The Catholic Apocalypse Cometh

Little Sisters of the Poor vote, 1976
Little Sisters of the Poor vote, 1976

Turns out, that Catholic apocalypse I predicted a while back for the Democratic Party was a real thing. Donald Trump won the Catholic vote by seven points on Tuesday, a group that Barack Obama won by two points in 2012 and nine points in 2008. The loss of the Catholic vote—which usually determines which way the election will go—was especially striking because most polls until just before the election found Catholics more reluctant than evangelicals to support Trump.

The loss of the Catholic vote is also somewhat disruptive to the narrative that Trump won mainly by appealing to downscale white voters in the Rust Belt. While Trump clearly won these voters, as the New York Times noted, “Trump won his biggest margins among middle-income white voters.” Many of these middle-income white voters are Catholics in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin that swung heavily, and unexpectedly, toward Trump.

And among these voters, who aren’t necessarily economically struggling the same way that blue-collar voters are, the Affordable Care Act loomed large. Just over 80 percent of Trump voters said the ACC “went too far.” As Olga Khazan reported in The Atlantic, it’s upper middle-income voters who don’t qualify for premium subsidies but saw their health insurance rates rise substantially under Obamacare who are the most dissatisfied with the law.

As conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt said on MSNBC Tuesday evening around the time I began gulping bourbon like it was La Croix:

I think Obamacare is the untold story here. I think it just clobbered people in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

But the psychological impact of the ACC went way beyond just those folks who get their insurance through it. Within 30 minutes of an article being posted on the Washington Post website yesterday about how the ACC was likely to be dismantled post-haste by the Trump administration, it was flooded with some 1,000 comments, many of them negative. While there was the usual riff that Obamacare was “socialized medicine,” a stunning number of the comments groused about the birth control mandate.

There’s significant evidence from earlier Pew Foundation polling that the Catholic bishops’ opposition to the contraceptive mandate and the subsequent war on “religious liberty” they ginned up was a major factor in alienating white Catholics from the Democratic Party. The number of white Catholics who said the Obama administration was “unfriendly to religion” more than doubled from 17 percent to 36 percent between 2009 and 2014. And it was white Catholics who were overwhelmingly in favor of Trump—60 percent versus 37 percent for Clinton, a stunning gap of 23 points.

While Clinton did win Hispanic Catholics by a similar wide margin—67 to 26—there simply weren’t enough Hispanic Catholics to make up the difference.

It appears the white Catholic apocalypse cometh for the Democratic Party, and with it perhaps an apocalypse of a much broader magnitude.