As mentioned in a recent thread, George Weigel's latest column declares: "this year's election cycle clarified decisively...that the great public fissure in these United States is between the culture of life and the culture of death." How does he know? To wit:

  • Washingtonians overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure legalizing physician-assisted suicide.
  • Michiganders voted to allow embryos "left over" from fertility treatments to be donated for scientific/stem-cell research.
  • Californians rejected (not overwhelmingly) a ballot measure that would require a forty-eight hour waiting period and parental notification before a minor could have an abortion.
  • Oh, and Barack Obama was elected president.

(Never mind the failed Colorado ballot measure that would have defined a fertilized egg as a legal person from conception--which the Colorado bishops prudentially decided not to support. And don't dwell for too long on the difference between voting for a ballot measure and voting for a candidate). How did that happen?

This year, the pro-abortion candidate carried every state in what Maggie Gallagher calls the "Decadent Catholic Corridor" -- the Northeast and the older parts of the Midwest. Too many Catholics there are still voting the way their grandparents did, and because that's what their grandparents did. This tribal voting has been described by some bishops as immoral; it is certainly stupid, and it must be challenged by adult education. That includes effective use of the pulpit to unsettle settled patterns of mindlessness.

As Ross Douthat points out, not really.

In 1980, '84 and '88, Republican (and pro-life) Presidential candidates managed to capture nearly all of the Midwest and the Northeast, "settled patterns of mindlessness" notwithstanding. Now here we are twenty years later, with FDR and JFK even further in the rearview mirror - and yet Weigel wants to chalk up the Republican Party's horrible showing in these regions to mindless "tribal voting" among Catholic Democrats? This is self-deception, and it ill-behooves pro-lifers to engage in it. John McCain did not lose this election because the Catholic clergy failed to anathematize Barack Obama loudly enough, or because Pennsylvanians and Michiganders thought they were voting for Roosevelt or Truman. He lost it because his party flat-out misgoverned the country, in foreign and domestic policy alike, and because of late the culture war has mattered less to most Americans than the Iraq War and the economic meltdown. And pro-lifers who see the GOP as the only plausible vehicle for their goals have an obligation to look the party's failures squarely in the face and work to fix them, instead of just doubling down on the case for single-issue pro-life voting.

Note the headline on Douthat's post: "The Moral Obligation to Read Exit Polls." MSNBC's data are here. Be sure to read the rest of his post right here.

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

Also by this author
© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.