Tuesday, 9 October 2012

"Whoever wins the Catholic vote can win the election"

"This is how big the Catholic vote is, seriously!"
Transcrição integral da entrevista a David Gibson, jornalista premiado e especialista em religião, sobre a importância do voto católico nas presidenciais americanas. Reportagem aqui.

Full transcript of interview with award winning religion beat journalist David Gibson, on the importance of the Catholic vote in the upcoming US presidential elections. News story here (in Portuguese).

How important is religion in the election?
Religion is very important, as one president said, it’s important that our Government leaders have a religious belief, and I don’t care what it is. So it’s very important that Americans see themselves as religious, its part of our founding mythology, and that they see our leaders as religious.

But also, it’s a very polarised electorate, and each candidate has to turn out his base. And particularly on the Republican side that base is very motivated by religion, hence all the “God talk”, as we say. But on the other hand the Democrats don’t want to be seen as atheists, or being anti-religious, so they counter with their own “God talk”, and they make sure to invite Cardinal Dolan to give a blessing at their convention as well.

But is the electorate divided along confessional lines? Do Catholics all vote the same way, for example?
It depends which group you’re talking about. Catholics are actually the ultimate swing voter, they are very divided, the polls show them going back and forth between Romney and Obama. They are crucial, a very important voting bloc. They make up a quarter of the electorate, about 24% of the voting Americans. Hence, whoever wins the Catholic vote has a good chance of winning the election. Catholics used to be mostly democrats, but that’s not the case anymore.

The real voting bloc for republicans is white Evangelical Protestants. 75% to 80% of Evangelical Protestants vote republican and they also make up about a quarter of the electorate.

There are other religious voting blocs, Jews vote overwhelmingly democratic, African American Christians who are also a form of Evangelical vote overwhelmingly democratic, but they don’t make up such a large portion of the electorate.

Speaking of African Americans, it seems that Obama’s stance on gay “marriage” could hurt him there…
I think there have been serious reservations and objections expressed, because it is true that black churches tend to reject gay marriage, even as they support overwhelmingly democratic principles on poverty and other things, but I think overwhelmingly the issues are economic issues and among the black community there is a solidarity with the first black president which, the polls show, is going to overcome any reluctance and reticence over the gay marriage issue.

How about the HHS mandate debate? The bishops have all united against the administration over this. It’s clearly a gamble… will it hurt Obama, and if he is re-elected, and the bishops don’t win this fight, could it hurt them?
I think the American bishops are taking a big gamble here, and it’s very risky. Fundamentally I think Catholics, even if they reject, by and large, the Catholic position on contraception, tend to agree with the bishops about the problems of religious freedom involved in the HHS mandate. But they also believe that the bishops are overplaying their hand. They are casting this in apocalyptic terms, an all or nothing battle for the survival of the Catholic Church, and most Catholics don’t really see it that way. And there are these interesting polls where the majority of Catholics agree with the bishops, but it doesn’t affect their vote. They just don’t see it in apocalyptic terms.

The big question is, what will the bishops do if Obama wins? If you cast your lot entirely with the other side, in such black and white terms, what if you have to deal with him for the next four years and you have to negotiate a better deal with him, have you spent all your political capital?
Romney and Obama fighting for votes
Do you think Obama might concede on this subject, after the elections, when there is less pressure?
I don’t know. I would think so. It’s not clear why he has stuck to his guns on this one issue, it’s really unlike him to do this. I think he has advisers who are very dedicated to this contraception issue. But there are other ways to do this, to work this same policy so that it doesn’t impinge on Catholic freedoms at all. So I think it would be characteristic of Obama to change this HHS contraception policy if he wins, but really nobody knows at this point.

And if he doesn’t change it, do you think it will make it through the Supreme Court?
That also is an open question. The Supreme Court has forcefully rejected the Obama administration’s arguments in a couple of religious freedom issues in recent months. Most lawyers think the administration is on safe ground, relatively speaking, but nothing is clear. The Supreme Court is as divided as the entire United States is. Almost every decision is 5-4.

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