A Catholic theologian offered Democrats a strategy that he says would help them win elections again: “Stop being the abortion party.”
In an op-ed for the New York Times published Monday, Thomas Groome, a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, wrote that when he came to the United States from Ireland about 45 years ago, his cousin told him that “Catholics vote Democratic.”
“Having grown up in the Irish Republic, I was well disposed to Republican Party principles like local autonomy and limited government,” Groome wrote. “Yet a commitment to social justice, so central to my faith, seemed better represented by the Democratic Party. I followed my cousin’s good counsel.
“But once-solid Catholic support for Democrats has steadily eroded,” he noted. “This was due at least in part to the shift by many American Catholic bishops from emphasizing social issues (peace, the economy) to engaging in the culture wars (abortion, gay marriage). Along the way, many Catholics came to view the Democrats as unconditionally supporting abortion.”
The 2016 election, he argued, “was a watershed in this evolution.”
“Hillary Clinton lost the overall Catholic vote by seven points — after President Obama had won it in the previous two elections. She lost the white Catholic vote by 23 points,” Groome wrote. “In heavily Catholic states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, she lost by a hair — the last by less than 1 percent. A handful more of Catholic votes per parish in those states would have won her the election.”
Groome argued that President Donald Trump’s “racism, sexism and xenophobia should have discouraged conscientious Catholics from voting for him” — but it didn’t.
“For many traditional Catholic voters, Mrs. Clinton’s unqualified support for abortion rights — and Mr. Trump’s opposition (and promise to nominate anti-abortion Supreme Court justices) — were tipping points,” Groome wrote.
Groome acknowledged that while Catholics are not obligated to be “single-issue voters,” the issue of abortion “continues to trigger the deepest moral concern for many traditional Catholics, including me.”
He argued that when Clinton was asked about abortion during her campaign, she would often frame her response as a defense of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide.
“But in making it appear as if she was viewing a wrenching moral decision only through a legal lens, she was losing many Catholic and evangelical voters,” Groome wrote.
He argued that Democrats might be able to “reclaim their Catholic base in the 2018 midterm elections” if Democratic politicians “publicly acknowledge that abortion is an issue of profound moral and religious concern.”
“By tradition and by our church’s teaching on social justice, many Catholics could readily return to voting reliably Democratic. But for this to happen, their moral concerns regarding abortion must get a hearing within the party, rather than being summarily dismissed,” Groome wrote.
Groome also argued that Democrats should drop efforts to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of federal funds to pay for elective abortion procedures.
“If Democrats want to regain the Catholic vote, they must treat abortion as a moral issue, work for its continued reduction and articulate a more nuanced message than, “We support Roe v. Wade,” he concluded.
The pro-life group Democrats for Life praised Groome’s op-ed.
The choice is clear: End the abortion litmus test and become a big tent party or remain a minority party https://t.co/uEhvO7PInu— Democrats for Life (@Democrats for Life) 1490646073.0
Some social media users objected to the proposal he offered.
BREAKING: White Catholic man suggests Democrats stop defending women's access to safe and legal abortion.… https://t.co/8hmfud6yvB— Craig Harrington (@Craig Harrington) 1490621037.0
Got that, @TheDemocrats? Just ADMIT ALREADY that women aren't people & don't have rights: that's how to win! 😒 https://t.co/WEnw9JmMsx— ClinicEscort (@ClinicEscort) 1490621780.0
THIS IS A REAL @NYTIMES HEADLINE IN 2017 https://t.co/E7djPvyIWf #FFS #JUSTSTOP #THEOTHERSIDEISSOMETIMESWRONGOKAY https://t.co/u6QHcWgRNR— Amber Ying 應 緣 🇹🇼 🏳️🌈 🦁 (@Amber Ying 應 緣 🇹🇼 🏳️🌈 🦁) 1490666697.0
When men write op-eds about how politicians should abandon reproductive justice in order to win elections.… https://t.co/cmeSXBD35w— NARAL Pro-Choice MD (@NARAL Pro-Choice MD) 1490649826.0