Post-election reflection

It’s finally over. And the results are pretty much as expected. Obama won by a relatively narrow margin. What’s more interesting is the breakdown. He won 93 percent of blacks, 73 percent of Asians, and 71 percent of Hispanics. He won 60 percent of those aged 18-29.

In short, his coalition is a coalition of the future. Romney won an impressive 59 percent of whites, and still lost the election. He got every possible white vote he could realistically get, and still couldn’t pull it off. That should tell us something. It certainly explains the complete shock among many Republicans last night. In spite of the polls, many were predicting a big Romney victory. Because they believed at some fundamental level that the country belonged to them and thought like them. This is a major reason why they never regarded Obama as a legitimate president, and kept talking about “taking back the country” over the past four years. The anger and the vitriol reflected an utter bewilderment with how fast the sands were shifting. Many are quite open about it, noting that this is not the America of their youth. And it’s not.

The Republicans are not fools. They surely understand this. They understand that they can no longer win elections by whipping up fear and loathing among older white men. Hopefully, this will be the first step back to sanity. God knows, we need a legitimate opposition to the Democrats.

Let me talk a bit about the bishops. I found their behavior to be rather disappointing. The sensible majority failed to display much leadership, and the highly partisan minority managed to hijack the debate. Some of them brazenly told Catholics they could not vote for Obama, seemingly oblivious to his overwhelming support among the groups that will make up the future Church. Some glossed over the deep-rooted social teachings of the Church; at least one even distorted them. Some resorted to the overly-simplified moral reasoning associated with the partisan right, paying little heed to the complexity and nuance of traditional Catholic thought. Some seemed more interested in preaching the American constitution rather than the gospel.

Too many played up the issues that most bothered older and whiter people, and had very little to say about the very real concerns of the poor and minorities. They had no compelling message on the failings of our economic system, when the encyclicals are so strong in this area. When they talked about the Affordable Care Act, they only saw the contraception mandate, and not the 30 million people who would get insurance. When they talked of religious liberty, they offered barely a word against attacks on immigrants or Muslims, let alone the plight of Christians in other parts of the world. When Republican candidates opened defended plans to gut safety nets and create untold hardship for the poorest among us, we were treated to a lesson on legitimate differences relating to the role of government. And while Catholic social teaching condemns individualism as harshly as it does collectivization, they seemed a little too comfortable with the American “go-it-alone” mentality, a mentality that has more in common with John Calvin that Pope Leo XIII.

In an international poll, Obama was the overwhelming choice of the rest of the world. I know from Ireland that people from all spectrums, right and left, supported him over Romney. That should tell America something, if America only chose to listen. It should tell America that the philosophy of the modern Republican party is both alien and repugnant to the rest of the world, including the Catholic world. I fear that too many American bishops seem unaware of how this reality, and unaware that their own country is changing beneath their feet.

In the process, they will turn off the very people who will make up the future of the Church, the very people they need to convince to bring Christ to the public square and foster a true culture of life. In retrospect, I believe this election will be regarded as one of of the nadirs for the American bishops. The good news is that there is plenty of time of turn this around.

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  • Mike Baldwin

    Thank you. Please make sure every Bishop and anti-abortion league gets a copy of this. I’m a a pro-life voter who voted for Obama. Until the so-called pro-life/religious liberty crowd stops hitching their wagon to anti-gay, and what appears to many, to be anti-women and anti-science, anti-immigrant, anti other-prolife-issues mind-set–we will lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the 18-29, women, and critical thinkers– and the future of the church.

  • Mike Baldwin

    By the way, what was the gender differential?

  • Julia Smucker

    Thanks for these observations. A few scattered thoughts:

    1. Thank you for distinguishing between the “sensible majority” and “partisan minority” among the bishops. It’s popular in some circles to point to the antics of the latter and project that onto the bishops as a body, which I find profoundly irritating. A few of your other generalizations seem to undercut this distinction a bit, though.

    2. I saw the international poll you refer to, and I found it noteworthy that all the countries polled preferred an Obama victory – except for Pakistan.

    3. I had the hopeful impression last night of a return to a more sensible center in congress, but what I’ve been hearing today sounds like a still polarized congress reflecting a polarized electorate. Here’s hoping they, and all of us, can learn to work together, for a change. And on that note, kudos to Chris Christie for putting governance ahead of politics.

