Sen. Barack Obama went up on television with his first nationwide ad buy this past weekend. His choice of markets for airing the ad was instructive, including the usual swing states but also including several states where Democrats have not been competitive in years. North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, and North Dakota probably have not seen an ad for a Democratic presidential candidate in decades. The last Democrat to win Virginia was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The key swing states are shaping up to be Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Catholics are heavily represented in each of these states but it is difficult to speak of a "Catholic vote" because of differences between the populations. In Florida, Cuban-Americans have tended to be more conservative and Republican, although a younger generation is less motivated by the anti-Castro creed. In the fast-growing I-4 corridor near Orlando, Puerto Rican Catholics are a significant population. And, along both coasts, Catholic retirees from northern and Midwestern states make a home. In New Hampshire, French Canadians are the largest part of the Catholic population. In New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, Hispanics from Mexico and Central America predominate. In Virginia, Catholics are less than 10% of the population but the state has a Catholic governor, Tim Kaine, who made his time in the Jesuit volunteer corps a central part of his campaign biography and is a leading contender to be Obama’s running mate. The fastest growing part of the state, Northern Virginia, has a significant and growing Hispanic population. In Missouri and Michigan, Catholic suburbanites hold the balance of power. So, it is no accident that both McCain and Obama will be paying attention to the Catholic vote. Yet I wonder if either candidate, or any of their advisors, will understand the ways that all these different Catholic populations are similar. Do they understand how a sacramental view of the world differentiates Catholics from others, and how such a view lends itself to a deep reverence for the environment? Will they grasp the fact that solidarity is not merely a principle of Catholic social thought but is an apt way of describing Catholic Eucharistic practice? Or that all Catholics were thrilled by Pope Benedict’s visit in April and his words are worth quoting? Catholics do not always differ from their fellow citizens of other faiths or none on any given issue. But, we do view the world differently. And, some recognition of that worldview, some effort to incorporate it into the political program of either party (or both) will garner attention. Catholics take a back seat to no one in our patriotism, but the most patriotic thing we can do in 2008 is to be Catholic, to insist that our politics reflects our concern for the environment, our desire for peace, our commitment to solidarity with our own poor and the poor of the world. Michael Sean Winters

Comments

Anonymous | 6/29/2008 - 4:42am
Political analysts fail to grasp that Catholicism is older and greater than any political party or allegiance. The Catholic vote is catholic - crossing all parties, ethnicities, social groups. We should be pround of not being broken down by this or that political storm, by not being rounded up under the umbrella of this or that political party.
Anonymous | 6/27/2008 - 2:10pm
This is well written and I agree. But one point was not even mentioned: Catholics hold that God alone gives and takes life. I admire Senator Obama very much but pray that he will try to understand this point of view. This is not only about abortion; but also about cloning, doctor assisted suicide, fertility clinics, the death penalty, only going to war when absolutely necessary, and using 'adult' stem cells for research rather than fetal cells. Pray for all politicians that they can learn about 'the culture of life.'