EJ Dionne looks at an issue I haven’t followed at all — John Kerry and abortion. Fascinating stuff, but read this excerpt before I explain why:
There is, first, the frustration of many bishops who lean Democratic on most public issues over how hard it is for even mildly antiabortion Democrats to gain traction or much respect within their party. Second, there has been, to put it charitably, a certain awkwardness in Kerry’s own approach to these questions. His reference in early April to a nonexistent pope, “Pius XXIII,” was not especially helpful in courting the devout or attentive.
But what may be decisive is a third factor: an active campaign on the part of conservative Catholic Republicans to make abortion the one true litmus test for Catholic politicians. These conservatives are strongly committed to President Bush’s reelection and are quite pleased to see Kerry squirm over whether or not he’ll be allowed to receive Communion.
Yeah, there will be some squirming over this one. But I promise you, Kerry won’t be the only one doing the squirming. Not in the long term, anyway.
Republicans might very well just have a winning hand on this one, and they’ll hardly have to do anything at all. Just sit back and let the schisms in the Catholic Church and Democratic Party do all the work for them.
But in a country increasingly tolerant of gay marriage, transgender surgery in the heartland, etc., the question becomes: How long will it profit the Republicans to be seen as the party friendly towards (if not actually beholden to) the most reactionary segment of the Catholic Church?
We’ll watch this game play out over the next decade or three.