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Electoral consequences of the HHS mandate Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012

Our president and his cadre of managers of the nation’s collective life caused a political firestorm in late January. They ignored conscience objections of religious leaders and ordered Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities to amend by August 30, 2013 their healthcare plans to include birth-control services (among them abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures) or be subject to millions of dollars in fines and penalties. This may lead to civil strife for the nation and political disaster in several key battleground states for Mr. Obama.

Prominent Catholics from all points on the political spectrum were aghast. Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, “In effect, the President is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our own consciences. . . . Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

The nationally syndicated columnist, E.J. Dionne, a baptized Catholic and relentless supporter of the president, denounced Obama for throwing “his progressive Catholic allies under the bus.” Sean Michael Winter, writing in the dissident National Catholic Reporter, accused the president of “dishonoring your own vision by this shameful action” and vowed not to vote for him this fall.

Obama’s assumption appears to have been that Catholics who ignore the Church’s teaching on contraception would not be offended – or at least that such offense as they might take will not matter politically. But that calculation appears to be profoundly mistaken. Reports from dioceses all over the nation indicate that most Catholics are appalled that the federal government is attempting to circumvent the First Amendment and restrict freedom of conscience. 

I myself witnessed that anger at a Catholic dinner in Manhattan on February 2. Bishop Nicholas DeMarzio, the Ordinary of the Brooklyn Diocese, received a rousing standing ovation from the 750 attendees after he denounced the federal edict.

This political blunder will have a price. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has introduced legislation to repeal the order, summed it up best when he said, “This is going to hurt [Obama] not only among Catholics and religious voters . . . because it reflects a pattern of overreach.” 

In my judgment, it could cost Obama the election. That’s because key-swing states that will determine the 2012 winner – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida – have large populations of older church-going Catholics who are not happy with Obama’s ideologically driven directive.

In 2008, Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, received 173 electoral votes, 97 shy of the 270 needed to win. The Electoral College vote total of the seven battle ground states that Obama carried and have Catholic populations exceeding 20 percent of the electorate will be 110 electoral votes in 2012. And if there is a 5- to 10-percent shift in the Catholic vote to a Republican pro-life candidate in those seven tightly contested states this November, Obama loses.

A far-fetched analysis? Absolutely not. These seven states have been trending Republican and 2010 exit polls revealed that many Catholics, who in 2008 stayed home or voted for Obama, turned out to punish Democrats in the 2010 mid-term elections.

 

 

 

Catholic Population %

 

Electoral Votes

2008      2012

Obama 2008 Total Vote %

Kerry 2004 Total Vote %

Obama 2008 Catholic Vote %

Kerry 2004 Catholic Vote %

GOP 2010 House Vote Totals %

GOP 2010 House Seat

Pick Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida

28%

27

29

51%

47%

50%

42%

59%

+4

Indiana

22%

11

11

50%

39%

50%

43%

58%

+2

Iowa

23%

7

6

54%

49%

50%

53%

55%

--

Michigan

29%

17

16

57%

51%

51%

50%

50%

+2

Ohio

26%

20

18

52%

49%

47%

44%

57%

+5

Pennsylvania

35%

21

20

54%

51%

48%

51%

53%

+5

Wisconsin

32%

10

10

56%

50%

53%

52%

55%

+2

Total

­­--

113

110

--

--

--

--

--

+20

Catholics angry over the weak economy and the failed stimulus package and disgusted with Democratic legislators, (particularly Catholic ones) who voted for Obamacare, helped the GOP pick up 20 congressional seats in those seven states – 32 percent of their total national House gains. Catholics also provided the margins of victory for pro-life Republican senatorial candidates in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – 50 percent of their 2010 gains. Thanks to the support from Catholic voters, the GOP also took over the governor’s mansions in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The 2010 election results indicate that Catholics have the ballot-box power to send Obama and the narcissist elites that surround him packing in 2012. This November, Catholics can send the message that Obama does not have a providential role, doesn’t know what is best for the faithful, and cannot undercut the very foundations of our democracy.


George J. Marlin
is an editor of
The Quotable Fulton Sheen. His newest book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.


 
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Comments (24)Add Comment
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written by James, February 08, 2012
An excellent, enlightening, and, most importantly, hopeful article, Mr. Marlin. Thank you for this great contribution!
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written by Randall Peaslee, February 08, 2012
I hope it's not blasphemous to describe the Holy Spirit as ironic - but isn't it ironic that Mr Obama's blunder with his healthcare mandate is uniting Catholics left and right? Especially considering so many "progressive" Catholics are opposed to the Church's teaching on contraception. Of all the issues to unite Cathoics . . .
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written by Joseph Dooley, February 08, 2012
I fear Marlin is focusing too much on the President's political calculus. What Obama is really doing is moving the ball to make religion further irrelevant in the American consciousness. If the Supreme Court upholds this decision, then as a matter of conscience the Church will retreat completely from civic life, as Catholic Charities have done Massachusetts and Illinois.
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written by Crafty Bernardo, February 08, 2012
"In my judgment, it could cost Obama the election. That’s because key-swing states that will determine the 2012 winner – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida – have large populations of older church-going Catholics who are not happy with Obama’s ideologically driven directive."

