Catholic voters

Sen. Kamala Harris begins White House campaign: Maybe her 'Knights of Columbus' views are relevant?

Sen. Kamala Harris begins White House campaign: Maybe her 'Knights of Columbus' views are relevant?

There’s quite a bit of mythology surrounding the term “Catholic vote,” whenever journalists discuss American politics.

First of all, there’s no such thing as a typical American “Catholic voter.” At the very least, journalists have to probe the sharp divisions between “cultural” Catholics and those who attend Mass on a regular basis.

In the past, I have shared a “Catholic voters” typology that I learned from an elderly priest who had decades of experience in Washington, D.C. I have edited this a bit:

* Ex-Catholics. Solid for Democrats. Cultural conservatives have no chance.

* Cultural Catholics who go to church a few times a year. This may be an "undecided voters" niche, depending on the economy, foreign policy issues, etc. Leans to Democrats.

* Sunday-morning American Catholics. Regulars in the pew and they may fill some parish leadership roles. This is the key “Catholic,” swing voter candidates are chasing.

* “Sweats the details" Catholics who go to confession, are active in full sacramental life of the church and back Catechism on matters of faith and practice. This is a small slice of “Catholic voters.” Solid for GOP.

All of this matters because Catholics, of one kind or another, are 21 percent of the U.S. population and their votes are crucial in swing states such as Ohio and Florida. In the past, Catholics were a crucial part of coalitions that led the Democratic Party.

This brings us to a Washington Post political-desk report about Sen. Kamala Harris throwing her hat into the already crowded field of Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination. The headline: “Sen. Kamala Harris formally opens her presidential campaign with a mix of unity and blunt talk about race.”

This is one of those stories in which it is hard to discuss its religion-news contents, because the story contains a large religion-shaped hole, one of special interest to many Catholics. In particular, it is interesting that the story does not contain these words — “Knights of Columbus.” Hold that thought:

OAKLAND, Calif. — Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Sunday formally announced her presidential campaign, merging lofty and unifying lines aimed at a restive Democratic electorate with a blunt discussion of racism, police shootings and the impact of police brutality.

Harris announced on Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, that she would seek the presidency. Her appearance in her hometown on Sunday was the ceremonial start, and it became the highest-profile address yet by any presidential candidate.

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Scare quote alert: Cheers and jeers for that Associated Press primer on 2016 'religious vote'

Scare quote alert: Cheers and jeers for that Associated Press primer on 2016 'religious vote'

Go ahead.

See if you can spot the scare quotes in this Associated Press primer on religion and the 2016 presidential election:

ATLANTA (AP) — Republican Donald Trump has told conservative evangelical pastors in Florida that his presidency would preserve "religious liberty" and reverse what he insists is a government-enforced muzzling of Christians.
The same afternoon, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine praised a more liberal group of black church leaders in Louisiana for their "progressive values that are the values of Scripture," and he urged them to see Hillary Clinton as a kindred spirit.
The competing appearances earlier this month highlight an oft-overlooked political reality: The "religious vote" is vast and complex, and it extends beyond generalizations about "social conservatives" who side with Republicans and black Protestant churches whose pastors and parishioners opt nearly unanimously for Democrats.

Did you catch them?

If you're a regular GetReligion reader, you know that we have complained time and time again about the news media's love of scare quotes ( definition here in case you're new to the term) around "religious liberty" and "religious freedom."

So if you noticed the scare quotes on "religious liberty" in the AP's lede, you win the prize! (What is the prize? It's a free subscription to GetReligion. Go ahead and read all our posts for free!)

What's wrong with putting "religious liberty" or "religious freedom" in scare quotes? As even a GetReligion critic acknowledged this past spring, the quote marks inject editorial opinion into a news story and "imply something along the lines of: 'Religious freedom? Not necessarily.'" 

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Think 'Catholic' voters: Looking ahead to next round of Donald Trump vs. Pope Francis

Think 'Catholic' voters: Looking ahead to next round of Donald Trump vs. Pope Francis

It's an important question, one that any serious journalist must take seriously as the pace begins to pick up in the race -- or at this point races -- for the White House.

How will candidate x, y or z fare in the contest to win the mythical "Catholic vote." Whoever wins the "Catholic" voters wins the race. Hold that thought.

This time around, of course, we have already had a collision between two of the world's most amazing public figures, each a superstar in radically different forms of "reality" media. I am referring, of course, to Citizen Donald Trump and Pope Francis.

Journalists love them both in completely different ways.

So let's pause, in this weekend think piece slot, and look back at three different thoughts related to that recent media storm involving the pope and the billionaire.

(1) The mass media is waiting, waiting, waiting for a second round. As M.Z. "GetReligionista emeritus" Hemingway noted at The Federalist:

Our media, currently in the throes of one of the most damaging co-dependent relationships with a candidate the country has ever seen, immediately ran with headlines about how Francis was definitively saying Trump is not a Christian. If Trump is like an addict whose illness is in part the result of family dysfunction, then the media are his crazy parents who can’t stop enabling him. Francis is playing the role of the out-of-town uncle who thinks he’s helping but is just furthering the dynamic. OK, maybe that analogy isn’t working. But there is no way that Trump suffers from being criticized by the Pope, and the media enablers get to spend even more time obsessed with their favorite subject.

(2) This brings me to a Columbia Journalism Review think piece by Danny Funt -- "How one letter changed the story in Pope v. Trump" -- that I really intended to point GetReligion readers toward soon after the controversy about what the pope did or didn't say about the state of Trump's soul.

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