The Nun Theory

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 23, 2008 | Categories: Politics

Catholics make up about one quarter of the registered voters in the U.S., and have backed the winner of the national popular vote for the last nine presidential elections going back to 1972.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has run away with the votes of Roman Catholic Democrats in nearly all the primaries, often beating Barak Obama by two to one or better. In New York, she received 66% of the Catholic vote vs. his 30%.

While the pro-life and anti-gay marriage contingent has been vocal, a new wave of progressive Catholics has focused on increasing the minimum wage, ending the war in Iraq, and implementing universal health care. This group has emerged as a key voting bloc this election year.

Catholic voters gravitate to Senator Clinton for several reasons: favorable memories of her husband’s administration, her emphasis on health care, and support of the peace process in Northern Ireland.  Some of her positive showing is also  the result of support from working class Catholics and Hispanics, two groups that have largely been ignored by both parities.hillaryclinton_wideweb__470x3080.jpg

Some Catholic Democrats say that Senator Clinton’s emphasis on specific solutions is similar to Catholic social teaching, which urges its followers to use the doctrine as a way of bringing about positive social change particularly when it comes to poverty and, more recently, protecting the environment. “We’ve got a history of not only having faith, but acting on it,” says Bill Roth, director of Catholic Democrats of California.

Another argument is the “nun theory” which holds that Catholics are more accustomed to strong-minded female leadership because of the prominent role of nuns.

“I think Catholic Democrats…are accustomed to having female authority figures in the form of sisters in our schools and Senator Clinton, I think, benefits from that,” said Christopher McNally, the Pennsylvania chair of Catholic Democrats and an active Obama supporter.

The “nun theory” was first floated by Catherine T. Nolan, who attended St. Aloysius elementary school in Queens, NY and now represents her old neighborhood in the New York State Assembly.   She notes that older Catholic voters grew up with  women in charge of daily life.

“Maybe we’re a little more open to female leadership,” said Ms. Nolan, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, one of the most powerful legislative jobs in Albany. “We had female role models from an early age. When I was growing up, all the Catholic school principals were women, and almost none of the public school principals were. That’s changed now, but we’ve been used to female authority figures for much longer than other groups.”

In case you’re wondering..this 55-year-old Catholic Democratic voter originally supported Sen. Joe Biden, then Sen. Christopher Dodd, then Governor Bill Richardson, and now Sen. Hillary Clinton for president.

I’m sorry New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg isn’t running. He would have been my first choice.

I haven’t decided who I will vote for if the presidential election comes down to Barak Obama and John McCain.

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