Election 2004 is done and the pundits have picked it over well. But one fact can stand a little repetition: This election, more so than any in recent memory, has demonstrated the power of the Catholic vote.
It had become fashionable in the months leading up to November—even among some Catholic conservatives—to deny that there was any such thing. And yet the numbers are there: President Bush won the general Catholic vote over Senator Kerry by a margin of 51 to 48. Close, certainly, but a dramatic reversal of the 2000 race, when Al Gore won Catholics 49 to 47.
The margin becomes even more significant when one considers that the president took Mass-attending Catholics by a full 11 percent, 55 to 44. This is where the Catholic vote can be found—among the churchgoing faithful. And that’s the point the critics often miss. They deny the existence of a Catholic vote by lumping together the faithful along with those who merely call themselves “Catholic”—and who may not have set foot in a church for decades.
But Catholics were hardly the only voting block that roared. Evangelicals—derisively dismissed as “Fundamentalists” by a media that doesn’t know the difference—chose George Bush in even greater numbers. In the lynchpin state of Ohio alone, Evangelicals went for the president over Senator Kerry by a decisive three-to-one margin. (Even the Amish turned out to vote for Bush.)
As if to underscore this surge in religious political participation, exit polls identified moral values as the key issue among this year’s voters. Not Social Security or health care or even national security. Values.
And that’s why the Left, and their allies in the media and abroad, will never really understand what happened. Katie Couric will speak in dark tones of “the rise of the radical right”; the New York Times will continue to characterize believers as knuckle-dragging know-nothings; and Old Europe will take a break from dismantling its culture to shake its head at the yokels of America.
It comes down to this: The secular Left sees religion as the final holdover from a bygone era. This is why their religious countrymen are such an embarrassment to them—like an elderly aunt who continues to refer to African Americans as “colored.” Insulting? Yes, but we bear some of the responsibility for that impression.
For too long, practicing Christians have projected a kind of blind faith. After all, a religion that is kept private gives the impression that it can’t stand up to public scrutiny. But this is certainly not the reality with Christianity. Our faith is evidential; there are hard reasons why we believe what we do. The case for our religion is a strong one, and some of history’s greatest thinkers have been her apologists. Augustine, Aquinas, Pascal, Newman, Lewis. They didn’t hesitate to defend the Faith from the doubters, because they knew they entered the battle better armed than their opponents.
Christianity—alone among the world’s religions—makes some reliable historical claims. A tomb found empty. A dead man who appeared numerous times to thousands of wit-nesses. Prophecies fulfilled. Prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Our religion is concrete, and insofar as its claims are true, they do not merely speak of private realities.
Many have forgotten this. As a result, we’ve forfeited our opportunity to debate those with stronger spines and weaker arguments. With God’s grace, the statement believing Americans have made on morality can now extend into other, more fundamental issues. The critics of Judeo-Christian values have been dealt a significant blow. The critics of Judeo-Christianity should be next.