By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
After President George W. Bush named two Catholic nominees to the Supreme Court, giving it a Roman Catholic majority for the first time in American history, there was much written about how important conservative Catholics had become to the GOP, even though the party's white evangelicals get the media attention. Indeed, all the court's Catholics have been appointed by Republican presidents.
And President Bush, who is widely seen to be evangelical—even if he never explicitly said so—relied on Catholic advisers like Richard John Neuhaus to provide a lexicon for expressing conservative views on social issues like abortion and embryonic stem cell research. In the 2004 election, Bush won Catholics—the quintessential swing bloc—even though his opponent, John Kerry, was a former altar boy.
Now, it seems, Catholics are gaining prominence in the Democratic Party, too. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic, is reportedly the front-runner for health and human services secretary after Tom Daschle (also Catholic) withdrew from consideration over his tax imbroglio. Vice President Biden is Catholic. So is the speaker of the House, who visited the pope last week. New Democratic Party chief Tim Kaine is Catholic, a former missionary.
Is all of this political? Of course not. But having voted for every winning presidential candidate since Richard Nixon, Catholics do seem to be more politically valuable to both parties than ever before.
Did I mention that new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is Catholic?