Moderate voters looking for a party offering a live-and-let-live cultural agenda seem to have found little enthusiasm for Biden's promise to support a law which would force Catholic schools to allow male students into female bathrooms and sports teams.
Biden often traded on his Catholicism during the election campaign, citing the "inspiration" of nuns on his idea of public service, and selectively quoting Pope Francis when the opportunity presented itself. Yet he would not, or could not, risk appearing to his own party to be soft on nuns when it counted. He vowed to reverse religious freedom protections for the Little Sisters of the poor against the HHS contraceptive mandate, which would force them to provide abortifacient drugs and sterilizations through their healthcare coverage.
As he tried to woo Trump's reluctant religious supporters, the disconnect between Biden's soft music and harsh lyrics seems likely to have cost him more than many expected.
Much has been made of the "shy Republican" phenomenon, in which polls seem unable to divine the true intentions of voters willing to turn out for Trump. Whatever the eventual electoral college result, it now seems unlikely Biden captured many more of these voters than did Hilary Clinton four years ago, despite widespread predictions to the contrary.
Among Catholics, too, voters seem to have upended pollsters' expectations. Several polls leading up to the election said that Catholics favored Biden by more than 10 points, and that even weekly Mass-goers preferred him. But early NBC exit polls show Catholic 2020 voters split nearly evenly on Trump and Biden.
Professional pollsters will, no doubt, discuss the disparity between forecast and reality in technical terms: pointing to the limits of sampling models and hinting darkly at the mendacity of respondents.
But in an age when the doxing and targeting of ordinary people who do not support the progressive agenda is increasingly commonplace, social conditions appear geared towards the creation of a "silent plurality," neither willing to vote to accept, for example, that men can get pregnant, nor so free with their politics as to risk offering that view out loud.
While there may be a true landslide-scale majority who would prefer someone "like" Joe Biden (affable, friendly, relatable) to someone "like" Donald Trump (aggressive, divisive, alienating), the real lesson of the 2020 election may yet prove to be that personality does not trump policy, at least for a great many voters.
Ed Condon is a canon lawyer and worked as Catholic News Agency's Washington DC editor until December 2020.