Say it ain’t so, Prof. Kmiec, last seen advising Mitt Romney. Well, Kmiec himself might not go over to the other side, but he suspects more than a few Catholics, even conservative Catholics, will. A snippet:
Beyond life issues, an audaciously hope-filled Democrat like Obama is a Catholic natural. Anyone seeking "liberty and justice for all" really can’t be satisfied with racially segregated public schools that don’t teach. And there’s something deeply hypocritical about being a nation of immigrants that won’t welcome any more of them. And that creation that God saw as good in Genesis? Well, even without seeing Al Gore melt those glaciers over and over again, Catholics chose Al to better steward a world beset with unnatural disasters. Climate change is driven by mindless consumption that devotes more ingenuity to securing golden parachutes than energy independence.
Of course, marriage and family are indispensable as well, and until now, Catholics saw the Republicans as having a lock on the family issue. But if either Clinton or Obama would acknowledge the myriad problems associated with a declining population in the developed world and affirm the importance of both having and raising children (and not just punting these duties over to Hillary’s "village"), Catholics could well contemplate a Democratic adoption.
Rick Garnett offers a brief for the other side, seizing on the BIG "beyond life issues" caveat, McCain’s support for--and Obama’s opposition to--school choice, and immigration policy, where McCain’s position is closer to that of many in the Catholic hierarchy.
Nonetheless, this is a point to remember that the non-Catholic Michael Gerson insists upon the importance of Catholic social teaching as a strain in conservatism, something too many conservatives are willing to forget in their headlong flight from anything that smacks of compassionate conservatism. It’s also worth noting that Catholic social teaching is attractive also to some thoughtful evangelicals.
I don’t think that McCain--the God and country (hold the God) candidate--is the man to articulate these themes for conservatives and/or Republicans in the upcoming campaign. But he needs a running mate who can.
Update: Our friend RC2 has much more. Consider this, for example:
Is Kmiec unfamiliar with No Child Left Behind, "comprehensive" immigration, and all the Bush Administration support for "green" policy? Conservatives are furious about those things, but Catholic voters of the sort Kmiec is describing should be happy with Bush and not eager to shed their Republican identities if he’s correct -- if we bracket the Iraq war, which I’ll come to in a minute. Does Kmiec not know that McCain supports school vouchers (there’s that 3rd non-negotiable) while Obama opposes them? Or that McCain’s in trouble with Conservatives precisely because he supported Bush’s immigration program and is aggressively in favor of attention to climate change? If Kmiec is right about what Catholics care about, he’s listed reasons in favor of McCain. I’m surprised he didn’t bring up Catholic opposition to torture --another topic on which McCain deviates from Conservative orthodoxy in the Catholic direction.
The real issue, she says, is probably the war, and though the Roman Catholic Church’s position on this is nuanced, that nuance will likely escape many voters.
Over at The Corner, there’s been some back and forth, with
Ramesh Ponnuru starting it off, Kmiec responding, Ponnuru coming back, Shannen Coffin jumping in, Kmiec responding to Coffin, and Ponnuru getting testy. Here’s the portion of Kmiec’s argument I found most revealing and problematical:
John McCain has all the appearance of business as usual – Bush II or is it III? That being so, we need to face the reality that we are about to lose the Presidency and the Congress, thanks to the incumbent, and by backing a lackluster, "it’s my turn" Republican who is not perceived as advancing the interests that Catholics care deeply about be it the right to life or the broader social teaching of the Church. Oh yes, we are well aware of Senator Obama’s morally unacceptable position on abortion. No Catholic can or will endorse the taking of innocent life. Indeed, conscience could not just dissuade, but directly preclude, casting a vote in his column. However, Catholic moral teaching enjoins us to work to transform the culture in every vineyard, not just those that are friendly. And Senator Obama has courageously and intriguingly opened a window of opportunity for important conversation across faith traditions, by reminding us that "we should not use faith as a wedge to divide, but instead use faith to resolve cultural tensions and mediate conflicts rather than engage in a politics that exploits them and drives us further from a solution."
I certainly don’t see McCain as the second (or third) coming of Bush. There are surely some continuities, but also some signal discontinuities, as there are with so-called mainstream Republicanism. But if Kmiec means to say that the combination of support for the war in Iraq (at least as it’s currently executed) and an (unimaginative, "uncompassionate"?) focus on the interests of business marks McCain’s continuity with some elements of the Bush record, he’s surely onto something. Whatever may have been the case with Michael Gerson and GWB himself (along with a few others), there were certainly plenty of people in the White House between 2001 and the present who didn’t care a whit about Catholic social teaching. And I don’t think McCain does either, for reasons that Peter Lawler has sketched.
I think that Kmiec is quite wrong about any sort of opening Obama is offering. He offers respect as a way of inviting people to the table, but the conversation is one-sided: you can be persuaded to agree with him, but he will never move toward you. If some folks on the right use cultural issues as wedges, Obama’s approach is to regard them as something like fishing lures. They’re intended to attact people to his political agenda, whose substance, such as it is, is almost entirely statist.