The Outdated Notion of a Catholic Vote Meets the Midterm Elections of 2018

CatholicCareimage

Photo Source: Catholic Charities Diocese of Palm Beach

Assumptions, assumptions.

Assumptions are what elections are built on, such as how people of certain demographic groups will vote, or even how an entire demographic will collectively vote. For example, the picture above is making three assumptions. The first is an assumption that all Catholics care, the second is that all Catholics vote, and the third is more subtle and assumes that Catholics divide themselves among the two major parties. There is no way to prove that all Catholics always care or always vote. For instance, there is never a tally to count whether exactly every person of a certain group does something, and in regard to the color choice for the picture above, the red and blue coloring could allude to propaganda for the choice of either Republican or Democrat. On the other hand, however, around 19% of Catholics in 2014 were either independent or did not lean left or right on the political spectrum which proves concretely that Catholics do not always identify as one of the two major American political parties (per my last blog post: When Will the Myth of a Catholic Vote Go Away?). The purpose of the picture above may not be to make assumptions per se, but to persuade Catholics into caring and voting by instilling guilt or via another method. Therefore, if there is proof of Catholics being split among political parties, then why are Catholics still being lumped together into the notion of a single “Catholic Vote?”

The answer to that question lies in statistics, which rely heavily on past voting habits. Statistics in regard to voting includes data from past elections such as polling data that can help paint a picture of how people from different regions, identities, or demographic groups have voted in past elections to be used for the formulation of predictions. Sometimes, however, these predictions are falsely portrayed as concrete and unable to change (especially by the media) which was observed in the 2016 presidential election where both past and current statistics (as well as polls) predicted that Hillary Clinton would win when she did not. Statistics are helpful, but the predictions made from them must be taken as they truly are: predictions. Every human is unique and it is inadequate to assume that someone who identifies in a certain way will vote a certain way. Every human has multiple facets to their identity and it is inadequate to assume that one will prevail over another, the best example is being a liberal Catholic who is pro-choice in which their liberal identity supersedes their Catholic identity. Statistics should be made separate from assumptions.

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Photo Source: National Catholic Reporter

On the subject of the 2018 midterm elections, the assumption of a collective Catholic vote made its way into the media yet again. The media, as well as the general public, cannot seem to drop the idea of a collective “Catholic Vote.” Although it was not published during the midterms this year, there was an article from 2017 by the National Catholic Reporter titled “Pollsters Confused About Catholic Voters” which alludes to the existence of the false notion of a collective Catholic vote. Without even reading the article, it is evident that the assumptions of how Catholics would vote was present in the subconscious minds of the pollsters who were expecting their assumptions to be true. I will not lie, this article is not a great one, it literally begins by alleging that Catholics are “politically confused.” Just because every Catholic does not vote the same means that they are politically confused? Is this just because there were Catholics who voted against what the pollsters thought they would? The term politically confused is not even a statement that should be used. To say that someone is politically confused is all based on the subjectiveness of someone else’s experiences imposed upon a person who does not fit the model of what would be assumed. If you think someone is politically confused, then it is most likely you who is confused. Anyone can vote however they want, regardless of anything. People can also choose not to vote at all, although they should, but it is within their own personal freedom of choice not to do so if they wish.

The reason that I included an article by the National Catholic Reporter rather than an official study is because I am trying to prove that the false notion of a Catholic vote exists within American culture through means that cannot always be clearly or thoroughly studied. This is similar to the reason why I included a non-academic source in my last blog post. My reasoning for the last blog post was not because I am unaware of how to use my school’s research resources, but rather that I was trying to reflect the extent to which something was inaccessible to the average reader whom Google might be their best or only resource. The examples I use in my blog posts are more about proving my point through the ways in which normal people go about doing things and expressing themselves whether it be through news articles or other blog posts. I oftentimes find it more interesting to examine the way things are exhibited through normal sources constructively and critically.

