The role of religion in the 2020 presidential race

By Michael P. Riccards

The election of Joseph Biden as president is a dramatic and much needed end to the Trump Administration.

At times I must say I wondered if the current president wanted to win after all or was in the end just a very bad politician. His barren leadership became even more apparent when we had to face two non PR scares: the pandemic and the escalating demands for social justice. They were just not the right issues for a man who abhors science and expert opinion and a man whose history is unfortunately scarred since his youth by racism.  

One of the interesting aspects of the election though was the differences due to religious affiliation.

Trump, with his serial marriages, his history of non-religious observance and his vulgarity, still does well among fundamentalist Protestants and orthodox Catholics. He received about 80% of the Evangelical vote, about 50% of the Catholic vote and about one third of the Jewish and Muslim vote. The Mormon vote split 71%-24%, mindless reaction of conservative voting over conservative values.

The American Catholic bishops made themselves an arm of the GOP party. To them the only issue was abortion — not the immigration crisis, the neglect of infected minority populations, the deficiencies in the medical care system that affects Catholic hospitals. They even let their parish priests deny communion to Catholic Biden.

It was a disgraceful performance by the bishops, but after the pedophilia scandal, nothing better is expected from them. They never understood Jesus’ remark about giving to Caesar or the American tradition of separation of church and state that John Courtney Murray so celebrated.

You can imagine the lack of clout they will have in the House of Representatives, even with its numerous Catholic members.  EWTN sent me a prayer for the voting; I thought it was written by the Republican National Committee.  EWTN’s national reporter, Raymond Arroyo, has gone from slanted broadcasting on the so-called Catholic channel to being an employee of FOX TV.  At least he is finally honest.

It was the future of the church, Catholic Hispanics, that made the real difference, giving Biden a 2-1 lead in voting, even with the strong Republican Cuban ranks in Florida.

Like the Bourbon French after the revolution, they cannot admit that the new regime of Communism under Castro has changed forever the social landscape of their old land.It is a sad reality, but it is the drift of history in that land.  American politicians, instead of seeking some rapprochement of Cubans and the regime on the island, shamelessly exploit the division.  And as Cruz and Rubio show, they do it rather well.

Oddly enough much of the fundamentalist and Catholic vote is due to abortion. It would be best for the Democratic Party if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and said abortion is a state issue. That would not be good for many women, but it would mean that the focus of the issue would be decentralized, and the Democrats could back away from it as a national divisive issue. 

What is killing the right to abortion now is not so much theology or ideology, but science. Whether advocates like it or not, sonograms show an emerging human life earlier than any of us expected.  People say it is not a political issue but a moral one, but in America all issues end up in the courts.

Michael P. Riccards, a former college president. is the author of 30 books, including a two-volume history of the presidency, The Ferocious Engine of Democracy, and the recently published Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief. He is providing the Jandoli Institute with commentary and analysis about the 2020 presidential campaign.





Categories: Jandoli Institute, Michael Riccards, Politics

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