The National Catholic Review

Barack Obama’s landslide victory will require time sink in emotionally and also analytically. The exit polls will need to be adjusted to reflect the actual turnout: The numbers we had last night were skewed to the Democrats and under-counted Catholics I suspect. Still, some things are apparent.

The "faithful remnant" of the GOP is confined to those parts of the country that are the least Catholic: the deep South and the Prairie states. The states that are most Catholic – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania - are also the states that are the bluest of the blue. Obama’s margin in Pennsylvania was the most impressive of any of the large contested states as he won there by eleven points. It is especially noteworthy that in Lackawanna County, home of Scranton bishop Joseph Martino who was one of the country’s fiercest episcopal critics of voting for Obama because of his views on abortion, Obama won 63% to 36%. This was an increase over John Kerry’s 2004 margin of 56% to 43% in Lackawanna. In neighboring Luzerne County, home of Wilkes-Barre, the numbers were similar: Obama took 54% of the vote, besting Kerry’s 51% four years ago.

Latino Catholics appear to have been decisive in flipping three states from red to blue: New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. Colorado’s nine electoral votes swung into the Obama column with a strong 53% to 46% win and in New Mexico the margin was even larger: 57% for Obama to McCain’s 42%. In Nevada, 55% of the vote went to Obama and McCain took 43%. If Obama delivers comprehensive immigration reform, these three states and their 19 electoral votes will be blue for a generation. They will also likely be joined by Arizona, which might have joined the shift this year had it not been for the home turf advantage McCain enjoyed. Nine points separated the candidates in Arizona, and the state’s ten electoral votes are low-hanging fruit for the Democrats next election.

Latinos are the fastest growing part of the electorate and young voters are just beginning to define their political loyalties. Obama won both groups convincingly: 67% of Latinos nationwide and 66% of voters age 18-29. That bodes well for the future of the Democratic Party.

Enough of the numbers. Watching our new President-Elect last night, I was struck by his bearing, his dignity. He did not seem overwhelmed by what had happened. In front of our very eyes, he shifted almost effortlessly from being the focus of the hopes of the Democrats to becoming the focus of the hopes of the nation. He recalled Ann Nixon Cooper, an Atlanta woman who is 106 years old and all the changes she had witnessed in her long life and what this election meant to her. He used her story to point to the future, wondering what changes his daughters might encounter if they were given such length of years. It was an elegant and organic moment that achieved the first task of political leadership: articulating the present circumstances by looking to history and finding in its lessons a narrative that points to the future.

It has been an amazing run and in the next few days we will continue to examine the consequences of the race before taking a break next week. Readers are encouraged to send in your election night stories and to write what this result means to you and what you believe it means for the country. Last night was a watershed and the air is filled with hopes but also questions this morning. The challenges that face our president-elect are mind-numbing for me, if not for him, but we can all look with anticipation at what awaits our nation around the corner of history.

Michael Sean Winters

 

Comments

Anonymous | 11/6/2008 - 8:09am
St Ignatius's Guidelines for Thinking with the Church, in the Spiritual Exercises: [353] When legitimate authority speaks within the Church, we should listen with receptive ears and be more prompt to respond favorably than to criticize in a condemnatory way. Is America a Jesuit's publication? ... promoting disobedience to the Church's authority?
Anonymous | 11/5/2008 - 12:05pm
Michael, The teachings of the Church on birth control and homosexuality are not positions or opinions but truths about the nature of humanity as revealed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you spend any time reading Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI and the bishops, you would realized that these truths are rooted in natural law--the law that God has inscribed in the hearts of all men and women. The Church is called to teach these truths to all peoples and cannot, out of fidelity to the source of all Truth--Jesus Christ--teach anything else. Thomas
Anonymous | 11/5/2008 - 9:18am
The implications of this election for the Catholic vote and the Church are astounding. The exit polls show that it is not only Latinos, but also the young, which propelled Senator Obama into the White House. You are right in recognizing the policy implications for immigration reform. Clearly the policy of securing the borders first has been repudiated and the Republicans would commit political suicide by ever mentioning it again. Up until this election cycle, the young were regarded as more conservative than the prior generation. This can no longer be said with a straight face. They, or we, since I am 45, are much more accepting of diversity and much less likey to agree with the Church's positions on birth control and homosexuality. How the Church responds to these disagreements will be telling. You simply can't damn an entire generation, so perhaps it is time for the Church to re-examine its positions on these questions - some of which are hardly ancient. It was only during the papacy of John Paul the Great that these positions hardenned to the right. I trust the Holy Spirit will breate wisdom into Her Church just as she needs it. This election is also a major setback to the Pro-Life movement and its usual politics. It needs to seriously rethink how it is operating. The time is come to go beyond Republican electoral politics and the overturning of Roe v. Wade and instead offer a realistic legislative program to both decrease abortions and offer more specific proposals on how and when life should be protected under law.
Anonymous | 11/5/2008 - 10:46am
Will the Son of Man find any faith on earth when He returns?
Anonymous | 11/6/2008 - 5:03pm
The contemporary Church in America (and throughout the western world) is quite broken, meaning in part that the sigificant majority of those who identify themselves as Catholics don't actually practice the faith. On Tuesday, exit polls strongly indicate that the significant majority of church-going Catholics went to McCain, which is pretty easy to understand. Not giving attention to this fact when discussing the results of the ''Catholic vote'' results in a highly flawed analysis.
Anonymous | 11/6/2008 - 12:34pm
Larry, Does this magazine profess to speak for either the Society or the Church? Is there not room for a prophetic voice within the Church?
Anonymous | 11/5/2008 - 3:00pm
Interesting comment by Mr. Bindner: "The time is come to go beyond ... the overturning of Roe v. Wade and instead offer a realistic legislative program to both decrease abortions and offer more specific proposals on how and when life should be protected under law." Yet the Obama/Roe mindset in fact prevents that by erecting a system of law under which no proposal that life before birth deserves the protection of law is tolerated.
Anonymous | 11/5/2008 - 4:59pm
Thomas, Natural Law in its pure form is immutable - our understanding and that of the Popes is not. Authoritative natural law is an oxymoron - either it is Holy Writ or obtained from natural reasoning. Once you rely on authority what you have is authority, not natural reason. Our understanding of nature is incomplete. To say otherwise is hubris. Milbo, it will be a while until he "returns" although one could say he is already here. That gay couple you don't seem to like - he's one of them. Stephen - I am astounded that your comment on my post comes before the actual post. If you had listened to Obama in the third debate you would realize that your statement is in error. Roe's applicability was to the actions of state law. The federal legislature is free to modify the terms of personhood at any time. Try reading the decision.