion (or war) so long as they're for spending cuts. Their rhetoric is very individualistic and Catholics should be concerned about being too closely linked with them.
written by dkdanck, November 04, 2010
As a Tea Party member in good standing, I've been to 7 marches, including the big one in DC, and I can tell you that Tea Party members are very conservative both fiscally and socially. They love God and Country, in that order. Most of them are pro life although there are some who are pro-choice. I am pro-life and would never have been a Tea Partier if they had promoted pro-choice. They would have lost a huge following if they had.
written by Ray Hunkins, November 04, 2010
Interesting piece Mr Marlin. Those of us who are conservative should be hopeful but remain vigilant. What happened Tuesday is the result of a lot of work over many years by many people.The teaching (and the learning) that went on in our nation over the past year is remarkable and give rise to hope for the future. We should remember however, that our political system is a human institution subject to many imperfections and flaws. Utopia did not arrive Tuesday just like it did not arrive two years ago. Let the hard work continue!
written by Joe, November 04, 2010
Step in the right direction, George, but I am less sanguine than you on any "progress." Obama still wields the power of the veto and more gridlock is likely with a split Senate.

Although social issues took a back seat during the campaigns, I was struck also by a lack of any debate or discussion about the two wars. Foreign policy was off the radar screen in every debate I watched, which in past elections had always been an important topic. America seems to be turning inward and isolationist, obsessed with her own problems. Nobody in either party is making the logical case that the wars and out-of-control military spending is draining the U.S. Treasury by hundreds of billions and sapping the nation's economic strength. So what does the Fed do? Prints another $600 billion in monopoly money, which it "pumps", to use the state-controlled media's word, into the monetary system, only to buy it back in the form of bonds. A neat little trick that makes millions for the Wall Street traders, but otherwise sends the wrong signal that we're broke and desperate.

All the nonsense uttered about "job creation", meanwhile, is just that in a nation where 40 million are on food stamps and the millions of indolents would rather sit on their duffs and collect a fat check from the government for 2 years (maybe longer if Obama has his way) than look for work that pays less. Where's the incentive?

Republican or Democrat, makes no difference. The Welfare/Nanny State is here to stay. As for abortion, remember that the left-leaning Supreme Court (with the hand-picked additions of Sotomayor and Kagan) will call the final shots, making any congressional moves irrelevant. In other words, even though the GOP scored big, the die has been cast for the next two years and the only hope, as you suggest, George, is for a new occupant of the White House to set a new agenda for the nation.

Thanks for a good piece.
written by Pete brown, November 04, 2010
I was greatly disappointed in this piece.

First, I think it's grossly unfair to characterize Stupak as a pro-abortion Catholic. That's sheer rhetoric with no basis in fact. You may not support the ACA (I didn't) but it was far far better on abortion than it would have been without the influence of the Stupak block.

Second, the FOCA being dead on arrival??? this was already dead on arrival even with a Democratic congress precisely because of the influence of DEms like Stupak who continue to oppose expansion of abortion rights and ensuring that things like the Hyde amendment get passed even in years when the DEms have congress.

Pro-lifers would be much more effective if we learned to work both sides of the aisle. Partisan spin-jobs like this piece aren't helpful. It gives the impression that pro-life lobbying is just shilling for the GOP.
written by Jacob, November 04, 2010
Jack T displays the common modern ignorance.

First of all he got his polls from people like Pew, Gallup and Rasmussen...I know leftists only trust them if they're saying that baby murder up to birth on demand and gay marriage are inevitable but Catholics obviously did switch allegiance this year.

And please define "partisan politics". For pro-life Catholics saying abortion is "partisan politics" is like a libertarian saying a good economy is "partisan politics", or free rights to same-sex marriage for a leftist..for the respective group, these are BIG issues.

For us same-sex marriage is an abomination of course...but it also doesn't seem as important as things like economy or especially abortion.

It's only because you guys are so whacked out that it even seems possible that the mass infanticide of innocent American children is just some little side issue that we like to bicker and moan if abortion is on par with "gay rights", as if the same thing is at stake.

Despite what they tell you no homosexuals are being murdered..and especially not while they slumber peacefully in the womb before they've ever had a chance to hear people like Jack T. whine about "partisan politics".

