A Defense of Single-Issue Voting
Howard Kainz: Without a firm insistence on the right to life, all civil rights are in jeopardy.
Catholics in the United States have traditionally been associated with the Democratic Party. In the 19th and 20th centuries, when so many Catholics were from working-class, immigrant families, often subjected to prejudice (and easily inspired by the social-justice encyclicals of popes Leo XIII, Pius XI, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II), Catholics mostly gravitated to the party that seemed to embody commitment to equality, concern for immigrants and the underprivileged, and against profiteering by bosses and landlords and the capitalist elite.
Those of us who are pro-life, and bring up the subject of politics to fellow Catholics, will often hear the counter-claim that they are for “social justice” – as if these were two opposed ideologies. And they harbor the stereotype of Republicans as people who show no concern for the poor and disadvantaged, and continually oppose progressive implementation of civil rights. That conservatives give more to charity, for example, is dismissed with a wave of the hand, as if contributions to churches and missionary work, etc., can’t compare with the “charity” of government ruled by Democrats.
The strangest misrepresentation of Republicans has to do with civil rights. Historically, every civil rights advance up to the 1964 Civil Rights Act was engineered by Republicans – the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Reconstruction Act of 1867, anti-lynching bills, anti-poll-tax bills, desegregation of public schools, final implementation of President Truman’s desegregation of the military, and the establishment of the 1958 Civil Rights Commission. In 1967, President Nixon’s “Philadelphia Plan” applied “affirmative action” to the building trades. And thereafter, it expanded to other economic sectors in which there had been a pattern of discrimination.
How, then, did the stereotype of Republicans as pin-striped, cigar-smoking, elite power-brokers, indifferent to civil rights, get established in the minds of so many, including Catholics? The fact that the Republican Party has offered multi-millionaires or billionaires as candidates for the presidency in the last three elections has not been helpful to the image.