The media like to handicap the black vote and the Catholic vote as
if each were a unified bloc. What’s wrong with that is obvious.
The terms ‘African-Americans’ and ‘Catholic Americans’ are used as
definitions in identity politics and polling data. The identities need
better exploration in the media.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy muddles the difference
considerably, since he and like-minded pastors preach identity politics
from a black theological frame of reference. His own church member,
Sen. Barack Obama, had already directed the nation’s attention to a
“post-racial” America when the racial controversy erupted. Now, race is
a touchy topic and in the middle of most political conversations. It’s
either claimed or blamed as a reason for voting preferences and
outcomes. It’s declared off-limits as a subject for discussion by the
Obama campaign, even by black commentators.
In the early evening news analysis after the West Virginia polls
closed, Fox News’ Juan Williams commented on exit polling data from
that state that showed voters opposed to Obama not on the basis of race
but ‘on this man, what he stands for, culturally…the Rev. Wright thing’
and other issues, which is a very important point to make often,
especially by prominent black voices. But Williams went on to lament
that if he (a prominent black journalist and commentator) raises the
point, he’s called “a ‘Tom’ and a crazy person”….and right about then
he was interrupted for some polling update. Viewers would have
benefitted from hearing the thought completed.
Should race determine the vote? In a word, No. Nor should it be used to control the conversation.
Now about religion…
The Church does not determine how Catholics should vote, on the
basis of party or candidate. It does teach about moral issues to direct
consciences in voting. The most fundamental issue of all, the Church
teaches, is the right to life of all humans, essential for all other
Both parties are reaching out to the Catholic vote which, if unified
under the teaching of the Church, would start with the defense of human
life and disperse from there in disagreement over other issues and the
best policies to carry out solutions. It’s not unified. There are
frequent headlines about Catholics being Hillary Clinton’s “secret
weapon”, and stories about Barack Obama’s team of Catholic advisors.
Which brings up Carl Olson’s post at Ignatius Insight.
Bill Donahue of the Catholic League is not impressed with Barack Obama’s Catholic National Advisory Council. On May 2nd he said:
“The best advice I can give Sen. Obama about his Catholic National
Advisory Council is to dissolve it immediately. Of the 26 Catholic
former or current public office holders he has listed as either
National Co-Chairs (5), or as members of the National Leadership
Committee (21), there is not one who agrees with the Catholic Church on
all three major public policy issues: abortion, embryonic stem cell
research and school vouchers.”
Abortion and embryonic stem cell research, because they involve
human life, are among the ‘non-negotiables’ for a voter’s conscience.
Donohue has been on top of both parties’ handling of Catholic matters. Which got results from the McCain campaign.
John Hagee, an influential Texas televangelist who
endorsed John McCain, apologized to Catholics Tuesday for his stinging
criticism of the Roman Catholic Church and for having “emphasized the
darkest chapters in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations
with the Jews.”
Comparison of Hagee to Wright isn’t valid because McCain has not
been a member of Hagee’s church. But it did fire some outrage and
offense. And prompted the action by the Catholic League.
In a letter to William Donohue, president of the
Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, Hagee wrote: “Out of a
desire to advance a greater unity among Catholics and evangelicals in
promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any
comments that Catholics have found hurtful.”
As Donohue says, that takes courage and sensitivity. The right kind of sensitivity.