Time to choose

Voting with a Catholic conscience

When a born-again Methodist from Texas is touted as the Catholic candidate while the Catholic candidate from Massachusetts is treated as an apostate, you know that the Catholic community has been chopped and blended in the great American food processor. Catholics don’t think alike, not about the candidates or the issues. Catholics certainly don’t and won’t vote as a bloc. We are more like other Americans than we are like-well, like ourselves. This diversity on policies and politicians is not a bad thing. Still, 2004 is a tough presidential election season for those who continue to think, as I do, that the Catholic tradition can help inform our political choices and shape our responsibilities as American citizens.

E. J. Dionne writes: “There is no Catholic vote,” and koan-like concludes, that’s why “it’s important.” Both campaigns believe that Catholics are the undecided voters in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Each candidate needs most of those states to win 270 electoral votes. I say both campaigns believe they need those votes because their polling data show that Catholics are among undecided voters who are socially conservative and economically liberal; in other words, ambivalent in their political views-they could go either way. Pollsters and political consultants are paid handsomely to divine where those voters are and what will swing them one way or the other. Republicans...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.