    • http://gravatar.com/digbydolben digbydolben

      It’s popular in some circles to point to the antics of the latter and project that onto the bishops as a body, which I find profoundly irritating

      The bishops that have been appointed in America in the age of reaction against the Second Vatican Council have been, by and large, intellectual and moral nebbishes, appointed primarily for the sake of their blind obedience to the papacy of “Restoration” and so-called ressourcement.Thus, even those bishops intelligent and sufficiently sophisticated in their theology have not had the nerve to do what a number of European hierarchs have done, and openly criticize Vatican Fundamentalism. None of this will change until a pope is elected who actually BELIEVES–as John Paul II Wojtylwa and Benedict XVI Ratzinger manifestly have not, that the Catholic Church is nothing more and nothing less than “the pilgrim people of God”–ever guided, through a time-space continuum, by a “Spirit” toward Truth, but never wholly possessing it–a pope who is willing to listen to the laity’s concerns over the empowerment of women, the moral legitimacy and rights of “gay” love, and the hierarchs’ haughty refusal to be held accountable for such things as fiscal irresponsibility and the rape of children.

      I saw the international poll you refer to, and I found it noteworthy that all the countries polled preferred an Obama victory – except for Pakistan.

      I think it’s instructive that both you and that poll leave out Israel. It’s Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from the West Bank of the Jordan River, tacitly supported by almost all American punditry, and not Obama’s drones that is America’s chief problem with the Muslim world, but I’m hardly surprised that polls commissioned by Main Stream Media continue to hide that most salient feature of America’s imperialist foreign policy from folks like you, who don’t get out of America’s bubble, into the real world, , and who actually believe the pablum that’s fed to them by their corporate media.

      • Mike Baldwin

        Word!

      • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

        The ignorance of the common, garden variety American concerning the rest of the world is fathomless. For this reason alone it is fortunate that the extra-American globe is populated in its entirety by inferior beings who crawl through their respective stinking swamps, beyond redemption and beneath the scorn of a wrathful Heaven.

    • Mark VA

      Julia:

      Your separation of the American Catholic Bishops into a “sensible majority” and a “partisan minority” reflects more on your mode of thinking, than on any actual differences among the bishops themselves. It’s also a rather aggressive approach to the difficult situation in which they, and we, their flock, find ourselves.

      The next several years will very likely clarify many serious issues for us, Catholic Americans. Solidarity among us, rather than division, Julia, should be our goal.

      • Jordan

        re: Mark VA [November 7, 2012 7:44 pm]: The next several years will very likely clarify many serious issues for us, Catholic Americans. Solidarity among us, rather than division, Julia, should be our goal.

        What I’ve gleaned from Julia’s post [November 7, 2012 4:08 pm] is not that she denies that Catholics in general, and the hierarchy in particular, should have common goals. Rather, her, and my, concern is the way in which some of the bishops have advanced partisan objectives over bridge building with an adminstration which sometimes displays hostility to Christian beliefs. Anathematizing Barack Obama as an individual, citizen, and president has almost permanently placed some bishops in perpetual opposition to anything but social/religious movement conservatism. It is almost as if some bishops wish to set up a Lords-Spiritual-in-exile whose consistent job to to act as a siren against any of the president’s positions or laws.

        We can move forward as Catholics by finding some policy, any policy (there’s gotta be something on Obama’s dockets) on which to cooperate with the president. We can do this without compromizing core positions such as abortion criminalization. The tact of some bishops to continually denigrate anything Obama does as president or as an individual will only further marginalize the Church as a political player.

      • Julia Smucker

        Solidarity rather than division was exactly my point. I meant to suggest that we should not alienate ourselves from the whole conference of bishops by focusing disproportionately on those who fit a certain stereotype. The content that the USCCB produces as a body is, by and large, profoundly attentive to the breadth of Catholic teaching.

    • http://www.michaeliafrate.com Michael Iafrate

      Thank you for distinguishing between the “sensible majority” and “partisan minority” among the bishops. It’s popular in some circles to point to the antics of the latter and project that onto the bishops as a body, which I find profoundly irritating. A few of your other generalizations seem to undercut this distinction a bit, though.