Older church-going Catholics did not vote for Obama in 2008. I really don't see how this changes anything.


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written by Joe Wood, February 08, 2012
George makes a great case for the potential impact of Catholic voters. But Obama and his advisors are surely aware of the same numbers, and I have to accuse George of insufficient cynicism. If the Republicans implode and the election is safe, or if his left base looks dangerously weak, Obama will keep the HHS mandate as is. If the election is close over the summer/early fall and it appears a small number of Catholics could swing key states, he will pull back the mandate and point to that action as evidence of willingness to listen and accommodate the beliefs of others. The Catholic left will then have to decide whether to praise Obama's reconsideration and claim victory for dialogue (and I'm pretty sure I know how EJ Dionne, etc. will come out on that). In any case, the mandate has made clear, as if that were needed, the administration's basic agenda, which will be given free rein in a second Obama term when the need to seek reelection is no longer even a weak brake. One book to read is CS Lewis' Abolition of Man.
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written by Joe Wood, February 08, 2012
Update: Today's news has the Obama administration already opening the way for wiggle room on the policy, including the claim that Obama wants to use the 1-year wait to make sure conscience issues are addressed, while trying to hold their base with a commitment to "needed health services for women." The decision will hinge entirely on political calculus until election day, after which this and many other decisions will be based on unbridled progressivism. As usual, I dearly hope to be proven wrong.
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written by Sophie13, February 08, 2012
“Sometimes this is a difficult road being in politics. Sometimes you can become fearful, sometimes you can become vain, sometimes you can seek power just for power’s sake instead of because you want to do service to God. I just want all of you to pray that I can be an instrument of God in the same way that Pastor Ron and all of you are instruments of God. We’re going to keep on praising together.

I AM CONFIDENT THAT WE CAN CREATE A KINGDOM RIGHT HERE ON EARTH."

- Senator Barack Obama, 8 October 2007

"My individual salvation is not going to come about without a collective salvation for the country. Unfortunately, I think that recognition requires that we make sacrifices and this country has not always been willing to make the sacrifices to bring about a new day and a new age."

- Barack Obama, 1995

"... my individual salvation is not going to come about without a collective salvation for the country. Um, unfortunately I think that recognition requires that we make sacrifices and this country has not always been willing to make the sacrifices necessary to bring about a new day and a new age."

- Barack Obama, 1998

"My individual salvation depends on our collective salvation."

- Barack Obama, Dreams of My Father, 2004

"I ask you to take it because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on our collective salvation."

- Barack Obama, Xavier commencement address, 2006

"Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because thinking only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs, betrays a poverty of ambition."

- Barack Obama, Wesleyan commencement address, 2008



Whenever men set out to create "Heaven on Earth" or a "Kingdom on Earth," they invariably end up creating hell instead.
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written by JasonRabbit75, February 08, 2012
"But that calculation appears to be profoundly mistaken. Reports from dioceses all over the nation indicate that most Catholics are appalled that the federal government is attempting to circumvent the First Amendment and restrict freedom of conscience."

This article is full of numbers, statistics, and polls about previous elections. But for the above statement, the most crucial sentences in the entire opinion piece, no numbers or data are provided--only an anecdote about a standing ovation at a Catholic dinner. Why not link to an actual poll showing what Catholic voters think about the contraception mandate?
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written by Patrick Cunningham, February 08, 2012
Mr. Marlin cites indications "that most Catholics are appalled that the federal government is attempting to circumvent the First Amendment and restrict freedom of conscience."

But two separate polls -- one by the Public Religion Research Institute and the other by Public Policy Polling -- show that sizable segments of the Catholic laity support the contraception-coverage mandate.
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
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written by htaft, February 08, 2012
Every now and then the truth of someone or something is revealed. You're looking at the true face of the Progressive movement. Bullying churches and charities, indifferent to the matters of conscience of religious citizens and their institutions. If this is the America you desire, vote your preference. If it isn't, vote for the other candidate (even the proverbial "ham sandwich"). Whatever is true or the other candidates, they're not trying to destroy what we believe.
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written by Crafty Bernardo, February 08, 2012
Thank you Bill...

I agree that the political calculus is overblown and is missing probably the biggest factor (that the people Obama upsets most with this legislation didn't vote for him in the first place)...

And I also agree that this is not a matter of religious persecution or anything... nobody's restricting any individual's right to practice Catholocism. This is about employment law and insurance.

