Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Reader Writes (But Not to Me): Impossible to Talk About "the Catholic Vote" Without Talking About Difference Between White and Hispanic Catholics

Another "reader writes" posting today — though this one is a comment at another site, not a Bilgrimage comment. At Religion Dispatches, Neil J. Young writes about "the Catholic vote" and how it is favoring Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump. As you'll know if you've followed commentary about this issue here and elsewhere, there's a big difference between what white Catholics are reporting regarding their political choices in the coming election, and what Hispanic Catholics are reporting. 

As I noted at the end of last month (and see here), I'd suggest that if we're going to make Trump's loss of support among "Catholics" an important new story, we need to parse polling data about "the Catholic vote" and separate white Catholics from Hispanic and black ones. It isn't in the least news that Trump is trailing among "Catholics." He's been doing that since mid-June when the Pew Forum found that "Catholics also lean toward Clinton, though they are sharply divided along racial and ethnic lines; Hispanic Catholics overwhelmingly favor Clinton over Trump, while white Catholics are evenly divided between those who prefer Trump and those who favor Clinton."

Unfortunately, Neil Young's article reporting that "the Catholic vote" strongly favors Hillary Clinton makes absolutely no mention at all of the difference between the white Catholic vote, which may now be edgingly slightly in the direction of Hillary but has generally been more or less evenly divided between the two candidates throughout the election cycle, and the Hispanic Catholic vote, which has for understandable reasons been strongly pro-Hillary and anti-Trump throughout the election cycle. Not a peep of any of this in his analysis.

And so I'm interested (I'm heartened) to see a reader of Young's article, Jmb, respond to him:

I think the article should mention that 80 percent of white evangelicals say they'd vote for Trump. It's misleading to omit that information and in effect claim that 80 percent of all evangelicals say they'd vote for him. Evangelicals are not a homogeneous group religiously or as a voting bloc. 
I also found this sentence strange: "But now compared with Catholics and Mormons rebuffing Trump, evangelicals’ overwhelming support for Trump offers damning evidence that they care more about political power than principles in this election cycle." 
Is this really "damning evidence" of this? First, what do you mean by principles and why are they opposed to "political power"? That needs to be hashed out in this piece. 
Second, depending on what "principles" are, couldn't this all just be a marker of different principles? Even if unfortunate, it's not surprising that white evangelicals don't care about Trump's backward immigration statements the way that Latino Roman Catholics might. That's another thing this article didn't make clear: that the Roman Catholics described in the Pew poll who support Clinton over Trump are Latino/Hispanic, and that white Catholics still favor Trump. This all points to different principles, not necessarily a neglect of principles in favor of political power. 
Of course many times political interests and issues are masked with religious rhetoric... that's not unusual. But I'm sure if you were to ask many of these white evangelicals, they'd attribute their support of Trump/disdain for Clinton to their "principles" (i.e. values or religious values?) I'd be more interested in reading about what they think their principles are and how they think Trump represents those principles. 
I think your overall point, about the splitting of a voting bloc, is incorrect due to a misreading or misrepresentation of the Pew poll. That poll states that 78 percent of white evangelicals support Trump, that white Catholics favor Trump over Clinton (even if narrowly), and that Latino/Hispanic Catholics overwhelmingly support Clinton over Trump. Can you really argue that Latino Roman Catholics and white evangelicals have shared a voting bloc for decades? I'd say you can't make that argument, therefore, is there really a "split" in this "voting bloc"? I think more careful attention to the diversity of religious groups, the relationships between ethnicity, religious and political values, and the proper reading and description of polls and surveys is needed to strengthen this article and argument.

Then the operative between white evangelicals and white Catholics is race and not religion. That is still a sad statement about their faith principles.

I find it absolutely baffling that Neil J. Young talks about "the Catholic vote" with not a single mention of the difference between white Catholics and Latino Catholics as Catholics make their voting choices this election. It has long been obvious that the primary reason "Catholics" are repudiating Donald Trump is that he has convinced Latino Catholics that he'd be a nightmare for them. There may well be a slight trend of white Catholics away from the GOP with Trump as the presidential candidate, but this does not account for "the" Catholic repudiation of Trump. The Latino Catholic vote accounts for that, and Neil J. Young says not a single word about any of this. 

I'm equally baffled by his reference to "the independent" Catholic journal Crux. Correct me if I'm wrong, but is that journal not more or less wholly subvented by the Knights of Columbus, who are hardly an "objective" Catholic group under the leadership of their current Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who served in the administration of Ronald Reagan and as a legislative assistant to Jesse Helms, and who has turned the Knights into a virtual arm of the Republican party in the American Catholic church? With this group footing the bill for Crux, I fail to see how it can be described as an "independent" journal.

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