Joe Biden and the Catholic and Evangelical Vote

Biden grab

How will Catholics respond to Joe Biden in 2020?  John Gehrig, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, has some thoughts.  Here is a taste of his piece at Religion News Service:

Data from the 2018 midterm election analyzed by Ronald Brownstein of CNN shows that Trump’s favorability among white working-class voters who are not evangelicals — think white Catholics in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pa. — has already fallen.

Catholic women will be a critical part of this demographic. Democrats, the analysis found, “ran particularly well this year among white working-class women who are not evangelicals, a group that also displayed substantial disenchantment in the exit poll with Trump’s performance,” Brownstein wrote. “Those women could be a key constituency for Democrats in 2020 in pivotal Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where relatively fewer blue-collar whites are also evangelical Christians.”

Right now a fired-up base of progressives is setting the tone in the Democratic primary, making Biden, with his baggage of Anita Hill’s treatment during Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings, a cozy relationship with the banking industry and his record of opposing busing to desegregate schools, a very tough sell.

But don’t sell him short. If Biden can emerge from the necessary challenges on his left to articulate a compelling vision for an inclusive America, one that honors the dignity of work and affirms the vital immigrant character of our nation, Catholic voters could punch his ticket back to the White House as the first Catholic president since JFK.

Read the entire piece here. I think Gehrig is right.

I also think  Biden is going to have to make some kind of an appeal to American evangelicals.  He will not win many of them, but he doesn’t have to win many to take the White House.  Biden is pro-choice, but he has often talked about his personal opposition to abortion.  This might be enough for some 2016 evangelical Trump voters to peel away and vote for him.  In 2016, there were many moderate evangelicals who were looking for a reason–any reason–to vote for Hillary Clinton.  Unfortunately, Clinton never gave them one.  I wrote about this here, two days before the election.

I also wrote about this in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

Though Clinton would never have come close to winning the evangelical vote, her tone-deafness on matters of deep importance to evangelicals may have been the final nail in the coffin of her campaign.  In 2015, when a conservative pro-life group published videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the purchase of the body parts and the fetal tissue of aborted fetuses, Clinton said, “I have seen the pictures [from the videos] and obviously find them disturbing.”  Such a response could have helped her reach evangelicals on the campaign trail, but by 2016 she showed little ambivalence about abortion, or any understanding that it might pose legitimate concerns or raise larger ethical questions.  During the third presidential debate, she defended a traditional pro-choice position and seemed to dodge Fox News host Chris Wallace’s question about her support for later-term abortions.  There seemed to be no room in her campaign for those evangelicals who didn’t want to support Trump but needed to see that she could at least compromise on abortion.

Let’s hope Biden learns from the Clinton campaign.

13 thoughts on “Joe Biden and the Catholic and Evangelical Vote

  1. If Biden needs an issue to appeal to Catholics, he’s got one: climate change. Pope Francis’s Encyclical is a strong cause to action with a moral and theological center. If Biden ran hard on climate change, framing it as the moral and ethical issue that it is–as well as stressing the economic importance of dealing with climate change–he could make a strong case to faith based voters, especially younger ones, concerned about the number one problem of our times. It’d also obviously help him among the left wing of the Democratic party.

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  2. It’s kind of off topic, but I doubt there’ll be a better post to openly wonder this on; why do religious voters/politicians treat adultery differently than abortion? After all, ‘do not commit adultery’ is one of the 10 commandments, right after ‘do not murder’.

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  3. Joe Biden won’t fare any better with evangelicals than Hillary did. The few who pull the lever for him will be voting against Trump and not specifically for Joe. He just isn’t that attractive as a national candidate. The “personally opposed” abortion position is so jaded; one would think that someone in the DEM ranks would have come up with something better by now. Biden’s verbal tap dance on this matter will be complicated by the new DEM push for post birth or near birth life/death decisions. (Of course, Ralph Northam wants to “keep the baby comfortable” while decisions are ongoing.). How will Biden deal with this new demand by his party’s left?

    Let’s face it. Biden has no compelling original vision whereas a few of the other DEMs at least stand for something novel. It is instructive that Mr. Biden opened his campaign with a big dollar corporate fundraiser hosted by a COMCAST executive. He is following the lead of Hillary who raised millions of corporate dollars and accordingly articulated a “don’t rock the boat” set of policies. Her only distinction was her gender; Joe Biden will not have that card to play.

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  4. No doubt, Catholic voters will want Joe Biden to explain why, in 2013, the state-owned Bank of China entered into a billion dollar business deal with his son’s private equity firm just ten days after the then-Vice President returned from discussions with high-ranking officials in Beijing. They also may want Mr. Biden to explain what his son did with the money that was generated by the deal.

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    • Yes this thing that suddenly became an issue on conservative websites and Fox News five days ago will be super interesting in a few weeks.

      It’s definitely not a clickbait controversy that pales in comparison to the rampant nepotism we can all see on display elsewhere.

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      • Are you denying the Bank of China, a government-owned entity, entered into a billion dollar deal with Hunter Biden’s company while his father, the then-Vice President, was actively involved in formulating U.S. policy toward China?

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  5. Of course we heard it before, but I don’t understand why it is any less real. I guess I don’t understand your post. Are you suggesting that this is not possible? Frankly, anything is possible in this day and age. Times have indeed changed since 2020 and this is why the chance of evangelicals voting for a pro-choice candidate might be possible. Biden doesn’t need many more votes than Clinton to win in 2020 and I know some strongly anti-Hillary voters who, as I noted above, are looking for a reason not to vote for Trump. I think they might go for a safe, rare, and legal politicians on abortion like Biden.

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    • John: I think Biden’s bigger dilemma is that he cannot take a “safe, legal and rare” position — which is now anathema to the abortion extremists within the D party who will not countenance any such talk — during the primary. (There’s a reason they removed that language from the platform. Good grief, it even calls for the repeal of the Hyde and Helms amendments. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear what Biden has to say about that? Don’t worry — he won’t be asked.)

      He must veer hard left on pretty much every important (or unimportant) policy issue to make it through that gauntlet (the fractious base is already disenchanted with his Old White Maleness), and then somehow try to re-convince the general electorate that he didn’t really mean — or they misheard — any of that stuff he had to say in support of reparations and the GND and voting rights for felons, and that he’s still lovable, totally moderate, gaffe-prone Uncle Joe.

      I don’t think he can pull off that pivot.

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      • The goals of the GND are extremely popular, even with independents and republicans. There’s a lot he could say about the GND in the primaries that would also be very popular in the general. And in 2020 when everyone’s riding in autonomous Teslas Biden can point out that Tesla wouldn’t have existed without him and Obama. Every source of conservative news has articles from 2012 saying so.

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  6. Biden is pro-choice, but he has often talked about his personal opposition to abortion. This might be enough for some 2016 evangelical Trump voters to peel away and vote for him.

    Seriously? As if this is something evangelicals have not heard before?! This is 2020, John!

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