Conservative gives props to Obama on Catholic outreach

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Deal Hudson, once editor of the conservative Catholic journal Crisis, gives President Obama a thumbs-up on outreach to Catholics--while saying the new administration is pulling a bait-and-switch on them. In an interview with Dan Gilgoff of US News and World Report, Hudson also notes the missteps the GOP has made with Catholics, especially on immigration, which alienated many Hispanic Catholics.

I think there are two mistakes here: First, Hudson still talks as if abortion is the only topic Catholics vote on, which the last election shows is simply not the case. Abortion is probably top on the list, but the cumulative Bush policy on war and social issues weighed heavily. Right now, the GOP only has abortion with which to court Catholics, and over five terms still delivered nothing in terms of abortion reduction.

Second, I think it's time to ask again whether there is any such thing as a "Catholic vote." Polling is showing that Catholics are likely to vote with their racial and socioeconomic peers; the days of large blocks of Catholics voting together I think have passed. Politicians may try to use the Catholic card to strengthen their position with a certain demographic--Hispanics on immigration, college-educated types on public policy issues, conservatives on abortion--but by its Catholicism universal nature, there are large groups of Catholics in almost every single socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, educational, or gender demographic. We were never homogenous, and we have become even less so in the last decades.

The Obama strategy with Catholics has been simple: Neutralize abortion as a wedge issue, and pick Latinos for prominent positions. And if he can show results in abortion reduction without changing abortion law--which Reagan, Bush I and Bush II were never able to do--he will have suceeded.