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Tags: continetti | kristol | bush | nixon

To Win, Conservatives Must Forge Consensus With Catholic Latinos

voting at a catholic church in brooklyn new york

Oct. 27, 2020 - Brooklyn, New York. A line for early general voting at St. Dominic`s Catholic Church (Vonora/Dreamstime.com)

George J. Marlin By Friday, 13 May 2022 01:15 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Journalist Matthew Continetti’s new book, "The Right: The Hundred Year War For American Conservatism," traces the movement from the early 20th Century Anglo-Saxon Main Street conservatism of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Robert A. Taft, to the Trump phenomenon.

Continetti’s narrative has its heroes and villains, and he appears to favor the neo-conservatives — disgruntled Democrats led by Irving Kristol "whose critique of the welfare state under Lyndon Johnson sounded awfully conservative."

This should come as no surprise considering Continetti began his writing career in the beehive of neo-conservatism, 1150 17th Street, N.W. in Washington, D.C.

That building housed his employer, The Weekly Standard, and the Project for a New American Century (both run by Continetti’s future father-in-law, Bill Kristol); and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

My issue with Continetti’s work: he gives short shrift to the voting bloc that was the "sine qua non" for conservative victories at the polls — urban Catholics.

In the aftermath of World War II, many working-class Catholic Democrats, the foundation of the Franklin Roosevelt coalition, became disenchanted with their party.

They felt the party’s standard bearer in 1952 and 1956, Adlai Stevenson, and a new generation of leftist reformers, frowned upon their cultural and Catholic beliefs.

One such Democrat is my father who turned 95 on May 12.

The son of a New York City cop, my father served as a Marine (awarded the purple heart in 1945); worked as a longshoreman (1946-1952), and then went on to serve for 32 years in the New York City Police Department.

A staunch Catholic Anti-Communist, he cast his first vote in 1948 for Cold Warrior Harry Truman, and thereafter, with the exception of John F. Kennedy, cast every vote for Republican nominees for president.

Why did he vote for Ike, Goldwater, Nixon, and Reagan?

For cultural reasons, not economic ones.

Streetcorner conservatives, like my father, were not interested in supply-side economics, tax cuts, or Wilsonian nation-building projects.

Key issues for them, in the 1960s and 1970s, included: rising crime, racial unrest, soaring welfare costs, job quotas, prayer in schools, legalized abortion, and the decline in traditional norms.

They instinctively practiced subsidiarity, the cornerstone of Catholic social thought, which holds that decisions are best made by those closest to a given situation.

Hence, as Michael Novak noted, their "politics based on family and neighborhood [was] far stronger socially and psychologically than a politics based on bureaucracy."

After the 1964 Goldwater debacle, the conservative movement was resurrected in 1965 thanks to those Catholics who came out in droves to support the New York City mayoral candidacy of William F. Buckley Jr.

The nominee of the fledgling New York Conservative Party took on the hero of the GOP liberal establishment, John Vliet Lindsay.

While this race was a duel between two "Yalies" living on Manhattan’s Upper East side, Buckley’s support came from Catholic working-class neighborhoods.

Two people who grasped the significance of the Buckley vote worked out of law offices at 20 Broad Street in lower Manhattan. Their names: Richard Nixon and Patrick J. Buchanan.

These Catholic voters, they believed, would be the key component in a new emerging majority in America’s voting pattern. And they were right.

It was Nixon who forged the Republican re-alignment of northern blue-collar ethnic Catholics.

He succeeded because he was perceived as the protector of the interests of second and third generation Catholic ethnics.

In 1972, Nixon was the first Republican to receive a majority of votes cast by Catholics, a staggering 59%. Nixon overwhelmingly carried inner-city Catholic neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri.

My point is this — it was not the Washington think tanks or their neo-Conservative supporters that were responsible for the conservative ascendency at the polls in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

It was populist Catholics who put Nixon, Reagan, and G.H.W. Bush over the top.

And as the Catholic members of the nation’s "Greatest Generation" have passed away (my father at 95 is on the young side of living World War II veterans), the fortunes of the conservative movement have significantly declined.

For over 30 years, GOP presidential candidates have been unable to receive a clearcut majority of the national popular vote. The "last hurrah" for this depleted voting bloc was in 2016.

Donald Trump carried, by tiny margins, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, in large part due to turnout of elderly, angry, blue-collar Catholics.

They came out for that political rogue to send a message to the GOP that they were no longer comfortable in a party that they believed merely gave lip service to their cultural concerns.

In the final chapter of "The Right," Matthew Continetti correctly concludes that Conservatives "must forge a new consensus" based on "the preservation of the American idea of liberty and the familial, communal, religious, and political institutions that incarnate and sustain it. …"

To reach that consensus and to be victorious at the polls, Conservatives must appeal to the new Catholics populating our inner cities: Mexicans, Venezuelans, Columbians, and Cubans who have a politics based on family and neighborhood.

George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.

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Conservatives must appeal to the new Catholics populating our inner cities: Mexicans, Venezuelans, Columbians, and Cubans who have a politics based on family and neighborhood.
continetti, kristol, bush, nixon
Friday, 13 May 2022 01:15 PM
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