Week 11: Catholics and the Midterms

This past Tuesday, November 6th, was the end to a historical midterm election cycle. Winning candidates included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest member of Congress, Illhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan were the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, the first two Native American women were elected with Deb Haaland being one of them, Massachusetts and Connecticut elected its first black Congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley, Colorado elected it’s first openly gay Governor, Jared Polis, Texas saw it’s first two Latina congresswomen, Tennesee elected its first woman to the Senate, and the first openly lesbian mother was elected in Minnesota. While this list isn’t complete, it’s long and revolutionary for women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The Catholic vote was split nearly 50/50 in the 2018 Midterm election with 49% polling for Republicans and 50% polling for Democrats and took up 26% of the vote. This split is the smallest between religious groups as the Jewish vote was 79% Democrat and 17% Republican with 2% of the vote and Protestants polled at 42% of the vote with 38% Democrat and 61% Republican. After discussing the idea of the Catholic vote in class, I’ve become more aware of the implications of taking religion to the voting booth. While it seems as if it’s unclear as to which way Catholics vote, I think this midterm is a great indicator: they’re split right down the middle. In regards to previous election cycles Catholics have been generally split, in 2006 55% of Catholics went for Democrats and 44% voted for Republicans and in 2010 54% of Catholic voters favored Republicans compared to 44% for Democrats. While NBC and CNN were unsurprised by the 50/50 split, Catholic news outlets such as thepewresearch.org were because of the 10% margin between Catholic Democrats and Republicans only four years ago.  

Voters line up to vote at a polling place in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. 

During the Behind the Tweets event on Wednesday night, four panelists brought their ideas about the midterm into the light and Dr. Michael Murphy specifically discussed the Catholic vote. He began by attempting to understand the difficulty Catholics feel when it comes to politics because of the 50/50 split. Dr. Murphy explained the idea of humanism being attached to American liberalism which includes equality, rights, and virtue which then stands for the idea of tribalism that both Americans and Catholics feel. Catholics trying to decide if they should vote with their religion in mind, which may be supporting Trump, or identifying with their American identity and voting for what’s best for all people in the nation. Dr. Murphy ended with a list containing how Catholics should vote based on the teachings of the Bible. They were life and dignity, call to family and community, honoring of rights and responsibilities, preference to protect the poor and vulnerable, right of workers, solidarity over nationalism, and care of all of God’s creations. While I agreed with Dr. Murphy on the idea of Catholics having to choose between which identity to choose in the voting booth, I feel as if a lot of people don’t believe they need to choose and remain complicit in the horrors this administration is allowing. While 50% voted Democratically, another 49% still voted Republican, which in most states meant going against the 7 ideals that he presented so proudly. While it’s nice to accommodate both sides, in this political climate it’s nearly impossible to do so. If one side is attempting to dehumanize people seeking asylum, putting children in cages, and refuses to condemn Neo-Nazis marching through Charlottesville, and you, as a Catholic, are stuck in the middle, there needs to be some better reflection on the ideals that you practice and attempt to show to others.

In conclusion, while this was a short blog it was not a short election cycle, this election brought new, fresh faces into Congress who are eager to make changes throughout the country. NBC has stated that this year’s Congress reflects the American people more than it ever has in the past, which is a refreshing turn after the past two years under Trump. While we still have a long way to go this election was a reminder that the American people have not lost hope and are eager to fix what’s been broken in this country for so long. Even though the Catholic vote was 50/50, seeing the change from the 2010 and 2014 elections show progress within the church, which can be most noted by Ben Johnson at the Behind the Tweet event, where he credited Pope Francis for focusing on issues other than abortion and instead on the nativist politics that have stained the world.

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