Just because it's a church doesn't mean it can operate outside of federal laws on employment. Should we allow churches to employ child labor or practice racially discriminating or sexist hiring practices if they said it was OK under their religion?

Of course not. And this is no different.
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written by Patrick k, February 08, 2012
Leigh, the issue here is not the receipt of federal funds. Even if a Catholic hospital, school or university did not receive funds, it would nevertheless be forced to provide contraception to its employees, and, therefore, would be forced by the state to violate its religious beliefs. That is the issue: freedom of religion.

It's ironic that you associate religious FREEDOM with Iran. Clearly, the Obama administration is the intolerant one here. But everyone knows that what liberal "tolerance" really means by now, I'm sure. Agree with us, or else you're fascist bigots and we'll drive you out of town -- do I have that right?
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written by Patrick k, February 08, 2012
I am not arguing for an "alternate set of laws." I am quite satisified with the current Constitution. Crafty, you're right that it doesn't force anyone to take contraceptives. No one has suggested that. Also, it does not merely "legislate hiring/employment practices," it has nothing to do with hiring. Stop trying to misdirect the debate. What it does do is force all employers to provide contraceptives. Essentially this would eliminate all Catholic universities and hospitals, because Catholics cannot in good conscience provide contraceptives.

The Catholic Church invented these two institutions, the university and the hospital. An integral part of Catholicism is providing education and healing to the people. That is our religion, it's not merely a set of beliefs but something that actually happens in the world. So, no, Catholics are not free to practice their religion under the current mandate.

You seem to be suggesting that religion is a purely private matter that has no place in public life. This is, itself, a sort of religious belief, secularism. There is no legal basis for disallowing religiously-affiliated public institutions any more than there would be for disallowing atheist or socialist public institutions. In other words, you want to set up a set of rules for running a hospital or university, under which Catholics would not be allowed to participate.

As an aside, it's really kind of sad that people care so much about some supposed "right" to recreational sex and avoiding the responsibility of children that they would be willing to force Catholic hospitals and universities to close. It says a lot about what progressives really care about, and what they mean when they use words like "tolerance" -- it only ever seems to apply to certain favored groups.
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written by Tony Esolen, February 08, 2012
Crafty: You don't get to hide behind the assertion, "That's the law!" The justice of the law is precisely what is at issue.

You must not beg the question. The very question at issue is what it means to be able to practice one's religion. The "progressive" statist position is that "religion" is a set of privately held beliefs, to be acted upon privately, or at most within a nicely cordoned-off piece of land with a church on it. It is "religion" reduced to solipsism. It does not recognize the place of religious believers in the public square not as individuals but as a body; so it will allow religious believers, in the bodies they constitute, to act for the attainment of the common good only if they deny their essence as religious bodies. And that is unacceptable and unconstitutional.

The statist wants nothing, nothing to stand as an alternative authority to the state. The statist concedes certain forms of individual autonomy, namely those forms that assist the statist in dissolving all of those alternative authorities. This dissolution can take place by intrusion and absorption: as when compulsory schooling becomes a means for replacing the values of the family with the values of the elite statists; or it can take place by diminution, or relegation to the borders of common life: as when the elites attempt to forbid religious believers, singly or together, from speaking the language of religion in public debates, not because such arguments aren't effective, but because they often are, and justly so.

The statist swells the government so much that nobody, nowhere can do anything without entanglement; and then the government says, "Hey, we have one of our tentacles around your throat. Now you play as we say." It would be exactly the same as if the State ordered Catholic schools to install vending machines for condoms, as one finds in seedy diners. "Sure, no student has to buy them!" you would then say.

But let's put our cards on the table. You FAVOR the state takeover of the family and the state's relegation of the church to irrelevance. You also FAVOR the sexual revolution, and all its pomps.

Another thing: someday someone will write the history of how westerners signed away their civil liberties all in the name of protecting women and children, and all while producing a society remarkably nasty and vicious and dangerous to those very same women and children -- or, more precisely, to the women and children who belong to the classes below that of the comfortable statists.
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written by Dave, February 08, 2012
Suppose you like to drink, and suppose I think drinking is wrong. Then suppose the government decides that moderate consumption of alcohol, something good for health, is a basic human right and therefore I should pay for your drink. Then suppose you argue that I am not being forced to pay for your drink because you might not drink, even though my money is being taken from me so that you can drink. Therefore even though my money is being taken and used for something I oppose, I am not being coerced; or if I am, it is good for me and I should shut up. Get it? Because that is the Administration's, and the progressives', argument for the mandate.
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written by Sue, February 08, 2012
Why weren't Catholics as up-in-arms when Obamacare was passed? These problems are so much easier to solve at their source. And why are we talking about defeating Obama in November instead of impeaching him now? Obama may not really care to serve a second term anyway, and we might get his twin brother in the GOP. Let the man who leads the way to impeachment be the standard-bearer in the 2012 election. Let's cut the globalist progressive machine off at its root.
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written by Louise, February 08, 2012
As I understand the mandate, Catholic hospitals, schools, and universities and other social services can be exempt from the mandate to provide contraceptives if they serve only people of their own faith and employ only people of their own faith. If this is the case, consider the effects of such a narrow law.

