Friday, November 05, 2004

People of Faith Delivered the Election

People of Faith Deliver the Election

It is hard to imagine an election that featured more discussion of religion than the one that ended — thankfully — on Tuesday. Both candidates discussed their own faith and how it influences their approach to governing. In the end, it was the people of faith who help deliver the election for President George W. Bush.

They were also a critical part of the Republicans' increased majorities in the US Senate and US House as well as ensuring all eleven state referendums passed defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

According to national exit polls, President Bush won 52% of the more than 31 million Catholic votes cast on Tuesday (which represents 27% of the electorate this year). Senator John Kerry, who tried to paint himself as a devout Catholic, received only 47% of the Catholic vote. This represents an eight percent net gain for the president from four years ago when Vice President Al Gore carried the Catholic vote 50%-47%. Kerry became the first Catholic from a major party to run for president and lose the Catholic vote.

President Bush’s Catholic support was even greater among regular Mass-goers. He won this subgroup by a margin of 56%-43%. As many pundits predicted, the race for presidency boiled down to two swing-states: Florida and Ohio. In Florida, Bush won the Catholic vote by a margin of 57%-42% (a whopping 66%-34% among weekly Mass-goers). Ohio was similar, with the president winning Catholics 55%-44% (a 65%-35% margin among weekly Mass-goers).

It is no surprise Bush did so well among Catholics considering the grass roots effort that was made. According to Martin Gillespie, Catholic Outreach Director for the Republican National Committee (RNC), the RNC targeted thirteen states with large Catholic populations, including Florida and Ohio. They identified 57,000 Catholic team leaders (up from 11,000 in January of this year) who gave out voter guides, registered new voters, and engaged in traditional get-out-the-vote efforts. “This was an organic effort at the local parish level,” says Gillespie. “These were Catholics who had a real negative impression of Kerry because he was passing himself off as one of us while ignoring major tenets of the faith.”

President Bush fared well in the Protestants/Other Christians category as well. This segment composed 54% of the electorate on Tuesday. They supported the president by a margin of 59-40%. Within the block of Protestants, Bush won 78% of white Evangelicals compared with Kerry’s 21%. When you examine those among this group who attend church at least once a week, the number for the president skyrockets to 96%-4%. Analysts point to the roughly 4 million new evangelical voters this election as a critical reason for the president’s success.

Jewish voters, who make up 3% of the electorate, supported Senator Kerry over the president by a margin of 74%-25%. Some thought President Bush might do better with Jews considering his unwavering support for Israel and the war in Iraq, coupled with the Democrats' tendency to support a Palestinian state. Jewish voters, however, mostly come from the Kerry “blue” states and they lean left more than other people of faith. Among voters with no faith, Kerry won 67%-31%.

When asked which issue mattered most, 22% said “moral values” (20% listed the economy followed by terrorism at 19%). Those citing moral values as the most important reason for participating voted for the president 80%-18%.

As for abortion, 55% of voters believe it should be legal in all or most cases. Kerry won this group by nearly 3 to 1. Forty-two percent said they believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. President Bush secured these voters by a 3 to 1 margin. Regarding gay marriage, 25% of the electorate believes gays and lesbians should be able to marry. This group supported Kerry 77%-22%. Thirty-five percent of voters feel gays and lesbians should be allowed to enter civil unions but not marry. President Bush won this group 52%-47%. Those who believe gays and lesbians should not have any recognition of their partnership represented 37% of the voters. This group heavily supported President Bush 70%-29%.

With the election finally behind us, now what? One of the most important issues facing the re-elected president is filling the Supreme Court’s expected vacancies and other federal judgeships. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80 years old, is battling thyroid cancer. He did not appear in court this week and speculation is that he is not well. There are also rumors that two more Supreme Court justices would like to retire.

Democrats and the pro-abortionists in their coalition are warning the Bush administration not to stack the Court with pro-life judges. NARAL is delivering a petition to its membership that says, “Take Action! The battle for the Supreme Court starts today!” The appeal continues, “With President Bush re-elected, the next big fight is coming up fast: the battle to protect the Supreme Court.” They ask their membership to sign the petition that tells the president “that you’ll firmly oppose any Supreme Court nominee who doesn’t support Roe v. Wade.”

With four more seats in the US Senate bringing the number of Republicans to 55, President Bush should have an easier time with his judicial nominations. Not only are there more senators from his party, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, the biggest obstructionist of pro-life judicial appointments, lost his re-election bid on Tuesday. This sends a clear message to any Democrat from a red state to think twice before opposing the president’s nominees.

One piece of disturbing news about Supreme Court nominations came from pro-abortion Republican Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania. He is expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, the committee that oversees judicial appointments. According to the Associated Press, he “warned” the president on Wednesday “against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation.” Specter continued, “When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely.”

This is a strange way to thank the President of the United States, who, with Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, saved Specter from a sure primary defeat against a pro-life conservative challenger earlier this year. Senator Specter is not assured of his chairmanship and statements such as these might hurt his chances of getting the job. Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, did not give Specter a ringing endorsement when asked about Specter’s chairmanship. He said, “We’ll have to see where he stands,” according to the AP. Obviously, Specter has not examined the election results carefully and has failed to understand the significance of people voting based on moral values. Specter did back off his statement somewhat on Thursday, but there is still cause for concern.

People of faith can be proud of the election results, despite what Europe says. The nation is divided and the fault lines are over moral issues like abortion, gay marriage, and the overall disintegration of the popular culture. We won this battle, but the war still rages.

One area where the fight continues is within the Catholic Church in America. The amount of attention placed on the Catholic voter and the level of engagement from bishops, clergy, and lay people was unprecedented this year. While it is encouraging that the president received a majority of Catholic votes, the hierarchy must address the false teachings that were so pervasive leading up to the election. There is a serious problem when bishops, clergy, professors, and other lay officials run newspaper ads claiming the sanctity of human life and protecting the unborn are not moral imperatives when choosing a candidate, but rank among many other issues. This problem must be addressed immediately. I hope the bishops can do just that when they meet in Washington, D.C. later this month.

St. Thomas More, pray for us.

© Copyright 2004 Catholic Exchange

(Craig Richardson is the founder of the recently launched Catholic Action Network, an organization committed to calling Catholics to authentic and faithful citizenship particularly on issues of life and family.)