David Carlin has been a Democrat nearly his entire life. The former Rhode Island State Senator and Chairman of his local Democratic Party, began voting for Democrats in 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected the first Catholic President of the United States. Nearly 50 years later Carlin is still a registered Democrat, but has written a book wondering if his Catholicism can still be reconciled with the party of his youth.
Carlin, who even received his party’s nomination for a U.S. Congressional seat in 1992, told the Catholic News Agency that he was motivated to write his new book, “Can a Catholic be a Democrat: How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion,” after years of frustration with his changing party.
While he notes that the power and leadership of the party has been shifting for years, Carlin now wonders if reconciliation between his faith and his party is possible any more.
Liberalism, Carlin said, can be divided into three categories: the “old, New-Deal liberals,” who came when the party was pro-labor, those who came into the party during the civil rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s, and those who joined following the moral revolution of the 60’s and 70’s.
These later Democrats, who now run the party, Carlin noted, are pro-abortion, in favor of homosexual marriage and sexual libertarianism.
And while many of his generation, those who joined the party due to its support of labor and civil rights, are still registered Democrats, Carlin said it’s only a matter of time before they recognize that the party has abandoned them.
“Under the Democratic party of Roosevelt,” he said, “there was virtually no tension between Catholicism and the party’s platforms.”
But, Carlin continued, that’s not the case any more, “there’s been a divergence of Catholic views and Democratic views. People like Howard Dean have a whole different set of attitudes.”
“Gone are the days of the political bosses who gained their power from the voice of the common man banding together,” Carlin lamented. Today’s Democratic Party is run by those with the most money - those who can fund the massive media campaigns necessary for election. “And the wealthy leadership of the party is made up of secularists.”
And whereas Catholicism and some other Christian denominations continue to speak out against the permissiveness promoted by modern liberals, Carlin noted, the party has also become anti-Christian.
Carlin, who in addition to his life in the political realm is also a scholar and professor of Philosophy and Sociology, told CNA that, broadly speaking, there are three large groups of Democratic Christians that the party is in danger of loosing: white Protestants, black Protestants, and Catholics.
Many of the white Protestants who were a part of the New-deal and civil rights party that he himself joined have either compromised their religious beliefs for the sake of the party or realized the new route their party has taken and already left.
And it seems that many of them have become Republicans. An August 26th study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life asked which party was more “friendly to religion;” Republicans had a 47-to-26 percent advantage over Democrats.
Black Christians, who Carlin said are typically more morally conservative and pro-family are also beginning to see the trend themselves, being forced to wonder how far they will go with a party which is off track morally.
“Catholics,” he said, “are realizing the conflict between their faith and the leadership of the party, much more slowly.”
The same Pew study found that almost half (47%) of Democrats polled wish that religion had a more important impact on government and 70% of those who identified themselves as “moderate” or “conservative” Democrats said that “liberals have gone too far in keeping religion out of government.”
So, what is keeping Catholics in the Democratic party, and can they still reconcile their beliefs with the party line?
Carlin said that for the most part Catholics have simply not sat down and connected the dots. They refuse to recognize that Roosevelt and civil rights Democrats no longer have power and that the party has left them.
He also noted that this realization could have happened long ago if there was better clerical leadership, guiding the Catholic conscience a bit more.
As it is, much of the party’s traditional base is slowly eroding, he said. And as Catholics and Black Christians continue to recognize that being a Democrat is not what it used to be, the party will find it more and more difficult to win elections.
The party has, indeed, started to take notice of the trend. Just this year the Democratic National Committee boosted its outreach to Christians, even conducting a study as to how they might sway the Catholic and Christian votes more to their favor. There has also been a media blitz of sorts, with numerous articles and blogs have popping up, declaring that the party is faith-friendly.
In the end, though, the divide may already be too great to bridge. Carlin said while he would love the party to return to its roots, he’s not hopeful that it will happen, especially not in his lifetime.
Carlin’s book is available from Sophia Institute Press at www.sofiainstitute.com