Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Karl Rove And His Legacy Concerning The Catholic Vote

(An excerpt from the New Yorker by Peter J Boyer. Click for full article )

In the autumn of 1998, when Karl Rove was contriving to make Governor George W. Bush President and to build a lasting Republican majority, he came upon “The Catholic Voter Project,” a study of voting behavior in national elections since the Kennedy-Nixon contest of 1960.

Catholics make up more than a fourth of the electorate, but they had long defied political targeting.This was because, since 1972, Catholic voters had essentially mirrored the rest of the electorate, making it impossible for political professionals to shape a distinctive Catholic message—or even to know for certain whether there was such a thing.The study, commissioned by the magazine Crisis, concluded that the issues that moved Catholic voters could, in fact, be discerned; it was simply a matter of redefining the Catholic vote.
The term “Catholic voter,” the study argued, was meaningless, reflecting an answer given to exit pollsters, and not much more. The only relevant Catholic voter was one whose vote was influenced by the fact of being a Catholic. The Crisis project compared the voting behaviors of active Catholics—those who regularly attended Mass—and inactive Catholics, and found a clear distinction.

Active Catholics characterized themselves as being more conservative than Catholics as a whole, and, although they did not necessarily identify with Republicans, they were in the vanguard of the thirty-year Catholic march out of the Democratic Party. They were patriotic, anti-abortion, and pro-family (believing, for example, that divorce laws should be tightened).
For Rove, the Crisis report posed a thrilling prospect, akin to the framing of a new constituency, to be courted and drawn into the Republican base, as Protestant evangelicals had been, two decades earlier.

“What I saw,” Rove says, “was a group that was searching.” After reading the report, Rove telephoned the publisher of Crisis, Deal Hudson, who had instigated the study, and invited him to Texas to meet Governor Bush. Hudson liked what Bush had to say, and shortly thereafter he agreed to become an outside adviser on Catholic outreach for the 2000 Presidential campaign.
As it turned out, Rove was tapping into something far more profound than voting differences between active and inactive Catholics; he had struck upon a deep current of discontent within the Church, which had been building for nearly forty years, rooted in contending interpretations of the faith. ( And then purposefully exploited this difference in interpretation on behalf of the election and re-election of George W. Bush.)

Rove had chosen the ideal instrument for his Catholic strategy. Hudson was a convert to Catholicism, and, with a convert’s zeal, he embraced an undiluted brand of the faith. As a philosophy student in college, in the late nineteen-sixties, and, later, as a professor of philosophy at Mercer University, in Atlanta, Hudson had shunned academic fads—“The Tao of Physics” and the like—and was drawn, instead, to the classics, where he believed the enduring truths resided. He admired Mortimer Adler, who became a friend, and he started his own Great Books courses. Hudson’s spiritual migration—he’d been a Southern Baptist minister before his conversion, in 1984—was animated by his wish, as he put it, “to wed the truth of philosophy with revealed truth.”

But Hudson’s firm doctrinal orthodoxy placed him in the minority within his new faith, as he discovered, to his surprise, soon after taking a teaching job in the philosophy department at Fordham University, a Jesuit institution, in 1989. One day, he was chatting with a sociology professor, a former Jesuit, who asked him why he’d converted. Hudson shared his conversion story, and talked about the perfect accord he’d found in the Catholic faith between mind and soul. His colleague smiled and said, “I used to feel that way, but I don’t need it anymore.”
“I realized that the Church I had learned to love, and had converted to, was very deep within the detritus of the post-Vatican II confusion,” Hudson recalls. He was referring to the contention that followed the Second Vatican Council, which was convened in Rome in 1962 by Pope John XXIII, in the hope of renewing the Church in its mission to present Christ to the world. By the time the Council concluded, four years later, the Church had a new Pope, and a radically transformed understanding of itself. The faithful began to experience changes ranging from a new Mass (said in the vernacular) to the end of meatless Fridays. The progressive wing of the Church felt that Vatican II was a liberation, and invoked its spirit in challenging the faith’s core doctrines and theology, often to the point of open dissent. This contingent eventually came to dominate much of the institutional Church, holding sway particularly within the Catholic academy. Catholics who hewed to orthodoxy argued their case on the pages of obscure conservative journals, or from outmanned positions on college faculties, and bided their time. “I realized very quickly that I was going to be a culture warrior within the Church,” Hudson says of his arrival at Fordham. Personally I prefer to be a spiritual warrior. Spiritual warriors transform culture one heart at a time, knowing it only takes a focused committed minority to change the collective consciousness of culture. The Early Church, working from the inspiration of Christ, proved this one in spades.)

