Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

faking it

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 31, 2006

The New York Observer's E.J. Kessler likes Hillary's chances of taking back the "values voters" from the Republicans.

Strategists have been saying for some time that Mrs. Clinton will use her re-election campaign in the heavily Catholic areas of upstate New York as a laboratory for her expected 2008 Presidential bid. "Her spin is, 'Hey, look, I can win Catholic votes. If I can win the western tier of New York, I can win Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania,'" said veteran Democratic operative Hank Sheinkopf. If religion-tinged issues such as abortion and gay marriage can be neutralized in those areas, the Democrats can win on economic issues among hard-pressed Catholic men, Mr. Sheinkopf argues.

Now that's a trick I'd love to see: Hillary working to "neutralize" Rochester Bishop Matt Clark on abortion and gay marriage. Can she succeed where Wojtyla and Ratzinger failed? Back to Kessler:

Illinois-born Mrs. Clinton, contra her Republican caricature as an angry liberal, can claim an advantage with Catholic and other so-called values voters: Unlike most Democrats, she sounds sincere when she employs Jesus language.

So. Mrs. Clinton sounds sincere when she employs Jesus language. Well, if she can fake sincerity, the old saw goes, she's got it made -- but I'm not convinced sincerity is her friend. She's an extremely strong candidate, and probably enjoys greater name recognition than any Republican. Yet it's generally agreed that 80% of the electorate has already locked-in its vote for or against Hillary, regardless of her opponent. Will her "Jesus language" matter to the 20% who are undecided?

Only in the sense contrary to that Kessler intends. When, at the outset of her campaign for the Senate, Hillary dropped the pretense that she was a lifelong devotee of the Chicago Cubs and adopted the pretense of being a Yankees fan, everyone understood that this was apostasy for the sake of courtesy: a gesture of inert good will where inertness was the key. Now this same woman (who once famously announced that her favorite book of the bible was The Beatitudes) is about to switch teams and leagues once more and become a God fan: that is, she's willing to wear a Jesus ball-cap at swing-state photo-ops but won't let Christianity cloud her judgment when it comes to policy. Her handlers realize she needs to be de-toxified; inertness, once again, is essential. In other words, it's her insincerity that will provide the needed reassurance for the Undecided 20% -- those swing voters who think Vince Foster is a forward for the Phoenix Suns but who'd feel funny if "In God We Trust" were taken off our coinage.

It might work. Mrs. Clinton, unlike Mr. Kerry, won't be presenting herself for communion in Catholic churches, and we can each of us write the utterly predictable 2008 Catholic Voter's Guide that will issue from the USCCB: "... while family and life issues are a cherished part of our Catholic moral heritage, in choosing our elected officials we must also bear in mind Our Blessed Lord's concern for sulphur dioxide emissions and affordable health care." That should give the hierarchy the excuse it wants to stay out of the game. And isn't that what Jesus language is for?

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