Giving Credit Where It’s Due

Sure, we’ve heard lots about how evangelicals overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump and then the after-doom and gloom of evangelical leaders considering turning in their born-again credentials. But it turns out the really decisive demographic in the election was Roman Catholics (from one of our southern correspondents):

You only think you know what won the election for Donald Trump.

Hillary’s corruption? The betrayal of the American Dream? Vladimir Putin? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Let me tell you the real story, and the person behind it.

Elections are won by the marginal voter, the swing voter, the guy right at 50 percent. And in American politics he’s generally a Catholic. That’s the story this time, too.

It wasn’t the white Evangelicals. They went overwhelmingly for Trump, but that was also true in 2012 when they weren’t even sure Romney was Christian. They aren’t the swing voters.

Catholics, on the other hand, were plus-2 for Obama in 2012 and plus-7 for Trump this year. Evangelicals helped Trump in states he was mostly going to win anyway. Catholics? Now we’re talking about Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. And that was the election.

It nearly didn’t happen. Trump’s outreach people were tone-deaf about Catholic voters. They were putting their eggs in baskets marked Evangelicals, African-Americans and Hispanics. Catholics were of secondary importance.

But one Catholic leader, Deal Hudson, didn’t believe this, and he single-handedly organized a big-name Catholic Advisory Committee, a conference call with state campaign directors, a conference call between Trump and Catholic leaders, a tweet and video from Trump when Mother Teresa was canonized and an interview with Trump on the Catholic EWTN television network.

Meanwhile, the liberal press ran stories about how Catholics hated Trump and bishops condemned Trump’s immigration rhetoric. As for the Catholic intellectuals, they mostly went full-bore NeverTrump (with some honorable exceptions, such as Jim Piereson and Roger Kimball).

You mean all those stories about evangelical voters were fake? The wrong narrative?

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3 thoughts on “Giving Credit Where It’s Due

  1. More reasons why Trump is appealing to Roman Catholics in the U.S.:

    Richard Nixon was plotting his 1968 presidential campaign when he received a letter from a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania. The correspondent, a young man named William F. Gavin, wasn’t certain Nixon would run. But he sure wanted him to. “You can win,” Gavin wrote. “Nothing can happen to you, politically speaking, that is worse than what has happened to you.”

    Gavin cited Ortega y Gasset to explain why Nixon was uniquely suited to lead during the violence and uncertainty of the late 1960s. “You are,” he went on, “the only political figure with the vision to see things the way they are and not as Leftist and Rightist kooks would have them.”

    The forceful and eloquent style of Gavin’s prose impressed top Nixon aide Patrick J. Buchanan. Gavin soon joined the nascent campaign, beginning a career writing speeches for the thirty-seventh president, for Senator Jim Buckley of New York, for Ronald Reagan, and for congressman Bob Michel, as well as composing novels, nonfiction books, and journalism. Gavin understood well the political realignment that brought city- and suburban-dwelling white working class ethnics—Irish, Italians, Greeks, Pols, and Slavs—rather tentatively into the Republican camp. “The Nixon aide who understood the Catholic opportunity best,” Buchanan wrote later, “was Bill Gavin, who had grown up Catholic and conservative, his views and values shaped by family, faith, and friends.”

    I have been thinking about Gavin lately because his life and thought so perfectly capture the conservatism of Donald Trump. When you read Gavin, you begin to understand that the idea of Trump as a conservative is not oxymoronic. Trump is a conservative—of a particular type that is rare in intellectual circles. His conservatism is ignored or dismissed or opposed because, while it often reaches the same conclusions as more prevalent versions of conservatism, its impulses, emphases, and forms are different from those of traditionalism, anti-Communism, classical liberalism, Leo Strauss conservatism in its East and West Coast varieties, the neoconservatism of Irving Kristol as well as the neoconservatism of William Kristol, religious conservatism, paleo-conservatism, compassionate conservatism, constitutional conservatism, and all the other shaggy inhabitants of the conservative zoo.

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