Hudson thrived at Fordham, where, despite his minority view, he got on well with his colleagues and was popular with his students. He took up writing for Catholic journals, in addition to his scholarly work, and ventured onto the lecture circuit, proving himself to be a natural polemicist. But Hudson became a full-time culture warrior sooner than he may have wished, when his academic career suddenly ended, in 1994. After an evening of partying with a group of students on Shrove Tuesday, the eve of Lent, Hudson had a sexual encounter in his Fordham office with an undergraduate. She later informed her dean, and Hudson was strongly urged by Father Joseph O’Hare, the president of the university, to seek employment elsewhere. A lawsuit filed by the young woman was quietly settled, and nondisclosure agreements were signed by all parties.

Hudson moved his family to Washington, D.C., and began a new life. His ideological kinsman, the writer Michael Novak, needed help at Crisis, the Catholic journal he’d co-founded thirteen years earlier, and asked Hudson to become its editor. Hudson agreed, and quickly revitalized the magazine, expanding its subscription base and calling on a network of wealthy, like-minded Catholics for financial support. (Nobody derives more benefit from an infantilized population than it's current wealthy power brokers.) From his perch at Crisis, Hudson became a prominent figure in Catholic Washington, joining an influential circle of opinion-makers as they cheered the efforts of their champion, Pope John Paul II, to reinterpret Vatican II along orthodox lines. They associated themselves with a group of Catholic bishops, fiercely orthodox and devoted to the Pope (“JPII bishops,” they were called), who meant to steer the American Church more toward orthodoxy. Hudson was avowedly Republican, but he fretted that the Party was blind to its Catholic opportunity, mistaking Catholics for an ethnic constituency satisfied by Columbus Day speeches and St. Patrick’s Day parades. It was this frustration that prompted Hudson to commission the Catholic-vote study, which concluded, somewhat wishfully, that Bob Dole might actually have won the 1996 Presidential election if he had attracted more Catholics in just a handful of states.

Karl Rove wasn’t blind to the Catholic opportunity. When Bush assumed the Presidency, in 2001, Hudson became the volunteer chair of the new Catholic-outreach program of the Republican National Committee. In his book “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” Hudson describes himself as “the Catholic gatekeeper” for the White House. The Administration’s policies clearly reflected a Catholic influence. On Bush’s first workday, he acted to limit federal funding of non-governmental organizations that performed or actively supported abortion as a method of family planning overseas. By the end of his first term, Bush had delivered on every item on a wish list that Hudson says he presented to him at the time of their first formal meeting, in Austin, including its centerpiece, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which Bush signed in 2003. That year, Michael Novak explained Bush to an Italian readership in the journal Studi Cattolici. “Never have Catholics had so solicitous a friend in the White House,” Novak wrote. “So pro-Catholic are the president’s ideas and sentiments that there are persistent rumors that, like his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, G.W. might also become a Catholic.”

Hudson’s circle of conservative Catholics diminished the authority of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as the conduit between the Church and the government. “If you wanted to get something to the top inner circles of the White House from a Catholic perspective, you could contact Deal Hudson and it was delivered,” William Donohue, the president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has said. Diminished, too, was the bishops’ more liberal instruction to the faithful regarding their votes, a construct called “a consistent ethic of life.” In choosing a political candidate, the bishops advised their parishioners, they should consider hot-button issues like abortion as being just part of the spectrum of issues that are central to Catholic social teaching, alongside opposition to the death penalty, warfare, and poverty. By 2004, some JPII bishops were positing that John Kerry, a pro-choice Catholic, should be denied Communion, and had even suggested that casting a vote for him might be a sin.

All this helped energize that Catholic cohort which the Crisis study had identified as a ready constituency. In 2004, Hudson’s outreach team, by blanketing parishes in battleground states with voter guides, working with an e-mail list of a hundred thousand addresses, and sending thousands of volunteers into the field, delivered the Catholic vote to Bush. Hudson’s outreach efforts were harmonized with those directed by the evangelical political operative Ralph Reed, a consultant on general voter outreach. Reed, as the head of the Christian Coalition, had largely shaped the religious right and shepherded it into the Republican Party. Rove had engineered a religious political machine that many believed would give Republicans a lasting advantage. (Interesting how the operative words associated with Mr Rove are words like 'tools' and 'engineered', when describing his actions and attitudes towards individuals and groups.)

