Judge Amy Coney Barrett poses a difficulty for liberals. Many of the Democratic Party’s leaders and activists are hostile to Christian, especially Catholic, beliefs. The largest “religious” group among Democrats is the “nones,” those unaffiliated with any organized religion.
But these nones constitute only 28 percent of Democrats, according to a 2014 Pew survey, compared with a total of 64 percent who identify as Christian—but are split among Catholics (21 percent), evangelical Protestants (16 percent), mainline Protestants (13 percent), or members of the historically black Protestant tradition (12 percent)—and 8 percent from other non-Christian faiths. An anti-Christian and anti-Catholic animus may be loudly expressed among activists and leaders of the party, but it’s not shared as widely among others.
The party has made unconditional support for abortion into a litmus test for those who hold office. The party wants to resume the funding of abortion in other countries and to rescind the Hyde Amendment in the United States. For most of his political career of half a century, Joe Biden opposed federal funding of abortion and supported the Hyde amendment—a measure estimated to save some 60,000 lives a year. But in 2019, under pressure from activists and opponents in the primaries, Biden suddenly abandoned what had been a core principle of his public life.
The party has become increasingly hostile to religious exemption or conscience clauses that protect health care providers. Democrats want doctors, nurses, and hospitals to be coerced into violating their conscience by colluding or participating in the intentional killing of unborn children or of the old and sick. The party wants to maintain and enforce more rigorously an abortion regime that’s more extreme than all but a handful of countries, such as China and North Korea.
In this and other respects, the Democratic Party of 2020 is out of step with the beliefs of most Americans and most of those who are inclined to vote for it. A recent Gallup poll showed that, in 2020, 70 percent of respondents thought abortion should be restricted and illegal under some or all conditions. Only 29 percent thought it should be legal under any circumstances—the position of Roe, the Democrats, and North Korea and China.
It’s a good example of how the party has moved in a more and more extreme direction—in this case, it seems, pulled by its lavish funder Planned Parenthood, rather than by any sentiment of party members.
The “progressive activists” who are younger, angry, secular, and cosmopolitan, according to a 2018 study (pdf) of the “Hidden Tribes” of America’s polarized landscape, amounted to only 8 percent of a representative sample of the population. They’re the group least likely to see free speech as a concern, the most opposed to any restrictions on immigration, and the most likely to favor the sexual revolution in all its forms, and to believe in the concept of “white privilege.” They are the woke, the “politically correct.”
The survey found, however, that 80 percent of its sample considered “political correctness” a problem.
A recent Pew Research poll found that those who identify as liberal or very liberal constituted 47 percent of Democratic voters, compared with 52 percent who were moderate, conservative, or very conservative. While most blacks vote Democratic, only 29 percent consider themselves liberal. Among self-identified Democrats, blacks and Latinos are less likely than whites to describe themselves as liberal.
Liberals, Class, and Bigotry
The Democrats draw on the progressive 8 percent identified in the “Hidden Tribes” report for the ideologically driven core of party activists. They represent the more affluent, educated, and white wing of the party.
As Yascha Mounk summarized it in his 2018 discussion of the “Hidden Tribes” study in the Atlantic:
“Compared with the rest of the (nationally representative) polling sample, progressive activists are much more likely to be rich, highly educated—and white. They are nearly twice as likely as the average to make more than $100,000 a year. They are nearly three times as likely to have a postgraduate degree. And while 12 percent of the overall sample in the study is African American, only 3 percent of progressive activists are.”
The power of this affluent elite in society lies not in its domination of electoral politics, but in its hegemony in big business, the academy, entertainment, professional sport, the civil service bureaucracy, and the media. Still, it does need to win elections and so to persuade enough traditional liberals (11 percent of the sample), passive liberals (15 percent), the politically disengaged (26 percent), and moderates (15 percent) to vote Democrat. Exposing how endemic and extreme the party’s hostility has become to Christians who adhere to the teaching of the faith rather than to the ideology of wokeness and sexual expressivism, is a dangerous move.
