Mario Cuomo, father and predecessor of the current New York governor, was the first to offer the line of being “privately opposed” to abortion while very clearly acting to promote a particular moral worldview.
Republicans are also criticized by some people of faith for seeming to lack moral coherence: While failing even to end taxpayer support for abortion providers while in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, the party instead has offered up endless versions of an economic platform which, many note, fails to find broad favor with voters of faith.
In his 2018 book “Why Liberalism Failed,” Patrick Deneen observed the political orthodoxy of liberalism in both parties, albeit differently expressed.
Republicans hold out a distinctly liberal view of markets and economics, while exposing socially conservative principles on some life issues. Democrats, in turn, espouse deeply liberal principles on sexual morality, family, and life issues, while at the same time offering a more communitarian economic worldview.
Those are the results seen as a false choice by some young religious voters, Catholics in particular among them.
Pro-life voters say they are frustrated when they are expected to choose between abortion and the death penalty, or when less government interference in the home and in schools is bound up with accepting similar minimalist intervention in the financial sector and on behalf of the poor.
These voters also say they are discouraged that taking a moral stance on healthcare reform comes at the cost of nuns under pressure to provide contraceptives and abortifacients. The unquestionable social evils of racism and misogyny are likewise presented as inseparable from the pseudoscience of gender theory, they say.
As ever-more radical abortion legislation is passed at the state level, entrenching the right to abort even while a woman is in active labor, polls show a clear majority of voters - even self-identified pro-choice Democrats – turning away from the principle of unrestricted abortion.
Proposed economic reforms and tax cuts from either party are often couched in the language of benefiting average families, but it is not at all clear politicians and voters share a common image of family.
There is widespread consensus among political leaders that the traditional family model of two married parents raising children, with only one working full-time, is at best an anachronism, at worst a form of social oppression or economic exclusion. Meanwhile, most Americans say they would prefer a full-time parent at home, and an increasing number of younger mothers are choosing to stay home despite economic penalties, reversing the trend of the previous generation.
The growing divide between the values of a liberal political establishment and voters is neither a new nor distinctly American phenomenon. And by some accounts, the divergence between the two has fueled a rise in populist electoral movements and results in Europe.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
In the U.K., Brexit was, in the eyes of most who voted for it rather than against it, a rejection of a political class characterized by some as “clericalist and apostate” in its manner and values.
On the continent of Europe, even as the European Union advances liberal moral norms on abortion and sexuality, voters, even younger voters, are at odds with the new orthodoxies.
The rise of reactionary parties like the AfD in Germany, Victor Orban’s government in Hungary, the Forum for Democracy in the Netherlands, or the Swedish Democrats is most often cited as proof that, when offered no real alternative, voters will – if pushed – back even the most unpleasant disrupters.
The 2016 election delivered what was, for many in the political class, a still inexplicable result in the election of Donald Trump.
Many commentators have noted the inconsistency and often incoherence with which he appears to speak to a religious and moral section of voters who find no easy home in either party. Others have suggested that Trump functioned only as a temporary vehicle for such voters, because support for his candidacy was effectively one of protest, not endorsement.
If this diagnosis is correct, the extent to which there remains no obvious impetus to accommodate this bloc of voters within the establishment of either party could yet fuel more disruptive actors in the democratic process.