True confession ... I am a confirmed "political junkie." I watched both conventions until the last speaker faded away. I tune into commentaries of all kinds on all sides. Even when I mow the grass, as I did Sunday, I wear my radio earphones so I don't miss any comments from the Sunday talk shows that are replayed on C-Span radio. I'm definitely addicted!
This year, I'm especially interested in the role of religion, and, of course, in the Catholic vote and the treatment of Muslims. First, I was mesmerized when Khizr Khan, and his wife, Ghazala Khan, appeared at the Democratic National Convention and Mr. Khan questioned whether Donald Trump had ever read the U.S. Constitution, offering to loan him his copy. Frankly, as someone who taught civics in Catholic schools many moons ago, and who has advanced degrees in political science, I had often wondered the same thing myself.
But Trump did not seem to know how to respond except with anti-Muslim innuendo ... especially in suggesting that Mrs. Khan might not have been "allowed" to speak. Well, she spoke all right! She is the author of an op-ed in the Washington Post, published August 1, saying that she was not sure she could control her weeping on stage given that a photograph of her son was there. And I have often wondered about the same question raise by Mr. Khan: Does Donald Trump know the basics of the Constitution? The ensuing row over that speech confirmed to me that I am not alone in questioning that. And of course, that incident cemented (once again) the Muslim vote in Clinton's column.
Sign up for NCR's Copy Desk Daily, and we'll email you recommended news and opinion articles each weekday.
But the Muslim vote is small (a little over 2 percent) compared to the Catholic vote (23 percent to 25 percent) ... which is has long been a bellwether for the election as a whole. This year, there is a Catholic on the Democratic ticket: Sen.Tim Kaine of Virginia. He is Jesuit educated and spent a year in Honduras working with poor folks ... learning beautiful Spanish in the process. He talks easily about his faith and his religious background. But will his selection as a running mate by Hillary Clinton help the Democratic cause? Only time will tell.
As of mid-June, according to the Pew Research Center, Catholics gave Hillary Clinton a 17-point lead over Donald Trump. But that lead is led by the Hispanic Catholic vote. White Catholic voters actually gave an edge to Trump by 4 points. Hispanic Catholics gave Clinton a 61-point edge. Given Trump's comments about immigrants, that is not surprising. So the question arises: Will the selection of Tim Kaine make a difference in that white Catholic vote? Kaine is quite clearly comfortable talking about his faith, his Jesuit education, his year in Honduras, his religiously inspired ideals. Can he help sway especially those white working class Catholic males in the rust belt? That's the key development to watch.