I ceased claiming party membership when I was ordained a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, because I wanted to feel like I could speak my mind on church/state issues without having either Republicans or Democrats accuse me of "shilling" for a political agenda.
This being said, on many issues, I'm pretty conservative. And the Democratic front-runners scare me. They scare me as a Catholic Christian; they scare me as an American; and they scare me because of their pandering to the most radical fringe of the very far left. I think that it was C. S. Lewis who suggested that honest men may reasonably disagree -- and I agree with that statement. But in my view, the "Moveon.org" crowd; the "Daily Kos" crowd and their ilk have dropped the adjectives "honest" and "reasonable" from Lewis's statement.
Why am I posting this now? To urge those on the Religious Right to watch what they say; watch what they do; and watch whom they alienate.
A bit of history . . .
Ronald Reagan won in 1980 largely because huge numbers of ethnic Catholics, who had traditionally voted Democrat, voted Republican in droves. Jimmy Carter (among other mistakes) pushed the "I'm a Southern Evangelical" agenda just a bit too hard -- while his Democratic Party was making abortion a litmus test -- and changed the voting patterns of two generations. Since that point -- even in 2004, when the Democratic candidate was a Catholic (sort of) -- Catholics provided the winning margin for the GOP. A friend of mine, back when I lived in Oklahoma (who himself worked for the State Government, and proudly styled himself as a liberal Democrat and Episcopalian) argued that the Catholic vote was the largest swing bloc in America today.
Why did the Democrats lose so much of the Catholic vote? Largely due to the "social" or "family" issues -- especially the abortion issue. While the Republican party has been a "big tent" on this issue, the Democratic leadership has allowed a vocal element on the fringe to make party policy -- and has for 30 years. It is virtually impossible -- on any level -- to be a successful Democratic politician if one does not support abortion rights. While there are (sadly) many pro-choice Catholics, a significant number of Catholic voters will not vote for pro-choice candidates -- even if those voters agree with those candidates on many other issues.
Over the last 20+ years, more and more Catholics (especially ethnic Catholics) have trended toward the Republican party because of family issues -- and not because they are especially enamored with Republican economic or immigration or environmental issues. Many Catholics recall that for decades the Republican party was rife with anti-Catholic hatred, bigotry, and even violence. The infamous Senator James Blaine of Maine; Republican candidate for President in 1884; was the driving force behind the nativist and virulently anti-Catholic "Blaine Amendments" which persisted in state constitutions for many decades. Many Catholics recall the support which anti-Catholic bigots gave Herbert Hoover in 1928 -- guaranteeing him the election. (Out of fairness, it must be noted that Hoover personally rejected such support).
The Catholic "family values" vote, as I said, currently trends Republican. I see two ways of this changing. 1) The Democratic party could re-embrace the concept of a Pro-life Democrat. This would hideously alienate the angry far-left of their base -- which is providing millions upon millions upon millions of dollars of support. I don't see this happening anytime soon -- at least, not on any level other than very local. 2) Republicans could blow it for themselves by letting some of the more extreme fringe members of the Religious Right -- who despise Catholics on principle -- continue to make bizarre and foolish statements like the one reported here:
Now, realizing that neither Senator Brownback nor Governor Huckabee have much of a shot of attaining the Republican nomination, the point remains that statements like those made by Rev. Rude (a most appropriate name if ever I heard one) are likely to reinforce old "Republican Nativist" historical stereotypes more than anything else. Is this what we really need?