The quadrennial GOP nod to Catholics

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Aug 02, 2004

You heard it here first:

Tomorrow President Bush will endorse school choice.

I have no special inside information, but I make this prediction fearlessly, because the President will be speaking to the Knights of Columbus in Dallas, and this is the obvious occasion for "the Catholic speech" in this campaign year.

Every four years since 1968, the Republican presidential candidate has made a campaign speech aimed specifically at Catholic voters, and every four years that speech has made a reference to educational freedom-- an issue that obviously resonates for Catholic voters (and anyone else who supports private, parochial, and home schools).

That's what the Republican Party has done to promote school choice over the past 36 years: one speech every four years.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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Show 14 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Aug. 04, 2004 10:10 PM ET USA

    Looks like he read your comment just in time, Phil.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 03, 2004 4:43 PM ET USA

    Kinda' reminds me of the USCCB: every five years they make a nod towards the Vatican on their ad limina visits then return home to tackle the really important issues facing the Church in the USA today. Any more it's hard to tell an American bishop from a Democrat or a Republican. But they are easily identified when compared to orthodox bishops.

  • Posted by: shrink - Aug. 03, 2004 11:08 AM ET USA

    Phil, some big name Repubs have made school choice a high priority. Jeb Bush, for one. Dick Armey is another who pushed a national voucher program through the House in '98. The Repubs again succeeded in the House this last year to turn all of DC into a voucher program, but the Senate Dems defeated it, as I recall. The Repubs know that they can peel off some of the black vote in the process. Vouchers are a very popular in the inner cities (e.g., Cleveland & Milwaukee DC)

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Aug. 03, 2004 10:28 AM ET USA

    It's easy to put your feet up on the desk and say "where's the federal school choice law?" It's a cheap shot. As others have pointed out, I'm not sure the Catholic hierarchy or the Catholics in the pew still have school choice as a priority in their lives. Conservatives who do, have the task of working within the political system and within the Republican party to get this to be a political priority. One out of every ten delegates to the DNC convention was a member of a teachers union.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 03, 2004 10:23 AM ET USA

    I thought the primary reason a Catholic would run for public office was to influence public thought with Roman Catholic theology/moral teaching. There I go, thinking again. Instead Catholic politicians succumb to secular humanistic reason and our Catholic faith and morals become options. If one has to deny the teachings of the Church to get elected that person should not be running for any office. Or, God forbid, that person stop calling themself Catholic and find another "church."

  • Posted by: Phil - Aug. 03, 2004 9:00 AM ET USA

    Folks, can I clarify? I'm not saying that Democrats are better. I'm not saying that you shouldn't support Bush. What I'm saying is that for years, Republicans have given lip service to school choice; they've never made it a political priority. And they get away with it because, instead of demanding action on campaign promises, Catholics satisfy themselves by saying that the Democrats would be worse.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 03, 2004 8:43 AM ET USA

    I'm with AMDG. I have run into "Hereditary Democrat Catholics" who would sooner change their religion than change their political party. If there is any sign of opening to vouchers or pro-life stance we should support it.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 03, 2004 4:26 AM ET USA

    Phil - Please point me to the USCCB's quadrennial support for school choice? I didn't think so. Please quit hammering at a President who is frankly more Catholic than 95% of the "bishops" in this country.

  • Posted by: shrink - Aug. 02, 2004 6:06 PM ET USA

    Currently, Florida has the only state-wide voucher program that is targeted at low performing public schools. Jeb Bush pushed this through 4 years ago against huge oponents. There are vouchers in George Bush's NCLB bill, but they are restricted to "supplemental services" and would not permit full enrollment in a private school. Ted Kennedy stripped Bush's original voucher program (taylored after the FL program) from the NCLB bill. The USCCB didn't even burb in Kennedy's direction.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 02, 2004 5:06 PM ET USA

    The President has, indeed, rediscovered Catholics and the issues they care about. Earlier this year the National Catholic Educational Association was invited to the East Room of the White House, and now we shall have the "school choice speech," with the usual references to Mother Teresa and the Holy Father. In the preceding three years of this administration, the President's appointees in the U. S. Department of Education were prohibited from uttering what was referred to as the "v" word.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 02, 2004 4:16 PM ET USA

    Phil, please postpone criticism of Bush until after Nov. Sadly, it was Catholics who elected the adamantly pro-abortion Clinton. A majority of Catholics voted for Gore. School choice is nice, but it is not as important as the partial birth abortion ban and opposing the UN Population Fund. President Bush was courageous here; let's give him credit. "Bush Criticism" by a Catholic pundit like you only affirms "Hereditary Catholic Democrats" in their poor (and sinful?) voting choices. Thanks.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 02, 2004 1:19 PM ET USA

    Not so fast, Phil! Republicans (individually and as a party) have actively promoted school choice at local and state levels—where it counts—but have been repeatedly thwarted by activist courts and organizations such as the ACLU, NEA and AFT. The leaders of those organizations, many of whom call themselves Catholic, are the real culprits here. President Bush is just trying to pick up a few votes. What's wrong with that? I mean, it's not as though he's going to "take" Holy Communion.

  • Posted by: Phil - Aug. 02, 2004 12:53 PM ET USA

    No, Pat, not worse. Not much better, either.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 02, 2004 12:24 PM ET USA

    Is that worse than an avowed policy to oppose school choice?