It is said that George W. Bush won the 2004 presidential election because of religious voters, especially evangelical Protestants. What is not said is that John F. Kerry lost the election because he failed not only to win religious voters generally but Catholics specifically. Because he lost Catholics — an amazing fact when one considers that Kerry himself is Catholic — he lost the race.
Put differently, Catholics voted for the Protestant, George W. Bush, and did so in large part because they agree more with him than Kerry on moral issues, such as abortion, closest to Catholic hearts. Just as Al Gore did not win the Electoral College in 2000 because he couldn’t carry his home state of Tennessee, John Kerry failed because he couldn’t bring a natural constituency from his own church.
According to CNN’s exit poll data, 27% of those who voted on Tuesday were Catholic, which equated to roughly 31 million of 115 million voters. How these Catholics voted is striking: They voted for Bush over Kerry by 51 to 48%. In other words, they mirrored the popular vote to the exact number.
Kerry lost the Catholic vote to Bush by at least a million. A Catholic with a major party nomination should have won the Catholic vote by several million. Another Democratic senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, once won an extremely close election because he overwhelmingly took the Catholic vote.
The numbers diverge more sharply when one considers devout Catholics compared to those who find their way to church only for weddings and Christmas. Catholics who attend Mass weekly voted for Bush by 55% to 44%.
The breakdown among states is most interesting. Bush remained close to Kerry in Pennsylvania, a state with millions of pro-life Catholic Democrats, which went for Kerry 52 to 48%, because he carried Catholics who go to Mass weekly by 52 to 48%. In New Hampshire, which barely went for Kerry, Bush took Catholics who attend Mass weekly by 63 to 35%.
Most impressive, Catholics played a key role in Florida and Ohio. In Florida, they comprised 28% of voters, and went for Bush 57 to 42%. In Ohio, they made up 26% and went to Bush 55 to 44%. The margin was even wider for Catholics who attend Mass weekly: In Florida, they went to Bush by almost two to one, 66 to 34%, and in Ohio they supported Bush by 65 to 35%.
In fact, Catholics for Bush made it unnecessary to begin counting provisional ballots in Ohio. Ohio Catholics cast 780,000 votes for Bush and 624,000 for Kerry, a difference of 156,000 votes. Compare that to the overall vote difference for all Ohio ballots: which was 136,000. Thus it can be asserted that Kerry lost Ohio, and therefore the election, because he couldn’t get the support of people of his own faith in Ohio.
The Catholic vote kept Bush competitive in the liberal East, where the 41% of voters who are Catholic went for the Protestant president by 52 to 47%, and those who attend Mass weekly supported him by 56 to 42%. Bush actually won the Catholic vote in New York by 51 to 48%. Those Catholics were offset by the 12% of New Yorkers who claimed no religion at all; these atheists eagerly voted for Kerry by 78 to 19%. Kerry actually almost lost the Catholic vote in his own liberal home state of Massachusetts, where Catholics gave him the nod by a paltry 50 to 49%.
THE ISSUE BEHIND THIS Catholic snub was abortion. Pro-life Catholics were aghast at the prospect of a Catholic president becoming the greatest champion of legalized abortion ever to step foot in the Oval Office, as Kerry would have been. Kerry could speak all day about how his piety would prompt him to boost the minimum wage. Catholics could care less; they wanted him to defend babies in the womb.
The Democratic Party has ditched pro-life Catholic Democrats (like my grandmother in the mountains of Pennsylvania), pursuing instead the pro-choice feminist driving an SUV through the suburbs of Maryland. In so doing, it has lost the votes of millions of people who long voted Democrat. By bowing before the altar of the feminist church, liberals like John Kerry have ceded a huge constituency. It cost the Democrats the 2004 election, and may do so again in 2008.
Liberals will bellyache about how Karl Rove took the vote by mass-mobilizing evangelical Protestants. What they will not talk about is how they, and a presidential nominee named John F. Kerry, drove both evangelicals and Catholics toward Bush. Kerry did more for Protestant-Catholic unity in America than the churches themselves could accomplish. The fact is that moderate to conservative Catholics had nowhere to go but to George W. Bush.
Liberal Christians like Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi say that Democratic politicians are “faith-filled” people as well; they read the Bible and Matthew’s gospel. However, if church-going Democrats want to win the church-going population, the solution is obvious: it’s about abortion, stupid — an answer they do not want to hear. Call us club-carrying troglodytes, but us simple-minded Christians in the hinterland just can’t countenance that Jesus would be a champion of legalized abortion. And until Democrats recognize that, they will never win the churchgoers they need to drive them to the White House.