“What Bush did in ’04 had never happened before, and it may never happen again,” Reed told me recently. In the current Presidential election, that latter possibility actually seems likely. Hudson has played only an attenuated role in this campaign. In midsummer, 2004, during the heat of that campaign, someone at Fordham leaked the records of Hudson’s decade-old disgrace; Hudson resigned from the campaign, and as publisher of Crisis as well. Rove, who left the White House a year ago, is now dispensing his advice on Fox News and on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Reed, who lost a bid for office in Georgia in 2006, is not officially involved with the McCain campaign. But, where the current election is concerned, the biggest difficulty for Republican religious outreach may be the nominee himself. George Bush is an evangelical who wears his faith on his sleeve, and whom Catholics can imagine as one of their own. When I asked Rove whether John McCain has anything like Bush’s purchase on faith-directed voters, he replied, “He does not.”...................


The rest of this article proceeds in detail to examine both Barack Obama and John McCain and their relative appeal to the evangelical protestant and Catholic voting block. It's well worth the read. I ended the article here because Karl Rove's and Deal Hudson's influences have waned, and neither man seems to trust their current Republican candidate.

Their personal influences may have waned, but the blatant use of their constituency is still a fundamental plank in republican election strategy. The selection of Sarah Palin for McCain's VP is no prophetic choice, but a calculated political strategy to appeal to the pro life Evangelical coalition. I seriously doubt, should this ticket be elected that John McCain is going to give her the same power and free hand that GW has given Dick Cheney. She will be his ceremonial face, his anonymous first officer. He's too navy to countenance the idea of a shared command.

As Commander and Chief of all US Military forces, McCain will be just that, the sole commander and captain of the good ship US Military. For a man whose grandfather and father were both Navy Admirals it's hard for me to imagine McCain not seeing the entire might of the US Military as his solely to command---the ultimate Air Craft Carrier. So much for civilian oversight. If I were on the Joint Chiefs and wanted to retain any semblance of service autonomy, I'd secretly be supporting Obama. But that thought is off topic.

The point I really wanted to make is the one about the exploitation of divisions with in Catholicism to elect George Bush. Not only has the country paid the price for this exploitation, but more importantly so has US Catholicism. The intermingling of Republican politics with Catholic Identity should be abhorrent to any Catholic who professes to believe in a Universal and Apostolic Church. This intermingling has gone on to such an extent that in the minds of self defined True Believers, there is no difference between adherence to Catholic doctrine and Republican definitions of American patriotism. One mandates the other.

Our own bishops have colluded in this mixing not only to their benefit, but also our shame. It is incomprehensible to me that we have a Roman Catholic bishop on the board of directors (Robert Morlino of Madison Wisconsin) for the School of the Americas. The number of Catholics murdered by the graduates of this 'school' should give pause to any Catholic who professes belief in the Universal and Apostolic Church---especially American Catholics.

Unfortunately this mingling of Catholic teaching authority with the Republican political agenda has also percolated through the Vatican itself. Hence we have a Pope who will castigate pro choice politicians but fail to condemn the man who put this country into the morass of the Iraq War. Instead the two treat each other as fast friends feasting and feting each other, no expense too expensive, no gesture too expansive. I'm sure Benedict is able to do this by using the same kinds of logic tricks which allow him to censure clerics who engage in politics, while forgetting he himself is the head of an independent nation/state and hence an International politician.

I have to hand it to Karl Rove. The man truly is a Machiavellian genius. He not only managed to unleash an unbelievable amount of self centered corruption in Washington, he accomplished it as well in the Magesterium of Roman Catholicism, and he did it by manipulating people's beliefs to convince them they were doing the Christian and Catholic thing by voting us into eight years of George W Bush.

If it's true we reap what we sow, this has already been a very bitter harvest and looks to get even worse. The Bill Donoghues and the new versions of Deal Hudson and Ralph Reed will do everything in their power to maintain the status quo because the beneficiaries are the money brokers behind them. The immediate beneficiaries have certainly not been the innocent unborn. They are the last to have derived any real benefit from the machinations of the Republican political strategists. I wonder what answer these 'culture warriors' will have when they die and have to confront their accusers. The unborn will be just one of many constituents in that line.

Here's a link to a story about some Christians and Catholics who have it right about Karl Rove. http://rawstory.com//news/2008/Activists_charged_with_trespassing_after_attempt_0726.html

1 comment:

  1. I wasnt going to say this, but what the hell ....the picture says it anyway:

    Karl Rove describing himself