I am a deplorable. I live in a "large basket of deplorables," a broad swath of Republican red territory in eastern Ohio, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania. Before our benevolent government decided coal and steel were irredeemably bad for the environment, many here made their livelihood in jobs derived from those industries. Our home team is still the Steelers (pronounced "stillers"). Worse yet, I work at a university where many of our faculty, staff and students are traditional Catholics, the very group about whom the campaign team of the Democratic nominee, Secretary Hillary Clinton, concluded, "There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church." Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta even created a Catholic group to foment a revolt against the teachings of the church, in much the same way the Obama administration had fomented rebellion against what it considered backward thinking and dictatorial Islamic governments.
So why did Catholic "deplorables" support the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump? The mainstream media, including progressive Catholics, think we are — like President-elect Trump — intolerant, racist, and misogynistic. Although most of us voted for a female vice president eight years ago, we allegedly couldn't tolerate a female president. Although most conservative Catholics preferred Ben Carson, and still hope he becomes surgeon general, we are presumably racist. From my experience, the majority of Trump voters, especially Catholic voters, would condemn all such attitudes. My own campus colleagues were divided between those who felt both candidates were so fundamentally flawed that they couldn't be supported and those who reluctantly supported Trump as the lesser of two evils. I finished my prayers the night before the elections still unsure as to whether to vote for Trump or leave the top of the ticket blank.
What may surprise, or at least take some explaining, is why we couldn't vote for Clinton. After all, she is much closer to Catholic teaching on several issues including her support for the environment, her opposition to the death penalty, and her apparent preference for the poor and immigrants. But it is her progressive intolerance, racism and misogynistic policies that made her unacceptable. "Wait," you say, "aren't all those things that Clinton opposes? Hasn't she said so on multiple occasions?" Yes, of course, but try to see it from the perspective of a conservative Catholic. Clinton was part of an administration that tried to take away the religious liberty of Catholic organizations, forcing them to pay for birth control and abortion, both of which are morally prohibited. We don't pass laws forcing kosher delis to sell pork, but it is fine to force Catholics to fund abortion and to force Christian businesses to participate in marriages they object to. For us, these are more than intolerant words; they are the actions of an oppressive government that won't tolerate dissenting beliefs. The Obama Administration repeatedly sought to reduce our religious freedom to the "freedom of worship," which ends at the church door. If we are an archaic minority, why not wait for our views to disappear naturally? Historically, Clinton has gone further in support of abortion rights than previous presidential candidates. Her husband was the first president to reverse the Mexico City Doctrine, implemented under President Ronald Reagan to prevent American tax dollars from being used to support abortion abroad.
The Obama Administration, with Clinton in charge of its foreign policy, was the second. Clinton also publicly supports abortion rights up to the moment of birth. As a supporter of the Democratic National Party platform, she wants to end the Hyde amendment prohibiting the use of our tax dollars to support abortion at home. If you believe abortion is the killing of the most vulnerable, it is also racist and misogynistic. Abortion has been used abroad, most openly in China, to target women. Sex-selective abortions are still practiced in many parts of the world. Even in America, abortion targets the poor, the vulnerable and racial minorities. It is wrong to use discriminatory language when addressing Hispanics and African Americans, but encouraging them to abort their babies is worse. Deportations would be wrong, but for many, funding Planned Parenthood is worse. You may not agree that abortion is killing, but if you do, as bad as Trump may be, Clinton's policies are far worse. African American and Hispanic American babies are aborted at a higher rate than white babies. This is not happenstance. By its own admission, Planned Parenthood targets these communities when locating its facilities. Thus, Clinton simply wasn't an option for me.
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Many Trump voters were upset by his boorish behavior and his harsh rhetoric during the campaign. I was incensed by the 2005 "Access Hollywood" video. At that point I honestly didn't believe I could still vote for him. But in the end, like many conservative Catholics, I did.
Progressive Catholics may continue to assume that conservative Catholics are all intolerant, racist, and misogynistic. But if you wish to show some of the tolerance we are often presumed to lack, or even simply wish to understand one reason your candidate lost, it might be worth trying to think like a "deplorable." If enough of you start listening, some of us might even talk to pollsters next time around. More importantly, we now live in a world in which the Cubs won the World Series, Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize in literature, and the former host of "The Apprentice" is headed to the White House. What seemed impossible is happening.
Maybe in this newly unpredictable world, next time all Catholics can search together for a candidate without a trace of intolerance, racism, or misogyny, but also a candidate respectful of freedom of religion and who is not seeking to expand access to abortion. If not, I will stand with you when I can to protect the environment, to fight intolerance, to prevent racism, and to treat the poor and the immigrant community with kindness. But I still won't vote for candidates who threaten our freedom of religion and seek to expand federal support for abortion abroad and at home.
[Daniel R. Kempton is a professor of political science at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.]
Editor’s Note: NCR asked Dr. Kempton to supply additional citations and links to support some of the statements he made in the commentary above. Here is what he sent:
On late-term abortions:
During the third presidential debate, when Clinton was asked about late term abortions and was reminded of her previous position that the "fetus has no constitutional rights," she stated, "toward the end of their pregnancy," she interpreted Roe v. Wade to state that you can regulate abortion but only in situations when exceptions are made for the "life and health of the mother." In short, late-term or even partial-birth abortions cannot be banned without exception.
The Democratic versions of the partial-birth-abortion ban, which Sen. Clinton seems to be implying she would accept, all include "broad 'health' exceptions that would make bans unworkable." http://www.nationalreview.com/article/441071/hillary-clinton-late-term-abortion-supporter
To listen to the clip please click to this Washington Post story.
Previously, Clinton said on Oct. 8, 2000: "I have said many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected. I've met women who faced this heart-wrenching decision toward the end of a pregnancy. Of course it’s a horrible procedure. No one would argue with that. But if your life is at stake, if your health is at stake, if the potential for having any more children is at stake, this must be a woman’s choice.
Again, from her perspective, late term abortion can only be banned if exceptions are made for the life and health of the mother. Since no one has defined the very elastic concept of "health of the mother" in practice late term abortions are allowed.
Finally, in 2003 Sen. Clinton was one of 33 senators to vote against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
Also of note was the difference in the two platforms. The Democratic Platform, which Clinton supported, specifically referred to the repeal of the Hyde amendment.
To my recollection this was also a first. While I have not reviewed all past platforms, The Atlantic also reported this to be a first for either party and saw it as a conflict with Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, who seemed to initially support the continuation of the amendment.
Planned Parenthood facilities:
While Planned Parenthood often refers to the assertion that its facilities are placed proportionately in majority white areas, this is not true for the percentage of facilities that actually provide abortions. According to Lifenews, 79 percent of such facilities "are located within walking distance of African American and/or Hispanic/Latino communities."
A map of such facilities can be found here: http://www.protectingblacklife.org/pp_targets/
The proportionately higher rate of abortion within the minority community is documented by the CDC in the U.S. National Vital Statistics Reports, where trends over time can be seen
Until its 1997-1998 annual report, Planned Parenthood referred to "core clients," as "young women, low-income women, and women of color." While this language has subsequently been dropped, the disproportionate affects continue. This language has been dropped and earlier annual reports are no longer available online.