Just because a bunch of leftists and libertarians treat abortion as partisan politics doesn't make it so. The Jews weren't inhuman just because a lot of Nazis believed it. (By the way we're out pacing them ten to one with our efforts at mass murder.)
written by Terence M. Stanton, November 04, 2010

This is why every, single election is important. Catholics must vote for pro-life and pro-marriage politicians every two years or else we get the abortion and homosexual agenda shoved down our throats as we've seen during the current administration.
written by Jack Carlson, November 04, 2010
I agree with Jacob that the issue of same-sex marriage is less less crucial than those of abortion and, when they are in play, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. But it is worth noting, I think, that the three Iowa state supreme court justices (including the chief justice) who were up for voter approval this year all were removed from the bench--an unprecedented political event inspired by public dismay at the court's decision that laws restricting marriage to one man and one woman violated the state constitution. Whether this event will move the new Iowa legislature to consider a bill to amend the constitution so as to override the court's decision remains to be seen.
written by Anniem, November 04, 2010
I am happy that the rest of the USA seems to be making a turnaround. I would be happier if I knew that these newly elected people put LIFE as their primary concern: born and unborn. And that they believe the smaller the federal government, the better we will all be. But California where I live is on the way to becoming a "third world country." It seems Hispanics voted overwhelmingly to keep or put into office people who are anti-life. They don't understand that Planned Parenthood's aim is to eliminate as many blacks, Mexicans, and other people of color as possible, and yet they vote for politicians whose policies support abortion, and contraception. While the bishops are concerned about social justice (often means bigger government) they have not bothered to let the growing Hispanic population know that abortion is a plank in the platform of the Democratic party, and Hispanics are their main target here. When California has gone bankrupt, and thousands of companies have left this state, those who came here for a "better life" will realize the party's over, literally. Those of us who have lived here all our lives would be happy to move elsewhere if circumstances permitted.
written by Achilles, November 04, 2010
Jacob said "For us same-sex marriage is an abomination of course...but it also doesn't seem as important as things like economy or especially abortion."

Really? Is it really up to us to decide the hierarchy of sin a la Fr. James Martin S.J. the non dissenting dissenter? The normalization of SSM under a perverted notion of equality is indeed a serious issue in the culture of death. Of exact equivalence to murdering unborn children? Perhaps, perhaps not, but to sanction a perversion of the True definition of marriage is to the family what abortion is to the unborn child, the murder of unborn civilization by further destroying the family. Why don’t we keep the issue where our Holy Father would have us keep it. That you mention the economy in that sentence leaves me almost speechless, almost.

For the rest of your post Jacob, at least one of us is deeply confused. I will pray for you, please pray for me. Achilles
written by Deacon John M. Bresnahan, November 04, 2010
I have seen virtually no media coverage of how the people of Iowa threw out all 3 judges that legalized gay marriage there.
written by Jack T., November 04, 2010
To Jacob: You did not understand my post and I am offended by the assertions that you have attributed to me. I brought up the question of polling, because Mr. Marlin did not reference his sources and I had not seen anything that substantiated his claim. You accuse me of getting my information from leftist sources without any evidence. The poll that I cited was a CNN poll and it simply registered the percentage of the electorate that was Catholic. It did not ask about social issues within that question.

I am not "whining" about partisan politics. My point was that Mr. Marlin seems more concerned about the election of Republicans than with issues that Catholics care about. Again - the example of pro-choice Republican Mark Kirk and pro-life Democrat Joe Manchin.

All I am asking for is where Mr. Marlin gets his sources and whether or not we as Catholics should be cautious in identifying so strongly with a political party when some members of that party do not share our core beliefs on life while members outside the party might. I do not believe this displays ignorance, nor do I think it is "whacked out" to question the evidence behiind the kind of statements Mr. Marlin was making.
written by blue8064, February 11, 2011
The Republican party is not pro-life either. The main reason for that is their support for a policy denying an increase in welfare payments to unmarried welfare mothers who have more children while on welfare (the family cap). Such a policy implicitly tells welfare mothers to abort their babies instead of allowing them to be born, and is therefore pro-abortion. On the other hand, working families have dependency exemptions and child tax credits to help them with raising children.

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