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Q & A: Election Thoughts From Jen Butler & John Gehring

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We continue our look at the midterms with expert commentary today from Jennifer Butler and John Gehring. Jen is the Executive Director of the group Faith in Public Life and John is a Senior Writer and Outreach Coordinator for the group.

Butler & Gehring: After midterm elections that shifted the political terrain in Washington, political spin is in high gear. We believe – and the polling numbers bear out – that this election should be understood as an urgent plea from an anxious electorate hungry for bipartisan cooperation to lift the nation out of economic crisis, not a simple mandate for any partisan agenda.

Smart Move by GOP

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The incoming House leaders are planning to offer a new leadership position to one of the incoming freshmen. The idea is that if they put one of the Tea Party folk at the table, it will be harder for the Tea Party to play their own game and the leadership will be more conscious of where the fault lines are in reaching their decisions.

This move is the antithesis of Speaker Pelosi's decision to stay on as minority leader. Voters want change and even if the new leadership post for a freshman proves to be only cosmetic, sometimes cosmetics work.

Q & A: Election Thoughts From Rick Garnett

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Rick Garnett is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and the driving force behind the always-thoughtful blog Mirror of Justice.

We continue to look at the midterms this week at Q & A with commentary from a variety of voices, and Professor Garnett is up first.

Rick Garnett: What do the midterm elections mean? More, I suspect, than is appreciated by those who want to chalk up (and move on from) the results as reflecting merely anger, fear, or ignorance about unemployment, deficits, and "bailouts"; less, I suspect, than is hoped (or feared) by those who suspect a thoroughgoing transformation of American politics is afoot.

Benedict in Barcelona

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Two things jump out at me from the reports of the Holy Father's trip to Spain. The first is that he chose the extraordinarily modern Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona to be the first church he has consecrated as Pope and the rites themselves seemed to be perfectly emblematic of the dominant theme of his pontificate: The Church must re-evangelize Western culture and beauty is one of its principal means of doing so. Gaudi's masterpiece is both specifically religious and distinctly avant-garde. It is rooted in both its Christian significance as a church and in the architectural sensibilities of the twentieth century. The church with its soaring arches harkens back to gothic times, but transforms the gothic idiom even while it embraces it.

Olberman & The Importance of Distinctions

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Keith Olberman, one of the most popular cable television hosts on left-leaning MSNBC, may have done nothing more than what the owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch did. Both men donated cash to candidates despite being a member of the press.

Indeed, in terms of monetary influence, Murdoch did a whole lot more. It can be argued that Murdoch is a businessman, not a reporter, and so his donations did not violate any journalistic ethics. It can also be argued that Olberman is an advocate, not a journalist, and should be allowed to donate to whomever he wishes.

Of course, Olberman did violate company policy, which is why he was suspended.

Pelosi Should Go

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It is not often that I find myself in agreement with Eric Cantor, the incoming Republican Majority Leader. But Mr. Cantor was spot-on when he said of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to seek the post of minority leader in the upcoming Congress: “I don’t think there is any question that this says to the voters, ‘We’re not listening to you.’” Pelosi should turn the leadership over to someone else.

The principle reason for Pelosi to go is because all analysts agree that the midterms sent a clear signal: We want change. This has been the third change election in a row in fact. It will be difficult enough for President Obama who is the face of the Democratic Party, to convey that kind of change, but it will be even harder with absolutely no changes in the House Democratic leadership. Not since Neil Kinnock led Labor to multiple defeats in the 80s and early 90s has a party leader stayed on after an election defeat in the UK. We should follow their model not least because resigning after an election defeat shows that you honor the voters’ intentions.

Is Senator-Elect Marco Rubio a Catholic?

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Damian Thompson at the Telegraph asks if Senator-Elect Marco Rubio is still a Catholic or if he has become, in Thompson's word, "an apostate."

The right wing is always quick to condemn "bad Catholics" like Nancy Pelosi, and I share some of their misgivings at the way the now-former Speaker has expressed her understanding of the Church's teachings. But, at least she has not turned her back on the sacraments. It is unclear to me why abandoning the Church entirely is less horrible in the eyes of conservative Catholics than abandoning some, not all, of the Church's moral teachings.

Rubio is not the only former Catholic on the right. Sarah Palin left the Church too. So did Tim Pawlenty. The right may continue to decry the "abortionists" among the Democrats, but will they also be decrying the "apostates"?

More Election Analysis: Chris Korzen

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Instead of the usual Q & A, this week and next, I am running a series of commentaries on the election results. Today's comes from Chris Korzen, head of the progressive Catholic group, Catholics United.

Chris Korzen: Americans know who they voted against on Election Day. Do they know who they voted for?

The GOP owes its Election Day victories to several factors: gobs of corporate cash, the Democratic Party's failure to communicate its many positive accomplishments, and poor turnout from African Americans, Latinos, and young people. But it was the electorate's frustration with slow progress on the economic front that ultimately drove many to pull the Republican lever. It remains to be seen whether these voters will come to wish they'd put more thought into their decisions.

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