25 November 2008

George Weigel tries to understand why so many Catholics voted for Obama:
[W]hat this year's election cycle clarified decisively is that the great public fissure in these United States is between the culture of life and the culture of death.
This year, the pro-abortion candidate carried every state in what Maggie Gallagher calls the "Decadent Catholic Corridor" -- the Northeast and the older parts of the Midwest. Too many Catholics there are still voting the way their grandparents did, and because that's what their grandparents did. This tribal voting has been described by some bishops as immoral; it is certainly stupid, and it must be challenged by adult education. That includes effective use of the pulpit to unsettle settled patterns of mindlessness. This year, a gratifying number of bishops began to accept the responsibilities of their teaching office; so, now, must parish pastors.
Ross Douthat throws cold water on his thesis:

In 1980, '84 and '88, Republican (and pro-life) Presidential candidates managed to capture nearly all of the Midwest and the Northeast, "settled patterns of mindlessness" notwithstanding. Now here we are twenty years later, with FDR and JFK even further in the rearview mirror - and yet Weigel wants to chalk up the Republican Party's horrible showing in these regions to mindless "tribal voting" among Catholic Democrats? This is self-deception, and it ill-behooves pro-lifers to engage in it. John McCain did not lose this election because the Catholic clergy failed to anathematize Barack Obama loudly enough, or because Pennsylvanians and Michiganders thought they were voting for Roosevelt or Truman. He lost it because his party flat-out misgoverned the country, in foreign and domestic policy alike, and because of late the culture war has mattered less to most Americans than the Iraq War and the economic meltdown. And pro-lifers who see the GOP as the only plausible vehicle for their goals have an obligation to look the party's failures squarely in the face and work to fix them....
The line of demarcation Weigel draws through the American populace, separating them into supporters of the culture of life and the culture of death, would be more convincing if he--and like-minded supporters of the Bush administration--would acknowledge that too many in his ranks haven't exactly been consistent in promoting life. There was that execrable piece by the editors of The National Review that justified torture, and Palin's ridiculous "raise the white flag of surrender" remark after Senator Biden expressed a desire to end the war sooner than later, not to mention the blind animosity shown to conservatives who think the war in Iraq is not only misguided, but unjust. I've listened to some popular right-wing commentators discuss what's wrong with the current GOP and why so many have defected--and nary a one has mentioned any of the above. As long as GOP leaders continue to take as self-evident truth the righteousness of this war (and continue to adopt the philosophy that the end justifies the means), they can expect continued weakening of their base.