That’s so because there are millions of “cultural Catholics” who identify as Catholic but don’t adhere to basic and non-negotiable teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals. But many of those who are Catholic by habit and culture (as well as baptism) don’t want to see more serious Catholics or other Christians harassed, fired, or excluded from public life for their faith. Like non-Catholics of good will, they abhor the desecration of churches and the destruction of sacred statues, just as they reject campaigns of hate against the police and the violence, vandalism, and arson against neighborhoods and businesses.
The Democrats have a double standard with respect to Catholics. They have gone to great lengths in this election to emphasize Biden’s Catholicism, using traditional religious imagery and talking about Biden’s religious upbringing, even how he’s “guided by faith.” As William McGurn puts it in the Wall Street Journal, “In short, eight years after delegates to the Democratic convention famously booed God, God is back. And faith itself is now presented as something that inspires people to be better.”
The Challenge of Judge Barrett
Barrett’s Catholicism, however, is another matter. The Democrats’ leaders and their media may have no objection to “cultural Catholics,” but Catholics who take their faith seriously and try to live by it are another matter.
Even those whose faith is more a matter of culture or habit, however, don’t want to see her insulted and discriminated against for hers. She’s a serious Christian and Catholic. As the mother of seven children, she’s a woman who’s reached the pinnacle of her career without sacrificing her family as many feminists advocate. She’s also an extraordinarily well-qualified jurist.
At hearings on her nomination to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just three years ago, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) questioned Barrett about her religion, expressing concern that “the dogma lives loudly” within her. Feinstein not only exhibited a “Know-Nothing vulgarity,” as Archbishop Charles Chaput put it in First Things magazine, but came close to setting a religious test for public office—something that’s explicitly forbidden in Article VI of the Constitution. The incident cast a harsh light on the deep bias and bigotry in the Democratic Party toward Christians.
Vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris showed her own anti-Catholic bias explicitly in 2018 by questioning whether Nebraska attorney Brian Buescher was fit to serve as a federal judge because of his Catholic faith and membership in a 137-year-old Catholic service organization (to which JFK also had belonged), the Knights of Columbus. Every Democratic senator present voted against Buescher. This attack on the nominee’s faith, however, produced a backlash, and Harris and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) were indirectly rebuked by the Senate for their roles in the hearing. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has described Harris as the “most openly anti-Catholic bigot to be on a national ticket in modern times.”
Harris isn’t a fringe bigot, an embarrassing outlier of the kind found in every large party. This is the person Biden selected as his running mate, his and his party’s choice for vice president, and a heartbeat away from the presidency itself.
The Challenge for Democrats
The challenge for the Democrats, now the party of the affluent and woke, is to hang on to what it can of its traditional working-class, culturally Catholic, family-oriented, patriotic base while moving ever leftward in its identity politics.
The task for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—as a letter (pdf) by prominent black ministers will have reminded them—is to hold in check the more vocal of the anti-Catholic bigots and opponents of religious freedom who populate not just the fringes but also the leadership of her party. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) reminded Schumer (pdf), the minority leader of the Senate, about Feinstein’s “egregious personal attacks on Judge Barrett’s Christian faith” in her previous confirmation hearings and asked him to pledge to “abstain from that kind of anti-Catholic, anti-Christian anti-faith vitriol in the hearings to come.”
Elections are reminders to progressive activist elites that, wealthy, powerful, and educated as they, the “enlightened” few, may be, they’re a small minority of the population, even of liberals, minorities, and Democratic voters.
No matter how many times President Donald Trump denounces racism and the fringe groups of the far-right, the Democratic leaders and media always call for more, and divert attention from their own consistent pattern of projection, silence, and denial. Now it’s time for the Democrats to be held accountable for the terrorist groups and actions of the left, the mayhem, rioting, and violence they’ve been unwilling or unable to control, or even acknowledge, much less denounce, in cities they govern.
How do they propose to restore and maintain the law and order that a city and society want and need for its people to flourish?
Will the Democrats’ leaders repudiate the vile attacks on Barrett’s faith that began even before she was nominated? Will they commit to rooting out religious bigotry—whether anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, or anti-Evangelical—that permeates their own ranks from top to bottom?
Paul Adams is a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Hawaii and was a professor and associate dean of academic affairs at Case Western Reserve University. He’s the co-author of “Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is” and has written extensively on social welfare policy and professional and virtue ethics.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.