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Tom Perriello: better than Goode


Thirty-four-year-old Tom Perriello -- Congressional candidate and Catholic activist extraordinaire -- is a winner. And that’s regardless of whether or not he squeaks out a victory in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.

The vote for the seat first held by James Madison keeps shifting. At 11:30 a.m. Nov. 5, the day after the election, the state Elections Board reported Perriello trailing six-term incumbent Virgil Goode by 145 votes. By 2:30 p.m. Goode’s lead had dwindled to just six votes. Thirty-five minutes later, the Board reported Perriello up 30 votes. By Thursday morning, Nov. 6, Perriello led by 31 votes.

A recount will decide the contest.

The electoral strategy of Perriello’s opponent, Goode, was one part pork and two parts fear. Goode touted the bacon he said he brought back to the district, including landing the bottled water distribution account on Capitol Hill for a local company. Meanwhile, he told Virginians that Perriello, a Yale-educated lawyer, was really a New Yorker, though the Democrat was born and raised in Virginia’s Albemarle County.

Election '08: Obama Catholics will influence new administration


Catholics, who gave 54 percent of their vote to the Democratic presidential nominee, were an essential element in the Obama victory. His campaign strategists knew it would be the case: Obama’s was the first-ever Democratic presidential campaign to mount an outreach effort directed specifically to Catholics. Meanwhile, grass-roots groups such as “Catholics for Obama” helped make the case for Obama to their coreligionists. One result: The Catholic presence will be felt at the highest echelons of government over the next four years, including from Vice President-elect Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Some Catholics will likely be more equal than others in an Obama administration. Among them will be Obama supporters who took a chance, who backed Obama during the Democratic primaries when they could have remained silent without political consequence or who bring a level of expertise the new president is likely to find useful.

Among them:

The Catholic Vote: Complex, significant but no realignment


Obama won among 'all Catholics’; McCain won regular churchgoers

As the election of Barack Obama is slid under the microscope, it’s already clear that Catholics played a significant and complex role. According to exit polls, those who identified themselves as Catholics voted for Obama 52 to 45 percent, a seven-point improvement for the Democratic candidate from the elections in 2004. That is the largest shift this election of any religiously affiliated group.

But does it represent a sea change in the Catholic political consciousness? Not necessarily, says John Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

“It really doesn’t look to me like a realignment,” Green said in a media conference call Nov. 4. “I see this as a variation on the existing themes. We see the same structure. It’s just that Obama made this work for the Democrats.”

He was referring to the larger religious landscape, but was including Catholics in that equation. As much as anything, it appears an infusion of non-white voters from all religious points of view made the difference for Obama.

Re-energized religious left delivers for Obama


Obama made faith outreach central to his campaign

WASHINGTON -- After Tuesday's election of Democrat Barack Obama as president, you might expect religious progressives to start polishing their resumes for prominent Washington posts.

But liberal faith leaders said they have little interest in securing White House sinecures, and even less in forming a political machine to match the religious right. They're more concerned, they say, in keeping Obama honest.

"Let's put it this way," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, a leading progressive evangelical, "the prophets of God were always more comfortable in the wilderness than in the corridors of power."

According to exit polls, Obama, aided by a new cadre of liberal and centrist religious groups, made gains over past Democratic presidential candidates with a host of faith voters.

In moment of hope comes the challenge of accountability


Readers of a certain age might remember the story, c. 1967, in which a disillusioned conservative voter recalls the previous presidential election. “They told me if I voted for Goldwater, we’d have half-a-million troops in Vietnam. Well, I did –- and they were right.”

Democracy is a gamble. Presidents promise peace and deliver war, advocate humility and practice arrogance, promote morality and act corruptly.

Still, elections, like second marriages, represent the triumph of hope over experience. Through our votes we place our trust in a flawed human being and pray our victorious candidate will embody in correct proportions the virtues of prudence and wisdom, charity and courage, foresight and empathy, right reason and determination. Let it be so.

President-elect Obama based his campaign on “hope,” which made him subject to both ridicule (the term being far too ambiguous to his many critics) and praise, particularly for those who saw the first credible African-American presidential candidate as a personal embodiment of the change this country needs.

Catholic views divided on election's meaning


The Obama presidency will provoke "a church in resistance" -- with the U.S. bishops and priests in the pulpit battling the new administration’s pro-abortion rights agenda at every turn. Or, alternatively, "the Obama moment will force all Catholics to ask whether the common good of the human family, at home and across the world, truly matters."

So say two prominent Catholic intellectuals -- one conservative, one liberal -- providing initial clues as to how American Catholics may respond to the Obama administration.

Politics could get ugly in parish parking lots this weekend


This final weekend before the 2008 Election Day could see parishioners, police and political activists mingling in church parking lots as the struggle to influence the highly valued Catholic vote takes on new urgency in the waning days of this election.

One group, Priests for Life, an antiabortion group founded and head by Fr. Frank Pavone, has called on supporters to use weekend Masses to distribute leaflets in the parking lots and streets around Catholic churches this weekend.

Priests for Life hosted a teleconference call to supporters Oct. 27 with detailed instructions on what to do this weekend. The group said more than 3,000 people were on the line. Listeners were told: “Go to (one of the group’s web sites) and download the nonpartisan voters’ guide that is available for distribution there.

Catholic 'common good' notions embedded in Obama policies


As the campaign draws to its close, John McCain and economic adviser Joe the Plumber have reached into the Cold War closet for one last desperate round of attacks: painting his opponent as a “socialist” bent on the “redistribution of wealth.” This strange attack is based on Joe’s ignorance of the Federal Tax code, which will remain progressive should either candidate win. Joe’s ignorance is excusable; McCain’s is not. He certainly knows the tax code and the idea of a “graduated tax on big fortunes” was championed by none other than McCain’s hero Teddy Roosevelt as a tool to fight…socialism.

White Catholic support grows for Obama


Within days of the general election, as the abortion debate flares in some Catholic circles, two prominent surveys show that Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s support among white Catholics has grown significantly since September and that less than a third of Catholic voters are making their decision based on the issue of abortion.

According to a report released October 30 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, surveys show that support for Obama from white, non-Hispanic Catholics has grown from a 13 point deficit in late September to an eight-point lead in late October.

The Catholic vote is a much sought after swing vote because Catholics regularly choose the winner of the popular vote, regardless of party. John Green, a senior fellow at Pew, said that the largest shift toward Obama came among white Catholic independents, “with only modest changes among white Catholics who identify as Republicans or Democrats.”

'Why Archbishop Chaput's abortion stance is wrong'


I greatly admire Archbishop Chaput. As the former dean of the Catholic University law school, I often benefited from the Archbishop's writing and insight. I still do.

The good Archbishop, however, has taken issue with my recent book, Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama, suggesting, in his personal view as a private citizen, that Catholic teaching does not support an affirmative answer.

(Chaput on a vote for Obama.)

At the outset, it should be observed that whatever disagreement the Archbishop perceives between us, it is not over the essence of Church instruction which gives primacy to the promotion of human life, but rather, the preferred means of implementing it.



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