Monday, June 2, 2008

More from Father Greeley

Obama might be a little Catholic after all

Fr. Andrew Greeley

Seventy-two percent of Catholic Democrats in the heavily Catholic state of Pennsylvania voted for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to the MSNBC exit polls, and more than half of them said they would not vote for Sen. Barack Obama if he wins the Democratic nomination. Most Obama voters, though, said they would vote for Clinton if she should win the contest. Is Catholic racism rearing its ugly head again?

I have spent almost a half-century monitoring Catholic attitudes in this country. Through the years, Catholics have been ahead of Protestant denominations though behind Jews in measures of racial tolerance and on liberal issues -- including opposition to the Vietnam War.
What is happening?

Abortion does not seem to be an issue in this election, and not many Catholics shape their vote on this issue.

Chris Matthews of MSNBC, a Philadelphia native, pointed out that many of the Catholics uneasy about Obama might be in neighborhoods where they felt threatened.
Obama did well in Chicago and the rest of Illinois among Catholics. Sure, it's his home state, but threatened people in such a state might view him as a black oppressor and a traitor. Yet that certainly was not the case.

Media commentators operate in a world of cliches and stereotypes -- blue-collar Catholics, ethnic Catholics, Reagan Republican Catholics. These labels are either false or, charitably interpreted, misleading. At their worst, they're exercises in bigotry.

Catholics are above the national average on white-collar and professional-class occupations. Some of us are showing up on elite university faculties, some even on television news programs. There are, of course, many Catholics still in blue-collar jobs. Yet, on the average, Catholics are disproportionately in the middle, upper-middle, and even upper levels of American society. This is not the Civil War, and Catholics are not struggling for jobs with blacks as they did in New York City riots.

Research by sociologists Clem Brooks and Jeff Manza has demonstrated that Catholics remained disproportionately Democrats in the Reagan years, not shifting party allegiance any more than anyone else. Catholics are also more than a third of the regular Democratic voters, second only to African-Americans. It is time to stop using "blue collar" as a routine descriptor for Catholics.
Yet many Democratic leaders are embarrassed to admit they need Catholic votes to win an election. They are somehow unclean. It turns out that 60 percent of Jewish and Protestant Democrats in Pennsylvania also voted against Obama. Is that, too, white racial prejudice?
When the Clintons go around telling people Obama cannot win, they mean a black candidate cannot be elected. Their message is that the country isn't ready for an African-American president. That's playing the race card as a trump.

Will the general election be decided by bigotry? I've wondered since Obama announced he was running. I'm still not convinced the votes are out there. Bigotry never goes away.
There is an irony in the fire in this election. O'Bama's emphasis on community building, learned in organization work on Chicago's South Side, with its many Catholic parishes, is quintessentially ours, though I don't think he necessarily learned it from us


Max said...

If 72% of Catholics voting against Obama is white racism, I guess 95% of blacks voting for Obama is also due to racism, black racism.

Bob said...

A Mother takes care of her own children. Schoolmates stand up for other schoolmates. Neighbors help neighbors. Patriotism leads a good society to care for its own. It is only natural that Obama will favor his own people over whites. I don't fault him for it. But if he becomes presidents, whites will be disadvantaged. Affirmative Action will be pushed everywhere.

Anonymous said...

If Catholics do not shape their votes on the abortion issue then we are lost.

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Teufelhunde said...

It doesn't matter what current Catholic attitudes are: voting for someone whose tendancies are inconsistent with the Catholic faith is wrong. The Faith doesn't bend to social trends.

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