The Obama Watch

Obama Faces Hard Times with Catholic Voters

He'll have to do better than Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

By and 4.25.11

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When Barack Obama won 54 percent of the Catholic vote in the 2008 presidential election, commentators barely noticed that John McCain won a majority of the religiously-active Catholic vote (51 percent to 49 percent). This was a small margin, to be sure, but it doesn't bode well for the 2012 presidential race, after all the worst predictions of Obama's support for abortion became reality.

Religiously-active Catholics are those who report attending Mass at least once a week. Weekly attendance at religious services is the accepted definition of a religiously-active voter in any faith tradition. Studies of exit polls going back to the '60s tell the story of how these Catholic voters lost their loyalty to the Democratic Party, becoming either reliable Republicans or swing voters with a preference for socially conservative candidates, e.g. the "Reagan Democrats."

The Obama Catholic surrogate machine was in full swing throughout the last campaign and well into his administration. Even when concerns were voiced by Catholics regarding Obama's appearance at Notre Dame, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend came to his defense in the pages of Newsweek before Obama's first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI by writing, "Notre Dame awarded the president an honorary degree because it saw the need to highlight the best of Catholic teaching as applied to politics: the ability to open the eyes of those who would prefer to keep them closed, and to open the hearts of those who would prefer not to know the pain that their actions cause. The pope has a lot to learn about Catholic politics in America. Barack Obama can teach him." (Note Ms. Kennedy Townsend did not capitalize "Pope".)

Unfortunately, what "life-long Catholic" Ms. Kennedy Townsend is missing in her lecturing tone to the Holy Father on behalf of President Obama is the reality that Catholics' eyes are open on the settled issues of life and marriage. Catholic voters are compassionate and educated with the ability to recognize when empty rhetoric is being used as cover for what does not help anyone, including the poor. President Obama's advancement of the abortion and same-sex marriage agendas are perfect examples.

In just over two short years, President Obama has done more to promote abortion through policy in the health care reform bill, executive orders, and spending priorities such as Planned Parenthood than all his predecessors combined. And, his recent decision not to defend the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act potentially opens the door for the expansion of same-sex marriage across the country.

Those Catholics who campaigned for Obama saying his policies, such as anti-poverty programs or international aid, "outweigh" his support for abortion and same-sex marriage will find few converts among Catholic voters who have been made aware by their bishops of the massive abortion funding in the health care bill. These Catholic voters will have heard clearly what their Church leaders said when the legislation became law -- universal health care coverage has always been an important goal, but should never have been achieved at the cost of unborn lives.

In fact, during the heat of the debate over abortion funding in the health care bill, President Obama stood before Congress and the entire nation on September 9, 2009 and said, "...under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place." Not only was federal funding for abortion always part of Obama's plan, his surrogates were busy meeting with pro-abortion organizations like EMILY's List delivering assurances that abortion would never be taken out of the legislation.

Catholics have a deep love for this country, for its special place in world history, and they know that -- perhaps more than at any previous time -- this election will define the future of America. Catholics do not want an America more deeply stamped by an Obama presidency than it already is. They've already learned his promises cannot be trusted. Obama has led our nation away from respect for life and marriage, and people who are suffering from terminal illness face "rationed care" with its inevitable trajectory toward euthanasia. Those who espouse the core value of our faith are increasingly viewed as intolerant, hateful, or lacking compassion because they want to defend innocent life and the foundational institution of human society, the family.

Obama surrogates who treat abortion and marriage as just two issues among many others are misleading Catholic voters and distorting the Church's teaching. Abortion and marriage belong to a small group of policy issues that are not weighed by prudential judgment. All instances of abortion are morally wrong, as in the recognition that a marriage can exist between individuals of the same sex. Therefore, to consider allowing policies that do not respect the sanctity of life for any reason at all is unacceptable from a Catholic perspective. Likewise on marriage, the Church holds the firm belief that marriage between a man and a woman should be protected by the state and is a non-negotiable principle of Catholic teaching.

The 2010 mid-term election already demonstrated the consequences for Catholic Members of Congress who supported health care reform, especially in heavily Catholic states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. President Obama and his Catholic supporters like Lt. Governor Kennedy Townsend will likely learn a lot about the faith of these same Catholics when it guides their decisions in the voting booth on November 6, 2012.

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About the Author
Deal W. Hudson was chair of RNC Catholic Outreach and is the author of Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Threshold). He is president of Catholic Advocate in Washington, D.C.
About the Author

Matt Smith, vice-president of Catholic Advocate, was Associate Director of Public Liaison responsible for Catholic outreach under President George W. Bush.