      If this is true, and I’m not saying it’s not true, then it is also vitally important to point out that the “sensible majority” has been a silent majority which I find “profoundly irritating” at best and profoundly scandalous at worst. Silence, of course, is complicity.

  • Grace Seitzer

    There is an interesting dissertation subject here for an aspiring sociologist: A little more than 70% of American Catholics live in the blue states. Is there a discernible relationship between their ballot choices and the letters sent by their bishops during the 2012 election season?

    • Jordan

      I suspect that a good thesis for such a paper would note the following. One of the problems with the social conservative bishops’ push to turn American Catholicism red is the very long tradition of urban social democracy in American Catholicism. The “traditional” (read, 150 or so year old) heartlands of Catholicism such as New York City and Boston have never shared either the religion (evangelical Protestantism) or occupational interests (agriculture) of the South or the Plains. Catholics are, at least historically, a “city people”, and thus are more predisposed to a New Deal/Great Society nation in my view.

      In fact, I would say that the rift between rural conservatism and city liberalism arrived even before FDR. Prohibition pitted mostly rural evangelicals against mostly urban Catholics, liturgical Protestants, and Jews. Unsurprisingly, New York City was a very “wet” city whose citizens absolutely detested Prohibition and its ethnic/religious prejudicial overtones. Indeed, Al Smith’s presidential platform was largely to repeal Prohibition. There is little coincidence that Smith’s strong anti-Prohibition stance was not infrequently attached to his Catholicism by his detractors. I do wonder if the socio-economic prejudice which overlaid Prohibition, and concurrent prejudice against Catholics during this period, was an early sprouting of liberalism in the heavily Catholic regions of the US.

      • trellis smith

        The recent neoconservative political alliance between the bishops and the the Evangelicals and the Mormons is almost comical, leaving the Catholic flock without effective shepherds to wit their statements are becoming so unintelligible that one might expect them to soon denounce the papists amongst us.

  • Kurt

    I am going to dissent from Julia and MM’s description of the episcopal majority. Their silence was not sensible. A minority of their brother bishops made partisan hacked statements using terms tested by focus groups paid for by GOP operatives and not one of them stood up and gave a contrary view. They really are cowardly men .

    Thankfully fewer and fewer are listening to them. Obama once again won a majority of Catholic voters. If if you want to look for the starkest clevage among Catholics, it is not between frequent and less frequent Mass goers, or geography or age. I am sure it will be the same factor as 4 years ago — between Catholics who attend all-white parishes and those whose parish is not all-white.

  • Mark VA

    Morning’s Minion wrote:

    “It should tell America that the philosophy of the modern Republican party is both alien and repugnant to the rest of the world, including the Catholic world. I fear that too many American bishops seem unaware of how this reality, and unaware that their own country is changing beneath their feet.”

    Minion, are you really speaking here for “the world” (including the Catholic world, as you also noted), or is this some exuberant flight of post-election purple prose?

    Additionally you wrote:

    “In the process, they will turn off the very people who will make up the future of the Church…”

    Again, I think you are getting carried away – the demographics of one country are not representative of the demographics of our Church.

    Please collect yourself, Minion – elections come, elections go.

  • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

    First, I want to start with acknowledging and appreciating that you refrained from some of the more personal attacks that characterized your commentary prior to the 2008 and 2010 elections. I hope this stems from a realization that while you have discerned it is proper for you to support the Democratic Party, there are good reasons why others may have discerned otherwise.

    I’m not sure about this rich/white issues versus others dichotomy. Obviously the issue of abortion primarily targets a population that is utterly voiceless. The poll of “the world” seems to over-represent rich white countries. Would we so bold to lecture another country that American opinion about who their leader should be should be should tell them something, and shape the behavior of their bishops?

    Finally, I’m not sure what you expect from the bishops. A prominent theme of the Democratic campaign was to frame the bishops as leading a war on women, and those who assert the value of unborn life as wanting to redefine rape. I think there’s a limit to how much sympathy a party should expect from this.

    My nadir is the 2004 elections, for pretty much all involved.

  • Kurt

    A prominent theme of the Democratic campaign was to frame the bishops as leading a war on women, and those who assert the value of unborn life as wanting to redefine rape.