A young, pregnant woman who is not Catholic is visiting a Catholic friend in a Catholic hospital. The young visitor suffers a sudden spontaneous abortion and begins to hemorrhage, or falls and breaks a leg, or chokes on food in the cafeteria, or is hit by a car in the parking lot. Can the Catholic personnel assist her in a Catholic hospital without exceeding the limits of the mandate and incurring thousands of dollars in penalties? Or does she lie on the floor bleeding or choking or in agony until an ambulance arrives from the county hospital 15 miles across town?

A non-Catholic woman who despises abortion and its culture of death is pregnant and does not want to deliver her baby in a place where babies are routinely killed. She cannot be served in a Catholic hospital with a Catholic culture, where she know that her infant will be treated by medical personnel who value human life and dignity if that hospital cannot serve non-Catholics without incurring huge fines and penalties. Where is she to go?

If non-Catholic parents do not want their children exposed to or indoctrinated into the homosexual agenda in public schools, where can they go to school if the local Catholic school has chosen exemption and therefore employs and serves only Catholics under the terms of the exemption?

If your non-Catholic wife, husband, father suffers cardiac arrest, he/she cannot be treated at the Catholic hospital a mile from your home that is bound by the mandate, but must await an ambulance that will come many miles and return those same miles with the patient, who may or may not have survived.

If a single mother, a professional ICU nurse or maternity nurse who is not Catholic cannot be employed by a Catholic hospital and that is the only hospital within 50 miles in her rural area, how will she support her family?

President Obama describes this law as "narrowly defined", but, if my understanding of its limits is correct, the ramifications for all people, Catholics and non-Catholics are very broad indeed.
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written by Jayss2k07, February 09, 2012
This is a major political and tactical blunder on the part of the Obama Administration. Recent new accounts report that Vice President Biden and former Chief of Staff Daley counseled a more measured approach and warned the President that these HHR mandates would alienate Catholics, a voting bloc that had supported him in 2008, and create a backlash. A division in the Administration existed with a group of top women advisers urging the President not to create an exemption for religious organizations. I can see the rationale for the HHR rules. They deal with health care coverage of religiously affiliated institutions such as universities and hospitals, not with churches themselves. Affiliated institutions often employ non-Catholics. The calculus was probably something along the lines of "Why should an institution affiliated with a religious denomination prevent employees who are not members of that denomination from having access to contraceptives?" I'm not saying I agree with that argument, but I can at least understand it. In the end, the President will strike some sort of compromise which will allow religious organizations leeway. This issue will be a blip on the election radar screen. Ultimately, this election, like most, will be a referendum on the incumbent. President Obama's fate lies in the hands of the economy.
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written by Louise, February 09, 2012
In February 2008, Spengler wrote a column for the Asia Times entitled "Obama's women reveal his secret." It is an excellent article and it explains a great deal about how the president thinks and why he acts as he does. Since we now know that Kathleen Sibelius was behind this mandate and that female members of Congress stand solidly in favor of it and against any amendment to it, to say nothing of pressure from NOW, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood, I don't think that we can expect any concession on his part. I recommend Spengler's article. I tells us all we need to know about B.O.
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written by Father Time, February 10, 2012
Replying to @Louise: Yes, it would be a GREAT thing if the catholic community closed ranks and closed doors to the atheist/secular/protestant abomination that the USA has become.

It would illustrate in the maximum what Catholics bring to the public square.
The loss of services would leave a huge void that the Collective would be hard pressed to fill. It would show the evil face of atheism clearly and unequivocally.

Would people die? Definitely. Would there be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Certainly. Would it educate the pagans on what catholics do and are? Absolutely.

The Wrath of Yahweh is about to strike. Read the Old Testament, then duck.
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written by Paul E Stewart Jr, February 11, 2012
He's trying to compromise or appease the situation, but regardless of that, his intention is to steadily move forward against (e.g.) religious liberty. This whole dynamic (HHS mandate et alii) reminds me of PM Neville Chamberlain attempting to "bring peace" to the rising tide of Hitlerian designs of expansion by supposedly getting an "accord" of assurances of peace from the German chancellor/leader. We all know that his perception was far from the mark. There's no doubt in my mind that this attempt by our present #1 leader and his subsequent backing off is not the end of his true goal; it is the tip of an iceberg of pushing his designs in the future. Pray that our people discern what to do in this matter by exercising their freedom at the voting booth come November.

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