Photo Source for both photos: CNN

According to CNN, the percentage of Christian voters (including Catholics) in the 2018 midterm elections has decreased from the last election, while the number of religiously unaffiliated voters has started to increase. This information resonates with some of the ideas discussed within this class, but also with a topic that I have mentioned in a few other blogs: people who are religiously unaffiliated. When examining the decrease in Christian voters, it could be interesting to ponder if it is not simply that more Christians skipped out on voting, but possibly that there has been an actual decrease in Christians all together. What if this is alluding to a larger number of Christians “unaffiliating” themselves from their religion and not “affiliating” with any religion? If this is the case, like I have mentioned in a previous blog, this is not necessarily a bad thing. People who do not identify as having any religion cannot be assumed to lack morals or not believe in anything. This is only bad for Christians who likely want to keep their majority, but that could be somewhat of an assumption, so I’ll leave it up for you to decide for yourself.

Enlight151

Photo Source: Spencer Bailey

Above is a photo from Loyola’s “Behind the Tweets: Midterm Post Mortem” event which took place the day after the 2018 midterm elections to discuss the results of the midterms. The speakers included Dr. Michael Murphy, Dr. Leandra Zarnow, Dr. Johnson, and Amanda O’Brien. Many different topics were discussed such as women, Latinos, and Catholics. Much of it would not be too useful in a blog about Catholics, but they all outlined the statistics of the given topic they chose to speak about. All of the speakers brought great viewpoints to the discussion and I enjoyed hearing their perspectives, but on the topic of Catholics and how this event relates to the question of this blog, the contents of Dr. Murphy’s topic will be of the most help.

Dr. Murphy made a statement that I think is interesting to dissect: “You can’t find salvation in any one political party.” In a sense, Dr. Murphy could be alluding to a few of the things I have discussed either in this blog or previous blogs which would be that all Catholics do not fit under the same political party, and that the two-party system is too limiting. On the topic of the limitations of a two party system (since I have already discussed the former), this statement makes evident that neither major political party seems to get it quite right when it comes to Catholics, which leads them to decide for themselves which issues they find more important. Later in his speech, Dr. Murphy listed  a few of the things he thought Catholics should base their vote on such as a call to family and community and much more. I do not necessarily agree with this. His proclamation that no single party quite gets it right seems to affirm my argument about Catholics being split. However, after he started listing the things he thought Catholics should base their vote on, he seemed to begin affirming the notion that all Catholics should vote the same, almost as if he were confused or unhappy that all Catholics don’t vote the same which is what I do not agree with.

I personally advocate for everyone to vote how they believe they should, based on information and issues that they find most important rather than how other people think they should. During this election cycle, I grew annoyed with the assumptions people made about me when I brought up the fact that I would rather vote in Illinois than Missouri. People would say “Well, Missouri needs your vote more.” Wait what? I think they meant, “Missouri needs your Liberal vote more.” That’s not to say that I would have voted Republican, because I would not have, but it is incredibly annoying to have either assumptions made about how you are going to vote or impositions on how people think you should vote. There is nothing wrong with advocating for a cause, but stick to actual advocating rather than imposing, and if someone disagrees, so be it. On the other hand, if someone chooses not to vote, then it is their decision, not yours. People really need to start respecting the right of other people to make their own decisions, especially when it comes to voting. This is not to say that I am not advocating for people to vote, because I think everyone should vote, but I cannot stand when people try to impose things on one another.

Bridging all the information from this blog into a final conclusion, it seems as though Catholics had no more of an effect on the midterm elections than any other group of people. I think this is because Catholics are almost equally split between parties, so there is not an unusually large bloc of Catholics under either party that could be used for victory. If anything, Christian voters as a whole are on the decline as CNN mentioned, so even if they were a large bloc, their usefulness is on the decline. In regard to how things have changed or stayed the same, things most definitely have stayed the same because there has, for the most part, always been no coherent “Catholic Vote” except within the Kennedy election. If there was no Catholic vote back then and there is not one now, then it can be concluded that things have largely stayed the same. The important thing to note from all this information is to not make assumptions, take statistics with a grain of salt, and be aware that no group of people ever votes collectively the same.

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