    The Democratic Campaign never once accused the bishops of leading a war on women. Individuals with no position or office in the campaign may have said various things, but such an accusation against the bishops was not uttered a single time by the Democratic campaign.

    And there was a legislative effort to alter the long established prohibition on public funding for abortions except in the case of rape, incest and life of the mother to add into law the word “legitimate” prior to rape in the legislative text.

    • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

      Kurt,

      You can play your game of parsing out particulars. The impression remains that the campaign presented was one that was hostile to both the Church as an institution and its values. Was some of it exaggerated by some? Sure. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.

      To complain that the bishops did not rally to support the Democratic candidates in such an environment is perverse.

      • Kurt

        What you call a “game of parsing out particulars”, is really a dishonest accusation against the Democratic campaign. To repeat. the Democratic Campaign never once accused the bishops of leading a war on women. That is a simple fact.

    • Thales

      Just wanted to chime in: The Dem. campaign certainly explicitly argued that there was a war on women and that anyone who opposed the HHS contraception mandate was complicit in this war against women.
      http://www.dscc.org/waronwomen
      http://www.dscc.org/act4?action_KEY=387

      • Kurt

        Thales, I’m not sure you read the links you post. John’s false assertion was that the Democratic Campaign accused the bishops of leading a war on women. Your links never even use the words “bishop”, “Catholic” or “Church” once. They speak EXCLUSIVELY about the misdeeds of the Republican Party.

        You can disagree with the following statement (I don’t) but it is addressed to the GOP not the bishops.

        Whether it’s denying half the population necessary health care, holding a House panel on contraception with no women on it, or suggesting that holding an aspirin between the knees is all the birth control women need, it’s clear that Republicans are shockingly out of touch on issues of fairness and equality.

        Sign our petition, and call them out. Demand that Republicans drop their war on women. Gender discrimination is wrong.

      • SB

        So the Democrats were demonizing Republicans for taking a position that is slightly closer to what Catholics believe. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together, and figure out what those Democrats would say about Catholics if they were confident about getting enough votes elsewhere.

        I’m sorry this creates such cognitive tension for you, as a Catholic and partisan Democrat, but if you value your Catholic identity, you have to come to terms with the fact that many of the powerful people in your party absolutely despise any Catholic who actually agrees with the Church.

        • Kurt

          SB,

          So when the Republicans attack the Democratic Party on immigration, that is really an attack on the Catholic Church and any Catholic who actually agrees with the Church?

  • Ronald King

    What I have become aware of in this election is that Love is attempting to break through into our daily trance in order to free us of authoritarian control which objectifies us to be indoctrinated and assimilated into the collective of a predictable community of us versus them in a continuing cycle of violence. Each soul that inhabits this planet has no voice of reason if their voice does not resonate with the Love which is the source of life. Abortion is the result of being an object which has no voice and no power to change the violence which intrudes into each soul’s reality every second of the day. If we sit quietly we can observe how that violence has penetrated and made a home in the deepest regions of our human identity. The internal environment of the soul which is created by such violence and isolation from self and others seems to have 3 choices: 1) cry out for vengeance and be joined by others who have such a response; 2} isolate even more and live in a state of learned helplessness due to the awareness of being nothing; 3) dare to be open to be vulnerable and leave the traditions of exclusivity and seek the path of Love which invites all to seek and understand the language and action of Love. Developmentally speaking we are still in our infancy in this endeavor. Those who are most fearful have “…guns, but we have the numbers.” Let’s hope and pray for Love to accelerate our grwoth then the natural law of Love will ensure that life will thrive inside and outside the womb.

  • trellis smith

    The Republican party lost because of its inability to strike the right balance between its libertarian principles and in asserting the moral values of its constituents, It lost because of its ineffective voicing of its traditional defense of personal and fiscal responsibility by ignoring corporate malfeasance, middle class decline and serious economic inequalities. Neither “re-distributive justice” nor corporate overreach and system gaming are formulas for a successful society or an economy supposedly built on individual liberty, entrepreneurship and equal opportunities

    The polarization of the races in this election indicated by this post does not bode well for political solutions.and is unfortunately indicative of the President’s inability to overcome the divide..
    The problems of a slack economy, unsustainable fiscal deficits, immigration policies and enforcement that ignore the crisis in public services of healthcare, welfare, and education.remain intransigent to solution.