Several times over the past few months I wondered why so many Catholics supported Romney. I’m not sure I’m any closer to an answer, but if Douglas Kmiec is at all representative of Catholic Romney voters the explanation may simply be that they are very silly people. There is something amusing about one of Romney’s advisors all but declaring for Obama in an article that comes out the day that reports come out that his former boss will be endorsing McCain (the Republican who routinely won the greatest pluralities of Catholic voters in almost every state for reasons that are equally obscure to me), but more entertaining still is watching a Romneyite go through any number of contortions to come up with unusually weak reasons to support anyone except McCain. However, when it comes to political contortionism, Kmiec must have learned from the best, so his effort here is quite disappointing.
Consider his argument for Obama-as-Reagan:
Reagan liked to tell us he was proudest of his ability to make America feel good about itself. He did. Catholic sensibility tells me Obama wants it to deserve that feeling.
Actually, “Catholic sensibility” doesn’t tell him that–you can perceive this about Obama regardless of your religious sensibilities, since it is one of the most obvious elements of his campaign. Kmiec then goes on to outline how relatively few Catholics seem to feel what seems to be the pro-Obama sensibility that he has:
But lately, Obama has been narrowing the gap, using the Catholic vote to vault to victory. In the Illinois primary, where Obama bested Clinton 65 percent to 33 percent, he attracted 48 percent of the Catholic vote. When Obama’s share of the Catholic vote drops, the races tighten: In still-undecided New Mexico, only 39 percent of Catholic voters went for Obama.
But he didn’t “use the Catholic vote” to win Illinois–he won Illinois because of his enormous advantages as Senator from Illinois, the strong backing of the Daley machine, and black and progressive voters in Chicago. That is, he most likely won in Illinois despite his weakness with Catholics, rather like Huckabee wins on his home turf in the South in spite of his tremendous weakness with Catholics. Where Catholics make up a larger proportion of the population (as they do in my home state), he struggles in the kind of caucus format in which he normally blows Clinton out of the water. Of course, in New Mexico his problems are compounded by the plurality Hispanic population and the larger number of downscale voters in the state.
Actually less persuasive is Kmiec’s resort to Catholic teaching to rationalise what appears to be his support for Obama (or at least his refusal to support Romney’s former rivals). Presumably he was applying the same standards when he chose to support Romney, who supports capital punishment and the war in Iraq, and yet now McCain and Huckabee are insufficiently pro-life to win him over. But, gosh (as Romney might say), Obama sure is swell! In Kmiec’s own words:
Beyond life issues, an audaciously hope-filled Democrat like Obama is a Catholic natural. Anyone seeking “liberty and justice for all” really can’t be satisfied with racially segregated public schools that don’t teach. And there’s something deeply hypocritical about being a nation of immigrants that won’t welcome any more of them. And that creation that God saw as good in Genesis? Well, even without seeing Al Gore melt those glaciers over and over again, Catholics chose Al to better steward a world beset with unnatural disasters. Climate change is driven by mindless consumption that devotes more ingenuity to securing golden parachutes than energy independence.
So, to recap, Kmiec used to work for the candidate who eagerly embraced the mantle of restrictionist and received the endorsement of Tancredo and who opposed cap-and-trade and Kyoto (all of which he must have found objectionable and wrong), but he might not support McCain, renowned champion of amnesty and these same regulatory regimes, because Obama is just too neat.
Concluding, Kmiec writes:
The launch of “Reaganites for Obama” might not be far behind. We might not be there yet, but we’re getting close.
It can’t say much for the article that the audience would have absolutely no better idea why this is the case at the conclusion than they did at the beginning. As near as I can make out, the argument for such “Reaganites” to support Obama is that Obama is…not John McCain. Now it is true that Obama is not McCain, but I’m still not clear on why that should make a “Reaganite” prefer Obama.