Deal Hudson is Depressed
It is not a good time for the Catholic Right’s Ward-Heeler-in-Chief, Deal Hudson. Hudson admits the Republican Party wants no part of the failed strategy of publicly attacking the faith of Democratic politicians. After a dust up where Hudson’s organization sent out a fundraising letter signed by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) attacking the faith of several Democratic members of Congress, Brownback disowned the letter, saying it was not authorized. Hudson came close to calling Brownback a liar. Regardless of if Brownback did or did not authorize it, he is now running so far away from the ‘attack your opponent’s faith’ strategy, that the Senator is now embracing Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s nominee for HHS Secretary. The Catholic Right is outraged at the betrayal, though no one outside that narrow world seems to care.
In a way, Hudson’s admission that Catholics, unlike maybe non-union white evangelicals, are swing voters and not wedded to the GOP, might be self-serving. It makes him necessary for the GOP; that is, assuming Hudson has an effective plan to win Catholic voters. His hard edged tactics backfired in the 2008 election, sending a majority of Catholic voters into the arms of the Obama/Biden ticket.
A little history –after years of expensive but failed attempts by the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition to reach out to Catholics, Hudson and the Karls (Rove and Keating) finally moved in a different direction. Instead of trying to build a joint initiative of white Protestant and white Catholic conservatives, overcoming all of the cultural and theological differences between them, they built a coalition of wealthy Catholics conservative on economic issues and Catholic social conservatives. The former provided the money and the later the troops. Finally the Catholic Right had a well financed organization independent of the Catholic Bishop’s broad social vision on life issues, peace, economic justice and family.
This alliance worked in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Progressive Catholics were slow to respond. First, they were uncomfortable with direct appeals to vote based on religious denomination. Further, they viewed it as improper to have partisan organizations claiming to speak for the Church. By 2008, they got over those reservations. Progressive Catholics set up their own counterparts to the Catholic Right organizations.
Hudson, who was quoted Friday in Dan Gilgoff's 'God and Country' column which appears in U.S. News and Report, admitted when asked about their effectiveness: “Now you're forcing me to say nice things about the people who like to beat me up. From a political point of view, those groups made a big difference. When you can get what is taken as a Catholic organization in the mainstream press supporting your guy, that adds a whole new element. We were successful in 2000 and 2004 in keeping the [liberal Catholic groups] Voice of the Faithful and Call to Action at bay because we were able to label them dissident. We haven't been able to do that with Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance.”