Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Catholics, Demographics and the GOP

The other day Amy Welborn linked to an article from Commonweal about the shift of Catholic voters to the Republican party. Needless to say, Commonweal is not sure this is a good thing.

The main theme of the article centers around a research paper titled "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values"by a number of Harvard economists headed up by Edward L. Glaeser. (The full test of the paper is available here.) The study notes that while in the past economic/class criteria were some of the best predictors of voting patters, church attendance has become bar-none the most accurate predictor of voting patterns.

Now the interesting thing is, it's a better predictor in states where church attendance is lower, and a less accurate predictor in states where church attendance is higher. What that suggests (to me anyway) is that the less overall societal pressure there is to attend church (and thus the more church attendance becomes evidence of a conscious spiritual and moral choice) the more likely it is that those who choose to go out of their way to attend church will also go out of their way to vote in accordance with certain moral assumptions.

Now, what concerns Commonweal is that Republicans are making strategic use of extreme rhetoric in order to solidify a Catholic and wider Christian voting block with pro-life and pro-family messages without any actual intention of delivering significant changes in that direction. Think of it as a more scientific version of the rant in the movie Bulworth where the Democratic Senator Bulworth, having gone crazy, tells a black church audience, "Of course Democrats don't care about black people. Forty years and what have we done for you?"

Well, yes and no. Bulworth was the product of disillusioned Democratic activists like Warren Beatty who felt that if only the Democratic Party would really care racism and poverty could have been erased (or eased) long ago. A lot of Republican viewers liked the rhetoric from another angle. They thought "No kidding. If the Democrats cared about black people, they wouldn't have perpetuated poverty by destroying the black family with welfare hand outs, free birth control, abortions, drugs, cheap immigrant labor, etc."

I think both sides had a point. Without question, some Democrats have simply exploited the black community (which votes 90% democrat) for easy votes, while ignoring the fact that much of their 'help' does more harm than good. However, that doesn't change the fact that many Democratic activists genuinely care about the black community, but simply haven't been able to help as much as they would like -- one of the main ones being, in my opinion, that many of their remedies don't work.

Commonweal seems quick to assume that Republicans are exploiting the pro-life vote, while in fact caring only about 'pro-rich' economic policy. (How pro-rich can this country be when a family of four that makes 38k a year actually gets money back rather than paying income tax? Of course social security still nails you worse at the low end of the income spectrum...) I don't question that some Republicans are doing precisely that. However, I think a number of Republicans are clearly interested in supporting pro-life, pro-adoption, and pro-family legislation, at least to the extent that the courts will let them. Clearly, it's in the interest of Christian voters to try to support the success of the latter kind of Republican over the former. And if church-going Christian remain a major Republican voting block, it seems likely that over time more and more Republican candidates will be people who hail from that background themselves.

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